At Salsa, we believe that the best road routes rarely stick to freshly-laid asphalt and the most memorable experiences and stories come from rides that don't always go according to plan.
Inspired by our own challenging rides on unpredictable routes—fueled by espresso and pastries and full of stories and memories—we saw an opportunity to build a road bike that wasn't exclusively for pavement.
We asked ourselves: what would a road bike for crumbling rural roads, cobbled streets and a side of gravel look like? Warroad, our endurance road bike, is our answer to that question.
Product Manager Joe Meiser and some of the Salsa crew would regularly embark on big road rides in early spring and deep summer just for the fun of it, and almost always in pursuit of the best coffee and pastries in some far-flung rural town. As Meiser puts it:
“[product design engineer] Sean Mailen, myself and a few others used to plan these monstrous routes where we would explore rural roads out of Minneapolis. The midway point almost always included coffee and pastries to refuel for the return trip and a warm respite for our water bottles and toes to thaw out.”
These all-day rides often started on pavement but covered all kinds of terrain as the miles ticked on:
“Sean dubbed a ride we did to Red Wing the ‘Cannonball Run’. It was a 120+ mile route that crossed the Cannon River on a decommissioned road bridge that involved some scrambling while carrying your bike. The ride hit pavement, gravel, two-track and singletrack before the river crossing and then spit us out onto a rail trail littered with spring ice melt for the last couple of miles into Red Wing for the half-way bakery stop.”
Needless to say, the rides were taxing. Enough that the Salsa team wondered if there was a way to have their cinnamon roll and eat it, too. Aside from the colorful stories these rides often generated, our product and design teams came away with a thought: What if there was a road bike that behaved like a road bike when you needed it to, but could take on unmaintained surfaces with the same aggressive performance and a little added comfort for all-day rides?
Salsa engineer Pete Hall took on the monumental task of creating what would become Warroad:
“During development I saw Warroad as a road bike with a side of gravel. We succeeded in mixing the agility and responsiveness of a road bike with the confidence to turn down a sketchy road whenever the opportunity arises.”
Enter Salsa’s Endurance Road geometry. To combine responsive handling and quick acceleration with the stability to conquer rough roads without beating up the rider, Hall came up with a 71-degree head tube angle with a 51mm offset fork and 415mm chainstays. We also designed the bike with our Class 5™ Vibration Reduction System (VRS) for damping the harsh vibrations that are so rough on bikes and bodies.
Warroad also has dual wheel-size compatibility, with clearance for up to 700c x 35mm or 650b x 47mm tires.
Details of the Warroad Carbon Tiagra 650 model...
650b wheels allow for higher-volume tires in the frame without affecting handling characteristics or geometry. Larger tires create a larger contact patch, which allows for more grip when cornering, accelerating and braking. Bump absorption is also improved, which cuts fatigue on long rides or rough terrain. The 650b wheel and tire setup has the added benefit of a slightly lower standover height and less toe overlap, making it an ideal fit for smaller riders.
Details of the Warroad Carbon Ultegra 700 model...
700c wheels generally have lower-volume tires which deliver lower rolling resistance for an increase in effiency, better rollover, and carry more momentum.
The result of all this is a bike that blends agility and comfort for all-day road rides on all roads.
Warroad comes loaded with features that are much appreciated on long rides:
Where Warroad differs from Warbird is its focus on agility over stability. Warroad is for road with a side of gravel; Warbird is for gravel racing where its longer wheelbase and greater stability excel.
From a geometry standpoint, Warroad’s Endurance Road geometry has a slightly steeper head tube angle, lower bottom bracket and shorter chainstays than Warbird. Warroad is torsionally stiffer in the bottom bracket juncture, head tube, seatstays and chainstays, which gives up some of the compliance and comfort needed on the Warbird for all-day gravel rides in exchange for pedaling efficiency and quicker handling.
The Warroad’s stiffer head tube and chainstays eliminate frame and fork wind-up and spring-back through fast corners. The increased stiffness of the head tube and bottom bracket junctures in combination with a much deeper down tube creates a stiffer “spine” (the connection from the head tube through the bottom bracket into the chainstays) on the Warroad for pure speed and handling confidence.
The result of all this is a bike that handles and accelerates as you would expect an endurance road bike to. Yet it’s much more capable than your average endurance road bike when the smooth asphalt runs out.
As Warroad came together, the Salsa team saw more and more potential. “While I love gravel racing, the aim of our rides was always to get on lesser traveled rural and scenic roads. Many of these are paved and many aren’t. I wanted a bike that didn’t limit the ride to a surface, had quick handling and was responsive to rider feedback. The Warroad balances this with a stable road ride, hence the endurance geometry idea,” Said Meiser.
COMING TO FRUITION
When it came to real-world testing, we put Warroad through its paces on everything from no-holds-barred Wednesday-night group road rides to hero gravel races like Almanzo. The verdict? It’s a quick bike that can go all day.
Hall recalls testing the first Warroad prototype on a ride very much in line with its pedigree of all-day rides full of fun, food and memorable moments:
“I took the first prototype frame to Taiwan with Joe and Sean to do a long ride climbing up and away from Taichung into the mountainous countryside. We started with a big breakfast in Taichung, then crossed the city and climbed the first low mountain range. We stopped to refuel at a 7-11—which are everywhere in Taiwan. There was a guy in the corner of the parking lot just playing the drums; Sean and I took him in with amusement while we drank our Cokes. Many hours, a few thousand feet of climbing along a mountain river and one roadside nap in the sun later, we rode by the same 7-11 on the descent into town. The drummer was still there, still giving those drums hell. Fittingly, our seven-hour ride included two coffee stops along with plenty of waffles and ice cream.”
What you’ll find in Warroad is a road bike without limits, built for those times when the ride travels off the pavement and back again. A bike for riders who don’t define a road ride by the surfaces traveled on. We can’t wait to see what story-worthy rides you find with it. Go get after it!
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I’m a jack-of-all, master-of-none sort when it comes to the outdoors. Riding, climbing, paddling, skiing or hiking—everything has its own appeal. All that matters are the effort and the solitude. I’m not competitive but I enjoy a good challenge, and I’ll say “yes” to anything that puts me in over my head or involves type 2 fun, as that’s where life’s spicier moments seem to live.