Salsa Fargo New Bike Day!

Let’s start the blog with some honesty. The last 6 months have been an absolute BLUR.

I accepted the position of Store Manager for Wheel and Sprocket at the end of September and it’s been like riding on a train with no conductor, barrelling down the tracks at full steam ahead. It’s been many weeks of putting in overtime, not having enough staffing for the volume of customers coming into the store, and frankly I barely have enough energy to make myself dinner when I get home most nights- let alone create content for pleasure.

Believe me, if I could get paid doing this full-time and not have to deal with lines of customers out the door impatiently waiting to be told the bike they want is out of stock, well I’d chose doing this all day long!

Within the absolute insanity that has been the bike industry, there have been a few awesome additions to my bike life. This is where the Salsa Fargo comes in! I had not been in the market for a touring bike. In all honesty I need a mountain bike much more badly than I needed to buy the Fargo, but she just called to me. The bike had come in for one of our store customers and he ultimately found a screaming deal on a tricked out Ti version of the bike on eBay.

Out of curiosity I decided to throw a leg over the bike and take it for a short spin around the shop. It was the perfect fit! I knew I wanted it right then and there. The thing I like most about the bike is that it blends the elements of two bikes (Surly Krampus and Soma Doublecross) I already own into one beautiful piece of machinery. It has the 29″ wheels with the ability to run plus sized tires, it has all the mounts you could ever need for bike packing, it has lightweight triple butted frame tubing, it has a lightweight carbon fork, the wheels are tubeless ready, and the cockpit is super comfortable!

Not to mention Salsa wisely spec’d the bike with mechanical TRP disc brakes which allow for much greater adjustment and field serviceability. Oh and did I mention it’s set up with 1x Apex with a super wide rear gearing? The bike hits all the sweet spots with a really nice mesh of great value for the price, design and component wise. The sparkly deep red colorway also reminded me of why I loved the OG Krampus so much. You just can’t beat a beautiful paint job and fun graphics.

Naked Fargo with no bags to cover her paint scheme.

I’ve had goals to do more off road bike packing. The Tour de Chequamegon and a few other routes that have cropped up care of bikepacking.com have piqued my interest. I could have easily ridden the Krampus for such endeavors, but it’s honestly just kind of a heavy and slow bike when it comes down to loading it up with gear.

The Krampus can get rowdy on trails and is fun on flowy stuff, but it does not climb well even with the updated gearing and I have come to really loathe the ever present horizontal dropout design that Surly insisted on using (we get it, you want everyone to ride single speed).

The Krampus also lacked some of the updated gear zits that most modern frames now sport, regardless of whether or not people plan on using their bikes for loading up. I know the modern iteration of the bike has them, but Salsa has been a brand of bike I’ve not owned up to this point and wanted to take advantage of the fact that I now worked at a stocking dealer.

Getting dressed up for the road.

A few changes I’ve made to the bike mostly had to do with aesthetics. I converted the tires to tubeless and used some fun Muc Off anodized red tubeless valves that matched the paint color of the bike. The jury is still out on the included Terravail Sparwood tires. I’m sure they kick ass off road, but I’ve been using this bike for commuting and I could see myself putting on something from Rene Herse or Panaracer with a more supple design and smooth tread. I’ll likely just ride these until I wear them out though as I don’t want to throw a whole bunch of money at a perfectly functional bike.

The other updates were some of the bike bling that I pulled off the Krampus including the Easton carbon seat post, Salsa lip lock seat binder, and the Wolftooth headset spacers. I still get annoyed that the orange from the Salsa binder is so much more bright and vibrant than the spacers from Wolftooth. Matching anodized parts can be a pain in the ass sometimes if they aren’t coming from the same company or batch even.

I really like the flared handlebars that are on the bike. In years past I’ve not liked some of the options that have come stock on bikes like the Surly Crosscheck or similar “cross” or “gravel” bikes. The Salsa Woodchippers seem to fit just right. The 44cm width on the size small bike feel great in the hoods, tops, and drop position. I did drop the stem down and may do so a little more as I’ve gotten a bit more used to a more aero position on my road/gravel bike while riding the trainer this Winter. I’m finding that I enjoy engaging my hamstrings and glute muscles to put out more power than sitting more upright and having quad dominant pedaling.

I’ve been riding the bike with flat pedals, which is also new for me as I really enjoy the feeling of being clipped in with the exception of mountain biking. I’ve been pairing the pedals to some new 5.10 shoes I picked up. I’ve had a pair before, but the new ones fit a little better and feel a bit more comfortable.

Ultimately I may toss my Crank Brothers Candy pedals on or invest in the Mallet pedals from them as they have a larger, more off road friendly platform. I have yet to stray from Crank Brothers pedals as they’ve just been my go to for so long and it’s difficult to want to go to anything else when I have three sets of their pedals and multiple cleats for said pedals.

The command center.

I’ve transferred all of my bike packing bags and cages over to the Fargo and have even picked up an additional feed back from Revelate Designs (not pictured) as well as their Mag Tank (not pictured) as I’d like to leave my Topeak top tube bag for my Topstone. I can just barely fit the Blackburn Elite handlebar bag on the front without interfering with my hands on the bars. I may just use a more basic dry bag that has loops for running the straps through that’s a little more compact as the one that comes with their mounting system is cavernous. Great for hauling a lot of sh*t, but annoying when you ride small bikes and need narrower bars! To be fair, this wasn’t an issue when I was running Jones bars on the Krampus as the bars give you so much space that you can fit just about anything on there as long as there is tire clearance.

