Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Salsa Cycles Warbird Tiagra: Quick Impressions

I test rode this 56cm Salsa Cycles Warbird
NOTE: this previously appeared on Guitar Ted Productions blog 9-22-15: 

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned..... 

Today I'm going to offer some of my opinions on the Salsa Cycles Warbird Tiagra model. Long time readers will remember my take on the original Warbirds, seen HERE, and I will refer back to those thoughts for these impressions on the new Warbird.

Secondly, I am going to copy and paste a paragraph here which I wrote in those initial impressions back in 2012, which is as relevant today as it was back then:

"This is not a review: I don't believe that ride tests, demos, or whatever you want to call them are in any way, shape, or form a "review" of a bicycle or component. This is merely more of an impression of mine regarding this Warbird rig. Want a review? See the guy that has ridden the bike in the heat of a race, or done significant time with a component for a long time, (my thinking is more than a couple months), and get his take. Obviously, there are very few that can say this about a Warbird now, and they are all Salsa Cycles sponsored riders and employees. (Not that they wouldn't know, but.....) I don't typically ever do a review here. I will give my opinion though. You may find something different, but be that as it may...."

Okay? So on with the impressions....

The rig I rode yesterday is a stock, 56cm Warbird Tiagra model with test ride pedals installed. It is for sale on the floor of the shop I work at, Europa Cycle & Ski. I did this test ride for a potential customer, who wanted my opinion on it. I figured I may as well share my opinion on it here as well. This is purely my opinion and that's all. Read into this what you will........

Salsa Cycles did a complete, ground up redesign of the Warbird and the crowning jewel of that design, if you will, is their "Class 5 VRS" feature. This "Class 5" part refers to the typical gravel size on Mid-West gravel roads and the "VRS" part stands for "Vibration Reduction System". Salsa's engineers used accelorometers to discern how much vibration was being damped along the way during the design phase and what they came up with was actually more compliant than the titanium frame they used to have. The new, aluminum frame tested out 6% better in terms of damped vibrations than the old titanium frame, and while no figures were given for how much better it is than the old aluminum Warbird, I can tell you it is much, much more smooth. That old aluminum frame was not a nice riding frame. Very stiff!

So, I took the new Warbird out for an hour on various surfaces ranging from smooth tarmac to heaved pavement, busted up pavement, sandy tracks, gravel, and dirt. I only missed getting into more "typical" gravel which abounds around here only because this is a new bike, and I didn't want to risk chipping the frame up. I climbed steep hills, bombed down a couple, and ground out some fast paced miles as well, just to get an overall feel for the rig.

The tires were aired to 40psi rear and 38psi front. The stock tires are 35mm Schwalbe Sammy Slicks and this was my first introduction to them. They were tubed, of course. Off I went, and my immediate thought was that the Class 5 VRS system has something to it for sure. This bike is so much smoother than the original aluminum Warbird frame it isn't even comparable. Okay, great so far. Now off to zip around on some gravel and busted up pavement. Hmm.... A concern came up when diving around some quick corners. I felt something give in the rear. Was it the tires on the narrow-ish WTB SX-17 rims? Maybe it was the 28 hole spoke lacing? Perhaps it was due to the Class 5 VRS stays? Hard to say in a quick, hour long ride, but I felt this a couple of other times, so something needed looking into there. 

 Okay, who makes swervy moves in gravel races or rides, right? I went onward, and as things got bumpier, it was apparent that the Class 5 VRS deal is the real deal. My only observation was that if you hit a sharp edged bump, it would rebound you out of the saddle. Pretty dramatically at times. I also felt that while the back end was working, the rest of the bike was more, well.......not as smooth. I don't want to say it was harsh, but the front end wasn't in concert with the rear end. That said, this is the best riding aluminum bike I've tried. 

It climbs well, and the Tiagra shifters and derailleurs were snapping off shifts just fine. Gearing was great. But I couldn't get away from the feeling that something was off......draggy, if you will. I'm blaming these unfamiliar Schwalbe tires for that. I rechecked the bike afterward and all was well mechanically, so I feel it was those Sammy Slicks. Perhaps a bit different pressure would have made them come alive, but alas! I had no time to mess with that. 

