Hands On with Salsa’s New Split Pivot Horsethief and Spearfish

horsethief small

Judging by the long lines and empty bike racks around the Salsa tent at Saddle Drive, Salsa’s new Split Pivot bikes seemed to be one of the biggest hits of the show. Just recently announced, Salsa has updated redesigned the Spearfish and the Horsethief, incorporating Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension design. With the addition of the new frame layout, Salsa aimed to create a suspension bike that didn’t rely on increased low speed compression damping to make it efficient – but provide a frame that pedals extremely well yet still has great small bump compliance.

Do the bikes live up to the claims? We got  chance to ride, and weigh some of the new bikes, check it out next.

Hands On with Salsa's New Split Pivot Horsethief and Spearfish

Most of our time was spent on the Horsethief, and specifically the Horsethief 1. While the components are different than the top tier XX1, Salsa believes in using the same frame and providing the same features across the line. At 120mm travel, the Horsethief sees an 18% increase in lateral stiffness and most importantly gets much shorter chainstays. Both of Salsa’s new bikes receive 437mm chainstays that are quite noticeable on the trail. Even with the short chainstays, the frame still has room for 29×2.35″ tires with plenty of mud clearance.

Salsa horsethief suspension detail

In addition to the concentric rear dropout of the Split Pivot design, the Horsethief gets a slightly different link design that is attached to a rear shock yoke. Salsa talks about elevating the fit and finish on these bikes and it shows – they are beautiful, even more so in person.

Hands On with Salsa's New Split Pivot Horsethief and Spearfish

While the top end Horsethief is equipped with XX1, all frames include a direct mount front derailleur tab. Salsa has a nice cosmetic cap for the mount when not in use, however.

Hands On with Salsa's New Split Pivot Horsethief and Spearfish

Horsethieves are either equipped with Salsa’s 750mm Rustler alloy bars, or 740mm carbon bars. The green Rustler felt great on the ride, for some reason feelings smaller than 750mm.

Hands On with Salsa's New Split Pivot Horsethief and Spearfish

The Spearfish gets many of the same improvements as the Horsethief like Split Pivot technology, and shorter 437mm chainstays.  Built to be more of an endurance race bike than the Horsethief, the Spearfish sees a bigger 21% increase and stiffness and a slightly different suspension design.

Salsa Spearfish Suspension detail

The Spearfish has a link under the chainstays which attach directly to the rear shock. The Spearfish still receives improved small bump compliance, but in a snappier, racier package.

Salsa Horsethief and spearfish weight

Actual weights of the show samples revealed some fairly light rigs. These were all fairly big bikes – the Spearfish was a 20″, and the Horsethief 1 a 22″. The Spearfish XX1 was unsurprisingly the lightest, at 24.21 lbs (10.98kg). The Horsethief XX1 adds just under 2.5 pounds at 26.76 lbs and the Horsethief 1 adds a front derailleur and chainring at 27.47 lbs.

Panorama small

Ride Impressions:

In the midst of testing a number of new bikes on a very hot day at Snowbasin, I was able to track down a Horsethief 1 for a bit of an adventure. As one of the longest rides of the day, I took off and climbed pretty much straight up nearly 1000′ to the overlook pictured above. The climb was loose and dusty, with a few rocky sections that were good indications of small bump compliance while climbing.

On Salsa’s recommendation, I left the Fox CTD shock in Descend mode which they said would illustrate how well the suspension design, not the damping was working. They were absolutely right, with the bike feeling incredibly efficient while climbing without having to use the Climb mode once. Of course this meant the suspension felt extremely plush and active when you hit a rock or root, but there was very little pedal induced suspension bob.

After hanging out at the top for a bit, we turned around and blasted back into the resort – all without having to flip any levers or remotes. Downhill, the Horsethief just want’s to gallop away. It is extremely nimble for a 29er, and wanted to go much faster than the traffic on the trail would allow.

My Spearfish ride was quite a bit shorter but was long enough to tell the bike is indeed more of a race machine. The suspension was still impressive, but in a smaller package that wants to charge on the flats and climbs more than anything. Shorter chainstays are immediately noticeable and result in a 29er that is fun to flick around and slash corners.

