Developing Bucksaw: The Story Behind Our Full-Suspension Fat Bike


Finished Bucksaw 1 and one of the original protos…

The spirit of adventure drives our product decisions and creations. We like to go places and do things that may not be “normal,” and we like to use bicycles to get us there.

When we introduced the Mukluk, we knew the places fat bikes could take us and the experiences we could partake in. What we didn’t know was just how far this fat bike thing was going to go. Still perceived by many as “snow bikes,” they got us Minnesnowtans out in the winter and helped create a passionate army of fat bike riders.

The attachment and passion for these bikes had many people, including us, using them in the summer on “normal” mountain bike trails. The fat bike’s incredible capabilities and confidence-inspiring nature had several of us verbally contemplating riding a fat bike exclusively, year-round. Riding a fat bike year round meant that rocks and roots, which were usually hidden under a layer of snowpack in the winter, were now exposed features that needed to be negotiated. Firm dirt made for higher speeds, and folks were finding they could quickly outride their ability to keep the front end in control. Many started experimenting with various ideas to add front suspension to their bikes.

Because a dedicated suspension fat bike fork did not exist, most had to be improvised. Modified and cobbled together Maverick SUC32s and DUC32s, Manitou Dorados, old Marzocchi Z1s, and Girvin linkage forks, among others, were attempted. Results were promising, but there was always a catch; inappropriate geometry, old damping technology, limited tire clearance, etc. Craig at Mendon Cyclesmith proposed the idea of modifying the crowns on a Cannondale Lefty Max, and he and I made eight crude CNC-machined prototypes to play around with.

One of the first, solid-block Lefty Max fatbike adapters...

Around the same time (Fall 2011) Pete Koski and Mark Rane from the Salsa product design team were kicking around the feasibility of creating a fat suspension frame using parts and pieces from our Spearfish and Horsethief models. They concluded it could be done without a massive tooling investment, and we decided to take a chance, and see what would happen if we added rear suspension to a fat bike. We built six prototype frames, based around the SUC32 and Lefty Max forks, with 80mm of rear travel. The prototypes arrived before the snow flew that winter and we got a few test rides in.

Koski inspecting the first prototypes...

Immediately, we knew we were onto something big. We decided to ask the world what they thought, to get a gauge on the buzz, and we went public with the idea on our blog. To this date, it is still one of the most popular and interactive blog posts we’ve ever done.

Following another season of testing riding, we were fully convinced. Pete spent the most saddle time on a proto in a variety of places and had some solid ideas about where things had to go:

“After riding another full season on the proto, I knew we needed a fork with a more modern and adjustable damper unit, more travel overall, and a completely revised geometry. The combination of traction and suspension was allowing me ride the bike in ways I had never imagined I would be able to.” –Pete Koski

But one thing was missing before we could produce it, and that was a proper suspension fork. Our Mavericks and Leftys were working fine on our six prototypes, but we would need a production fork. Shopping the idea around to various companies led to a lot of interest, but no commitments since the fat bike market was still considered very small. We looked further into creating our own, but found that the tooling costs were quite high, and frankly, Salsa is not a suspension fork company and didn’t want to become one.

Feeling a little deflated, we decided to just keep riding the prototypes and sharing our ideas with anyone who would listen. We took protos to various manufacturers and showed them off. Some of the frames were even given to these companies to keep and ride. We took it to tradeshows and talked to the media about it. We felt a little bit like evangelists of a movement.

Greg Herbold slaying the Whole Enchilada aboard prototype #5...

Prototype #3 on display at Frostbike 2013...

And we were not alone. As with any niche movement, the first items available for sale started to come from the small one-off builders, and Craig at Mendon Cyclesmith was having great success selling production versions of his Lefty Max clamps, complete with fork bodies. The idea was here to stay.

Right around this same time is when Salsa began working with Dave Weagle to license his Split Pivot™ design for our 2013 Spearfish and Horsethief. Dave knew about fat bikes, and was intrigued.

