Salsa Horsethief

So after all the parts were assembled and installed onto the chassis…oh wait…let’s look at the chassis just a bit more, since I really did not do much justice to that in the last post.  It’s a handsome beast, this Horsethief, and the white/orange motif defies the dull, carbon black or matte look that we see so much these days.  I did have some fun matching the paint and anodizing scheme to the cockpit just a bit, not to mention the front fork.

Now keep in mind that this frame is a 2015 version, although the only significant change to the 2016 ones, other than color, is they are Boost.

I weighed the LG frame at 6 pounds even with the Maxle rear 142x12mm axle in place.  With the only aluminum in the frame ‘tubes’ being the chainstays, that seems about right to me. There are cable guides all over the place on it, and if I had anything to say cosmetically about it, it would be the cable routing…it is a bit of a bodge when it is all done, but functionally it is fine so far.  We have gotten used to internal cable routing these days, and of course the cable/hose routing for the dropper post is internal at come point.  Personally I prefer external routing.  It’s easier to install and to live with, but it’s not as pretty. Some of it is slick in the execution, it just gets ‘busy’ looking on the top of the downtube.

I like the integral chainstay and downtube guard.  I also added a good amount of Racers Tape to the contact points where cables might rub and any impacts might be expected to occur.

The front der hanger is removeable and comes with a cap if you are running 1x.

Salsa Horsethief


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Salsa HorsethiefSalsa HorsethiefSalsa Horsethief

Just for a minute, let’s talk fit.  Typically I ride an XL bike, mostly for the longer front center.  I like being pretty stretched out, especially for the long climbs we have around here.  At 6’2″, and with semi-monkey arms, it feels right.

So I really debated the XL vs. LG deal.  An XL Horsethief is a pretty good sized bike and would have required me to run a 100mm version of the Dropper post to ensure enough ‘stickout’.  As well, I would have been running a 50mm-60mm stem max.  Actually that is fine with me, but the XL also has a pretty long wheelbase to the tune of 1192mm/46.9″ with a 120mm fork.  I have been trying to ride LG sized bikes of late as I appreciate the lesser wheelbase…just feels better for where I ride.  As well, top tubes have been getting longer per frame size across the MTB world, chainstays are getting shorter, and HT angles are getting slacker.  This makes the 90mm-100mm stems I used to use feel a bit wrong to me.

So my dilemma was accept the XL that was really a bit big for me with a 20mm jump in Eff TT length and a 21″ ST length, but run a stem in the 50mm range that is more in keeping with the nature of the trends in bike geometry…or…run the LG and still have a nearly 25″ Eff TT length and gain an inch of grace at the top of the seat tube and shave the wheelbase down by nearly 3/4″.

I ended up with the LG, and after it was all said and done, I feel like I really need a LG and a 1/2, a frame size that does not exist.  But that is me.  I am a tweener in many bike brands.  I ran a slight rise bar at 730mm wide and, as of now, have an 80mm stem which feels very roomy.  I could run a 70mm-75mm stem too, but a 60mm would be too cramped for me.

Handling is actually very, very good with the 80mm with only a hint of wag every so often when my weight is forward.  I bet the slightly shorter stem would be optimal.  If I could do one thing to the frame, geo wise, it would be to add about 10mm to the Eff TT length. Now if I was looking at a more AM environment where gravity was the the main attraction, or the trails were steeper and open, but more dramatic in nature, I would have gone with an XL or at the very least, compromised with a shorter stem.

The bike weight came in just under 29lbs all in…28lbs/11oz…and that is with the SPDs, bottle cage, and no carbon bars, etc.  If I had chosen something like XO1 1x and run carbon bars, that would have dropped a pound or so off the total. But that is a pretty good all-round weight and the bike feels anything but sluggish.

Salsa Horsethief

The cable routing here is less than lovely.

Salsa Horsethief

Here it is trick, what with the clamp at the pivot bolt.

Salsa Horsethief

And here, the routing is pretty sweet.

Salsa Horsethief

Pardon the iPhone pic with the cheesy filter, but it was all I had at presstime that showed the whole bike on trail.

