Speed Dating a Salsa Cutthroat (for science)

We’re reviewing a series of gravel bikes this spring/summer and I’ve gotten to ride a couple of them. Now I have questions.

The first question is based upon what I learned during Adam Blake’s podcast interview with the Salsa team. The taller stack height that Salsa introduced with the Fargo is something that I really can get behind for drop-bar bikes. I think having better access to the drops is such a good thing! However, most of that belief is based on a test ride of a Fargo some years back.

So I began a new quest. A quest to experience the latest “Salsa Geometry” in the form of a Cutthroat or maybe a Journeyman. I felt like I can’t really begin to understand the gravel language until I refresh my memory and experience the bike that our friend Adam Blake feels is the ultimate gravel bike. And I can’t un-learn the knowledge that got dropped in that Salsa interview about putting the drops where I’ve always wanted them. That would be 4-5″ higher than the drop bar bikes that live in my shed. In my mind, Salsa has created a new benchmark for gravel geometry. My new quest would hopefully serve to refresh my memory of what that rides like.

I contacted Lindsay Beltchenko at Salsa and she said that she couldn’t send us a demo bike. Cutthroats and Journeymen are available at dealers, but it’s hard to keep them in stock because they sell very quickly. I couldn’t find a Journeyman in stock at any shops near me. Lindsay sent me in the direction of a couple of dealers that would have a Cutthroat in stock. That led me to our good friend Amelia Kegel from Wheel & Sprocket, where I was able to book a 24-hour speed date with a Cutthroat GRX 810 1X (for science).

When I picked the bike up at the beautiful new Wheel & Sprocket store in Franklin, Wisconsin, I met Collin Stevens. We talked a little bit about the Cutthroat and I explained my quest to experience better access to the drops. He attributed the Cutthroat’s higher stack height to the suspension corrected axle to crown dimension on the Cutty’s carbon fork. That made a lot of sense since the Cutthroat was designed to complete the Great Divide so it leans toward a fat gravel mountain bike. Collin described riding a Cutty on the jump-line at Saddledrive and that reminded me that I should add some singletrack into my upcoming speed date.

I spent Saturday evening tweaking the bike fit details and strapping on some bags. I took the bike out for a quick sunset spin and hatched a Sunday ride plan that would entail road, gravel, mud, chunk, dirt and two small single-track trail systems in the area. I planned on making some #coffeeoutside with maybe a stop in Lake Mills at Doyle’s Dogs for lunch! I figured that the ride would be between 30 and 40 miles.

I live on top of a Drumlin. That’s what they might call a hill in your neck of the woods. So warp speed is achieved very quickly on rides that originate from there. There’s a dose of pure truth that emerges when you lean a bike into a corner at speed. The Cutthroat’s message was congruent to my central nervous system. It wasn’t long after I was riding the mud puddles and chunky gravel along the tracks a couple of miles into the day, that I started to try to think about ways that I could afford to buy one of these. Yeah, it was that good! I thought to myself…If they make one in black…

Seven Miles into the ride, I hit the Glacial River Mountain Bike Trails and the bike handled that sweet twisty dirt singletrack with ease. Then I headed out on the Glacial Drumlin gravel to Korth County Park for a coffee break. There’s a really nice spot there with a picnic pavilion that overlooks Rock Lake. From there, you can watch a nesting pair of Osprey while sipping some delicious fresh brewed coffee. #bikesandbirdwatching

The next stop was some new singletrack that’s being built along the Northwest side of Rock Lake in Tyraneena Park. There are some steep climbs and nice flowy lines that are being built there and the Cutty just took in all in stride. I decided to pass on indulging in a tube steak ay Doyle’s for lunch and hit the gravel trail back to the barn. I ended up with thirty-three and three-fifth miles and I never did figure out how I could swing purchasing a Cutthroat for my very own. I stripped off my bags and pedals and made sure to clean the bike back up so I could have it back to Wheel & Sprocket by the time that they closed for the day. Later that night I looked to see if Salsa offered a Cutthroat in Black and dammit!….they do.

It’s probably a good thing that these bikes are in short supply. I’ve got champagne tastes and a tap water budget, so the Journeyman is probably more likely to find its way into my life than a Cutthroat. It’s a good thing that we’ve got a steady stream of hawt groadie race whips coming through the test bunker this summer to keep my mind away from that Black Cutthroat!

Thanks to the Best Bike Shop Chain in Wisconsin for letting me test ride a Cutthroat (for science) – Check them out at – Wheel & Sprocket!

bicicletas calientes – SalsaCycles.com – aventura en bicicleta

About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.


  1. After listening to your daydreams about a cutty, I was wondering how long it would be before you stuck one between your legs. Do any sweet wheelies?