A small, but fun detail I added to the Fargo was the stem cap. It’s a design by Bryn Merrell with some orange colored poppies. I’ve decided to name the bike Poppy as it seemed appropriate. It goes with the other little orange flourishes on the bike I have added and brings me joy when I look down at it while riding. I love the small details that make a bike feel more personalized. It makes me sad to see so many stock bikes go home with folx that lack personality.

For anyone who has been keeping up with my gear via this blog or on my Instagram, you may have noticed I’m no longer rocking the Giant GPS on my bar anymore. As much as I wanted to like that computer, it just wasn’t functioning well. The app was super glitchy, so uploading was kind of an issue and sometimes the unit just straight up didn’t work as it should. If I tried starting an uploaded GPX route, the computer would often times think that immediately from the starting point was also the stopping point and end the ride. This happened a lot if I had programmed a loop with the same stop and start point. It was time for an upgrade and I’ve never owned a Garmin unit as I had always worked for places where I got demo products to use at no charge. I had used Saris’s Joule GPS for many years prior to getting the demo unit of the Giant Neostrack. I’m almost certain Giant discontinued the product. Likely because it wasn’t great. For the price you can get an entry level Garmin or similar product that has better instructions, function, and apps to work with.

The unit I picked up was a Garmin 530. I had debated about getting the 830 as it has a touch screen and there have been a couple of times I had wished I had purchased that one, but I realize for winter or cold weather situations the touch screen is useless as no one has cracked the perfect design for a glove that can work well with a touch screen. It was also less expensive and I just needed a computer that could sync to my phone and I could upload routes to that I could trust to work.

Bryn Merrel makes stem caps, apparel, artwork, and even mtb fenders with her artwork! Check her out online!

At this point I feel I should list the cons of the bike which honestly the only con is that the gearing is just a tad too low for what I’ve been doing with it. The rear cassette is an 11-42 which is excellent for climbing, but with the 32t chain ring up front it makes it difficult to get speed on the flats or pedal downhill to use gravity to climb rollers. I’m not faulting Salsa for this what so ever. This bike is intended to be an off road touring machine that will need to be geared low to get up tough climbs while loaded down.

I have picked up an Absolute Black chain ring to try. I bought a 34t oval ring which they claim feels like a 36t. I’ve never ridden a bike with an oval ring before other than test riding a customer bike with an old Shimano Biopace on it. It should give me better city gearing for commuting without giving up the wide range for when I get to a hill. I have not installed the new ring yet as I haven’t had time or energy, but will hopefully get to it in the next week or so when the weather starts looking nice.

Anodized red to match the bike.

Overall I’m very happy with the bike and the purchase. I’ve had a couple of folx ask why I went with a Fargo over a Cutthroat and my first response simply there are no Cutthroats to be found anywhere due to the bike shortage. In truth though, it comes down to the fact that I like steel frames. A high quality steel frame with triple butting is light and strong. It’s often able to be repaired and is made for the long haul. I love my Soma frame as it’s light and fun to ride. I enjoy a steel fame paired with a carbon fork. It makes for a really nice ride feel and for a bike that I’m going to be loading up with gear for traveling, it gives me a little more peace of mind. I can always replace the fork down the road with another carbon one or even a steel option, which is also nice.

I also already have the Topstone, which some people may think is redundant to have. I have sold my dedicated road bike though that was full carbon because I was using the Topstone so much. I fell in love with how it eats up road chatter and I can do road or gravel rides on it and it’s still fast even with the lower gearing. It’s a great bike for the area I live in which is shitty pavement and lots of hills going out to the Driftless region. I just wanted to be able to keep the Topstone unloaded for that type of riding and have the Fargo for the loaded touring and overnight camping trips.

I had planned on selling my Double Cross, but realized I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility of having a bike on my trainer to get rides in even if it’s cold and sh*tty outside. I’m going to be swapping the crank back to a road double on that bike and putting a front derailleur on it and keeping it as my trainer bike. Another project I’ve had neither time nor energy to take on, but soon! I’ll be sure to post when I get around to that.

The Krampus is currently in limbo. I need to finish putting new pads and rotors on it as the salt ate away at them pretty good the last couple of years. I also pulled the Jones bar off of the bike in the off chance that I may want to put it on the Fargo down the road. I could see the Fargo being a really kick ass bike with a Jones bar on it. Who knows, I’m always changing my gear up. The Krampus will likely stick around at least for the Summer as I don’t see being able to snag a new MTB anytime soon. I want to get another full suspension bike, but something different than what I’ve had in the past. I hate to admit that I like the Fuel EX from Trek as I have mixed opinions about them as a company. They make some really nice bikes, but there’s a lot they’ve done behind the scenes and socially that I don’t identify with and have a hard time riding basically an advertisement for them.

If anyone has any recommendations for a good Fuel EX alternative, please reach out! I also had been looking at options from Salsa as their carbon full sus bikes look wicked. Then again, it’s probably going to be at least a year before they become available again.

That’s all for now as I have much to do on my day off and not much time. Thanks for continuing to read along and please give a follow to @spokehaven over on Instagram for more up to date content, etc.

Eat well and bike often!

Cassandra

Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