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