“When Salsa approached me about my Split Pivot design, one of my first questions was, “Can we build a full-suspension fat bike?” Anyone who has ridden one will tell you that fat bikes are a blast to ride.” – Dave Weagle

One of the hurdles was still the missing suspension fork, but after all of our work, we also began working with Dave to understand the different needs that might go into designing a suspension fat bike. We gave Dave a prototype from the initial round, and he rode the heck out of it to begin the process of defining what a Split Pivot-equipped fat bike would be.

During some of this initial design and testing, with the intent to hold off on actual production until a fork was available, we received the email we’d been hoping for. RockShox told us they would be making a dedicated fat bike suspension fork for the model year 2015. In fact, the email said “We are 100% go on the project.” It seemed like eons away, but we were giddy. A fork…and our bike…were finally going to become reality.

We decided to hit ‘ full go’ as well, and our whole team went to work. We went through another round of prototyping to flush out the details, and worked through a few ideas about how a “normal” suspension bike and fat suspension bike differ, and how we could incorporate Split Pivot to further refine and maximize the end result. We were extremely proud of how this iteration rode, with only a few subtle tweaks being needed for production. Collectively, I believe we (Salsa, Split Pivot, and RockShox) all knew that this bike would really evolve the way people use fat bikes.

Kid Riemer aboard the proto nicknamed The Thunder Down Under…

Benton on a Split Pivot proto…

And That Brings Us To: Bucksaw

Bucksaw 1…

Bucksaw 2…

Bucksaw is our full-suspension fat bike. It features Split Pivot rear suspension and is the first suspension bike designed from the ground up to address the ways riders use fat bikes, and how fat tires interact with both the ground and the machine.

“Fat bike tires have a lot of give to them. To address the special needs of how those fat tires react to terrain at speed, I’ve put as much new technology and creative thinking into the Bucksaw as many of the one-off and World Cup level DH bikes that I’ve developed. It’s a truly special bike, and one that I’m immensely proud to have been given the opportunity to work on. This is a real mountain bike, one that can be ridden on any ride, and on any terrain. It rules.” – Dave Weagle

The 6066-T6 aluminum frame and carbon seatstays are designed around the 177mm symmetrical thru-axle rear spacing standard for optimal shifting. Maximum rear tire clearance is 3.8″ fat bike tires mounted on 82mm rims.

Available in the fall of 2014, the Bucksaw 1 will be $4,999 and Bucksaw 2 will be $3,999, and both will come with the RockShox Bluto fork.

We’ve come a long way to get here. Where will Bucksaw take you?

This post filed under topics: Bucksaw Fatbike Mountain Biking New Product Tim Krueger

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Tim Krueger

Tim Krueger

I come from the land of trees, lakes and cheese. I like beef jerky, singletrack and pale ale. I believe derailleurs were invented for a very good reason. Long rides with good friends and campfires is really what its all about. Oh, and if its not anodized, its worthless.


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Niceoak | April 10th, 2014

looks great!

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Kolt Siewerts | April 10th, 2014

Wow, so this day goes down in history! Thanks for making these awesome bikes.

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Maverick Moto Media | April 10th, 2014

Heck yeah!!! I can’t wait until these are available! Now, to figure out a way to afford one on my meager bloggers salary…

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Jesse Hansen | April 10th, 2014

This will be a great new tool to get those who have already ridden every awesome trail over and over into new amazing adventures.

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Bob | April 10th, 2014

Thank for having the brass the make this…. Going to tear mother nature a new one…......hahahaha.  Epic day

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chsad | April 10th, 2014

Frame only option?

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Joe | April 10th, 2014

I would ride that

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | April 11th, 2014

chsad - Yes, there will be a frame only option.

Thanks everyone for your support and interest in Bucksaw.

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Lucas | April 11th, 2014

WOW THANK YOU FOR MAKING MY DAY! Will there be more options for colors?

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Stefan | April 11th, 2014

29+ compatibility?

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Joe | April 11th, 2014

Any one interested in any of my fleet? I will be needing one of these

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | April 11th, 2014

Lucas - Bucksaw 1 and the Frame Only option will be the Blue color. Bucksaw 2 will be the Gold color.

