Salsa Pistola

Way back in August, we started a virtual road build here on the blog. For me, this blog project was one of the most fun and educational projects we’ve done here on the Amigo’s blog. Not only did we get to build a fun project, but we learned a lot about our customer(s). Well, I’ve finally gotten the build complete…OK almost complete. I’ve also gotten to spend quite a bit of time on this bike including some riding in the mountains of Colorado. I’ve ridden this bike in original OEM bike spec and also in the virtual road spec. This provided a nice back drop for this discussion.

First a recap. These are the parts we chose.
Frame: Pistola Fork: Alpha Q CS10
Headset: Custom Chris King

Component Group: SRAM Rival w/compact crank

Hubs: Custom Chris King Road, 32h

Rims: Mavic Open Pro, black
Spokes: Supercomp with alternating red & silver alloy spoke nipples
Tires: Conti Grand Prix 4seasons, 700 x 25c

Saddle: Fizik Aliante

Seatpost: Thomson

Stem: Painted to match Salsa CroMoto

Handlebar: Ended up with a 26.0 Salsa Short & Shallow

Bar Tape: New Salsa Gel in black

H20 cages: Salsa stainless

Just a few comments on components before I go into my review. I was riding this bike in the original OEM spec prior to the build. As such, I ended up just riding the bike with the Salsa Shaft post and the stock saddle. I still plan to put a ti post on this and the Fizik saddle, but I didn’t want to jump into a trip to Colorado with a new saddle. All this means is the pictures you’ll see in down below are quite exactly the components from the virtual spec. So with that, here is my take on this bike along with some history. Hope you enjoy the story and pictures.

About 4 years ago, I came on board here at Salsa. I was super excited to jump in and get involved. Prior to my starting, the Salsa crew had started prototyping what came to be the Primero. It was a beautiful bike. I really wanted to ride one of these bikes, but we had plenty of good road testers that could give better feedback than I could. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t riding that much due to other factors in my life.

2 years ago, I picked up a Primero that had a couple of finish defects. I never built it. Again, I wasn’t riding that much and when I did, I almost always chose to ride my mountain bike because I felt I could get a better work out in the 2 hour window that I had to ride. If I was going to ride road, I wanted to go out for longer than 2 hours. I ended up selling the Primero to one of my coworkers.

Eventually, the Primero went away due to manufacturing, cost, sustainability, etc. The model just wasn’t sustainable from a production view point and in the end, we didn’t sell enough of them to continue. It was a sad for me personally as I never got one. It was also sad for Salsa because we think the Primero was one of Salsa’s best kept secrets. After its demise, we got a lot of feedback from dealers and consumers. We wanted something to fill the void. We just had to make a new recipe. This is where the Pistola story begins.

Our main goal with the Pistola was to produce a finely crafted, beautiful, functional and high performance steel bike. Many thought we were looking to simply replace the La Raza but the bike we wanted would be more performance orientated than the La Raza. We ended up specing 100% True Temper OX Platinum tube set. We also wanted a carbon fork that had a more steel like flavor so we chose the Alpha Q CS10 fork that has an OX Platinum steerer tube. In the end, we ended up a really amazing concept and we all couldn’t wait for this bike to arrive. One Salsa employee even went so far as to compile his own personal Campy Record group in anticipation.

For me personally, the Pistola is as close to my dream road bike as we, or anyone, have ever come. In 2009, I made a commitment to ride and take care of my health. I’ve lost 25 lbs and rode A LOT! It’s been glorious. I couldn’t wait to get a Pistola because I had this vision of spending long hours on the bike heading out into the corn filled country side of south western MN and then returing through the bluff country overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. I’ve missed those 5+ hour rides on sunny days. So, when the Pistola final samples came in, I had one built the next day with our tentative OEM spec.

Like every new bike, I took it on my Friday AM breakfast ride. I got a good hour in before meeting the guys for breakfast. I then took the “Edina” route and ended up looking for the hills of the western suburbs. My immediate feeling is that this bike was just right, except for a few details that I’ll call out later. It’s weight was just right. The geometry was just right for those long 5+ hour rides. Even at 200lbs, I wasn’t getting chain rub on the front derailleur cage when I stood and mashed the pedals. Wow. This thing was awesome. I ended up getting about 55 miles on it that first ride. I also set a PR for my commute home and I couldn’t wait to build it with my own parts and do those long rides that I had envisioned in my mind.

The virtual road bike project took the Pistola in a new direction for me. The parts choice is almost exactly what I wanted for my own bike. I couldn’t wait to build it and ride it. In the end, with only a couple of changes to the virtual road bike spec, this Pistola will be put into my long term collection of bikes. Some might think that every Salsa bike ends up there, but that is not true. My long term collection are bikes that I actually spend my own money on and keep for the long haul. Only two Salsa bikes are in this collection now, the 25th Anniversary El Mariachi and my Casseroll. Good company I think.

