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Photo: Matt Miller.

In early March, Salsa updated their full-suspension line up, and the Spearfish, Rustler, and Horsethief all got new lines, new leverage rates, new angles, and new colors.

Salsa uses the Dave Weagle designed Split-Pivot suspension platform which separates braking and acceleration forces from suspension activity. For 2019, the leverage rate was updated to give the bikes a more progressive ramp-up in the final third of the stroke.

I recently received the updated Spearfish for testing. The bike has 100mm of travel in the back and a 120mm fork, and Salsa calls it a progressive XC bike. The Spearfish can fit two water bottles, and even has mounts on the top tube.

From the previous generation, it’s about a degree-and-a-half slacker in the head angle, and has almost an inch more travel. The cockpit is much more modern; my test bike came with a short stem and 800mm wide handlebars. It has a dropper post, and wider, 2.3-inch tires. There’s enough room for a 27.5×2.8 tire, or 29s all the way up to 2.6-inches wide. All in all, it’s just beefed up. The updated Spearfish is designed around a 157mm-wide rear hub.

The Spearfish comes in four sizes, S, M, L, and XL which should fit riders between 5’5″ and 6’2″+. Geometry starts with a 67.8/68-degree head angle, and a 74.3/74.5-degree seat angle, depending on the chosen geometry mode. The chainstay changes by a millimeter from 433/432mm in each mode. The medium I’m testing has a 442/444mm reach, and a 1,163mm wheelbase.

Photo: Matt Miller.

So far, Salsa’s dubbing of the Spearfish as a progressive XC bike feels right. Brands have been changing what XC means and what the bikes are capable of. It could be a trickle down of technology from enduro, with better attention to geometry and suspension technology. It could be feedback from consumers and athletes about how bikes handle. It could be that XC courses are changing. Or, maybe it’s just that people want to have equal amounts of fun on uphills and downhills.

Photo: Matt Miller.

After a couple of rides, the Spearfish fits the bill. It’s a fun and snappy climber. The geometry feels comfortable, and it hasn’t held me back on the descents so far. Look for a long-term review sometime soon.

Horsethief and Rustler updates

Like the Spearfish, the Horsethief chainstays now fit a 157mm hub, but the Rustler kept 148mm Boost spacing.

The Rustler now has 130mm of frame travel with a 150mm fork and 27.5-inch wheels. Salsa calls it their “playful trail bike.” It holds one bottle in the frame.

The Horsethief has 120mm of frame travel with a 140mm fork on 29-inch wheels and is their trail or all-around, general mountain bike. The frame space has been opened up to hold two water bottles inside.

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# Comments

  • Patrick Goral

    I’m excited to hear your opinions! Just spent a week riding the new Salsa full suspension line up in Stokesville, VA and it was incredible!

    • Matt Miller

      I’m really enjoying it so far! I think it’ll be hard to complain about.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    I’ve long thought that even XC Race bikes could benefit from using progressive geometry. So Salsa gets kudos from me for moving in that direction. However, for me, the Spearfish has identity issues and leaves me a little confused. I’m not quite sure if the Spearfish is an XC Race bike or a short-travel Trailbike. Maybe that’s good and maybe that’s bad depending on you perspective. If you just wanted just a short-travel Trailbike, I think the Salsa Horsethief or the new Ibis Ripley would do the job better.

    I would have rather seen a bike that’s a little more XC Race and went something like this.
    * 100mm travel front and rear.
    * Every effort made to keep the bike very light and pedal/climb efficiently (XC Race like) given the pricepoint.
    * Go all in with the progessive geometry with a 76 degree STA and a 66.5 degree HTA.
    * Use i27-29mm rims that would play nice with 2.2 tires but also with 2.6 tires.
    * Ship the bike with 2.2 XC Race tires.
    * In XC Race mode, use 2.2 tires and you’re all in and have a competetive, efficient bike for the races.
    * In Trail mode, use aggressive 2.6 tires and you have a light, great climbing but also great descending, short-travel Trailbike. I think Plus tires (2.6 or wider) and progessive geometry, used together, would make up some for the short travel when in Trail mode.

    I would rather see a progressive geometry XC Race/Trail bike pushed more to the XC Race side of the equation. XC Race first, Trailbike second. What do you think?

    • Matt Miller

      Interesting take. It’s definitely not a “race” bike – although you could certainly race it. I don’t feel like racing is Salsa’s vibe though, and wouldn’t see them marketing the bike as such. I’d say your “short-travel trail bike” is a bit more spot on. It climbs really well, and I think the geo and travel are appropriate for the intentions. The previous gen Spearfish also got a slightly bigger fork. 80 rear/ 100 front. There are a few interesting specs on the new Spearfish though, like 800mm wide bars and 25mm IW rims. More to come on that though 🙂 Either way, so far it crushes the climbs and is a blast downhill. After riding this, I’m intrigued to try the Horsethief.

  • lhzawd

    I built up a 2018 Salsa Bucksaw /wren with 2 wheel sets – 4.6 front /rear at 34.5 lb in fat mode for winter and summer . Also a 2.6 rear /2.8 front for trail riding at 30 lbs all Hope hubs . The bike has been amazing for year round use at 100mm rear/120mm front with the suspension helping to save my back .
    Appears now to be discontinued, I guess the full suspension fat market was too small . The push appears to going towards these 2 newer models one with the desired more travel . I would have to compare specs to see what changes were made over the year to this frame design and if there would be a really noticeable difference compared to the multi purpose Bucksaw with 2.6 / 2.8 combination .

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