Stefan - No, the bike is not 29+ compatible. The Bluto fork can fit it, but not the rear end of the Bluto. The difference in outer tire diameter from 3.8” fatbike tires to 29+ tires is too large.

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Shark | April 11th, 2014

Wow, great job guys! I have been watching, waiting patiently, to see if this would ever happen!
The gold as a frame-only would be sweet, just sayin’ :)

Do you guys have pricing for the frame only?

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JohnH | April 12th, 2014

Awesome - thanks for leading this exciting sport!
I hate to ask - but any ideas on total weight?

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | April 12th, 2014

JohnH - The size Medium stock build Bucksaw 1 that we have with us at Sea Otter weighs in at 32 lbs 6 oz.

Shark - I’m sorry but I don’t have the Frame Only pricing. I will comment with it when back at HQ.

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JohnH | April 13th, 2014

Thanks for the update on weight - can’t wait to see one in the wild this summer!

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Terry Multerer | April 17th, 2014

I ride a Motobecane Fat bike now which is a great bike. I can’t wait to buy the first Bucksaw in Georgia. By the way guys. Measure a fat bike tire and you get the effective diameter of a 29’r. Mine rides great, steers and carves turns better than my GT suspended bike. I’m ready and waiting.

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MG | April 18th, 2014

Congrats guys… The finished product looks great.

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Shark | April 21st, 2014

Thanks Kid for all the info so far.
In addition to the frame pricing, will the frame include the rear thru-axle?

Planning my build already :)

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | April 22nd, 2014

Shark - Frame Only MSRP for USA will be $1899. Frame Only will come with Rear Shock, Seat Collar, and Rear Maxle. -Kid

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Terry Multerer | April 22nd, 2014

I understand Salsa is looking to put on a couple dealers in Georgia soon. I can I find out when that happens so I can pre-order a Bucksaw? I’m bound and determined to have the first one in Georgia.

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Shark | April 22nd, 2014

Thanks Kid!!
Going to bug the LBS this week :) So excited!

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alex | April 28th, 2014

Props to Salsa and Rockshox for making this happen.  Must be a really fun bike to ride!

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BigFatFuss | April 29th, 2014

So close… 
If Bucksaw had Clearance for 5” Bud/Lou F&R, THAT would have had me NOT Building My Own,  “BigFatFuss”... 
So I continue with my Balfa 2Step 5x5x5 BigFatFuss with over 5” of Travel F&R…  I highly praise Salsa’s 1st Step into the Suspended FatBike Arena!!!  It will be successful!  I look forward to riding (with) a Bucksaw! 
2nd Step?  BIG FatBike with Bigger Travel!!!! 
Follow my lead…

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TheWOLFF | May 16th, 2014

I just saw one of these ripping at Lebanon Hills yesterday as it finaly opened for the year. Its genius! It is the one bike quiver! I want one in the worst way! If you need rider testing I humbly volunteer. This will be the bike to take fatbikes to the next level and beyond.

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Glenn Brooks | May 25th, 2014

Iam curious, why build this to a 3.8” tire and not go for a full 4”?  Will a 4” tire fit front and rear?

Thanks for a whole new perspective on mountain hiking!

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BigFatFuss | May 25th, 2014

More like,  Why not just go for 5”...?!? 
4” is more than half way there, yet… 
5” is that much better,  if you are serious…

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Sam | June 7th, 2014

Saw Salsa Bearcat in Brooklyn yesterday and fell in love with the bike, immediately started thinking it would be better with a full suspension. Did my research and I’m all in to get one as soon as it hits the store. If you decided to make one that is even lighter out of a titanium frame or carbon fiber I’ll be on that as well.

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brian | June 8th, 2014

what is the rear spacing? possible for Rohloff igh?

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camusmuse | June 16th, 2014

What is the rider weight limit?  Thanks….

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Dessie | July 15th, 2014

Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to
get there! Thank you

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Tony Sison | July 24th, 2014

Will a Rohloff need a chain tensioner. I’m wondering, with the split pivot design is there significantly little chain growth? Also can belt drive be installed?

