Salsa Carbon Beargrease: First Ride

You knew it was coming.

At the Salsa Demo Days, I threw a leg over the Carbon Beargrease, and pedaled to my heart’s content.  At the outset, I have to send a shout-out to North Central Cyclery for having such an awesome event, with such amazing bikes.

They had a couple different sizes, and both XX1 and 2×10 versions.

XX1 Hotness:

Full Carbon Everythang.

Surprising clearance.  I’m very confident that a Bud or Lou will fit on an 82mm rim, and perhaps on a 100mm rim, up front.  Note the super-nice DT Swiss RWS skewers, standard front and rear with thru-axles.  These are, bar none, the best skewers on the market.

Some beautiful Salsa carbon bars, and a Truvativ stem.  (I do wish it had the Thomson stem that comes on other blingy Salsa mountain bikes).

XX Hydro brakes and XX1 Drivetrain.  It has triggershifters, which I was a bit nervous about.  I love the gripshift on the Superfish, because it allows me to dump the whole cassette at once…that’s useful on a 1x drivetrain, because you cannot shift chainrings.  However, I found that I was able to shift as rapidly, and as much, as I needed to with the triggershifter.

The downtube is so massive, fenders would be redundant.

How massive is it?

This is a bad angle, but it’s about 1/2″ wider than a dollar bill.

Rear tire clearance is a bit tighter.  BFLs won’t be a problem.  A Lou on an 82mm rim might fit.

Chainstays:

Neat little frame protection:

28T Chainring.

28×42 is pretty darn low…and 28×11 (Edit: 28×10) is still pretty low.  There’s easily clearance for a 30T, and probably clearance for a 32T.

For churning deep snow, 28t may be perfect, but I suspect that a bigger ring will be nice for multi-purpose riding.

So…initial impressions?

I’ve seen a few making hay out of the fact that it doesn’t have rack mounts.  When I got the Schweet Mukluk, I had a rack on it.  I used it precisely 3 times.  Then, it came off, never to return.  Frame bags are where it’s at.  Unless I’m doing long-distance touring, frame bags are a better solution, in my opinion.  I don’t see rack mounts as an advantage on this type of bike.  That means it’s a bit less versatile, perhaps, but I’d rather have the cleaner lines, lighter weight, and fewer spots to catch mud.  I know that’s a reversal from my position on some bikes’ notable absence of rack mounts, but on this bike, I think it makes sense.

The new geometry is hugely noticeable.  The chainstays are significantly shorter, and the front, suspension-corrected fork is appreciably slacker.  That makes the bike a lot more playful and tossable.  I’ve read many reviews suggesting that the Pugsley rides like a mountain bike and the Mukluk like an off-road touring bike.  The new geometry makes the BG ride like a mountain bike.  Or like a giant BMX bike.

The drivetrain and brakes were flawless.  Gear range is huge!  As noted above, I think 28T might be a bit to small, but time will tell.

The tires are a great choice.  Light, fast rolling, but great in snow and loose conditions.

Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder…but to my eye, Salsa has hit it out of the park this year on their bike appearance…and the BG is no exception.  Little touches like the color-coordinated drivetrain bits (green on the cranks, shifter, derailleur) are high-class, and show attention to detail.

The formed BB and chainstays are certain to be mud, muck and snow resistant…crud should just fall right out…keeping you from experiencing something like this:

Oh, when the Mukluk was young.

Component spec is spot-on.  As noted above, I’d look at replacing the stem with something appropriately zoot-ey.  The Salsa carbon bars are surprisingly nice–and the finish quality is significantly improved compared to previous years’ parts.  The low-key matching graphics are also great.  And back to aesthetics…the black on black looks amazing.

It’s suspension corrected, so when the fat forks come out in 2014, you can slap one on if you wish.  In the interim, it’s supremely easy to loft the front end, based on the light weight and playful geometry.

The bike is remarkably stiff–perhaps more so than the Aluminum Mukluk.  The thru-axles, carbon frame, and whole of the parts combine together for an athletic feeling bike.  I rode some cobbles and to my trained butt, vibration dampening seemed improved compared to the aluminum predecessor…but time will tell.  With my massive 150#, I’m not straining its abilities when pushing the pedals hard, but the stiffness it exhibited suggests to me that larger riders won’t have any issues, either.

This is a bike that seems like more than the sum of its parts.  I had thought that a carbon fatbike would be an evolutionary step.  I was expecting a lighter, more nimble ride…along the lines of when I swapped a carbon fork onto my Mukluk.  It’s not evolutionary.

It’s revolutionary.  It’s a game changer.  Last year, I opined that the front-suspension fatbike was the most important fatbike of the year.  This year, I’ll revise my opinion.  There’s a critical weight, below which a fatbike becomes ludicrously light.  The Carbon Beargrease is below that weight.  It’s counter-intuitive…almost shocking…how light and playful it is.  It just plain rips.