The fit was "okay" for what I would have considered a too small of a size up front. I would use a set back post here and maybe a hair higher handle bar position, but it wasn't bad, really, for a guy that normally rides 58's. Of course, those Cowbell handle bars were perfect, and the WTB Silverado saddle wasn't too bad. I could tweak this out, if it were mine, and make it mine, but given the choice, I'd likely opt for the 58cm for my 6'1" frame. I always seem to be a "tweener" in Salsa's sizing! 

I compared and contrasted with my steel Raleigh Tamland.

After my quick hour long ride, I went back over the same ground with my Raleigh Tamland Two. I wanted to see how the smoother Warbird was in contrast to a fine steel tube set, like the Reynolds 631 that the Tamland is built with. 

What I found out was that the feel of both bikes is very similar, but certain nuances stood out quite plainly. The aluminum had a "higher frequency buzz" that I could feel easily through the handle bars and the saddle. The steel, while also vibrating, was a "rounder, lower frequency" feel. It was "quieter" versus the Warbirds "nervous" jittering which maybe makes the Warbird "feel faster", but that's all that is. Feelings that I have that others may not. Read into that what you will. 

The biggest difference was how the Tamland handled bigger depressions and sharper hits. It was definitely rounding those off, and not "bucking back" at me like the Warbird did. Yes- the Tamland is set up with bigger tires, but I tried to compensate somewhat by using 50psi front and rear. I think in terms of "smoothness", the Tamland was edging out the Warbird aluminum frame, but the differences are much, much closer than they were with the older Warbird design. 

Final Thoughts: Again, the Warbird Tiagra ride was a short one, but a telling one. I would have enjoyed being able to tweak this bike out, put wider rims on it, bigger tires, and have a correct fit, not one that is "close". I think the Schwalbe Sammy Slicks needed attention, and maybe the wheels are a bit flexy on this spec level, but otherwise this bike is a solid choice for gravel racing. Versatility isn't in its wheelhouse. Meaning that if you want racks, fenders, the ability to commute with bags, or do light touring, this isn't the bicycle for that. However; that isn't the main focus of the Warbird's misson, and Salsa Cycles has set this bike up with a singular focus: Go fast on any surface for a long way, if you want. In that light, they have succeeded. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2016 Warbird

Warbird CARBON Rival 22
2016 Warbird:

Today I am going to outline Europa's Warbird offerings for 2016. The Warbird has been around for a few years, but Salsa Cycles recently stepped up their game in regard to this bike, and now it makes more sense than ever for many cyclists to take a harder look at this bike. 

So, just what is this thing?

Isn't this just a road bike? What's the big deal? Well, these are all great questions. Here's the deal here- these are not your typical road racing based bicycles. The Warbird is the fast paced road going bike that doesn't flinch when you hit that pothole. It doesn't mind those rail road crossings. Rumble strips? Big deal. The Warbird soaks all that up and spits it right back out. But that's just scratching the surface of the capabilities of the Warbird line. 

The Warbird Tiagra
   The Warbirds are bikes that can also go on gravel, dirt, and anything that resembles a road is its domain. 
So, don't limit yourself! These bikes are waaaay more versatile and capable than anything you've thought about for a road bike. 

But what about those tires? Won't they slow me down?  

See, this is the perception of a lot of cyclists. What is ironic is that studies are showing, based off of scientific findings using power data and measurements of other kinds, that fatter tires are actually faster than skinnier ones, especially at moderated pressures. Think about that in terms of a car. You don't put the skinniest tires with the highest pressure rating you can get on your car because it would make the car less efficient, not to mention less comfortable. The same rules apply with bicycles. Weight? Take a look at that white Warbird. It weighs 19lbs. So, no, you aren't going to be held back by anything this bike has on offer. Get a racing bred machine with skinny tires and you'll maybe feel faster, but you won't be, and you'll be less comfortable and stuck on smooth paved trails or roads. Why do that to yourself when Iowa has so many roads you could be riding on that aren't baby-butt smooth? How about upwards of 70,000 miles of gravel roads? There are soooo many places you could be going, but you can't, on a traditional road bike. 
The Class V Vibration Reduction System starts here

I haven't even told you about the ClassV Vibration Reduction System that these bikes have, which erase high frequency vibrations, give you tons of comfort, and smooths out any road you want to try. In fact, the aluminum framed Warbird is so smooth, it supplanted titanium in Salsa's line up because they found it was better than their previous titanium frame in reducing vibration. Up to 6% better, as measured by accelorometers placed on their test bikes over gravel test tracks. The carbon frame is 9% smoother than the Ti one was!  