Just prior to Interbike, my family took a trip to Colorado to visit friends and family. Here, I got to see just how the Pistola performed. I couldn’t wait to ride in the mountains. It had been years since I’ve spent quality time on beautiful mountain roads. After careful planning, the route was picked. I’d start in Estes Park, Colorado and I’d ride out the Peak to Peak highway. My brother would ride highway 7 up from Lyons where we’d meet on the road. After our meet up, we’d ride the Peak to Peak out and then ride down the super popular Left Hand Canyon and end up in Boulder where my wife had to pick up her triathlon race packet. Sounds like a good day doesn’t it?

Well the ride was incredible. My day started with a 8.5 mile climb out of Estes Park. The climb was a wake up call for this flat lander. The road was pretty good, but rough in a few spots. The new custom wheels were lighter than the stock OEM Mavic wheels and I could feel that weight right away. The 25c tires were super comfy as well, and certainly didn’t feel big or slow. In fact, by the end of the day, I thought the tires were amazing.

I met my brother and we headed out toward Ward. Wow, riding in the mountains is amazing. The fall colors were just starting to show. We ended up pedaling comfortably. I was sure glad I had that compact crank. While I really don’t like compact gearing in MN, I sure LOVED IT in the mountains. After a refueling in Ward at the general store, we flew down Left Hand. It was so cool seeing hundreds of road cyclists out on the roads. We were feeling so good, we ended up doing Lee’s Hill off of Left Hand. Ouch. While the climb isn’t really that bad, we had been resting our legs for what seemed like 30-40 minutes (including the stop in Ward) so my legs felt terrible starting out on the climb. They eventually came back to life and I re-caught my brother just before cresting the climb and then we descended into Boulder.

The ride was fast, fun and glorious. We had some extra time so we headed north towards Lyons before turning back to meet our wives back in Boulder. All in all, we got almost 6 hours of glorious road riding. It was here that I knew the Pistola would be committed to my long term ownership. I love this bike. I can’t wait to build my own.

With that, I’ll sign off. Here a few pics of Pistola from various rides and in various stages of build. Notice the varying build spec of the bike. One note, we also changed the cable routing form this prototype. On the larger sizes, the brake cable is run on the underside of the TT. On the smaller sizes it stays in this position due to proper brake routing.

Here’s to long days and smooth pavement! Thank you Pistola.

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Jason Boucher

Jason Boucher

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.


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 Anonymous |

I estimate the fair value of a complete Podio, as currently spec’d, is approx. $2,500.  For the Pistola complete, my estimate is $2,700.  <BR><BR>I will be buying both bikes when Salsa offers them at what I consider to be fair value.  <BR><BR>These two bikes are two of the most attractive, best designed bikes in their category, but the current pricing is a bit rich.  This becomes even clearer when doing a ‘comparables’ study.<BR><BR>Keep up the awesome work, amigos!

 Got Chili |

I think that Salsa has built bikes and frames that are a good value.  My Chili Con Crosso was not the least expensive cx bike that I could have purchased.  In face, I probably could have spent less money on and had a pretty good bike.  With the Salsa, I was able to select the parts that I wanted, have a ride that I don’t come across too much, as GT stated earlier.  I do think though, that the bike that I built is priced close to other similar built bikes.  I would venture to say that if Salsa lowered their prices by 10% they would probably sell about the same numbers of bikes/frames.  <BR><BR>Keep up the good work.  Now I need to decide which Salsa I will add to my stable.  Is it a Fargo, or Podio?

 MG |

Anonymous, I apologize if my earlier comments about the Kona and Masi came off as disrespect, because they were not meant as that whatsoever.  Both are very nice bikes.  I simply meant to say that, for me, the Salsa is more where I’m at in the big picture in terms of materials, construction, tubing spec, geometry, paint, ride quality, etc.  I was not particularly eloquent in stating that, however.  Hopefully I did it better this time…<BR><BR>Have a great weekend!  Ride and smile!<BR><BR>Cheers,<BR>MG

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 Anonymous |

Yes, by a frameset. Actually, I do not think the frameset pricing is too high. The quality is high and the design is nice. Personally, I am going to use Dura-Ace on my new Pistola frameset, and use the new compact crank set. And then I will use my pro hand built wheels with Mavic Open Pro rims and Dura-Ace hubs. The rest of the components I am going to use are the fabulous Ritchey WCS. <BR> <BR>It is possible to use Shimano Tiagra, but the use a lighter crank set and an Ultegra rear shifter. Fulcrum, Racing 7 is exceptional good wheels for the money.

