First published in Issue 124 of Singletrack Magazine, this Salsa Blackborow was reviewed as part of our Long Haulers test of bikes with racks. For when you really want to carry everything and the kitchen sink.
Words by Antony de Heveningham. Photos by James Vincent.
- Price: £3,450.00
- From: Lyon Equipment, lyon.co.uk
Have you ever looked at the rack on your bike and thought ‘Wow, I could carry lots more stuff on this, if only it was longer’? You’re in luck – other people have already followed a similar trajectory of thought, and now there’s a whole genre of bikes which are designed to haul more junk in the trunk. The original longtail cargo bike was the Xtracycle, effectively a conversion kit that bolted to the back of your old mountain bike and turned it into a lengthy but practical beast that could carry shopping, children, and even a surfboard. Surly built on this concept with the Big Dummy, a frame built specifically to work with Xtracycle bags and accessories (although it now produces its own range of complementary kit) and, gloriously, the Big Dummy was hot-rodded into the Big Fat Dummy, a 4in-tyred off-road version.
Salsa is Surly’s sister company, and the Blackborow is effectively a junior sibling to the Big Fat Dummy. When the Blackborow was introduced in 2016, the name was attached to a fairly conventional fat bike. For a brand whose line-up already contains two well-respected fat-tyred models though, one more was arguably gilding the lily. So at the end of 2017, the Blackborow was reborn as a stretched-out cargo machine with monster truck capabilities.
However, the Blackborow also introduces some important changes to the longtail template. It has a shorter wheelbase than full-blown longtail bikes, which are more akin to a tandem in length. And unlike Surly’s off-road cargo bike, which is constructed from indestructible 4130 steel, the Blackborow has been lightweighted, with an aluminium frame, carbon forks, and a rack which is designed to take conventional panniers as well as bespoke bags.
The frame uses a fairly conventional front triangle, but wheelbase on a medium is stretched out to 1336mm, with all the increased length added at the back of the bike. This enables the Blackborow to accommodate its specially designed rack, which is a thing of Forth Bridge proportions. You can attach two sets of conventional panniers to this, strap your gear to it, or get custom luggage made.
The rack has a weight limit of 50kg, which should be more than enough for touring. However, the folks at Salsa are very clear that it isn’t designed to take passengers, so use a child seat at your own risk, and gently rebuff all the people who want you to give them a backie. The top of the rack is equipped with eight M6 bolt mounts for a custom-made deck or crate, and a mount at the rear for a light, or perhaps a home-made ‘long vehicle’ sign. The front triangle of the frame is much more conventional, but still has five sets of bottle cage mounts, and full internal cable routing, including plumbing for a dropper post. It even has mudguard fixings. Despite the frame defying conventional geometry in one obvious respect, top tube length and stack height are on the sensible side, although the medium complete bike does come with whopping 800mm handlebars.
The Blackborow is available as a frameset, consisting of frame, fork and rack. We tested the GX Eagle complete build, which comes equipped with 27.5in wheels and 3.8in Maxxis Minion FB tyres. These are supported by SUNRinglé Mulefüt rims with a girthy 80mm internal diameter, spinning on 150mm front and 197mm rear bolt-through hubs. Thanks to this hub spacing, it’ll also accept 26in tyres up to 4.8in in width, or 29in tyres up to 3in, but obviously, trying either of these will also require a new wheelset.
The Blackborow is designed to be suspension compatible, but stock builds come with a rigid Kingpin fork, which has carbon legs and an alloy steerer. This is equipped with a plethora of bottle and kit cage mounts, plus internal routing for dynamo connections – pleasingly, the second fork in this test that’s designed to be wired up in this way.
Earlier versions of the Blackborow featured a double front chainring, but SRAM’s GX Eagle 1×12 groupset paired with a 30T Stylo crankset gives you a low enough bottom gear for fully laden riding. The brakes are slightly less confidence inspiring: Avid Speed Dial levers connected to Hayes MX Comp disc callipers by – shock, horror – a cable. However, there are sound reasons for this – the length of hose needed for the rear disc brake on a longtail bike means that bleeding the system is a stern test of mechanical finesse – and it also fits with the bike’s back-of-beyond aspirations. If you’re planning to buy this bike, a few practicalities might be worrying you. I can confirm that with the front wheel off, it fits in the back of an estate (although a roof rack might be pushing it). Removing the rack also decreases the effective length of the bike by around 40 cm, so while it doesn’t exactly squirrel away, it doesn’t pose the storage dilemmas of bigger cargo bikes.
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Salsa Blackborow Specification
- Frame // Blackborow mid-wheelbase
- Fork // Salsa Bearpaw Carbon
- Hubs // SUNringlé SRC, 150x15mm front & 197x12mm rear
- Rims // SUNringlé Mulefüt//ACCENT// SL 80
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion FBF, 27.5×3.8″
- Chainset // Truvativ Stylo 6K Eagle, 30T X-Sync Direct Mount chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
- Cassette // SRAM XG-1275, 10-50, 12-speed
- Brakes // Hayes MX Comp Mechanical
- Stem // Salsa Guide Trail, 31.8 mm, 70mm length
- Bars // Salsa Salt Flat, 31.8 mm, 800mm width
- Grips // Salsa File Tread
- Seatpost // Salsa Guide
- Saddle // WTB Volt Sport
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large
- Weight // 17.49kg/38.56lbs
|Tested:||by Antony de Heveningham for|