There is a whole lot more we can talk about when it comes to the Warbird bikes. Things like lightweight, state of the art carbon construction, a custom designed carbon fork just for this bike line, or how the SRAM Rival 22 comes with hydraulic disc brakes. The aluminum line can be had with Shimano 105 or Shimano Tiagra groups, and both come with the excellent Avid BB-7 brakes. The aluminum frame is hydraulically formed for optimum frame wall and strength characteristics. Through axles grace both ends of the bike, and are so ridiculously easy to use, and make the bike track so well, you'll wonder why on earth you've never had them before. 

Check out the Warbirds on offer at Europa Cycle & Ski soon!  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Salsa Cycles 2016

The all new Drop Bar Marrakesh
Here at Europa Cycle & Ski we are always excited for mid-July and the announcement of Salsa Cycles line up for the coming year. We were no less excited this time, but we were taken a bit by surprise by a couple of developments within the line. Here I will make some comments concerning the Salsa line up as it pertains to the shop, and explain why the shop is doing a few things differently this time around with the Salsa line.

First up, we weren't at all ready to see a new model aimed squarely at touring/gravel road/commuter cyclists, but we are the most excited about the bike Salsa is bringing out for these cyclists. It's called "Marrakesh" and Salsa defines it as their "World Tourer" as far as its capabilities. It is certainly all that and more. The Marrakesh has an impressive feature list-
  • Steel frame and fork for durability and good ride feel. Made with new Cobra-Kai steel spec'ed by Salsa engineers for heavy duty use.
  • Touring Geometry: Low bottom bracket for stability, longer chain stays for stability, slacker angles for comfort and stability.
  • Room for up to 29 X 2" tires without fenders. 40mm with fenders. You can keep your definition of "road" pretty broad here! 
  • The Alternator Low Deck 135 Rear Rack comes stock
  • Alternator Drop Out: Can adjust wheel base, turn the Marrakesh into a single speed in an emergency, or utilize IGH type drive trains. 
  • Brooks B-17 saddle stock 
  • Disc brakes for ultimate power in stopping a fully loaded touring bike.
  • Three bottle braze ons for frame, two for the fork, or utilize the Three Pack bosses for an Anything HD Cage for more capacity in carrying stuff. Low Rider mounts are also there as an option for those who use front panniers. 
  • Spare Spoke carrier on chain stay.
  • Kickstand plate on chain stays behind the bottom bracket to mount a traditional kickstand. 
So, as you can see, the Marrakesh isn't a "pretend touring bike", it is the real deal. All for $1599.00 and we will have these on the sales floor late Fall.

Don't like drop bar bikes? Don't like "bending over too much" when you are seated on a bike? How about a Marrakesh specifically designed for flat bars? Yep! Same basic spec only with a flat bar specific geometry.

The Marrakesh Flat Bar in Creme
We will also be stocking the flat bar version as well. We are excited about these bikes because they are bikes you can use on our bike paths, on county roads, on our single track dirt trails, (remember- it can handle bigger tires), and an all-year round commuter bike. Or use it for touring, of course. The Marrakesh would also be a fine gravel road bike, should your roads take you that direction.

To compliment the Marrakesh, we will also be restocking Salsa's venerable Vaya. The Vaya sees a color change, some spec upgrade, and a move to a 44mm diameter head tube. This is important because now you can get a carbon fork on a Vaya to save more weight. The Vaya is Salsa's "all round" road" bike that our customers have used as a fast tourer, RAGBRAI bike, gravel road bike, and as a more comfortable road bike than the traditional road race bike. Look for those to show up in late Fall as well.