 Butcher |

Hey everyone.  Want to let you know that we hear you.  We don’t have an answer today, but I want you to know we are listening.<BR><BR>Bike prices work out to where they are for a lot of reasons.  In the end, its our job to make sure we price them right so that consumer, shop, and Salsa all benefit in some way.  Otherwise, it’s just not sustainable.  <BR><BR>The flip side is this.  If the complete bike is not sustainable or priced too high, is it possible that purchasing a frameset and building it exactly the way you want it does work for you.  We know someone can always build a lighter, a heavier, a cheaper or a more expensive version of our single spec bike model.  That is why we still offer frames.  <BR><BR>Again, not trying to defend, just asking questions and letting folks know we read this and hear the feedback.

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 Anonymous |

Kona’s Haole is made from Deda Zero steel, which is just as light and strong, if not more so, than PIstola’s TTOXP.  It also comes with a Deda carbon fork.  Same Aksium wheels.  Main difference is in group, mainly 105 for Haole vs. Rival for Pistola, but you could easily upgrade the Haole’s full group to Ultegra and still end up with a considerably cheaper complete bike than the Pistola.<BR><BR>Masi’s complete Gran Criterium has triple-butted 7005 aluminum with carbon seat stays, carbon chain stays and carbon fork.  It also comes with an SRAM rival group, just like Podio’s.  The rest of the components are comparable to Podio’s.  Is a bit of scandium alloy worth $700 more in price?  That’s a personal choice, of course.<BR><BR>Both the Masi and the Kona are good looking bikes.<BR><BR>Look, I’m a Salsa fan.  My two road bikes are both Salsa.  I want a Podio bad.  Real bad.  All I’m trying to do is persuade Salsa that they should revisit their pricing for the Podio and the Pistola, as I think it’s a bit high given the current economy and given the available alternatives.  Wouldn’t you hate buying a Podio or a Pistola at the current msrp, only to see them fall in price later on?  Or wouldn’t you hate to see them disappear eventually, due to weak sales, as Primero did?  I bet you would.  That’s why I think it makes sense for Salsa to re-think pricing for these offerings.    Both discounting and discontinuing can hurt a brand if done for the wrong reasons.

 MG |

Man, I’m a big fan of both Salsa’s steel and Scandium frames, and the cost differences are certainly something to hold in consideration.  But ultimately the deciding factor still has to be application.  What are your priorities, intentions, expected performance envelope and budget?  If your priorities are racing, budget, keeping your bike for 18 months and out and ultimately light weight, perhaps the Pistola isn’t your steed of choice.  But if you’re looking for a refined, smooth riding, long lasting, beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, finely tuned, well crafted road machine built of fine True Temper steel, I think the Pistola is going to fill the bill more than adequately, and its value proposition will stand up well against any frame of a similar quality (which there aren’t many in production terms—the Kona and Masi certainly don’t compare apples-to-apples).<BR><BR>Great story Jason.  Thanks for the great story.  I just got back from the Estes/Lyons/Ward/Jamestown area.  We got some incredible mountain biking in while we were out there this past weekend, in fact.  It was a great trip.

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 Anonymous |

I agree with anonymous above.  Besides, better to lower the MSRP a bit now and increase sales volume than risk having to discount the bikes later on because of weak demand, and thus potentially damage the brand.<BR><BR>Can’t wait to get my hands on a (slightly lower-priced) Podio!

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 Anonymous |

I love both the Podio and the Pistola, and I’d love to get one of each soon, but I think Salsa should lower the MSRP a bit.<BR><BR>In economics there is a concept called ‘substitute goods’, a.k.a. ‘goods substitution’.  In a nutshell, this concept holds that when consumers can find a cheaper good that closely resembles (note: this doesn’t mean perfectly matches) a dearer good, most consumers will act rationally and choose the cheaper good.<BR><BR>So what could be potential substitutes for the Podio an the Pistola, respectively?  Well, to name but two: Masi’s ‘09 Gran Criterium ($2,200 complete) and Kona’s ‘09 Haole ($2,100 complete).<BR><BR>Does this mean that I think these bikes are a better value than the Podio and the Pistola?  Not necessarily.  Does this mean that I think the Podio and the Pistola are priced a bit too richly, given the availability of substitute goods, and given the current economic conditions?  Absolutely.<BR><BR>Message to my amigos at Salsa: you may want to revisit the pricing for the Podio and the Pistola.  You may make a bit less margin, but greater volume will make up for that (and you’ll need the volume in this kind of consumer spending environment).

