Salsa Carbon Beargrease: The First 130

I now have about 130 miles on the Beargrease, and wanted to provide an update to the preliminary thoughts.  The most recent mileage was with Mr. Gore-Cik on a night-burner on the path.

I’ve spent time on an aluminum Beargrease, time on a steel Pugsley, time on a steel Moonlander, and of course, mountains of time on my old aluminum Mukluk, much of that with a carbon fork.  Most of those rides came from North Central Cyclery.  The old Muk, like the Carbon Beargrease, was set up tubeless.

A note on tubeless setup: when I did the Mukluk, I put a layer of foam on the rim…so it was rim strip, foam, then a cut down 24″ tube.  On the Beargrease, I skipped the foam.  I did use a thin layer of Gorilla Tape to build up the bead just a bit (just 1 layer), and I am still using the split tube to seal up.  Thus far, it’s holding air perfectly and performing with aplomb.

What about the ride?  I’ll be the first to say it: the carbon is better at absorbing vibration than the aluminum Mukluk was.  Even with the big tires, if you’re pumped up to ‘road’ pressure, you get vibes from gravel and rough surfaces.  On the Mukluk, changing from a Thomson seat post to an ENVE seat post made a big difference.  On the Beargrease, it’s even better.  It dampens vibration amazingly well.

You also note the extra rigidity of the frame and fork.  Fatbike tires are big and heavy–even tubeless.  With the Muk, there were times when you could feel the frame or fork flexing a bit.  You’d turn hard on pavement and hear just a little rotor scrape as the fork flexed, for example.  The Beargrease has no palpable movement.  Slam on the brakes?  It stops.  Do a stoppie?  It stops.  No flex.  Crank on the pedals?  It goes.  No flex.  The DT Swiss RWS thru-axles are amazing–one of my favorite bike components of all time–and are incredibly rigid.  They are also incredibly easy to use.  Fantastic.

I like the stock Salsa bars a great deal.  I didn’t like the stock stem, and upgraded that to my much-loved Thomson standard.  I also didn’t like the stock seat post or saddle, and swapped them out.  The seat post was aesthetic, truth be told, and the saddle was a personal comfort thing.  But the stock bars are great–a nice width, a nice sweep, and very comfortable on rough surfaces.  I’m a bit torn about the stock grips–I like the way that they feel, but when I’m really pushing hard, I’m finding that my hands are going numb.  I may be squeezing the bars too hard, or perhaps I need to throw some Ergons on.  We’ll see.

What about the XX1?

It’s wonderful.  Not perfect, but wonderful.

It shifts magnificently.  Amazingly well.  I like the trigger shifter, notwithstanding my thought that I’d want grip shift for a 1x setup (like on the Superfish).  As it turns out, I haven’t had any issues shifting quickly with the trigger shifter.

It also has God’s own low gear.  28×42 is almost too low…I haven’t found a hill that: a) needs a gear that low; and, b) is still rideable.  On the flip side, 28×10 might be a bit low as well.  On the inaugural gravel ride, I ran out of gears around 23 mph.  23mph is probably around 105rpm with a 28×10 setup.  If I went to a 32T chainring, I’d pick up around 3-4mph before I ran out of gear.  On the bottom end, at 60rpm, going from a 28 chainring to a 32 chainring would be the difference between 3.3mph and 3.7mph.  I’ll probably get some snow under my belt and see how I like the gearing then.  For gravel, it’s under-geared.

The only other criticism that can be offered is simply a part of a 1x drivetrain: you have fewer gearing options.  For mountain or snow riding, a 1x drivetrain is perfect, because a small gap in gearing isn’t a big deal…you can spin up or gear up as needed.  For gravel riding, when you’re doing 110% in a group, there are times when it would be nice to have just a little more or little less gear.  Those are the times when a 2x setup would be nice.  I’ve had a couple times, riding with others, when I’ve wished I had just a smidge different gearing, to be more comfortable at the group pace.  Of course, you can always change the group’s pace!

If I were choosing tomorrow, there’s no doubt that I’d stick with the XX1.  The incredibly small downside (fewer gears) is more than made up with by the lightweight, slick activation and simplicity.  Having a 1x in the snow and mud will be excellent–and I look forward to it.

The Avid brakes are fantastic–no complaints or qualms.  They broke in quickly, and work wonderfully.

The aesthetics of the frame are still amazing.  It’s one of the prettiest bikes I’ve ever seen–much less in my fleet.  It’s a stunner.

I used to run Husker Dus on my Mukluk, versus the Dillingers on this bike.  I think the Dillingers are lighter, and believe they will be more aggressive in snow and mud.  However, my sense is that they are slower rolling on hard surfaces and gravel.  The Huskers might be a better all-around tire.  The Dillingers are more specialized–and likely better in bad conditions and snow.  Time will tell.

I keep finding little easter eggs on the bike–little splashes of green on the drivetrain that I hadn’t noticed…or an area where the sculpting of the frame is amazingly complex and beautiful.  It’s a bike that is easy to look at.

More updates will be forthcoming.  I’ll be spending a lot of time on this bike, this coming year.  Expect amazing things.


7 thoughts on “Salsa Carbon Beargrease: The First 130

  1. Pingback: Salsa Carbon Beargrease XX1: The Pictures | riding against the grain

  2. I don’t think undergearing for gravel is a fair criticism, especially when you already have one of the nicest dedicated gravel bikes on the planet. I hope to be able to afford one of these within a year or two, but I’ll only be interested if Salsa keeps the 28×42 low gear. Riding up steep snowmobile tracks at above 10,000′ requires tractor gearing, at least for me.

    • I absolutely agree–it’s geared properly. It’s just that we DON’T HAVE MOUNTAINS HERE. On the flats, it could use a little more gear, on gravel, on the top end–which is not its intended use. The gearing is perfect for off-road, and I’d guess that it’ll be perfect for snow as well…that’s why I’m holding off on regearing for now.

      I’m pretty sure they’ll keep the 28×42 setup on the XX1.

      You should get one. It’s pretty great.

  3. Never really ridden a fat bike but I am curious. How do they compare to a suspension bike. Say like my 100mm FS 29er XC bike? Are the tires a back saver or is it like going rigid with the fattest tires you can find and low psi?

      • Like buttah.

        It’s totally unlike other bikes. When you pump up the tires, it’s like riding a fully-rigid bike, albeit a responsive one with great mountain bike geometry. When you air the tires down, it becomes a billygoat, able to climb or ride across anything. The ‘travel’ in the tires is not dampened, so it isn’t like a FS mountain bike…and if you’re running 5ish psi and bounce a lot with your pedal stroke, you’ll have a bouncy ride. But with a smooth pedal stroke, you can ride through just about anything. It’s unreal.

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