Waebird Carbon
We will also be bringing in the Carbon Warbird and the Warbird Tiagra to compliment the Warbird 105 model we already stock. The Carbon Warbird Carbon is a fantastic bike that can go on any road, paved, chip seal, or gravel, and comes spec'ed with SRAM Rival 22 which features hydraulic disc brakes. The entire bike weighs in at under 20lbs, and features Salsas VRS Class 5 Vibration Reduction System which yeilds a significantly smoother ride. Maybe you just want a bike for the road with a smooth ride? This is your bike. Featuring three bottle bosses, you can go a long way and be very comfortable on a lightweight bike that is any road capable.

The Tiagra Warbird features the same aluminum frame as the 105 Warbird we already stock, but spec'ed with Tiagra for a lower price point. These bikes should show up late in the year.

Now for a word on the situation as we sit on currently in stock Salsa bicycles. As you all may know, Winter was a bust last year, and as a result, we are sitting on a pretty healthy amount of 2015 Salsa and Trek fat bikes. We have slashed prices on these bikes to make them more attractive to customers. So, if you are looking for that elusive "deal" on a fat bike, now is the time. We will not be restocking on our fat bike line until we clear out the current inventory, so we have no plans on bringing in any 2016 fat bikes unless they are special ordered.

Salsa Fargo bicycles are another area where we have a fair amount of current stock and, as a result, deals for customers. Again- we want to clear out that inventory before we make any future commitments to pull in more Fargo bikes. These are fantastic, versatile machines, so we hope to be able to bring in more in the future.

27.5+ is a big deal now, and Salsa Cycles has responded with the Pony Rustler 27.5+ bike line up. We do not plan on bringing any of those in, however; because we are really not in an area where this bike makes sense for our clientele. That said, if you'd like to special order on, better get on the bus! These are going to be really hard to get. 

Stay tuned. More coming soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Big, Fat Sale

Get some big savings on this fat bike and more!
It is no secret that this past Winter wasn't too friendly for fat biking here. We didn't really have any good snow until late in January, then it got brutally cold. By the time the weather straightened out, many of you out there were over Winter and were looking forward to Spring. Subsequently, our forecast for how many fat bikes we'd sell was wrong. We did sell some, but not to the level we thought we would. So, it's quickly becoming Summer, and shortly we'll be hearing about 2016 models. That can only mean one thing....

A Big, Fat Sale!

Get 15% off any fat bike we have left. Models must be currently in stock. We have some outstanding fat bikes just waiting to be ridden and these all would make excellent all-year around mountain bikes or platforms for a 29+ conversion in many cases. Some of the excellent bikes include...

  • Beargrease Carbon XX1
  • Titanium Mukluk
  • Beargrease Aluminum
  • Farley 8
Check out Europa Cycle & Ski or email me for prices and sizes available. Sale is on till everything we have in fat bikes is gone. First come, first served.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mechanic Classes, RAGBRAI, & More

Mechanic Classes:

We ran an intensive Mechanic Class to teach folks how to do a tune up last year which was pretty successful. This year we're going to do it again at Europa It also will be complimented by a Basic Bike Knowledge Class taught by our owner, Russ. Class times, details, and more will be forthcoming, but as of now expect that this will happen right at the end of February or during the first week of March.

The class I will teach will be modified just a bit from last time to include more about wheels and wheel truing, which was asked about last year. Stay tuned! Each participant will get a set of tools included in the fee for the class.

From RAGBRAI '14
RAGBRAI Is Coming To Cedar Falls!

The announcement was made recently that RAGBRAI will be stopping at Cedar Falls as part of the 2015 route, which traces parts of the first RAGBRAI route across Iowa. Largely along the I-80 corridor, either North or South of that a bit, this year's route should be a big deal. It goes through several bigger towns and will be well attended since it won't be a Southern route!

What this means for you locals to Europa is that the shops will be busy in the area, so get those bicycles in NOW for tune ups and repair work. I guarantee we'll be swamped in June and July, and we are already doing RAGBRAI tune ups at the shop now.

We are also seeing a big uptick in road bike sales since the announcement, so get in now and find that rig for this year's big ride.

Raleigh Willard One
Special Gravel Loop:

This year's RAGBRAI will also feature a special gravel loop in honor of Steve Hed of HED Wheels fame.  What better bike than a Willard or Tamland from Raleigh Bikes to tackle it on? Europa has both models on the floor to check out and more from Salsa Cycles and Trek that also would make for excellent gravel steeds.