Of course these were fairly short test rides, but first impressions of the new bikes are very very favorable. Compared to the previous generation, Salsa has upped their game substantially.

Comments

Andy B - 07/25/13 - 3:21pm

Really beautifully finished! Going with the shorter stays is a massive improvement, couple with a slacker head tube angle and these could be super fun to ride. Rocky Mountain has been doing this since 2012 but the Salsa looks like it’s got the best of all worlds.

Sardinia Rider - 07/25/13 - 3:34pm

This would probably the only brand I would look at when I’ll stop being a Specialized fanboy.

BC - 07/25/13 - 3:53pm

The actual spec on the Horsethief 1 will have X01 for the drivetrain.

Ck - 07/25/13 - 4:17pm

That anodized blue looks drop dead gorgeous and pairs well with the Kashima color. While i’m sad that the entire range took a price bump moving from the single pivot generation, i’m still going to pinch the pennies to keep it in my budget.

Samuel J. Greear - 07/25/13 - 5:09pm

Nice Trek’s. Er, wait…

ccolagio - 07/25/13 - 5:12pm

nothing kills the clean aesthetic of a 1x setup on a bike quite like a giant direct FD mount. and as a 1x rider for the last 7 years…i dislike this frame addition very much.

Brian - 07/25/13 - 5:14pm

prices on the horsethief?

David French - 07/25/13 - 5:25pm

These bikes look great. I really like what Salsa does and always have so it’s great to see them doing well. If I had the space I think it would be time for Salsa number 3 in the shape of a Spearfish.

yafro - 07/25/13 - 6:04pm

@Ck

Still Single Pivot suspension design. Not that there is anything wrong with that and with the prevalence of single chainring drivetrains (even the close ratio 2x set ups) it is easier, not easy but easier, to dial in swingarm angle to counter drive forces.

Works pretty well on 99% (or more) of the motorcycles that are out there.

Bikes look great. Glad they put the direct mount on it.

Zach Overholt - 07/25/13 - 8:18pm

@Brian, check out the link at the top of the story to our first post on the two bikes. More detail on specs, and pricing. Thanks.

duder - 07/25/13 - 9:07pm

I’m glad they still come with a front d. mount. As someone who rides on pavement to get to the trail and then shreds technical climbs and descents with lots of vert, a single ring just isn’t enough range. Even with the big 42 in the back you still have to choose between low-medium or medium-high ranges.

fanboy - 07/25/13 - 10:40pm

Avid brakes?

FAIL.

there is a reason why more and more brands are specing SRAM shifting and Shimano brakes.

Ajax - 07/26/13 - 12:52am

For my next MTB I want
1) rigid tail
2) thru axle front and rear
3) 650b

IRLMTB'er - 07/26/13 - 10:10am

Beautiful bikes, makes a change from your run-of-the-mill Trek/Spec/Giants.

Only concern is the rear tyre clearance, from the pic it looks like the 2.35″ is quite tight into the rear swingarm bridge, feeding mud into the rear linkage which looks like its a catch-all for mud… Which is fine if you live in a dry/dusty place, not so much here where 90% of the year it rains….

Joey B - 07/28/13 - 8:16am

Split Pivot works very well. After riding the new BH Lynx 4.8 29 the last few days I am sold!

Dan - 08/01/13 - 11:32am

The bike would look a bit better if you could figure out a way to make the front derailleur mount removable. dan at love2pedal.com

Erik napa - 10/05/13 - 8:57am

Which to choose between the 2014 editions of the spearfish and horsethief? I live in New York and do most of my riding in Long Island and Massachusetts (jiminy peak). I do not plan on racing and I am having trouble deciding between the two.
Thanks,
Erik N.

r1Gel - 10/08/13 - 9:38pm

All I want for Christmas is a Spearfish 3 (and a Surly Krampus)

Walter - 12/23/13 - 4:11pm

What’s with the production delays with the Spearfish? Salsa says they are having “delays” bringing it to market. Duh. What does that mean? r1Gel – good luck getting your Christmas gift on time. I’m bumming waiting for my S/F II – maybe January? Anyone have the straight scoop on the situation?

Chris - 02/12/14 - 1:02pm

Any update on Spearfish orders/deliveries from end of 2013 and currently?

Are they backlogged?

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.