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!
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