  2. Before you buy a Gravelbike, you might want to ask yourself these questions. Do you like dropbars? Do you like full-rigid bikes? Do you like bikes with Roadbike like geometry? Do you like bikes that don’t descend well? Do you like bikes that the widest tire that can be used is 700x45mm? Do you like Gravelbike drivetrains better than Mountainbike drivetrains? That’s mostly what you get when you buy a Gravelbike. For myself, the answer is NO to all those questions.

    Instead, I think a hardtail or full-sus 100mm travel XC Mountainbike with a set of Gravel tires does the job better. It descends better. You can use more tire widths. It’s more comfortable. My Gravelbike is an older aluminum full-sus Specialized Epic with 43mm Panaracer Gravel King SK tires and I love it. It’s very fast on pavement and gravel but very capable on singletrack.

    Get that bike shop to lend you a hardtail or full-sus XC bike at the same price point as the Cutthroat and mount some Gravel tires on it. Then do a back to back test with the XC bike and the Cutthroat on all surfaces-pavement, gravel, and singletrack. I think you might prefer the XC bike. I sure do! Ultimately, 90% of the magic that makes a Gravelbike a Gravelbike is the 40-50mm Gravel tire not what those tires are mounted to. In fact, I think something like the $1400 full-rigid Kona Unit X Mountainbike with a set of Gravel tires would make a better Gravelbike than most typical dropbar Gravelbikes. Even your portly Krampus with its i35 rims and some Gravel tires might make a better Gravelbike. Consider it?

    • I would answer most of your initial questions with a yes followed by another yes. I think that I’ve consistantly owned and ridden a drop-bar bike since the early 1970’s. We frequently have wind hereabouts. The day that I posted this we had gusts up to 40 MPH. Hard pulls into the wind are tough when your arms and chest act like a sail (like when riding mtb bars). So that’s why I like drop bars ( I just want the drops to be higher than traditional road bike positioning).

      My gravel and my mountain bike are both rigid.Southern Wisconsin is probably smoother than where you ride. I’ve come to understand that this might be a regional exception to other regional off-roading set-ups. I’ll definitely give a 2″ grav tire a try but probably on a drop bar rigid gravel bike because that makes more sense for this region. If I lived someplace with more gnar, I’d run suspension. On our local trails, a 29r rigid singlespeed is FunAF. I don’t think you need to worry about me buying a gravel bike….I’ve already got one and I’ve been working on raising the position of the drops. I think that I’m almost there. Happy Trails Amigo!

    • I think many mtb riders would be wise to follow your advice, but it’s worth noting the cutthroat isn’t a gravel bike, at least not a typical one by any means.
      The drops are higher, the fork is very compliant, the geometry is nothing like a road bike (69° head angle, 70mm bb drop) it descends well, especially with a dropper, which it’s routed internally for! It can fit a 2.4” in the back, it uses boost spacing, mtb cranks, and easily works with a multitude of 1x options.

      Your heart was in the right place, but the cutthroat isn’t the bike get on this specific soapbox for.

  3. Thanks for the write-up!

    Due to an old mountain biking injury to my neck, I can’t get that low on the drops, I have an older Fargo at the moment and that works for me, but I’m looking to upgrade to the Cutthroat. I’m worried however that it will force me into a more stretched out “bent-neck” position.

    So how does the Fargo stack up against the Cutthroat (pun intended)? With a stack of 645mm, the Cutthroat seems to be a bit lower than the Fargo which comes in at 671mm.

    Is that difference noticeable out on the trail?

    • Are there cutthroats available anywhere? The overseas supply chain is looking pretty bleak right now. If you can ride one, that’d be the way to tell if it would work for you but that doesn’t seem very likely to happen due to availability. I liked the bike so much that I bought one and ride the hell out of it. Or put new carbon wheels on your fargo and it’ll feel like a brand new bike?

      • Yup, there is one, without disclosing its location, it’s 184km away from me.

        I love the Fargo, but it’s slightly too small for me, it’s built up as a commuter right now.

        I need something a little roomier, so I’m thinking of buying a second Fargo, one size up, or then the Cutthroat.

        You make a good point, I guess I should try to steal a car and go check out that bike. Thanks!

  4. Got a Cutthroat GRX 2x and love it. I’d been riding an old Cannondale rigid MTB as a road/gravel bike for ~54K miles (was riding flat bars bc my old back with disc issues made drops impossible). Thought I’d try a Cutthroat and put flat bars on it (I wanted carbon for nice climbing – I live in PA) and the geometry of this bike seemed to fit the bill for what I was looking for. I absolutely love this bike. Didn’t even need to switch to flat bars, just put a shorter stem on it. It climbs wonderfully on asphalt, hard-packed gravel, and looser stuff. I can do screaming descents securely on even fairly rocky, eroded logging roads (and my teeth don’t rattle out like they did on my old Cannondale). For my idiosyncratic needs, this is a great bike, the GRX is a nice setup, the hydraulic brakes modulate well.

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