Salsa Spearfish | A Really Very Practical Type Of Bike

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Charlie checks out the latest Salsa Spearfish, for ‘down country’ riding, and a lot of other stuff too.

Down country, what the hell is “Down Country”? A large demo bike arrives at Singletrack, complete with not only gears, full suspension, and a carbon frame… but also a whole new bike category name fresh out of some marketing departments almond milk powershake fuelled mind shower session. Hey, let’s give it to a lanky old clumsy jaded overweight singlespeeder to test.

Salsa Spearfish
The latest incarnation of the Salsa Spearfish

Where did this bike come from?

This new bike has quite some history. Salsa Cycles goes all the way back to 1982 as a custom frame builder, hell this company is probably older than you. Salsa then became a big bike brand in the late 90’s, and have always been early adopters of niche ideas, and some of these crazy ideas have caught on… you know really whacky weirdo niche stuff like 29er, full sus 29er, and bikepacking.

This is the third Salsa Spearfish I have ridden over ten years, and is roughly the third incarnation of what was a pretty exciting new bike format when first launched. You see there was a time when 29er was new, and big guys and people looking to cover big distances were drawn in by the fast rolling bikes. Salsa had already made a 1” travel pivotless soft tail, and then introduced the Spearfish, a true full suspension 29er. Now we were really rolling fast. Perhaps a little too fast: I was trusted with only Spearfish in Europe, a pre-production bike, and told to not cock it up, as it was off to the magazines the following week for its glamour shots. I’m not sure if that jinx’d it, or maybe it was caused by a sudden gust of gravity. Either way, I am confident it was not a lack of talent that caused me to lose the bike over a cliff edge in Dorset!

What’s a Down Country Bike?

The new Spearfish is described by Salsa as a “Down-country” bike. My first thoughts were of finding the nearest marketing professional, grabbing them by the ear and telling them to quit “word bothering” the hell out of bikes. There are two problems with that: I was the nearest marketing professional, and it’s a really very practical type of bike.

Salsa Spearfish
Is this Down Country, or just country that points down?

Down Country is described as “Progressive XC”, for when you want to go fast uphill and down. I would suggest “all-country” or even “mountain bike” would be a better way of looking at this style of bike. Historically bikes were divided into XC or DH. XC bikes would climb like a mountain goat on a promise and descend like a first time drug mule at Heathrow: nervous as hell, fists clenched, silent scream in their throat, and shitting themselves about what will happen next. DH bikes you would simply push up the hill, and blast down.

In Down Country we have all the signatures of an enduro bike, but with the excess baggage left behind for the big hitting full-face helmet kids.

What is the Salsa downcountry recipe?

Simply take a lightweight carbon 100mm short travel full suspension frame, add a dead light SID 120mm fork, stir in a modern progressive geometry of short stem, wide bars, and flippable 67.8 or 68 degree head angle via the flip chip (so you can tweak the geo giving you a choice of extra stable or more lively). Garnish with mid width 2.5” 29er tyres. And you have a fast rolling, lightweight bike that should climb and descend well.

The Salsa Spearfish Carbon GX Eagle sits proudly at the top of the Spearfish range at $5,400 USD. This actual bike is not available as a bike in the UK, however the frame is imported at £2,999, including the rear shock. But don’t let that put you off. If you have an appetite for this frame, you probably know exactly what parts you want on it, making a custom build the preferred option. And if you fancy this bike, but don’t have bottomless pockets and live outside the EU with its anti import taxes, I have great news for you. Salsa has three complete bikes in alloy, starting at $2,400 USD for the Deore model.

Salsa Spearfish Specifications

  • 100mm rear travel
  • 120mm fork
  • 29inch wheels
  • Full carbon frame
  • 4 sizes: S/M/L/XL
  • Weight: 29lbs (our large test bike)
  • Frame only £2999
  • Complete bikes from $2,400 USD to $5,400, but not yet available in the UK.