At this moment, if you gave me a choice between a front-suspension/hardtail fatbike and a carbon fatbike, I’d get the carbon fatbike.  In fact, I’ve already made that choice.  I considered converting my Mukluk to a Lefty, and instead decided to sell my Mukluk and order a Carbon Beargrease.  XX1, of course.  In the ‘have your cake and eat it too’ category, the BG is suspension corrected, so once the forks come out, you can throw one on here.  At this point, I don’t see myself running to do that conversion.  The lightness of the bike is an incredible asset.  It reminds me of the old saw that the best defense is a good offense.  Instead of needing a fork to soak up the trail, the Carbon Beargrease is light enough to dance over the rough spots.

In the end, my thoughts are overwhelmingly, glowingly positive.  This is a bike that I’ve ridden, and want to own.  That’s the highest endorsement I can offer.  I am working on an alternate name (the Stealth Fattie?), because I’m not a big believer in “Beargrease”…but that’s a sacrifice I’ll have to live with.  Life should be so rough.

The bike industry is jumping the proverbial fatbike shark, with big manufacturers jumping in with uninspired product offerings.  The Carbon Beargrease reassures me that category innovators like Salsa will continue leading the way with new innovations that will continue to inspire new riders, and continue to blaze a new, fat path down the trail.

UPDATE:  Steve Fuller (@zenbiking on Twitter) pointed out that Salsa’s website indicates the bike is compatible with 29+, 3″ tires.  Here’s my thoughts on that: 1) 29+ will fit.  2) I have no doubt that a Bud or Lou will fit up front on an 82mm rim…and perhaps on a 100mm rim.  3) I think that a Bud or Lou would likely fit in the rear triangle on an 82mm rim.  I don’t think it would fit on a 100mm rim.  There’s definitely more clearance than my old Mukluk had.  However, I don’t think the drivetrain will clear all gears with that big of a tire.  Particularly on an XX1 bike, I think you’ll lose too many gears.  4) I have complete confidence that BFLs will fit, front and rear, with full gearing, on 82mm rims.  If there’s any more official word, I’ll pass it along.

Oh, and as for Carbon durability, here’s Chad getting crazy on a 2×10 Carbon Beargrease.

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18 thoughts on “Salsa Carbon Beargrease: First Ride

  1. Great review, and great bike. I’ll be happy with my aluminum Muk for a while longer, but this might be my first carbon bike in a few years. I can’t wait to get my ass kicked in some snow races this winter by riders on this machine.

    • I’ve seen it online (and posted a pic in the carbon rims post the other day). I haven’t seen it in person. Here’s my preliminary thoughts. First, it is great to see other companies getting into the marketplace. So ‘yea for Borealis’.

      Second, from a purchaser perspective, I know that just about any company can set up shop, order up some frames from China, and start selling bikes. I haven’t seen a Borealis to be able to judge their quality, so I cannot comment on that. I’m not sure if they’re going to go the way of e-tailers and sell heavily online, or if they’ll go through local shops. My interest is in buying from a local shop so I have support and service. If they go the online route, I have no interest in Borealis. That’s basically the same reason I have no interest in Carver any longer…they’re almost entirely online/mail-order. For me, Salsa is a no-brainer because my local bike shop is a huge Salsa dealer.

      Third, when I’m picking a company to buy from, my preference is to have someone that I believe will be there in a year or two, in case I do have an issue. Salsa is in kind of a sweet spot where they’re big enough to be stable, but small enough to be nimble–and able to do things like a super-cool carbon fatbike (rather than a predictably dated aluminum design trying to capture market share). Borealis is kind of an unknown. I’ll be interested to see if they grow, if they deliver, and if they can maintain quality control.

      Fourth, I’m finding that there are a multitude of companies offering products that interest me. Part of my purchase evaluation is becoming about the company AND the product. If two companies offer a carbon fatbike, I’ll look at the companies and make a value judgment about which company I want to support. I know a lot of people at Salsa. They’re incredibly good, wholesome, down to earth, fun, awesome people. If a tiny smidge of my purchase goes to keeping their lights on, that’s awesome. I like Salsa’s ethos, I like their people, I like their products.

      So it’s good that Borealis is coming out with a carbon fatbike. I won’t be buying one of them.

  2. …ordered my Carbon Beargrease about 2 weeks ago from my LBS…I chose the X9 version, just couldn’t justify the extra $2K…in complete agreement with “lawfarm” post above…have seen the Borealis another of our LBS and is pretty sweet looking….can wait to compare this to my Alum Beargrease that I just sold to a riding buddy…come on, let’s see some snow so I can go really play….

  3. Somebody on the Salsa Twitter account told me a few weeks ago that the Beargrease will work with 29+ (although I suspect the hubs will be near-impossible to find). I won’t be in the market this year, but I’d be curious to know for sure.

  4. Pingback: 2014 Salsa Horsethief First Ride Review | riding against the grain

  5. Whoa, look at Mr. Moneybags throwing around the green as a measuring tool like it’s nothing! The next thing you know, he’ll be getting rid of his five dollar Barnes & Noble bookmark and use a dollar bill instead, just to rub our face in it a little more!

  6. 5 Reasons to buy a Borealis over the Beargrease:
    1. They’ll clear a 4.8″ tire on 100mm rim NO PROBLEM
    2. They’ll run 29+
    3. They are lighter weight
    4. They have rack mounts and still are the lightest weight frames
    5. They guys that run Borealis are great guys who are doing this because they love bikes and won’t be going anywhere

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