Salsa Colossal Review

In keeping with A Note on Terminology, my experience with the Colossal is limited to the time I spent in the saddle at the Salsa Demo Day at North Central Cyclery, a few weeks ago.  That consisted of about 15 minutes with each the Aluminum and Titanium Colossal prototypes.  It should also be noted that the bikes had some non-production-spec kit on them.  Salsa has released the full production spec, on their blog, here.

Picture dump:

Cable over Hydraulic Hope Brakes on Ti Colossal.

Rear Hydro Hope Brakes on Ti Colossal. Also, note the brake brace.  I also really liked the ratchet-action quick release on the DT Swiss skewers.

Ti Colossal chainstay clearance with stock 28c tires.

I was not fond of the setback seatpost in this application. Glad to see it didn’t make production spec (replaced with Salsa carbon Pro Moto).

ENVE RD version fork.

Steel frame chainstay clearance.  Note that this was with 25c tires.

Seatstay clearance with 25c tires.

Chainstays again…about 1/3 of a penny’s worth of clearance at the tightest point. With the stock 28c tires on there, there won’t be much room to work with.  30c tires may not fit functionally.  (Note that 25c tires are shown on the steel frame.)

Production ENVE fork with 25c tires. 28c tires will max this baby out.


Ride impressions?  Warbird comes in aluminum and Ti.  Colossal comes in steel and Ti.  The difference between the two Colossal frames, in terms of ride quality on uneven surfaces, is less drastic than the difference between the Warbirds.  Comparing frame sets only, the Ti is $2,499 and the steel is $1,199.  The completes are $3,899 and $2,399 respectively.  So there’s a $1,300 difference in frames, and a $1,500 difference in completes.  The Ti Complete includes a number of nice upgrades (carbon seatpost, Ultegra rear derailleur, etc.) that make the price difference in complete bikes make a little more sense.

This is what Salsa says about the two frames:

We decided we wanted a frame that had some get up and go but didn’t make us pay for it. We wanted a bike that would be comfortable for long periods of time, but didn’t feel sluggish. We love carving corners whether we are on a mountain bike or a road bike. We wanted a bike that was stable on long, fast descents such as out in California or around where I grew up in Tennessee. With fast descents come hard corners and excess speed and we wanted a bike that could slow us down when we got a little too hot for our own good.

Let me start right out by saying that I love the idea of disc brakes on the bike.  Regular readers will not be surprised.  While I’ve previously suggested that cable over hydraulic brakes are kludgy (and while I persist in saying that they are a very inelegant solution), I’ll definitely own up to saying that the Hopes on the Ti version of the bike functioned better than I expected.  There was no slop–it was hard to discern them from a true hydro brake setup.  I preferred their function to the BB7s that I’m so very familiar with on other bikes.  Of note, the Hopes are not making their way to the production bike–but this was my first experience with them, and it was…Hopeful?

Ride impressions of the whole bikes?  I bet they descend with great confidence, in areas with actual elevation changes.  They corner magnificently.  Handling is very predictable.  I think they’d be excellent mounts for longer duration (50+ mile) road rides.  I also think they’d work great for road rides that include a splash of reasonable gravel and/or dirt.  For something like the Rapha Gentleman’s Race, they would probably be perfect.  With a couple recent gravel races showing guys doing very well on skinny tired bikes (Gravel Worlds won by a Domane, Almanzo with quite a few skinnies doing well), these bikes may actually be on the formula for some riders in that application.  (IMO, the more gravel friendly geometry of the Warbird makes more sense…and I’m betting that the two bikes will weigh out relatively closely).

Racing a crit?  This seems like a bit too much bike for that.  Hard 25-40 mile group rides of the sort that I partake in?  Guys that are monsters could ride this and crush.  That said, guys that are monsters can ride mountain bikes and crush.

I did have a chance to engage in an impromptu, ’round the block’ sprint in which the Colossal served admirably…notwithstanding the drag of platform pedals on sharp corners. I was, of course, wearing a helmet, which has been carefully airbrushed out of this picture.

The bikes have no obvious flaws.  They ride really nice.  Handling is tight and predictable.  Disc brakes make a lot of sense in a lot of applications.  What I’m having a hard time with is determining what exactly the Colossal is intended for.  In my mind, there are road rides where I’m going to take the Ridley, and there are gravel rides, relaxed rides, and varied surface rides where I’m going to take the Vaya.  The Colossal is somehow in between those two bikes.  It isn’t as fast, hard or aggressive as the Ridley.  It isn’t as compliant or versatile as the Vaya (which can squeeze up to 1.9″ tires into the frame).  For me, with the sling of bikes that I have, riding the Colossal didn’t check any boxes–I didn’t come away from the ride thinking: this is the bike I’ve been waiting for.

So who/what is the Colossal for?  Someone who doesn’t have a road ride and wants a road bike that isn’t as punishing as the Ridley?  Someone who wants more aggressive geometry and handling than something like a Casseroll, without going full roadie?  Someone who wants a year-round road bike that can take on all weather conditions?  Credit card touring?  As Salsa proceeds with new products, they’re not just seeking out niches…they’re filling the niches between niches.  On the spectrum of drop-bar bikes, the Colossal is as close to a roadie as you can be without sacrificing the ability to do some riding that I wouldn’t consider doing on the Ridley.

Another idea I’m not taking into consideration is age.  Right now, the prospect of a century (or more) on the Ridley sounds like fun.  Heck–it is fun, when I get a chance to do it.  In another decade, that may not be the case.  The Colossal may be just the ticket for people who want a quick-ish road bike that offers more comfort/compliance than a carbon fiber rocket…but who also want their quick-ish road bike to be sharper handling than something in the Casseroll genre.

The circumstances where a Colossal would make sense to me, at this stage in my riding and bike collecting, would be medium to long distance rides, particularly on moderate surfaces or chip seal, credit card touring, and foul-weather riding or mountain riding where the disc brakes make sense.

I’m having a hard time talking about ride quality because I’m having a hard time coming up with a bike to compare directly to.  They were both responsive under hard pedalling efforts…but not as responsive as the Ridley (or any similar high-end carbon race bike).  They offered compliance over bumps, brick pavers, and such, but not as much as the Vaya, or the Warbird.  The geometry lent itself to confidence diving into corners, and the disc brakes provided supreme stopping power–the limiting feature was clearly tire traction in hard braking efforts.  As Salsa says, the front and rear ends are very well balanced (more so than earlier Salsa road frames I’ve ridden), and that inspires confidence as well.

There is a market to which the Colossal will directly appeal.  While at the demo event, there was a cyclist who was coming to pick up an older bike that was in for a tuneup.  That cyclist saw, rode, and loved the Colossal…and made an instant deposit on one.  I think the challenge for Salsa will be getting riders to understand what the Colossal is intended for, beyond simply saying that it is the road bike made by Salsa.


3 thoughts on “Salsa Colossal Review

  1. Pingback: The Most Important Fatbike of 2013. | ridingagainstthegrain

  2. Pingback: Ben Berden’s Hydraulic Drop Bar Brakes | ridingagainstthegrain

  3. I really loved the idea of the Colossal when I saw it. For my uses — year round Pac NW commuting with a bi-weekly fast group ride at lunch — it was perfect. Until I realized it had no rack or fender mounts. This, to me, is a colossal failure.

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