Care & Feeding Of Your Split Pivot Salsa Bike

This blog is for anyone who currently owns, or is planning to own, a Salsa Split Pivot suspension bike.

Back in July of 2013 we officially launched the newly re-designed Horsethief & Spearfish suspension frames featuring Split Pivot technology. Throughout winter bikes headed out into the wild with their new owners, exploring new trails and places, and enduring mile after mile of epic racing adventures. With all those miles stacking up, we think it’s a good time to remind you of some of the maintenance tips and trick to keep your Salsa Split Pivot bike running at optimally.

Register Your Bike Or Frame

First things first, register your bike/frame on our website if you haven’t already. This gets you into our system and will help streamline the customer service process in the unlikely event there is a problem down the road. You will still need to hang on to your original sales receipt and record your frame’s serial number, but registering your frame with us offers a second layer of security.

Salsa Bike/Frame Registration


Suspension Setup

Proper setup of your suspension is key to getting the most out of your Split Pivot bike. We recommend 30% for the rear shock and 25% for the front fork, but that can vary depending on rider preference. Refer to our suspension setup guide for the proper steps to setting up and dialing in your suspension. It’ll take 10 to 15 minutes to do it right, but it’s worth doing so that once you are at the trailhead, or on the start line, you can just check to make sure your pressures are at the correct amount and hit the trail.

Salsa Split Pivot Suspension Setup


Things To Check Regularly

We all check our bike before every ride, right?  Of course we do, it says so right in the owner manual, which we all read thoroughly. Doh. As with any bike (Salsa or other) you should always check your bike before every ride to make sure it is in safe working condition. Refer to section 1-C of your owner’s manual for the pre-ride check list

CPSC Bike Manual

Expanding on this list further, here are a few things specific to your Split Pivot frame that can help eliminate problems on the trail (and might even quiet an elusive creak).

Rear Axle – Check the rear axle to make sure it is tight. A loose axle can feel like a loose pivot and even cause creaks. Check here first before moving on to the rest of the frame pivots. A little grease on the axle threads helps ensure that the axle tightens properly. A dry axle may feel like it is tight, but after a few miles, it can become loose.

Pivots  – All our Split Pivot frames feature large, high-grade aluminum alloy pivot hardware in a spacer-less design configuration. The large diameter aluminum parts are lighter than smaller diameter steel hardware, but they do not have the same “stretch”. This makes proper torque and thread locking compound important to ensure the pivot hardware stays tight. Refer to the table in our Split Pivot Service Kit Instructions for torque values and thread prep. In general, blue thread lock is your friend. Most loose pivot hardware issues can be solved quickly and permanently with blue Loctite 242. 

Grease – As stated above, blue thread locking compound and proper torque is what will help keep your pivot hardware tight. Grease on the threads of pivot hardware does not. Only use a small amount of grease on the un-threaded shaft  (outer diameter portions) of the pivot pins.

Horsethief Owners – if you have a creak when you stand and pedal – check your clevis-to-shock connection. A loose connection here could likely be the source for this symptom. As stated above, clean the connections, add blue thread lock, and re-torque. Avoid grease as this just attracts dirt/dust and lubricates the parts, thereby lowering the coefficient of friction between them (making movement easier), which can cause creaks.



Thoroughly check your pivot hardware and bearings at least once a year (even more often if you really rack up the miles or ride in harsh, wet, or dirty environments). This will involve fully disassembling your frame, cleaning it, inspecting the pivot hardware and bearings, and replacing any of these worn or damaged parts as needed. Replacement parts, bearing size information, and basic service instructions for this job are included with the Split Pivot Service Kit, and are also available electronically on our website here:

Salsa Split Pivot Service Kit Instructions

Servicing your frame is not all that hard, but it requires a few special tools (including a bearing puller/bearing press), and a basic understanding of working on a modern suspension bike. If you do not have the necessary tools or experience, and/or find the instructions cryptic, you should take your bike to your local Salsa dealer. They have all the tools and knowledge to do it right and get you back on your bike the quickly. Split Pivot Service Kits are always available in black, and we do rotate through select colors depending on model year and color schemes. You may want to have your local shop order you up a kit before you ever need it to ensure you get the color you want. Remember to order bearings at the same time! Bearings are not included with the Split Pivot Service Kit! While servicing your frame pivots and bearings, it’s also a great opportunity to have your fork and rear shock serviced too. Fresh bearings and pivot hardware don’t do much good for your suspension performance if the damper units themselves are limping along. Give your local mechanic something exciting to work on rather than flat tires and loose headsets.