So how does it all work so far?

Pedaling the Horsethief is a real pleasure, especially seated.  The D.W. designed Split Pivot is very effective at keeping things steady and sure, not reacting poorly to pedaling inputs.  Open or not, the rear shock is very neutral under climbing forces.  I have been running it in Trail mode more often than not, as it tightens up the bike eeeever so slightly when I am on smoother trails and long climbs.  Out of the saddle and on the gas, the bike does not really leap forward, but at 29lbs, I would not expect that.  But I have ridden bikes that felt a bit snappier when standing.  It is not bad, mind you, just not inspiring.  All around, though, no complaints regarding how it responds to pedaling inputs and the suspension is very supple over small impacts, even in Trail mode.

I have not even come close to feeling like I am bottoming the travel, even though the O Ring has been firmly placed at the end of shock shafts, front and rear. I also have not had it in anything that has been pressing the Horsethief’s limits either.

MRP Loop TRThe MRP Loop TR fork took some tuning to get it right, PSI wise, but that seems to be sorted and I have been playing with the Loop TRs Ramp adjustment.  So far, I have been running it about 8 clicks in.  All the way in it does keep the fork from running too easily through it’s travel, but it also feels just a bit firmer than I might like.  If I was headed for a bigger trail that was tossing things at me fast and furious, I would run the Ramp Adjust more towards the full-on mode.  But being able to do that on the fly, as it were, is pretty cool, even if I might not do it all that often.

For now, it seems stiff enough for anything I have been into, and the action is a pretty good match to the rear end, although it can’t quite equal the smoothness the Horsethief has out back.

Shimano XT M8000The XT M8000 2x stuff is just a real joy to use.  Man, I love having a 2X system for long days and varied terrain.  The closer gear steps at the cassette…the wide range…it’s a peach.  The front shifts like a dream, with only a slight ‘ca-lunk’ noise when moving from the 24T to the 34T ring.  Really…with direct mount and shifts like this, what is there to complain about?  The front der is not dead, despite what you have heard.

Shimano XT M8000

The 24×40 gear is really, really low, enough so that it is that bail-out gear that is really nice to have.  Winner.  The 34T big ring is very, very handy on singletrack, allowing me to stay in it longer without dropping down.  Winner.  It does have me running more down the cassette though, when I am pedaling to the trail or on faster sections of the ride.  Less of a winner, but so far I think it will be OK.

The XT brakes are typical Shimano…darn near awesome.

Shimano XT M8000

The bar gets a bit crowded with 2X, but I made it all work quite well, actually. Love the Ergon grips.

I think I hit my target dead on as far as having a bike that allows me to do anything in my area with grace, speed, and a high fun factor.  The Horsethief so far seems to be what Salsa said it was…an All Day trailbike that can eat up the miles and shrug off difficult trails with ease.  I really am getting to like the new geometry that this bike embraces…a bit slacker up front, a bit shorter in back, and with that mid-travel sweet spot. I noted another bike that was just announced today, the revised Santa Cruz Tall Boy, now in that same geometry mode with the capability to run 27.5 Plus.

It is a combo of angles and lengths that is hard to fault, no matter where you ride.

But…there are some things I might have not gotten right.  And it comes in a 27.5″x3.0″ wrapper.  Plus.  Darn that whole Plus deal.  I find myself missing Plus.  A lot.  Even if it is not something I want to have all the time, I have ridden it enough now to know that I do want it sometimes. And that is a surprise to me, how much I do miss it?  Would I want a full-time, Plus-shod Horsethief (called a Pony Rustler)?  No.  Do I think I want to have one for the ‘other’ times I ride this bike?  For days that speed and pace over long distance are trumped by poor trail conditions and flotation/traction needs? Yes.  I think I do.


Is it time to consider having a second FS bike in the garage?  No.  I think that would be a bit much to justify. Is it time to consider an adjustment that lets me run both wheel/tire sizes?  Quite possibly.

Stay tuned.  Wheels are turning.

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Note: Some products for this build were provided this review bike at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review and some were offered and purchased at a discount. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.