Off to the Hills

Salsa Spearfish Specification (As Tested)

  • Frame: Salsa Carbon.
  • Fork: RockShox Sid RLC 120mm, 51mm offset.
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT3.
  • Wheelset: WTB Speedterra Hubs, WTB St I25 TCS 2.0 rims, Teravail Ehline 29×2.5”
  • Rear mech: SRAM GX Eagle.
  • Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle.
  • Crank: SRAM GX Eagle DUB 32T.
  • Cassette: SRAM GX Eagle 1275 10-50t.
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide 180F 160R.
  • Dropper: RockShox Reverb Stealth 150mm.
  • Bar: Salsa Rustler Deluxe.
  • Stem: Salsa Guide Trail 50mm.
  • Grips: Salsa File tread Lock-on.
  • Seat: WTB Volt Comp.
  • Weight:  13.2kg (inc pedals and sealant).
  • Sizes: S, M, L , XL.
  • Size tested: L

Review Info

Brand:Salsa
Product:Spearfish Carbon GX Eagle
From:Lyon
Price:£2,999 frame and shock, $5,400 (as built, in USA)
Tested:by Charlie Hobbs for 2 months

Comments (15)

    Is it time to start calling traditional XC bikes “uphill” bikes?

    Great news, I’ve got a 2012 or 2013 Spearfish as my only bike and it’s fab but to be able to get a new alloy split pivot SF when Salsa get distribution sorted is a very attractive proposition.
    The elephant in the room though…. “Either way, I am confident it was not a lack of talent that caused me to lose the bike over a cliff edge in Dorset!”

    I think a further article is needed!

    Press fit BB? Mine has BSA threaded, so assume all carbon frames do? Agree on the bike’s ‘really quite good’ all round ability. One year in, I’m still surprised what I can get it up, and lots of fun descending, with less fatigue when covered in luggage.

    “a whole new bike category name fresh out of some marketing departments almond milk powershake fuelled mind shower session“

    I think it was Mike Levy on Pinkbike that came up with ‘Down Country’ as a not entirely serious bike category. Wish he’d stop withholding that Grim Donut pt2 from us

    It does look great – but 157 rear spacing? Suddenly none of my wheel sets fit! Grrr

    Oh… yes it’s actually a threaded B.B. Sorry for the balls up.

    This sounds like my next bike, I recently acquired a “hardcore hard tail” 64 degree head angle long low slack etc just to see what all the fuss is about .I’m beginning to think ive made a mistake it just feels a bit lifeless , well everywhere really. I appreciate jumping back on my segment which feels like a bmx in comparison, this bike sounds right up my street .maybe I should lose my hardtail over a cliff……. Note to self don’t buy anything with a h/a slacker then 67 degrees?

    It doesn’t look particularly light for such a high end bike.Probably weighed down by the wheelset and drivetrain.
    It’s basically a short travel trail bike. Which is exactly what I ride only in 27.5 wheels compensated by a slightly longer travel.

    Hans Rey has been trying to get people to adopt down country for a few years now. I agree it is not a term we need. Trail bike will do.

    So how does this differ from typical trail geometry exactly?

    Am I the only one that doesn’t like the fashion for steep seat angles for longer rides? I find it puts too much weight on the hands.

    @DaveE128, it all depends where you’re riding, I guess. If you winch and plummet only step stuff, then the step seat angle makes sense. If you’re doing long miles on flatter terrain, “old fashioned” geometry works fine. But with a suitably long top tube and stack height, it should still be possible to get comfy on a nu skool bike.

    Will you actually be able to buy one in this country?

    @del. the frame is available now.
    Completes… not at the moment. I understand that import EU duty makes them rather pricey.

    EU import duty? Could it be that someone, finally, has managed to identify an actual benefit to leaving the EU? I wonder if it will be worth all the downsides?

    So it’s a trail bike then. “Down country”, pfft.

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