Salsa was kind enough to send us over one of their Blackborow 1, 5.0″-class fat-bikes for some extended testing. We had it for a couple of months and no less than 4 of our test riders have had at least some time on the Blackborow and all came away impressed. Plus, we’ve had a few friends take the Blackborow out as well. Consensus? This is a capable fat-bike! Let’s take a look at the bike and then check out what the riders have to say.
The Blackborow 1 is the derailleur version of the Blackborow. The 6066 Aluminum frame is set up for 5.0 tires with a 197mm thru-axle Alternator drops. The Alternator drop allows for various configurations of drivetrain including the Blackborow DS or Dingle Speed version that has 2 different single speed drive ratios and is available as a stock build called the Blackborow DS. With the Alternator, your derailleur version’s chain stay length can be adjusted from 440mm to 457mm. Nice and short for a 5.0″ bike. A 4.0″ Mukluk has a 7mm longer stay at full forward while the Moonlander and Ice Cream Truck start at 450mm and go back from there, the RSD Mayor is at 465mm. Even the all-season targeted Borealis Echo is almost an inch longer at 460mm.
The shorter stay is definitely noticeable on the trails. With weight back a bit more, lofting the front is easier. In fact, I rode the longest “wheelie” I’ve ever done on the Blackborow! Not saying that is a great accomplishment but balancing the bike on one wheel, with the big 5.0 tire, 8psi and the shorter stays all made for a magic combo that made me feel like I knew what I was doing!
Of course, one of the benefits of the Alternator swinging drop out is that if you want to lengthen the chain stay length on your derailleur equipped bike to add stability in the really soft stuff the adjustment is just a few turns of a wrench away.
The 150mm thru-axle Bearpaw tapered fork has Salsa’s Three-Pack cage mounting bosses to use their anything cages and the 483mm axle-to-crown measurement is roughly equivalent to a RockShox Bluto at 25% sag so if you want to swap the rigid fork for a Bluto, which I aim to try, it should be a breeze with the curved downtube providing clearance.
The SRAM 2×10 X7/X9 drivetrain is a solid spec. X9 has been my go-to package for most of my fat-bikes being a great value-versus-performance group and I think that the target rider for the Blackborow will appreciate the range of the 2×10 drivetrain.
To clear the 5.0 Surly Lou tires (folding by the way) on the 100mm Surly Clown Shoe rims Salsa uses a 132mm press fit bottom bracket that is offset and designed to work in concert with the Surly OD cranks to allow a proper chainlink on the 190mm rear hub.
Both the front and rear of the Blackborow include various rack mounts so you can set up this mule to carry pretty much whatever you want to.
Our Medium test bike weighs in at just over 33lbs and bringing that to a halt is an updated version of the venerable Avid BB7 mechanical brake dubbed the BB7S.
Here’s Rob getting in some seat time on the Blackborow.
Tony B borrowed the Blackborow while his personal fatty was getting some TLC. Check out his experiences.
My days with the Salsa BlackBorow
First a little introduction and history about me. I’ve been riding a fatbike for many years now. I was lucky enough to get the first Schlick Northpaw and have used it for just about everything. From camping to commuting and anything and anywhere in-between. Well, FatBerger needed a paint job after years of riding so off to Greg at Schlick it went. Bad timing, I’ll admit with it being the winter months. Greg suggested I test ride the Salsa Blackborow and well DAA why the hell would I say no. So here we go!
I picked up the BlackBorow on a chilly Saturday morning and the first thing that struck me was the short Thompson stem and superwide (for me) bars. I roll the same size stem on FatBerger but only roll 3.8 inch tires vs the 4.8’s on this beast. I’ve ridden other 5-inch FatBikes before and felt they were a little too “tractory” for me. I’m not the biggest/strongest rider in the world and my initial 5-inch rides left me feeling more like it was work and less like it was fun. It took less than a mile to realize that this setup tames the bigger tires and brings back the FUN full throttle!
Day one: Urban street riding. I searched out stuff to play around since the snow was going away fast. Curbs obviously were no sweat. Stairs (can I say I took it down stairs in a review, opps just did) were no issues at all. UWM campus concrete jungle, one of my more favorite places to test rides, was a non-issue as well. So far so good, this would be a great, fun, “take the long way” commuter. Time to find some snow and mud so I head over to the Milwaukee River Trails. Trails were a mix of snow mud and a hella lot of ice due to the warmer weather. I dropped down to the 22 front and start spinning and spin did it do! Not a once was I stuck or forced to put a foot down! The handling was superb regardless of speed or trail condition. I’m starting to think you guys are onto something with these bigger tires. The Lou’s are loud tires on pavement but they shine on anything else.