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 Jason |

I sold my La Raza in favour of a steel/carbon Cinelli frame and so far I’m loving it—it’s both smoother and a slightly faster handling than the La Raza.<BR><BR>But I might have to re-think the Pistola based on your write up. I know you’re a little biased and all, but the Pistola does sound like my kind of road bike.<BR><BR>I can’t wait to hear what La Raza riders think of the Pistola, though, as that will really sway me one way or the other.

 Jason |

I have to say I love my Campeon and have no plans on upgrading any time soon, but if I did I think I would have to go with the Pistola over the Podio. The Podio is racer boy fast and sexy, but the Pistola with those sexy steel pipes is working for me. Great job. When can we start talking mountain bikes again?? :)

 Chris |

So, what is the replacement for the La Raza? I really liked the Pistola I saw at Interbike, looked great. Not real keen on the color/graphics of the Podio…<BR><BR>My favorite Salsa for looks is by far the La Raza, some day I’ll find one in my size… :(

 Butcher |

Hey folks, thanks for the notes thus far.<BR><BR>Anonymous:  If I were a racer, I’d choose the Podio.  It’s also true that the Pistola is not the Primero.  For me, it’s the perfect balance of performance, weight, and price.  Yeah, I know that price is relative and that some folks will certainly comment that the Pistola isn’t cheap either.  While I know that is true, I just know that for me personally, I’m going to buy and build one for my long term collection.<BR><BR>Smitty:  Yes, I was very, very pleased when the blog readers chose Rival.  It was really fun to see every part chosen and watch readers go through the same process of discovery that Salsa did.  So much fun.  Yes, this is a great focus group.  I wish all of these folks lived in the metro area so I could get folks in a room for some conversations and then go ride.  Speaking of which, you should give me a ring now that IB is over and we should go for a ride as I know you are in the MSP area.  <BR><BR>Anyway, thanks all.

 mMullins |

Sounds like an awesome bike. Despite not being S3 (which was probably due to rising costs) the Pistola sounds like the perfect blend of the Primero and La Raza for most roadies, except maybe the dedicated racing set. I would love to snag a Pistola as soon as they are available, but since funds are lacking I bought a used La Raza frame and fork to build up instead. Might be a more versatile setup for me anyway, since I won’t be racing and just want it for recreation and training for mountain biking with the possibility of future commutes. Keep the stellar frames rolling, Salsa!

 Smitty |

That bike is a beaut.  I like the color: it’s different, and understated.  I like the graphics: from 20-30 feet away, they look very traditional - which has always attracted me to Salsa bikes - but as you get closer, you can see and appreciate the intricacy of the design.  I like the traditional non-integrated headset on this bike.  Jason, you’ve got to be pleased that the blog-readers chose the same grouppo - SRAM Rival - as the production spec.  This is pretty knowledgeable focus group you have here, so I think that is some bigtime validation.  All in all, Podio looks to be a worthy successor in the line of steel Salsa road bikes.  Cheers.

 Andrew |

Great report and great bike.  <BR><BR>Here’s the only problem.  I don’t have one and I can’t afford one.  <BR>So, the bike will be perfect in my opinion as soon as you guys send me one built up to the blog specs. <BR><BR>Thanks in advance, <BR><BR>-Palek

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 Anonymous |

Pistola is nice.  Actually, Pistola is VERY nice.  But Primero substitute it isn’t, I’m afraid.  The Force suffered its defeat when Primero went away. <BR><BR>It also isn’t a La Raza substitute (killed by Casseroll Triple?), as it has no braze ons for racks or fenders, and it doesn’t have La Raza’s beautiful traditional look.<BR><BR>Nonetheless, I’m sure the Pistola will find many buyers.  Many.<BR><BR>For me, my performance-oriented/fast riding will be taken care of by a Podio instead.  Yes, the Podio hath seduced me into the Dark Side.<BR><BR>My city/dirt path/relaxation riding is currently, and perfectly taken care of by a lovely Casseroll Single.<BR><BR>May the road be with you.  Always.

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vjbknife | September 11th, 2010

I have been working as a Bicycle tech for a while now and have been able to ride a lot of different bikes in the line of duty.  I decided to do a road bike build project and researched frames and parts for a while.  I chose the Pistola as my frame and am putting a Dura Ace drive train, hubs, cassette, brakes, and pedals with Mavic open pro rims, Cane Creek 110 headset, FSA stem and bars, and a Thomson seatpost.  The Dura Ace will be 7900 series except the crankset which is 7800.  It’s not all here yet but soon I will begin the build.

I was happy to see that the frame came in with a matching paint job on the Alpha QS10 fork rather than the black.

I think it will be pretty awesome and can’t wait to get it on the road.

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