Bike Test: Salsa Pony Rustler

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Salsa - Packshot

The heart of this beast is 120mm of Split Pivot rear suspension, combined with a similar travel FOX 34 Boost fork up front

Salsa, and its stablemate Surly, has done more to legitimise fat and plus bikes than any other company I can think of. Surly’s original steel Pugsley fat bike was joined by Salsa’s aluminium Mukluk and suddenly fat bikes weren’t just the realm of the custom frame buyer. Joining Salsa’s fat bikes (aluminium, carbon, full suspension and ready for adventure fat bikes) is this sole plus bike – the Pony Rustler. The Pony Rustler has its roots in the 29er ‘hooligan’ Salsa Horse Thief that we rather liked a few years ago, so let’s see what this is up to.

Salsa - Cranks

The heart of this beast is 120mm of Split Pivot rear suspension, combined with a similar travel FOX 34 Boost fork up front. The Split Pivot system has proven itself on other Salsa bikes, like the racy Spearfish and the monster truck Bucksaw. Our test bike is the Carbon GX1, though importer Raleigh is only bringing framesets in for the moment. Briefly, our bike has a very capable 1×11 SRAM GX groupset, complete with Guide brakes. There’s the rim that started it all: the Scraper laced to SRAM’s Boost hubs. The WTB Bridger tyres bring the 3.0 to the table.

Salsa - GuideThere’s also a mix of Salsa and WTB finishing kit, but unfortunately no dropper post at this spec, though there’s internal routing if you want to add one. The main frame is carbon, as are the seatstays, though strangely not the chainstays. Salsa could only send a large frame, but the fit and reach were fine for our 5ft 9in testers. The matt olive, black and yellow paint scheme looks great on the bike and slightly subdued, as if the bike is already ready to blend into the background on those overnight wild bivvies in the hills. Cable guides on either side of the big headtube junction bolt on and can accommodate British or US brakes without torturous hose routing. Moving back from there, there are flowing carbon frame lines that look organic without looking ‘melted’ as some carbon frames can do.

Salsa - RoutingThe Split Link suspension also has very elegant lines to it, with a yoke that reaches round the seat tube to connect to the shock and that pivot point around the Boost/148mm rear axle. The 1×11 gearing suits the bike well; you’re likely to find a chainring that suits your terrain and stick with it. Saying that, the chainset had a refreshingly non-macho 30T ring that never saw the bike run short on gears. Plus tyres are very happy at lower pressures and (after having to go out and buy a digital pressure gauge) you’ll need to do a lot of experimenting to find the right pressure – but it’s likely to be lower than you think. None of the bikes here ran more than 14PSI.

Salsa - Pony RustlerThe Ride

The Salsa climbs in a very refined way. The power delivery is smooth and entirely bob-free. Moving to out of saddle efforts and the bike responds to the extra power with aplomb. Slower, smoother climbs were on the wandery side, but technical sections were enjoyable as the FOX 34s and 3in Bridger tyres took it all in. Travel is 130/120mm, which makes it the shortest travel bike on the test, but it feels like a well-planted trail bike on the descents. Sitting back and letting the trail come at you isn’t an issue and the bike does well at sucking up trail chatter. Slower turns had a tendency to tuck in and understeer unless you were really active in bossing the bike around.

Slower, smoother climbs were on the wandery side, but technical sections were enjoyable

The Bridger tyres and Scraper rims provide a ton of grip and confidence right up to the point that you hit typically slick British mud, when all hope of control and steering goes out of the window and you’re reduced to being a passenger. This is true of all the bikes here and a reminder that none of the tyre or bike designers live in the UK.Keeping to predictable surfaces, though, the Pony Rustler did a good job of delivering a reliable, perhaps slightly earnest ride. I’d expected a lighter bike for the money and the carbon frame. While 30lbs is acceptable, there aren’t too many places you’re going to be saving weight on future upgrades here.

Salsa - Riding

Salsa Pony Rustler – Spec as tested.
Salsa - Spec_List

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Review Info

Brand: Salsa
Product: Pony Rustler
From: From: Raleigh UK,
Price: Price: £1999.00 (Frame only), bike as tested approx £4,000.00
Tested: by Chipps for