Day two: Time to hit the beach and more trails. I started by pointing the bike East for a trip to Lake Michigan and once I arrived I figured I’d try riding the beach with the tires at road inflation…ok ok, I forgot my pump and didn’t want to ride home at 6psi. Surprisingly, even at near full inflation the winter sand was a non-issue. I tried hard to get it stuck and only had to put a foot down once but otherwise just keep going and going. Heading home for this round of testing I figured since I was heading past UWM again I may as well have some more fun and that’s exactly what I had. All the usual stuff I roll though while on campus was a complete blast. I even found snow deep enough to bury the pedals and yet was unstoppable. The grip is amazing so I figured home from UWM would also mean another bit of Milwaukee River trails so I hit the east side this time and the trail was very icy! I had to slow my pace a bit especially on the uphill parts. The tires slipped a little but nothing unexpected. I finished with a path I’ve tried to climb on FatBerger many times only to fail about ¾ of the way up due to tire slip regardless of pressure. The BlackBorow did this climb at near full inflation and virtually zero slip! This is a BEAST, I tell ya BEAST!
Day three: The search for more terrain to ride. I was off for MLK day and had some time to keep riding. I remembered a strip of land that’s being converted to a bike trail in Milwaukee. It will continue “the beerline trail”….beer…. that runs North past Capital drive. This area is in the process of being developed as a multi-use space and currently has a wide variety of terrain to check out. Not to worry, I had the permission of the group developing the area to check it out as it is already scheduled to be part of the continued bike path as mentioned above. Since this area is a long corridor with industrial buildings on both sides the snow levels were much greater than anyplace else I’d yet seen. Deep enough to get me stuck a few times much to my enjoyment. It had a few man made obstacles that allowed for jumping and terrain testing and the Blackborow did them all in stride.
So, there you go in the nutshell. The Blackbarow is a seriously fun, quick, and I’d believe versatile rig for “Off-Road Exploration/Ultimate Flotation/Off-Road Expedition” as Salsa put it. I also would add it would be a great On-Road exploration/On-Road expedition for the urban jungle! When I’m in the market for a 5-inch fatty this will be given a lot of consideration! It’s hard to find a fault with it.
Derrick added these notes after several rides on various days and shot some photos of buddy Jordy having a go on the Blackborow on some local singletrack:
One word. Float. Absolutely no problem making its own road through 6 inches of fresh powder stacked on top of a weeks worth of layering snow. What would intimidate a marge lite was nothing for the clown shoe/ Lou combination. Mid climb I noticed the drivetrain shifting crisp like a clutch is supposed to – and in a world filled with 1x drivetrains I found myself at home using a double again – and needed it on a few long slippery climbs.
We had the opportunity to ride dry single track too:: the wide bars, slack-er head angle and short stays made it feel like I was riding my Kona Honzo with monster tires and a wider Q factor. – I felt confident diving switchback descents with the pair of stock Lou’s, something I previously thought excessive for the terrain.
The Blackborow 1 has all the marks to be considered a do all bike – a great geometry for single track and fast enough for your local snow circuit. But the three-pack braze-ons allow you to disappear for a few days with loaded panniers. The tapered head tube and hub spacing is current with where the industry seems to be staying for a while so you can be sure your frame won’t be outdated anytime soon.
So there you have it! Three riders in different conditions all giving the Blackborow a thumbs up. For my part (Sven!), I named the Blackborow my favorite fat-bike of 2014. Check out The Weekly Dose of Fat Show #38 for more chatter on that – http://fat-bike.com/2015/01/weekly-dose-of-fat-we-got-call-ins-1-9-15/
You can check out the intro of the Blackborow we did when we first saw it at SaddleDrive last summer for specs:
This video form Salsa engineer Pete Koski intros some of the design features and philosophy.
MSRP on the Blackborow 1 is $2,799 while the Dingle Speed version will run you $2,299.Check the Blackborows out at your local Salsa Dealer. – http://salsacycles.com/dealers
Disclaimer: At times Salsa does support the fat-bike.com mission to “bring you all the news that’s fat to print” by advertising on this site. We thank them for the support but want to make sure you all know that we are providing an honest assessment of the Blackborow regardless of whether they advertise or not!