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camusmuse | July 24th, 2014

I guess even with all that engineering they dont know the rider weight limit.  I’ll be shopping elsewhere.

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | July 24th, 2014

Camusmuse - No rider weight limit. The Bucksaw passes EN mountain bike testing standards. When shopping elsewhere be sure to see if their bikes pass those standards as well.

Brian - 177mm rear thru-axle spacing. The new Rohloff fatbike hub is 170mm QR to the best of my knowledge so it will not fit.

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camusmuse | July 24th, 2014

@Kid Riemer THANK YOU for an answer!!! I am just frustrated that it took over a month to find out.  Right now I’m around 300lbs….5’10”(vertically…haha:)), but I’m fairly “husky”....not quite “fluffly” though…lol.  Way back in my GT Mach One days…preteen; I was already 5’10 and 200lbs, mostly muscle though; and was very hard on my bikes(snapped a Husky in two and even bent a Raleigh “Chopper” frame.  My “mountain bike” (early twenties) was a Peugot pawn shop special, but it had decent mechanics for the price and lasted me until it was stolen a few years ago.  I logged many a trail mile on that “clunker”.  Unfortunately I now have significant medical issues and that is why I am looking at a full suspension fat bike; both for rehabilitation and recreation…I still LOVE to ride. Basically,  I have non operable herniated/buldged discs in my upper and lower back as well as a few other serious non-related “ailments”.  I need a “comfortable” ride until I can build the strength/stamina to ride like I used to….a madman….lol.  If you think your bike can do that, then I might be an interested customer.  However, customer service is a HUGE factor to me, especially for what I believe will be a fairly hefty sum of cash for your product.  Regards, Nathan

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matt | July 29th, 2014

Hi there cant wait to get my hands on one of these.I run a ski lodge in the australian snow fields and would love to have an option when the hill gets too crowded,i can take off on the cross country loops for ever down here,when will they actually hit the market please?

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | July 29th, 2014

camusmuse - Sorry it took us a while to respond. It wasn’t intentional but is the result of running with a pretty lean crew. I sent that response while on vacation actually as I wanted to make sure you know that we treat our customer service quite seriously.

I’m confident you will find the Bucksaw to be an incredible machine: not always the fastest, but quite possibly sometimes the fastest for a given situation, and really capable of riding an amazing variety of terrain. I suggest you take a look at our Facebook Events listings and keep your eye out for a demo event near you. That will allow you to throw a leg over the Bucksaw and see if it is the right bike for you.

Best of luck with your continued efforts at rehabilitation.

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Rockin' Al | August 2nd, 2014

Love the looks of the Bucksaw!  Kudos to the designers with producing Full Suspension on fat tires.  Questions: 1) Will there be a Carbon version with full suspension? 2) Any chance Salsa could make a more race machine on fat tires & full suspension?

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | August 5th, 2014

Rockin’ Al - Could there be a carbon version someday? Sure…but let us get these aluminum frames to market first.

RE: Making a more race oriented FS fatbike: Good question. I think we’ll see some folks take the Bucksaw and apply it that way right from the start. Could a more race refined version exist in the future? Possibly. But we aren’t focusing on that at the moment. Seeing how people use Bucksaw in the coming year will be interesting and informative toward future possibilities. Thanks for your interest.

BigFatFuss - We chose 4” tires intentionally. The traction they deliver is incredible. 5” tires would have provided more (in our opinion unnecessary) traction, added a bunch of rotating weight, and made us design the bike around longer chainstays. Bucksaw’s chainstays are 444mm and our preference is to design a bike for optimum performance at a given wheelsize: in this case, 4” tires. Read this blog for more info: 

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turtle purple | August 6th, 2014

hi guys I have been happily riding around on my surly pugsley for quite a while now looking at all the brands put out their version and I said not worth the upgrade ......... until now . WOW .
when do you expect them to be available in Australia..????
thanks you salsa

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | August 7th, 2014

turtle purple - I’ll look into Australian availability as I don’t have that info readily available to me.

