The Salsa Spearfish 2
Taking The Day Off To Go Fishing
Salsa is a misunderstood company. First, they are a lot bigger than you think. Company officials claim Salsa sells more bikes ever year than Santa Cruz.
Second, they offer more than niche bikes. While they have
a solid reputation for their dropped-bar trekking bikes and
balloon-tired fat bikes, they also sell long- and short-travel
29er trailbikes. More than one rider said, “I didn’t know
Salsa made regular mountain bikes” after checking out the
Spearfish. By the end of our testing time on the Spearfish 2,
there were no misunderstandings.
WHO IT IS MADE FOR?
Salsa positions the Spearfish as an ultra-endurance-racing
bike, but that description unfairly limits this bike’s appeal.
We found the Spearfish to be a well-mannered trailbike that
can cater to a broad range of trail riders. This is a do-it-all
bike that can be pressed into service for anything from mellow singletrack to technical, backcountry exploration.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The anodized, burnt-orange frame uses double- and triple-butted aluminum and is available in five sizes. You get a
tapered head tube, Press-Fit 92-millimeter-wide bottom
bracket in a forged bottom bracket shell.
The big frame news is the addition of the Split Pivot rear
suspension. Last year’s Spearfish used deflection (flex) of the
bike’s seatstays instead of conventional pivots. The new Split
Pivot feature is a concentric dropout pivot that allows the
WHICH COMPONENTS STANDOUT?
seatstays and chainstays to pivot around the rear axle. While
the amount of movement is minimal, it allows the rear
suspension to remain active under braking and increases
Salsa uses a fork with 51 millimeters of offset for the
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Spearfish. Salsa then designed the frame for a 3.9-inch-travel
fork and the 51 millimeters of offset to deliver a ride that they
feel is stable at high speeds yet still responsive at low speeds.
The rest of the bike is a mix of components chosen to
meet the bike’s $3299 price point. But with Schwalbe
tires, a WTB saddle, a 2x10 SRAM drivetrain and
Fox suspension, you know that Salsa must have
gotten good deals from their suppliers.
The setup: Don’t overthink this. Yes,
you’ve got 3. 9 inches of travel up front and
3.1 inches in the rear, but Salsa dialed the
frame to take all that into account. Set the
fork and rear suspension at 20 percent sag
and the Spearfish feels nicely balanced. And,
by the way, the Split Pivot makes it a lot easier
to dial in 20 percent sag than a suspension that
uses material flex instead of a pivot.
On the trail: Salsa wisely uses a flat bar with
a unique, exaggerated sweep and a 7-degree, neg-
ative-rise stem to compensate for the higher front
end of a 29er. You end up feeling centered on the bike
in a slightly aggressive rider position.
Acceleration: The Spearfish has a lively feel—and we
don’t need to preface that by saying “for a 29er.” It feels
light, responsive and flickable from the get-go. Best results
come from leaving the shock in the Trail or Climb mode, but
the Spearfish’s suspension design makes it easy to reach the
shock’s CTD lever without too much searching.
In the rough: The Spearfish picks its way through rock
gardens with a laterally stiff performance that allows the rider
to hold intended lines. A low bottom bracket requires that you
time your pedaling around larger obstacles or risk hitting a
Cornering: This is a bike that will coax you, dab-free,
through a tight switchback and then allow you to rail a fast,
downhill sweeper. Credit the 51-millimeter fork offset, the
29er wheels, the low bottom bracket and the meaty WTB tires,
because they all help get the job done.
Climbing: The Spearfish climbs like it accelerates. You
can punch it over steep sections or tempo up a steady incline
with equally impressive results. The bike feels lighter than its
weight, and those Schwalbe tires are a sweet mix of low-rolling
resistance and bite.
Descending: On paper, the 3.1 inches of rear-wheel travel
make the bike seem like a glorified softtail, but that is not the
case on the trail. The Spearfish may have found the sweet spot
of rear suspension travel and 29-inch wheels. You can probably find sections where you would appreciate more rear-wheel
travel, but we didn’t on our normal routes. The Spearfish
holds it line, stays pretty quiet and seems to pick up momentum the second you release the brakes.