To say that all eyes were on Salsa at Saddle Drive 2013 would be accurate, but it verges on understatement. With a booth that lined up like a midnight blockbuster showing, Saddle Drive participants were hungry to hit the trails and throw around the likes of Beargrease, El Mariachi Ti, and the Colossal — a few of the newest and (let’s be honest) sexiest additions to the Salsa line.Arguably, the Beargrease played the biggest looker of them all. It’s an aluminum alloy frame with a tapered headtube and ultralight tapered fork, graced with an X0/E.13 crank and custom Rolling Darryl rims from Surly. Black, blue, and pretty much badass-all-over, you wouldn’t want to meet Beargrease in a dark alley: This is a racer fatbike, designed to the be lightest and most efficient fatbike available. Among the four of us representing Tree Fort at Saddle Drive, Scott M. managed to get his hands on one of these for a proper meet and greet on the trail. And it really was all that. Cutting deftly around switchbacks, pummeling uphill climbs and downhill descents, Scott was deeply impressed by just how nimbly it handled while simultaneously carrying all the benefits of a fat bike, softly soaring over any and all obstacles. We caught him with a smile saying, “This was the best cornering bike I’ve ridden all weekend, especially on the loose overpack out here!” While marketed most heavily toward racing, Beargrease also makes an exciting ride even on the rocky summer trails where it was introduced to us. Here again, Salsa makes its claim on adventure by bike as not only a tagline, but a mission statement. The Beargrease doesn’t have the mounts you may be accustomed to with the likes of Salsa’s Fargo, Spearfish and Vaya, but you can load up the Beargrease a little also by adding a frame and seat bag. You can take it just about anywhere, and you won’t for a second regret that you did.
The El Mariachi and El Mariachi Ti are redesigned and the Colossal is new for 2013. While the El Mariachi has remained geared since first production in 2007, its innovative Alternator dropout system has long invited riders to experiment with single speed setups. Finally, in the SS El Mariachi made for 2013, Salsa is offering its own build using the platform previously left for individual rider customization. Now don’t kill the messenger, but we have to let you know that this is a limited edition: Salsa will release only a limited number of these on the market. Rightly so. The sunset orange frameset glows even stronger from the touches of gold that range from its hubs to seatbolt clamp, from handlebar grips to frame details. It stands out, it stands up, and it rides simply and efficiently, carrying all the trail-tested merits of El Mariachi’s geometry on a forgiving steel hardtail. The new Colossal Ti (a steel model will also be available) is equally striking, taking Salsa’s comfortable, go-anywhere riding geometry into the pavement-only setting. A double-butted titanium frame is completed by a custom ENVE carbon fork; a disc-only system uses 140 mm rotors on front and rear; and an Ultegra drivetrain is powered by an FSA Energy crank. As for aesthetics, the polished titanium is framed by the matte black carbon fork; hints of bright red flash from the stem, spoke nipples, water bottle cage bolts, and seatpost. The way the colossal rides is pretty much what everyone has heard about riding titanium bikes: compliant and smooth in a way only titanium can be, as if the bike is moving with you instead simply reacting to your weight. Ti is like a hyped-up destination spot that you can’t totally appreciate until you’ve seen it first-hand. The ocean beach, the great cities of the world — Through your own experience, those things become real, profound, and freaking awesome.
In 2013, Salsa continues to grow, pushing and exceeding the boundaries of rider expectations, and even riders’ expectations of themselves. For the first ride of the day, all four of us took Mukluks out into the mountains, having a hell of a time coasting over ruts and around sandy corners, wishing only on the greatest climbs for a few pounds less to carry; later that afternoon, I took a Fargo on a steep 1,000 foot climb and downhill descent, playfully navigating obstacles with a turn of the woodchipper bars, only just trailing my partner on an El Mariachi Ti. Looking back on our day in Salsa’s stables, I saw a diverse group of riders who unquestioningly took the reigns of Salsa’s go-anywhere design and had a blast in setting after setting, never really doubting its suitability for the task at hand. Instead, Salsa bikes feel right at home — just about anywhere we dared to go.