One other thing: I’m glad you are happy with your bike, but highly encourage you to try a Mukluk, Beargrease, or Blackborow. As with all bikes, geometry improves over time, and you should take a ride on one of those to see what we’ve been up to with our fatbikes. Thanks for your interest in Bucksaw.

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Kevin | August 21st, 2014

Can’t wait until Demo Day on Saturday when I get to try one of these out.  My wife and credit card are cringing in fear though…  I told LBS I may come in on Monday and place my order for a frameset.  :-)

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Stefan | October 6th, 2014

How well does the suspension perform in winter weather? Can these be ridden in the winter as snow bikes? How easy would it be to replace bushings and other suspension components after riding them in the winter?

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Tim Bourdeau | October 13th, 2014

here we go again Salsa on the for front of fat bikes when are you guys going to make your own wheels tubeless carbon?—-  next thing will be a carbon frame and I’m in….

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Moonter | October 17th, 2014

I don’t own a fat bike yet but might soon ! Bucksaw sounds great. Any plans to bring it to Scotland if so what would the price be and how soon?

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Bruce | October 26th, 2014

Is the Bucksaw 1 frame only available in blue? I really like the red version with the black wheels like Benton is riding in the last photo. Can I get the frame in that same red color? Hope there might be plans for a carbon frame in the near future.

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Henry Ward | October 27th, 2014

Hi, I ride a Rocky Mountain Element Carbon 26” around the rocks and roots of Kelso, Ontario. My friends rave about the relative merits of 27.5 and 29” wheels but I am not exactly sluggish on the trails. The bike I ride is super fast and wheel size has never been something I was concerned about.. Until last week when a couple of dewds riding fat bikes came careening down a near 30 percent rock wall at full tilt, gripping fat tyres and laughing all the way.. No endos, or tyres stuck on rocks, or negotiating features, they just ploughed thro it! It got me thinking if this could be the future - fat bikes, but with full suspension. One look on the net brings me to your site, and into the future - this is the future of mountain biking, no doubt about it. Congratulations and thank you for developing it, you have a possible future client in me and a convert from the here on in. I would also like to volunteer my test riding services as your first Canadian rider - happy to help if you need the feedback and intros.. ;-)

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Subnormal | December 22nd, 2014

Did a quick test ride on Saturday and brought one home.  This bike is a total blast the bike shop i purchased mine at had a small test track.  I did 4 laps before i went back inside to buy one.  I was looking at a fat bike or a dual suspension mountain bike.  Now i have the best of both…..

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Reglian | January 28th, 2015

Any chance to hear from somebody from Salsa about the recommendations for using this bike during the winter? Here in Ontario winters are long, cold and windy. I want 1 bike to use all year round an though that Bucksaw was the one. However, I was told that rear suspension bikes might not be the best option if riding during the winter. I would prefer the Bucksaw over the Mukluk but really would like to hear your recommendation

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | February 2nd, 2015

Reglian - Here are my thoughts. People have ridden suspension bikes and full-suspension bikes in the cold for years. Cold weather can add some initial resistance to the shock or fork, quite similarly to driving a car in extreme cold and feeling the impacts more harshly until the shock fluid warms up. The fork and shock on the Bucksaw are RockShox products and as such I recommend following their maintenance and usage instructions, otherwise you could make Warranty invalid.

From personal experience, the Bucksaw has thoroughly impressed me on some snow rides. It was soaking up a lot of small bump stuff I was not aware of…until I couldn’t feel it anymore.

If you ride in what I will call extreme cold weather…below zero F type riding…I would probably not take out a full-suspension or front suspension fatbike. Remember, the fork and rear shock are from RockShox and you want to mind their instructions.

One other personal note: In some places, including here in Minnesota, a lot of salt gets dumped on the roadways in winter. That stuff is nasty for bikes and personally I would try to avoid subjecting ANY full-suspension bike to that sort of corrosive environment as much as possible.

I hope that helps.

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Reglian | February 5th, 2015

Thank you very much for the answer and advice. I’ll give it a try to the front suspension only (Mukluk) and save the money

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