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Salsa Cycles Cutthroat Apex Review

Some time ago, I embarked upon a quest to find the next multi-surface bike for my particular set of wants, needs, and (dare we say) dreams. I wanted to ride something lighter and with a taller stack height than the Surly Crosscheck that has been my go-to mixed surface, gravel, bike touring whip for over a decade. I managed to get time in on a bunch of various g-bikes that have appeared as reviews here and there. Last Spring I got to Speed-Date a Cutthroat and I think that this is the bike with the most elegant design that provides a lighter and taller dropbar omni-terrain bike. So when the opportunity to purchase a complete Cutthroat Apex presented itself, it was just too good of a deal to pass up.

So since late August ’20, I’ve rolled up almost a thousand mixed surface miles aboard a hot pink Salsa Cutthroat that I named Yvonne. Yvonne is a peach of a bicycle with rather unbelievable versatility. Everything from singletrack to pavement and anything in-between, this bike just eats it up. I doubt that the higher stack height of the Cutthroat is for everyone. My theory is that if you come to gravel by way of mountain biking, you have a better chance that you’d be quite comfortable riding a Cutthroat. If you come to gravel from riding a traditional drop-bar road bike, the cutthroat might seem a little weird. (Less weird if you ride in the drops) I rode a bunch of g-bikes and even went as far as bolting a boner stem onto my old Crosscheck to try to achieve a taller stack height that would allow for extended comfortable access to the drops.

Out of all of the gravel bikes that I rode, the Cutthroat seemed to have the best (most dialed) fit for my situation. Salsa achieves its stack height by fitting the Cutty with a rigid carbon suspension-corrected fork. I rode gravel bikes with tall head tubes and one with extra headset spacers with an untrimmed steer tube to increase the stack height but I think that the best and most elegant looking solution is the Cutthroat’s suspension-corrected fork. The weight reduction between my old Surly Crosscheck and the new Cutty is significant. We’ll have to wait and see if it’ll last fourteen years like the Surly.

This bike doesn’t know if it’s a road, gravel, touring or mountain bike. I think that it’s the ultimate blend of all of those breeds. It’s like the Labrador Retriever of Bicycles. A lab can sit in a blind and retrieve waterfowl in the morning and hunt pheasants in the upland in the afternoon. A Cutthroat can ride everything from road to singletrack all in the same ride.

Somewhere back in the early two-thousands my friends and I mused that if cars didn’t exist and everyone had to get around on a bicycle, what kind of bike should we all ride. The Surly Crosscheck was mentioned as a plausible hypothesis. It’s almost twenty years later and I think that I’d like to nominate the Salsa Cutthroat for that mission.

I really love this bike. I couldn’t be happier with the frame and fork that Salsa equips with a bunch of different levels of componentry. The Cutthroat that I speed-dated last summer had Shimano GRX. The complete bike that was available to buy came with Sram Apex. The Sram Apex shifting has been (in a word) fine. However, I feel the TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes are slightly underpowered for true singletrack mountain biking. The quality of the WTB ST i23 2.0 rims that came on the Apex build was pretty poor. They resisted initial attempts to go tubeless but finally sealed with Stan’s Race sealant. The front rim looked as though they tried to drill the valve opening in the wrong spot and the rim’s seam leaked sealant for the first few days.

If you rode a mountain bike back from the 1990s, the Cutthroat will seem familiar when you ride the top of the drops. It’s more than a gravel bike. It’s much more versatile than that. Don’t be intimidated that the Cutthroat was designed to conquer the Great Divide Race. You don’t have to race the GDT to enjoy the versatility that this bike provides.

After riding a bunch of other bikes I started to look into buying my Cutthroat. The reason that I decided to purchase this bike was that it was available during the Covid pandemic bike shortage at the employee purchase price through the shop that I’ve been wrenching for since last summer. The Cutthroat is my choice for the most solid omni-terrain platform. It’s the bike to roam the earth and carry everything you need bike. If you can find one, I’d recommend that you snatch one of these bad boys up fast. It’s a great bike.

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