There’s simply no denying that Salsa’s got some damn fine looking bikes in their 2014 range. The kind of bikes that make you wanna get out and ride just by looking at them.
The Warbird gravel racer is just such a bike. Compared to a cyclocross bike, their dedicated gravel grinder gets a bit lower bottom bracket and a road bike fork, so you’re more “in” the bike for long distance riding comfort, as opposed to “over” it. In fact, it has the same 70mm BB drop as their Colossal road bikes, but with about a 2º slacker head angle and half degree slacker seat tube angle. That gives it a bit more stable ride over loose gravel and dirt roads without feeling slow. In fact, the stiff alloy frame makes it feel very fast…
Sure, the titanium Warbird probably offers a bit smoother ride than the alloy bike, but it wasn’t as harsh as expected. The seatstays are flattened and aren’t reinforced to handle braking loads, which seems to help over small chatter and rubble. It’s spec’d with a 27.2mm seatpost, too, which boosts its compliance a bit further. Clearance for up to 700×38 tires is the last volley in the war against rough roads (it’s spec’d with 700×35 Clement USH treads).
Speeding down loose, rock strewn roads is one heck of a test for a road bike. The Warbird handled predictably if just slightly harshly, but what else would you expect from a race-oriented aluminum frame? It launched quickly, rewarding hard pedaling with snappy acceleration. I could hunker down and power along the road just as easily as on a normal road bike, but I think I’d put some carbon cockpits parts, including a flex seatpost, and fatter bar tape to dampen vibrations a bit if I were going to make it my own. It would still have to be red bar tape though – the complete look here with paint matched fork really makes it the best looking Warbird in the lineup and a definite improvement over the unpainted forks from 2012.
For 2014, two alloy complete bikes are offered, this one with an ENVE CX disc fork, and the new Warbird 3 with a Whisky carbon disc fork. There’s also a titanium Warbird, which likely smooths the ride a bit.
This is intended as a gravel race bike, not a leisurely dirt road adventure bike. They have other bikes for that.