How To Pick The Proper Size Fargo

The Fargo is a fairly unique bicycle and sometimes seems to leave folks just a bit confused when it comes to choosing the size they should ride.

First some background:

The Fargo is a 29er adventure mountain bike, designed for drop bars. It is a mountain bike because it uses mountain seat tube lengths (16in, 18in, 20in, etc), has an appropriately gauged tube set, and is designed to use wide knobby 29er tires, disk brakes, and mountain cranksets.

The "designed for drop bar" part is important, and where things start to differ from the norm. First let’s break down a drop bar (road bar): When riding in the "drops" (the lower hook portion), your hands are below (known as "drop"), and also in front (known as reach) of the stem clamp/handle bar centerline. Traditional "flat" or "riser" mountain bars do not have reach, your hands are generally in line with the stem clamp/handle bar centerline.

If you put a drop bar on a mountain bike using the same stem it currently has, you would find that when your hands are "in the drops" they are now further forward, and also much lower than where your hands normally were with the original "straight" handlebar. Let that sink in for minute.

OK, so drop bars mean your hands are further forward, and also lower than normal. To get this new hand position back closer to where your hands typically are on a mountain bike the Fargo has two key differences:

1) A shorter top tube length than a similar sized mountain bikes (Example: medium El Mariachi ETT = 600mm, medium Fargo = 575mm). This compensates for some of the extra "reach" that drop bars have.

2) The head tube lengths are longer than similar sized mountain bikes to help compensate for the extra "drop" that drop bars have.

Now at this point, some of you may be thinking; "What if I want to use flat bars? Won't the bars then be to close and too high?" The answer is simply this: The Fargo was designed to use drop bars. You will have to make some compromises and get sneaky with stems and such to properly fit and use flat bars. It's not impossible, just not optimal on this particular frame.

I should note though that because body types are all different, there are folks who may prefer a shorter top tube length, and in this case the Fargo may work for them in a flat bar set up.

So now that you either understand a little bit more about the Fargo and drop bars (or you are just even more confused), here are some methods for choosing the correct size Fargo for you.

Method 1: If you currently own a Salsa mountain bike:
a. Pick the same size.
ex: You ride a large Ala Carte => look for a large Fargo.
ex: You ride a small Big Mama => look for a small Fargo.

Method 2: If you currently own a mountain bike other than a Salsa, determine what size Salsa mountain bike you would ride:
a. Compare the geometry of your current, favorite, best fitting mountain bike to Salsa's mountain frames.
b. Compare against our El Mariachi, Ala Carte, Big Mama, El Kaboing frames, etc. Do not compare directly to the Fargo.
c. Seat tube length and effective (horizontal) top tube are the two main dimensions to key on.
d. Once you determine what size Salsa mountain bike you would ride, proceed to Method 1.

Method 3: For the Roadies & 'Crossers, Salsa brand or any other make:
a. Compare the effective (horizontal) top tube length of your favorite, best fitting frame to the ETT of the Fargo.
b. Since road and cross bikes come in tighter spaced size increments than the Fargo, use standover as an aid to decide what size Fargo to round up or down to.

Method 4: For multi-discipline cyclists (you own a road or cross bike and a mountain bike.)
a. Note the effective top tube length of your favorite, best fitting road or cross bike.
b. Determine what size Salsa mountain bike is closest to your favorite, best fitting mountain bike (use Method 2 above if necessary).
c. Pick a Fargo based on effective top tube. Use your equivalent Salsa mountain size to round up or down, and double check with stand over.

Of course, blog posts on the interweb are really just one’s and zero’s. The best and most accurate way to size up the correct Fargo is to head down to your local Salsa dealer. They will have the knowledge and experience to fit you and get you out adventuring by bicycle.

This post filed under topics: Fargo Pete Koski

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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 hanger. Outside of work and riding, I enjoy kiteboarding, traveling, and watching hockey.


MG | March 26th, 2010

This is good feedback, Pete.  I actually sized my Fargo down for my 2010 bike, from an XL to a L frame, which coincides with your guidance, coincidentally. 

The Fargo is a special bike and it pays to take the time to set it up right for the type of riding you plan to do with it.  Gnat’s got some awesome photos of his different Fargo setups on his blog,, and I’d recommend any aspiring Fargo owner check that out as well.

Have a great weekend!


S.Fuller | March 30th, 2010

This ended up being the logic that I followed as well, along with a brief test sit on MG’s XL last year. The XL felt a little to big for me, and the ETT of the L frame almost perfectly matches that of my La Cruz. Looking forward to getting some seat time on mine soon.

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Joel Weeks | November 17th, 2012

I normally ride a 18” frame but liked the fit of the 20” frame some how it feels more upright.

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