You may recall the recent review of the Salsa Spearfish 2 from RATG. That was a review of an 18″ and 20″ Spearfish 2. (In the interests of full disclosure, an 18″ 2011 model and a 20″ 2012 model). To supplement that review, here are my thoughts on the 20″ Spearfish 1 that I rode on the final day of riding. First, a pretty bike picture:
Differences? A 20″ SF 1 is more than 2 pounds lighter than an 18″ SF2 (with identical wheels and tires). Same amount of suspension travel, but the SF1 sports a Fox Float RP2 Boost Valve rear shock (instead of the Monarch on the SF2), and a spiffy Fox fork in the front. It also sports a carbon seatpost and bars, and the matte black finish. In addition, this SF1 sported X9 shifters, X9 front derailleur, and an X0 rear derailleur.
What can I say about the Spearfish 1? Everything worked.
There was a small, but palpable improvement in shift quality under load between the Spearfish 2’s rear derailleur and the Spearfish 1’s X0.
The weight reduction (over 2 pounds) was hugely noticeable, and greatly appreciated on climbs.
Personal preference: I like the matte black finish on the Spearfish 1. Sure, the orange on the Spearfish 2 is pretty…but the Spearfish 1 would look at home next to my matte black Mukluk 2. (Salsa–you guys listening?)
The thru-axle in the rear was greatly noticeable. I thought it was kind of a farce after riding the Spearfish 2 (and my personal bike at home, neither of which have rear thru-axles). I mean, the Spearfish 2 (with a rear skewer) isn’t exactly sloppy in the rear end. But the Spearfish 1 is even more solid and put together. It is completely, 100% predictable in its ride and responsiveness.
The fork and rear shock both seemed to be more tunable and more responsive to small adjustments. The precision in rebound adjustment was also greatly appreciated–and seemed to be more useful than the adjustments on the lower grade Spearfish 2.
When I wrote the review of the Spearfish 2, I said I’d like to see the following improvements: 1) lighter; 2) dropper seatpost; 3) tubeless. I said I didn’t think a rear thru-axle was necessary. After riding the Spearfish 1 and getting my seat height adjusted perfectly, here are my revised thoughts:
1) Yes, lighter is better. The lighter weight of the Spearfish 1 is completely palpable and totally appreciated.
2) Dropper seatpost isn’t needed for my kind of riding. With the seat properly adjusted, I can pedal in comfort and get behind the seat when needed. I’d prefer a lightweight carbon seatpost as the Spearfish 1 has.
3) I’d still like to go tubeless and drop some more weight (and add flat-resistance).
I’d supplement those by saying, as noted above, that the rear thru-axle is totally worth it. I’d also note that the upgraded derailleur is totally worth it, as is the upgraded fork and upgraded rear shock. If I were in the market for a mountain bike tomorrow, the Spearfish would be at the top of my list, and the Spearfish 1 would be worth the premium over the Spearfish 2.
In contemplating these reviews before riding the bikes, I was really expecting to say something like “the 80mm of rear travel was good for 90% of my riding, but there are some areas where I’d like 110mm or more…” In reality, the well-designed travel on the Spearfish is enough to do everything I’d ever want to do on a mountain bike. I’m not going to huck six foot drops. I’ve got enough problems hucking two foot drops. I’d take the simplicity, elegance, and climbing ability of this rear suspension all day long, against any other bike on the market. It just doesn’t get any better. It’s a truly amazing bike.
So with the Spearfish 1, what would I change? I’d go tubeless. A rim strip, a valve stem, some sealant. Voila. And that’s it. It’s 99.9% perfection.
I miss it already…