Salsa El Mariachi Singlespeed

Yes.  There is presently one of the limited edition (1 of 300) Salsa El Mariachi Singlespeed residing in the RATG garage.

With bikes like the Mukluk and the Superfish in the stable, you might wonder why.  The rationale is pretty simple:

  1. I need to improve my technical skills on the mountain bike.  Rigid, singlespeed is the best way I can achieve that goal.  That, and sessioning difficult MTB problems on the Superfish seems borderline ridiculous.  Watching Hand of Midas make things look stupid-easy on his rigid SS 650b, or remembering how Iron Zach put it down on his rigid, SS Karate Monkey…those are things that inspire me to ride.
  2. I need to continue working on leg strength.  My winter o’ sprintervals and trainer rides is helping.  Riding SS is another tool in the arsenal.
  3. The amazing value of the limited edition El Mar is pretty hard to resist.

At present, mine is rocking the stock Salsa build, with four exceptions: 1) converted to tubeless; 2) sporting Ergon GS-1 grips that I love; 3) sporting a Thomson Masterpiece seatpost I had sitting around; and, 4) sporting an Ergon SM-3 Pro carbon saddle.  Of note, on this ride, I’m using the Small Ergon.  I’ve found that it is still wide enough for good cycling comfort, but the narrower width makes sliding around the saddle to get behind it for technical obstacles a little easier.  In the future, I’d do Small on mountain bikes, and Large on bikes like the Vaya.

Candy 2s, in matching orange, complete the build.

She’s a purty bike.

The stock build leaves much to like.  It’s sporting a 32/16 drivetrain at present–over time, I’ll figure out what the gearing should be.  In the ~60 miles that I have thus far, this combo seems pretty versatile.  80-90 rpm is in the 15-16mph range.  Spinning out gets up to 20mph-ish.  I will say that it was weird on big downhills…coasting at 23mph, there’s just no pedalling to be done.

The Continental Trail King 29×2.2 tires set up tubeless easily, and have a nicely aggressive tread and good volume for rigid/SS riding.  With the wet conditions on the inaugural ride, I greatly appreciated the traction.  Of course, they don’t roll as quickly as my beloved Ikons, but this bike calls for something aggressive like the Trail Kings.  The stock ‘OEM only’ NoTubes ZTR Rapid are fine for now, and for the bashing that they will likely endure.  They do look like a pretty simple place to drop some weight, though.  They’re built up with some “Salsa, by Formula” hubs.

Don’t forget to Ride Axletree.

This limited edition bike is lacking derailleur cable stops…it’s a commitment to SS.  The easy to adjust Alternator dropouts make chain adjustment a cinch.  Hydraulic Avid Elixir 5 brakes work well and offer good stopping ability and modulation.  No issues with bleeding thus far.

She’s comfortable off-road, and she’s comfortable on gravel, too…

The stock Salsa steel fork has a surprising amount of compliance.  I happen to have a possible line on a carbon fork that may find its way into the build…we’ll see if that materializes.  The El Mar will take either a straight 1-1/8″ fork, or a tapered steerer (with a different headset).

Running ~25psi and the Masterpiece seatpost, I was surprised by how comfortable the ride was, even in rough terrain.  Certainly not BMW ride quality like the Superfish, but surprising, nonetheless.

The SS experience will take some time.  I will say that I was hammered after my first ride on it.  There were times when I was looking for a shifter that wasn’t there.  It didn’t hold me back on any climbs, in terms of completion.  I might have ridden faster with gears, but the SS cleared everything I threw at it.  There was a lot of standing–sometimes to be able to climb things, sometimes to get over bumps.  I think it is going to be a great training tool, for building leg strength and for working on the smoothness of my pedalling.  I’ll have more thoughts after I get more miles.

As always, thanks to North Central Cyclery for a great build.

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17 thoughts on “Salsa El Mariachi Singlespeed

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  5. Hey, Just found your site and it is very good!

    I too have the same SS EM, large…which I got Toby to ship me here in AZ. I stuck a gold Chris King Headset on, switched the brakes to XT’s, Thomson set back seat post and stem…Racing Ralph tires. I am a road guy and this is my first and only MTB….have a fairly simple hour long mixed ride out the door and today learned of a much more intense and longer ride as well. Running 25 lbs but thinking I might try a tad lower to see how it works. I also have been thinking a wheel up grade might be nice. Dreaming of a Ti EM 1 x 11 but your Spearfish has me thinking about that. Would love to hear your thoughts….just built a 1 x 10 EM for my son.

    • If you look back to last year, I struggled with the idea of building a Ti El Mariachi for a long time…I had really wanted to build one. After spending a few days on a Spearfish, though I knew it was the bike for me. You lose very, very little, (if anything) in pedalling efficiency, and gain a great deal of comfort. The 80mm of rear travel is perfect. I have a good friend who rides a Tl El Mar, and often finds himself wishing he had a spearfish. An XX1 Spearfish would be a pretty hot setup. I’d go for it!

      • Thanks….my thinking had been that my riding really did not require any suspension…little less sure now. Kind of interested in the fat bikes too….But the Spearfish is very much a possibility.

        Think I need to sell a roadbike or two.

      • Well, you really need a fatbike, a hardtail Ti Mariachi, and a Spearfish.

        If you can only get one, prioritizing is hard. I’d get a Spearfish before a Mariachi–because the ‘fish is a bit more versatile in my opinion (now riding and enjoying both). As far as a Fatbike goes…that’s another story in itself. It would take a long, long reply to say whether a fatbike should be your next purchase.

      • Yeah…more bikes than I need but not as many as I want….gotta dial in the EM a bit more…

        Feels like the front washes out a bit in tight turns and soft sand….perhaps my stem is too long and thus I have too much weight forward? (or the opposite)….feel like maybe I need a fatter front tire.
        Read your stuff on the Ti EM and think I will try to find a ride on a Spearfish…might be a better compliment to the EM SS.

      • I’m not sure what you’re running up front…I’m running a short stem and 2.2″ Continental Trail Kings, and I’ve had great success with that setup–rigid.

      • I have Racing Ralph 2.4’s on the front and a 130 stem….gonna play around and see if I can find better performance….(I am 6’1″ and 200 lbs)…fat boy.

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