Salsa Fresca | BIKE Magazine
If you make salsa correctly it’ll last a surprisingly long time in the fridge. Eventually though, it’ll start to lose its freshness. You open it up and can’t quite tell if that green stuff is cilantro or mold. You could always run the, “I’m sure it’s fine,” scrape-off-the-top method, but it’s probably best to whip up a new batch. Maybe even rustle up something new altogether.
Introducing Salsa’s 2019 Lineup:
Spearfish, Horsethief and all-new Rustler
There are several features shared across the three models, like a one-by specific drivetrain, Boost 157 rear axle spacing, fully tubed internal cable routing and a geometry flip chip located on the shock yoke. They can all carry a bottle inside the frame, too—actually, the Spearfish and Horsethief can take two. Oh, and I almost forgot—all the bikes now have rivnuts on the top of the toptube near the headset, to directly mount a gas tank bag, a true Salsa move.
Salsa has refined the Split Pivot suspension platform to offer a more progressive suspension curve to support aggressive riding. All three bikes received this new tune. Pedaling and braking performance are supposed to be better as well. Split Pivot’s design allows engineers to tune braking and pedaling forces totally separately. As Salsa engineer, Pete Koski puts it, “I can finish designing the braking part of the equation, put it on a shelf, and move over to the pedaling side. Any changes I make to pedaling performance won’t affect what I’ve already done with braking. It makes the design process potentially much simpler than other suspension systems.”
Finally, Salsa has given the bikes a fresh new look, along with a modernized logo that looks fittingly fast.
It’s been a minute since we last tested the Spearfish. We had it at our 2015 Bible of Bike Tests, which means we actually rode it in October of 2014. I can’t always recall my impressions of a bike I rode that long ago, but my memory of the Spearfish is crystal clear. Like, I can picture exact features of the trail as if I rode it yesterday. It was a frosty morning and Bend, Oregon’s Lava Edison trail was half frozen and running fast. I remember thinking how amazing the Spearfish’s suspension felt for a bike with just 100 millimeters of travel. Then I learned it only had 80. Mind blown.
Well now the ‘Fish does actually have 100 millimeters of travel out back. Front travel has also been bumped—from 100 to 120 millimeters—making it much more capable altogether.
The geometry has been updated as well, with a significantly longer reach and steeper seat than the bike previously had. Those numbers aren’t breaking any records, but they’re reasonable. Surprisingly so. I’m 6-feet tall, and made the mistake of sizing up to an XL for my first run. The large seemed short to me, with a 460-millimeter reach, so I opted to size up to 480 millimeters of reach, having ridden a couple 480-mil-reach size large bikes recently.
The problem with that was that the seat angles on those bikes were much steeper than this bike’s, so I actually felt more stretched out on the XL Salsa. Even though the reach might seem like it’s a size off when compared to some other popular bikes on the market right now, the overall fit definitely isn’t. This goes for all the bikes.
Once again, the Spearfish hits above where you think a short-travel bike should be able to. It’s lightning-quick off the line, climbs very efficiently and eagerly attacks descents. The bike comes with a conservative fork and tire spec. I’d personally put 2.5 or 2.6-inch rubber on it (which it’ll fit, by the way, thanks to the Boost 157 rear end) and a RockShox Pike or Fox 36 fork.
But the Spearfish is really well suited as-is for marathoners and recovering XC racers who want the speed without all the twitchiness of a race bike. If I’m itching to put a bigger fork and rubber on the bike, I might as well get a Horsethief.
The Spearfish is available in two carbon and two aluminum-framed builds, ranging from $2,400 to $5,200, as well as a frame-only option for $3,000.
The Horsethief really isn’t an altogether different beast than the Spearfish. If Salsa were Santa Cruz, it’d be called the Spearfish LT, because that’s really how it behaves.
The bike has 120 millimeters of rear wheel travel, and runs 140 millimeters up front. It pedals just as efficiently as the Spearfish does. In fact, the progressive suspension and stock shock tune, which has 2.5 volume spacers, favors efficiency over suppleness.
That’s not to say it’s not capable. It is, but it doesn’t offer as smooth a ride as, say, an Evil Following does. It also feels quicker than a Following, though, with less wasted wattage when you’re on the gas. It’s really no surprise, since Salsa tends to build bikes for long, grueling adventures when efficiency is key.
The Horsethief is a well-balanced 29er trail bike that’s perfect for anyone considering themselves a ‘normal’ mountain bike rider. The 67-degree head angle is a degree slacker than the Spearfish’s. That combined with the short-offset fork (on the carbon-framed builds), makes the Horsey more comfortable at speed, for sure, but with little reduction in climbing prowess.
Like the Spearfish, it has fully tubed internal routing, two bottle mounts, and this new awesome toptube mount. It’s ready from everything from a short ride to a multi-day bikepacking trip, as any Salsa should be.
The bike comes with 2.5-inch tires, but has clearance for 2.6-inch if you fancy more meat. The Horsethief comes in two carbon and two aluminum-framed builds, ranging from $2,400 to $5,200, as well as a frame-only option for $3,000.
The Rustler is a new bike for Salsa, not to be confused with the Pony Rustler. It was actually designed after the Spearfish and Horsethief, so it has some slightly different design language, like the molded cable ports for the internal routing.
The Rustler is also available in a fifth size, XS, for shorter riders—which also fits a bottle inside the frame.
So what is it? It’s a 27.5-inch-wheeled trail bike with 130 millimeters of rear wheel travel and a 150-millimeter fork. Unlike the other two bikes, the Rustler isn’t done in aluminum as well, so it’s offered with just the two carbon-framed builds. The NX Eagle build goes for $4,200, while the GX Eagle build runs $5,200—it’s the same pricing as the Horse and Fish carbon builds.
The bike shares most of the same features as the other two, but where those bikes have 432-millimeter chainstays, the Rustler has super stubby 426-mil stays.
Its suspension is also poppy and progressive, but somehow, the 130 millimeters of travel feels like it gave me more than 10-mil worth of extra suppleness than the Horsethief. It felt more like a 140 or 150 bike.
In the seated position, the Rustler felt a little shorter than the other two bikes, despite similar numbers. I think it comes down to the smaller wheels and short 37-millimeter-offset fork, which don’t actually affect reach but may have the perception of doing so. When standing and descending, it doesn’t feel short at all. I was more comfortable sizing up to an XL on the Rustler, but still think I’d be better off on a large.
I loved the 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion tires. They gave the playful, energetic Rustler some sensible security, and rock-smashing capability, without being bouncy and weird like plus tires.
The Rustler is an awesome little trail whip made for having fun. Out of all three of Salsa’s freshness, I’d be most likely to bring a Rustler back to Bellingham with me, despite the fact that it’s got the wrong diameter wheels.
Here’s the geometry:
There are countless tempting chip-dipping options crowding the shelves these days, but fresh salsa is always a party favorite. If you happen to be in the market for a new whip, Salsa’s new models are more than worth a good, close look.
For Spec and pricing details, peep Salsa’s site