Hopefully, you’ve already checked out our two new models. If not, please take a close look at our newest models, El Kaboing and Big Mama. These bikes started a long, long time ago. Thankfully, the time is here to share them. I’d like to take a few moments to introduce you to our new models and to share just a little about their history.
The story behind these bikes is that we really wanted to design and build the best all day riding trail bikes we could. These two model represent what Salsa believes is industry leading in performance, reliability, durability and attention to detail. That says something, but the reality is that these are bikes we wanted to build because we ourselves wanted to ride them. Frankly, for me personally, these bikes have allowed me to ride more, ride faster and ride longer without straining my lower back.
In the end, we think we’ve built 2 very cool bikes that have some very unique and innovative thinking designed into them. Here’s a visual history and few words discussing some of the earlier prototypes and cool features. Please don’t take my words as complete or as if I designed these bikes. While I was certainly involved in the end result and rode these bikes a lot, these words and pictures are just my experiences and thoughts. These bikes challenged us. Our whole team should be given credit for these great new products.
V1 is a fun bike. We wanted to try a few things with this bike that we hadn’t done on our previous suspension bikes, the El Santo and Cabellero. With this prototype, we tested a forward pivot location and some hydroformed tubing. As I said already, this bike is fun…going downhill! With a forward pivot location, this bikes handles bumps really well. The long pivot arm (distance from front pivot to wheel axle) just feels like it gobbles up bumps. Unfortunately, we didn’t like the way this bike climbed. I rode this bike quite a bit anyway because it was so darn comfy and fun. I also took this bike to Fruita with a short riser stem and big tires. I had a blast until I crashed and broke my shifter. The bike is currently being rebuilt as a “play” bike. The build includes a new Shimano SLX group, a prototype 120mm Reba, and Salsa Gordo rims with big tires. It will also be the test sled for our prototype Maxle rear drop outs. Sweet bike.
I’ve ridden this bike in MN, IA, CO & CA. I love this bike. It is closer to our final product in several ways. It has the correct rear lower BB pivot point. It also has our custom, round drawn tubes. Every tube on this bike is custom drawn Scandium. Of all the prototypes, this is the bike I’ve ridden the most. I got it last July. I’ve had it set up light with my XTR group, DT 240s wheels with Semi rims, and fast 2.0 tires. I’ve also had it set up burly to serve as a borderline All Mountain bike with Gordo 35mm rims and 2.35 tires. Currently, I’m testing a FOX F29 120mm fork on it as this prototype has a slightly modified geometry that works really well with the longer axle to crown of the F29120mm. I also set the rear end up with a bit more sag. It is what I’d call my training or everyday bike. My body loves the plush 120mm. However, it is clearly not as dialed nor as fast as Version 3. If I am riding with my fast friends, I always pick V3.
This bike is very, very close to final production bike. Everything about this bike is refined quite a bit from the previous 2 versions. Geometry is optimized for longer offset 29er forks. Our new seat tube is so much cleaner and stronger with fewer welds. It has a 31.6 seat post if you want to run a height adjust post. It also uses our 1 piece forged link, as opposed to 2 piece on V1 & V2. Speaking of forgings, every part on this bike that isn’t a tube, a bolt or a bearing is forged. Forging is stronger and on average 10% lighter than an identical CNC’d part. One other big difference is the upper pivot location on the seat tube. We changed this slightly to tune the flex of the rear seat stays. The result is amazing. This bike’s been ridden a lot and currently is my main ride for our Tuesday night group rides. I made a special trip to California in Feb to ride this bike. I rode it in Malibu, Orange (San Juan), and in San Diego. In fact, the bike survived a long 6 hour day in Noble Canyon while I did not.
It’s hard to pick a favorite part of this bike. Every part is really well thought out. We pained over little details, even the cable routing. All 3 prototypes above have different cable routing. In the end, we ended up having size specific cable routing. Every bike size is optimized to have the straightest and cleanest routing.
I’d like to share some close up visuals and details of the rear end. There are some very unique and cool things going on here.
The post mount disc brake mount is quite possibly the most innovative part of this bike. Do you think there is a reason why all the fork manufacturers are switching to post mounts? Post mounts are stronger. They are simple. They remove the sheer forces on the bolts. Totally cool. Do you think there is a reason no one has done them on the rear end yet? It’s hard. It’s costly. They have to be forged. It requires all new tooling and quality control. We did it anyway. One note, if you want to run bigger rotors, all you have to do is buy post mount fork adapters for your specific brand of brake.
In addition to the post mounts, the drop outs themselves are pretty well thought out too. Forged. Strong. Removable. Replaceable. Giant weld surfaces. Standard and durable chain ring bolt hardware. We are also testing prototype Maxle dropouts. Sweet.
As I said earlier, every tube on these bikes is custom drawn Scandium. The custom seat stays are tuned into the ride. They actually enhance the ride and are one of the reasons this bikes bobs so little and climbs so well. They are darn sexy too! Salsa has been pushing and innovating with the flat Scandium stays for several years and these are a work of art. For those folks wondering just how much flex is in the stays, the answer is 8mm of flex on the El Kaboing and 5mm of flex on the Big Mama. Not much. The custom drawn chain stays are pretty notable as well. Notice the swooping nature of the stays. This reduces chain slap and optimizes welding surface at the drop out.
In the end, we are really proud of these bikes. They ride so great. You can ride them all day. That said, we know not everyone will like them. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. But even if you don’t like like them, we think you can probably appreciate some of the finer details or design elements we put into these bikes.
Again, these are just a few pictures and notes from the prototypes. For all the other details on the final version, please take a look at the frame and bike pages at http://www.salsacycles.com/. Also look at the various animations of the suspension movement and the slide presentation.
These bikes are dialed. Now it’s time to go ride them with some important industry people. They’ve come from as far as Japan and the UK. We are off to spend 3 days in the woods riding, camping and having fun. We’ll be back in the office on Friday to answer questions.
El Kaboing and Big Mama. Two new bikes. Too much fun.
Ride & Smile!
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Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.