While these bikes are great for gravel, they are not "one trick ponies" either. They all do any road surface well, are stable, and versatile with rack mounts, fender mounts, and can do light touring easily.

So, don't get stuck on a bike that is meant for one thing only, (racing style bikes anyone?), and start to think out of the box for your next road bike which should be able to go on any road surface whether that be paved, gravel, or dirt. Your next road bike should be more comfortable, be able to carry stuff, and also have fast, zippy capabilities while being smoother than the jarring ride that racing bikes have.

Check it out. We have hot coffee and tea for you while you browse.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter-Lite Means Good Deals For You

Killer deals on new '15 fat bikes await you....
It's a new year and the Winter is about half over. As you know, it's been an odd one. Not enough snow to XC ski, snow shoe, nor to have a lot of fun with the fat bike's capabilities. Not that you couldn't still be out there doing one of these three activities!

Anyway, all this means that the "powers that be" down at the shop have instigated a plan to unleash more attractive pricing on remaining, in stock Winter gear. You could be fat biking on an awesome, hard to find Farley 8, (which makes a great, stable platform for any mountain biking adventure, by the way), or a rare Titanium Mukluk, or the exotic, 24lb Carbon Beargrease 1.

This also includes snow shoes and XC skis. Get 'em while they are priced low. This only lats through the end of January.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Salsa Cycles New Anything Cage HD And More!

Field testing the Anything Cage HD recently.
Today Salsa Cycles announced a new component for Fargos, Mukluks, and Blackborow fat bikes that are equipped with the Three Pack bosses on their forks and down tubes. It is a nylon reinforced plastic rack/cage for carrying roundish objects like tents, dry sacks, or what have you. I got to field test a pair on my awesome Blackborow DS and you can read my review of the Anything Cage HD's HERE. Salsa Cycles has a nice post on the development of this product you can read HERE.

We can hook you up with a set of Anything Cage HD's for your bike, or if you'd like to check them out on my bike, let me know and I can arrange for that. These will be a great addition to any Salsa bike with Three Pack bosses and could really help you "Adventure By Bike" be that on the Tour Divide, camping trips locally, or just for running errands.

2014 Mukluk Forks were recalled. Did you get yours checked?
Mukluk Fork Recall:

Salsa Cycles has issued a recall of Aluminum Bearpaw forks as used on 2014 Mukluk 3, Mukluk 2, and Titanium Mukluk bikes. If you own one of these bikes, and you have not had your fork checked out, please see the recall notice HERE, stop riding your bike immediately, and see a Salsa Cycles Dealer for your solution. 

Here's what you can expect: At Europa Cycle & Ski, we contacted all owners of Mukluk 3, Mukluk 2, and Titanium Mukluks that were purchased from Europa Cycle & Ski. Those bikes were checked and 100% of them were in the recall. Next, we offered the Carbon fork upgrade option or just to have the original fork replaced. Upon getting confirmation of which way the customer wanted to go, it typically took two working days to receive and replace the forks at no charge to the customer, (original fork replacement only), or at a modest upcharge, (Carbon option is $200.00 and includes through axle, end caps, and a carbon fork plug for the steer tube.)

So, if you are reading this out there and haven't gotten your 2014 Mukluk checked out, do it NOW!!

Custom 2013 Mukluk 2 trade in.
Killer Muk 2 Trade In:

Looking for a super-sweet Mukluk in a size Medium for a song? Look no futher than this highly customized Mukluk 2 built from a frame and fork for a local rider that just traded up to a Carbon Beargrease 2.

This bike features the alternate black/purple scheme for the Mukluk 2 from 2013 and is super rare. Add to this the impossible to obtain Limited Edition Purple Rolling Darryl rims laced to Mukluk 2 hubs.

The bike also features custom purple anodized bits like the head set spacers, cable ferrules, and even the cable crimp ons are purple anodized! This amazing looking bike, a one of a kind you'll never see anywhere else, was meticulously maintained by the previous owner and is in almost mint condition save for a few very hard to find mars in the paint in the usual places. Really- this bike looks almost brand new!

Check it out today at Europa Cycle & Ski. It won't last long at our price.