Trail-side Insurance (Hanger & Top Cap)

It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong. For all their complexity, intricacies, and moving parts, modern mountain bikes are amazingly robust machines. Mechanicals on the trail are relatively infrequent, but do happen. Besides flat tires, one of the most common things to go wrong with a bike is your rear derailleur. Most modern mountain bikes use a replaceable derailleur hanger to attach the rear derailleur to the frame. This hanger is meant to act like and electrical fuse. In the event of a crash or impact to the rear derailleur, the hanger will bend or break before the expensive derailleur does. Our Split Pivot frames feature such a hanger, but due to the rear axle concentric pivot, the removal and replacement of this on the trail requires a 22mm wrench or socket. Fortunately, we’ve come up with a trailside solution that is small, light, and serves double duty. It’s much more practical than hauling around a 22mm cone wrench or an adjustable wrench in your pack.

Behold: The Split Pivot Dropout Tool Top Cap

The top cap tool is essentially a 22mm shallow socket designed to interface with the axle nut that fastens the hanger to the drive-side dropout assembly. It operates via the 6mm hex key on your mini-tool and doubles as your top cap, so that it is always attached your Split Pivot frame and with you when you need it. The Top Cap tool clocks in at just 13 grams including the black anodized fixing bolt, but since you are replacing your existing top cap with it, it’s essentially a net-zero addition to your riding kit – much lighter than carrying a 22mm cone wrench or adjustable wrench in your pack. If you don’t have an extra hanger already, I strongly suggest swinging into your local Salsa dealer and having them order you one, along with one of these Split Pivot Dropout Tool Top Caps. Put the hanger in your pack with your mini tool, and have your shop swap out the top cap - you’ll be ready the next time the trail jumps up to bite.

Split Pivot Droupout Tool Top Cap = HD8016

Split Pivot Derailluer Hanger = FS2322


Other Spare Parts

Above we already covered some important replacement parts for your Split Pivot frames including pivot hardware, bearings, and spare hangers. Here are a couple other items worth noting:

Rear Axle - Your Split Pivot frame uses a rear thru-axle to attach the rear wheel to the frame. Although both the Spearfish and Horsethief uses normal 142x12mm rear hub spacing, the thru-axle used is not just any “142x12” thru-axle. Thru-axle sizing is highly dependent on the frame design, which is specified by the frame maker, not the axle maker. In an effort to prevent confusion and streamline axle sizing, there is a push to start describing axles by their diameter, length, thread pitch, and thread length. This is all the information that is needed to accurately size and select the correct axle for any thru-axle frame.

Our Split Pivot bikes use the following thru-axles:

Spearfish Aluminum/Carbon (142 x 12):  Ø12 x 182mm L, TP=1.75, TL=20mm

Horsethief Aluminum/Carbon (142 x 12):  Ø12 x 182mm L, TP=1.75, TL=20mm

Bucksaw Aluminum (177 x 12):  Ø12 x 217mm L, TP=1.75, TL=20mm

If you lose your axle (most likely at the trail head!), look for the model that matches these sizes. In a pinch, what used to be labeled as a “150x12” Maxle also matches the 182mm length and can be used for Spearfish and Horsethief if the Salsa-specific Maxle is out of stock. Bucksaw uses its own unique axle length due to the wider hub required on fatbikes.

HDM Cover Plate -  For those running 1x setups with no front derailleur who care more about aesthetics than a couple extra grams,  we offer an anodized plate to cover the unused FD bracket on the frame. Have your shop order FS2337.

Frame Bags – For racers using the Spearfish, a frame bag is a good way to get water and supplies off your back to help keep you fresh, longer. We offer two sizes of frame bags (depending on your frame size) that fit the Spearfish perfectly. BG5729 (SM/MD)  & BG5730 (LG/XL)


Building Up A Salsa Split Pivot Frame

If you are building up your own bike from a frame here are a few things to note:

Component fitment/sizing for each frame is listed on our website on the bottom half of each model’s frame tech pages. Component fitment is generally identical between carbon and aluminum frame versions, with the exception of the seat collar size. Aluminum frames use a 35.0mm collar and carbon frames use a 36.4mm collar.

2015 Spearfish Carbon RS-1 Frame Tech page (see Frame Tech page for appropriate model and material)

2015 Horsethief XTR Frame Tech page

2015 Bucksaw 1 Frame Tech page

Review the torque and thread prep specification found in the Split Pivot Service Kit Instructions.

Frames come assembled, faced, and reamed straight out of the box, so you should be ready to start building.  Axles and rear shocks are also included. Since you may not have a professional bike mechanic double checking the frame/bike if you are building it up yourself, it’s best to review the Pivot Service Kit instructions to familiarize yourself with how the frame is put together, and what the proper torque is when assembling and double-checking all the pivot hardware.

Rear Shock - Recommended shock sizing and mounting hardware is also mentioned in the document Split Pivot Service Kit and also on our website. We work closely with Dave Weagle to make sure all our shock tunes match up perfectly with the design of our Split Pivot bikes. This involves a combination of dyno and ride testing. We’d like you to experience the bike with the shock it comes with, but if you do want to use a different shock, give us a call first to see if we can get you the correct tune information for it.

