My Minnesota Roubaix on the Pistola

Spring classics season is here. This is when Minnesota roadies shake the dust off our most colorful kits, shave our legs and blind each other by the white glare the first time it’s warm enough to ride without knee warmers. It’s why we wear UV eye protection even when it’s cloudy and raining.

Last weekend I sought out my own spring classics experience, Minnesota style: 70 miles down the converted railway surface of the Luce Line Trail. Call it a Minnesota Roubaix if you like. The primary goal was to ride 4+ hours of rough dirt on the steel chassis of the Pistola, while disguising my lack of early season fitness from my friend. After all, spring classics are highly tactical pursuits and sometimes require forced stoicism in the midst of immense pain. There would be no pain face on this ride, which is why I chose the Pistola for my Minnesota Roubaix challenge.

The lightweight OX Platinum steel and super thin (11mm) seatstays above the rear axle took the edge off the rough dirt surface, making it possible to endure several hours of self-inflicted punishment. The truth is that there might have been one or two brief moments of pain face, but I only let this happen when I was riding behind my friend and nobody else was looking. If it weren’t for the super forgiving ride of the Pistola I undoubtedly would have uncontrollably shown my pain face.

25mm Continental Ultra Race tires come stock on the Pistola and proved to be a great fit for my Minnesota Roubaix ride. Additionally, the Alpha Q CS 10 carbon fork not only helped to absorb vibration, it looks super elegant with its painted-to-match finish. It also balances the appearance of the bike very nicely.

3 hours into the ride I started to feel it. Sore legs, sore feet, I was starting to pedal squares. My friend’s rear wheel was becoming more and more familiar as I sought protection from the wind. My computer told me I had burned over 4000 calories. For all the work I had done I sure hoped this was true. Moments later, with my head stooped, I started thinking of beer and food. The crunchy noise of the gravel reminded me of Cap’n Crunch (with berries). The trail seemingly went on and on, paralleled by power lines dissecting the landscape.

Just as my train of thought switched from Belgian beer to breakfast cereal the surface turned smooth and the skyline of Minneapolis appeared. Feeling destroyed and humbled by the Minnesota Roubaix conditions I couldn’t help but feel eager to ride the Pistola even further the next time I ride this trail. With a little beer and Cap’n Crunch the next time I will pull off the full 120 miles to the town of Cosmos and back.

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David Gabrys

David Gabrys

I'm a guy who loves bicycles, traveling and music. Last year I got a bicycle specifically for traveling and went to the French Alps with it. I couldn't get my face to quit smiling for the entire week I was there! My preferred method of exploring the world is on two wheels.


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Tim Ek | April 2nd, 2010

Man, I want one of those bikes.  What a classic!  Great photos too!

Beginner Cycling | April 6th, 2010

That really is a great looking bike—add one more to my wish list!

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Robby | April 6th, 2010

I rode this trail on a cross country tour a couple years ago, thanks for the reminder!

Andrew | April 7th, 2010

I really enjoyed my test ride on the Pistola. It has completely gotten into the heads of my riding buddies. I keep hearing the T-minus “X” dollar report on how long before the Pistola is purchased.

For myself, in two weeks I will be doing a Paris-Roubaix Tribute ride on my Las Cruces. 260km of mixed roads and patched asphalt. I can’t wait.

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josh | April 11th, 2010

i am purchasing a pistola but undecided on size and don’t have an option to test ride.  5’10” currently riding a 56cm 2006 campeon .  I am thinking about going with a 51cm.  this will be my fast club ride bike as well as my brevet sr series bike.  thoughts?  thanks!

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David | April 13th, 2010

Hey Josh,
Glad to hear you’re looking into the Pistola to replace your 2006 Campeon. Since the Pistola has sloping top tube geometry and the Campeon has standard geometry, I understand how it can be challenging to compare sizing between the two models.

I would encourage you to use effective top tube length and standover as key reference points for comparison. Your 56cm Campeon has a 56.0cm effective top tube length, with a standover of 31.8 inches. The 51cm Pistola has an effective top tube length of 57.5cm, and a standover height of 31.1 inches. 

The 51cm Pistola would stretch you out a bit more, as it has a TT that is 1.5cm longer. You might consider looking into the 49cm, as it has an effective TT of 56.0cm; identical to your Campeon.  Standover on the 49cm is 30.4 inches.  More standover is normal on a sloping geometry design.

Interestingly enough, 49cm (56cm effective TT) has a shorter headtube than the 56cm Campeon. However, the fork on the Pistola is longer than the fork on the Campeon, so you essentially have the same overall headtube height between the two models.

I highly recommend working with an dealer in your area to help you with sizing, as they can give you feedback on nuances particular to you (length of torso vs. legs).  If the 56cm Campeon fit you well, and basing my advice solely on the comparison of geometry, I would steer you towards the 49cm. Again, it is best to consult your local dealer for a second opinion.

David Gabrys
Salsa Sales Manager

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josh | May 11th, 2010

Thanks David, super helpful.  ordering the 49cm next week!  one more question for you, your website claims 28c max tire size, is this for frame AND fork, or frame only?

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Will | May 17th, 2010

Hello David:

I build and ridden my Pistola for about a year now.  I don’t ride much, just to and from work (25k one way), and my Pistola made the trip a lot more enjoyable, always put a smile on my face.

I don’t know if other Pistola riders have experienced this following problem: my commute includes a short section of abandoned road, and when ridden at speed (I don’t have computer at that time), the front end feels like is going into oscillation, I checked my hub and headset, and they are all ok. I had ridden this section dozens of times, and same thing happened every time. So I swap the stock CS-10 out to a EC90 SLX curve blades (same wheel, tire and headset), and the problem stopped.

I am not a engineer, but here is why I think the problem is the CS-10 fork…

The CS-10 have large cross section straight blades, and ultra thin wall OX steer tube, which when taken vibrations, most of the dampening work is transferred from the blades to the steer tube, and the steer tube begin inducing the oscillation.

maybe I am the only one.



Gnat | May 17th, 2010

Josh, thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay in the answer.  In looking at the fork, I think it only has clearance for a 25c.  Maybe some thin 28’s may work. 

Will - I will check with the other Salsa folks on what you are reporting.  I will also check with David and also with Pete, one of our Salsa Engineers and Pistola rider.

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Al | July 3rd, 2010

I got the opportunity to buy a pistola with lots of money off. Very surprised it hadn’t been snapped up sooner.  What a beatiful ride! Looking forward to spending some quality time with it.  Too bad it’s still winter here in Melbourne, Australia.

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Robbie Bogard | July 4th, 2010

I just ordered a Pistola - can’t wait for it to arrive.

diamonds | September 13th, 2010

Of the 239 tonnes of platinum sold in 2006, 130 tonnes were used for vehicle emissions control devices, 49 tonnes for jewelry, 13.3 tonnes in electronics, and 11.2 tonnes in the chemical industry as a catalyst. The remaining 35.5 tonnes went to various other minor applications, such as electrodes, anticancer drugs, oxygen sensors, spark plugs and turbine engines.[

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chuck | January 16th, 2011

Went to look for a Pistola and was told they are no longer available. Will you be going back into the “road” business?

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David Goldsby | September 8th, 2011

Guys, Here’s hoping you’ve got a Pistola-like bike in the works for the future. I miss it.

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