Fork - Spearfish and Horsethief are both designed around 51mm 29er forks. We recommend you get a fork with this offset in the correct length/travel combo (see below) to maximize your Salsa Split Pivot experience. If you do have a 45mm offset 29er fork though, you can still use this fork with minimal side effects. The steering feel of your frame (mechanical trail) is a combination of the wheel diameter, headtube angle, and fork offset the bike is designed around. Changing any one of these effectively changes your steering feel. By using a 45mm offset fork instead of the 51mm offset we designed around, you will increase the mechanical trail, which further stabilizes the steering. It’s not exactly the same as – but is similar to - slackening the HTA by 1.0 degree.

Regarding fork length, the recommended Axle-to-Crown range and travel amount are listed below per model. Due to variance in A2C between fork makers and models, not all forks with the same travel have the same axle-to-crown. For example – we spec the Horsethief with a 130mm Fox Float 32 fork, but if you want to run a Fox Float 34, you need to run that fork at 120mm so as to not exceed the max allowable axle-to-crown dimension for the Horsethief frame. Using a longer fork than stated below will void your frame warranty. We design and test our frames to a specific fork length, and cannot endorse or guarantee the frame integrity if longer forks are used. Shorter forks do not pose any structural concerns, but excessively shorter forks will affect the HTA, steering, and bottom bracket height. We recommend sticking with our designed fork length range and travel combos listed below.

Axle-to-crown range = 501 - 506mm (usually 100mm travel)

Axle-to-crown range = 528 - 532mm (120-130mm travel depending on make/model)

Axle-to-crown range = 506 - 511mm (Bluto is 511 @ 100mm travel)

Most fork makers list axle-to-crown measurements and offsets for their forks on their websites. If you are deviating from the stock fork, make sure the model/travel amount you are looking at does not exceed this range.


Bottom Bracket

All our Split Pivot frames use a Press Fit 41mm bottom bracket. Spearfish and Horsethief use a PF41 x 92mm bottom bracket, and Bucksaw uses a PF41 x 121mm bottom bracket. Press Fit bottom brackets work extremely well, as long as you select and install them correctly. Here are a few tips based on our experiences.

• Use plastic cups in metal frames. In our experience, using metal cups in metal BB shells is the most creak-prone setup.

• Plastic or metal cups in carbon frames are both fine.

• Install the plastic cups dry, do not use grease. This is the official install method of SRAM. Both the SRAM and Shimano plastic cups work extremely well installed this way. Grease or anti-seize simply adds a layer that promotes movement (creaking) and attracts dirt (creak building material) and is not necessary as there is no risk of galvanic corrosion between a plastic cup and a metal or carbon frame.

• Plastic cups in carbon frames can go in dry too, although a small amount of assembly paste can be used if needed. We’ve had good success either way.

• If you are going to use a metal cup, anti-seize, grease, or assembly paste must be used based on the bb shell material.

• Never use thread locking compound to secure a PF41 BB cup. Thread locking compounds can make plastic brittle and cause them to crack and fail. If the fit of the cup in the shell is not correct, determine which component is out of spec and if it can be fixed or should be replaced.


Rear Derailleur Routing

All our Split Pivot frames feature routing through the chainstay tube for the rear derailleur. 4mm shift housing enters the stay through a hole in the forward chainstay end and exits thought the window near the dropout. There is an integrated zip-tie guide on the forward chainstay end that is designed to secure the housing as it transitions from the downtube to the chainstay and keep the housing from hitting the crank/chain ring. Use a four-inch (small size) zip-tie in this location. Inserting the zip-tie from the bottom allows the head to rest cleanly on the top side of the guide and the tail will be point up, where you can easily grab it and tighten it with your fingers or a needle nose pliers. It’s also easiest to install the rear derailleur and the housing before the cranks are installed. Fit the empty housing into the derailleur, secure it to the chainstay end with the small zip-tie,  and then also to the lower downtube guide. Leave the forward end of the housing long, and trim it later once the fork, bars, and controls are being finished up.


The Best Experience Possible

We hope these tips will make your experience with a Salsa Split Pivot bike even more enjoyable.

This post filed under topics: Bucksaw Horsethief Mountain Biking Pete Koski Spearfish Split Pivot Tech

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Pete Koski

Pete Koski

Hi, I'm Pete and I am a product development engineer for Salsa. I like all kinds of riding from commuting to dirt jumping. I think flat pedals make you a better bike handler, that the thru-axle is vastly superior to the quick-release for off-road applications, and that moving through the world on bicycle allows one to see things they might not otherwise. I suffer daily from hunger-induced anger, also known as [i]hanger[/i]. Outside of work and riding, I enjoy kiteboarding, traveling, and watching hockey.


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bill | September 21st, 2014

WOW, great thorough write up! wish all manufactures had or would share this type of information.  This shows salsa’s desire to give everyone the best possible riding experience!

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