Salsa Horsethief Split Pivot

Of late, I’ve had a good opportunity to put some miles on the Horsethief that I picked up this year.  Mine is a Horsethief Carbon GX1.  It’s predominantly a stock build, which consists of Sram GX1 1×11 drivetrain, Sram Guide R brakes, Sram Roam 30 wheels, Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.3 tires…my non-stock additions have been a Thomson dropper post (with stealth routing) and a set of ENVE RSR carbon handlebars that I had laying around.  I’m also using an Ergon SM3 Pro saddle as per my standard practice.

I also picked up a set of Stan’s Hugo wheels and WTB Badger 27.5×3 tires, as shown in the pictures.  My Sram/Schwalbe 29er combo is set up tubeless, the 27.5+ combo is set up with tubes (although both are tubeless capable).
IMG_5016 Lots of tire clearance with the 27.5+ setup. IMG_5018

IMG_5021 Salsa’s surprisingly good lock-on grips: IMG_5022

Cable routing for the Thomson (more details below):

IMG_5023 Front cable view. The tension adjuster is on the Thomson. IMG_5025

Downtube housing view. Note the crossover where the Thomson routing comes from the right side of the headtube and goes to the left side of the seattube.

IMG_5026 IMG_5027

IMG_5029 Nice dropper post ‘stealth’ port on the seattube. IMG_5030

IMG_5031 Fox 34 IMG_5032

IMG_5024

Overall impression is that I love the bike.  It’s incredibly capable.  The Split Pivot suspension does everything I remember from test rides–it doesn’t have undue sag or pedal bounce, it climbs like a goat, and it has excellent small and large bump compliance.

The Fox 34 fork has been a pleasant surprise.  It is noticeably more rigid than the 32mm standard fork I last had–it feels as rigid as either the Carbon Lefty or the RS-1 that my two previous mountain bikes had.  In candor, it is not quite as buttery smooth as the RS-1 on small bump compliance…but that said, the Fox 34 is far more progressive.  The RS-1 didn’t really ramp up as much in spring rate as the Fox.  On hard landings, the Fox is smoother/gentler at the end of travel than the RS-1.  The RS-1 was amazing–and surgical in its steering precision–but I’m not missing it.  The Fox also has 130mm of travel, which when combined with the slackness of the Horsethief makes for a very confident bike.  You can point this bike up or down anything, and feel fully in control.

The Sram drivetrain and brakes have been great thus far.  The GX1 shifts ably and confidently under all conditions.  It isn’t quite the “rifle bolt” feeling of the XTR 1x I used to have, but it comes in considerably less expensive, and it’s from a company that I am willing to support.  I haven’t had any issues of any kind with it–it shifts nicely, and the derailleur has prevented event a hint of chain slap thus far.  I also really, really like the ‘derailleur lockout button’ on Sram that allows you to lock the derailleur forward to take away chain tension for wheel swaps.

The Guide brakes have been perfect.  No noises, no issues, no problems adjusting.  Trued the rotors and went.  The Thief has a larger rotor up front than in the rear–which is a new experience for me.  Coupled with the excellent modulation of the Guides, it allows for great precision in braking.  The oversized front rotor really helps make the brakes feel balanced front to rear.  The rear rotor isn’t “undersized,” either–when you want to haul down the brakes or pivot the rear end through a corner, it’s got you covered.  The brake levers are nicely adjustable and work perfectly for single-finger control.

The Salsa lock-on grips are surprisingly good.  When I first started mountain biking, my hands would hurt.  I tried big ‘ergonomic’ Ergon grips and found that it only made things worse.  With time, I’ve realized that sticky lock-on grips, coupled with not using a death grip on the bars is the recipe for happy hands.

I’m still getting used to the geometry, but the BB feels a bit lower than I had expected.  From time to time, I have an unanticipated pedal strike.  Other than that, the geo feels perfect.

The Thomson dropper post merits some comment as well.  The first one I had didn’t work. The stealth adapter doohickey was broken out of the box.  It looked normal, but didn’t do anything.  Thomson dropped one in the mail to me the day I called (great service), and the replacement adapter worked perfectly.  The post works great–it has great modulation and control up or down, and because it is cable actuated, there is no bleeding to worry about.  The last dropper I had was hydro, and caused issues every few months.

The Thief is well-configured for stealth routing, with external cabling on the downtube, and a stealth port on the seattube.  I do need to come up with some cable management up front, as the cables slap and make an annoying sound on chattery surfaces.  My only concern/criticism about the Thomson so far (other than the annoyance of a broken part fresh out of the box) is the cable routing out of the control.  The control itself is great–a quality part, CNC’d to perfection.  But the cable goes straight forward out of it.  In a crash, I have a feeling it will not fare well.  As I’ve looked at Crank Brothers’ new dropper post, their cable routing makes a lot more sense out of the control, and is far more crash protected.  We’ll see how this holds up.

The ENVE carbon bars are great as always–and do a good job of cutting down vibration that would otherwise lead to hand and upper body fatigue.

So the $10,000 question: how does it compare to the Fuel?  For purposes of this comparison, I’ll compare the Fuel to the Thief in 29er mode.

The wheels are palpably heavier on the Thief.  I wish I had a set of ENVEs on it.  The Thief is a bit heavier overall–but shockingly, the delta is not that great.  Other than the wheels, it isn’t noticeable.  The Thief feels more confident up front, when pointing up or down hills.  The extra travel and slacker angles help out a great deal.  The Thief also feels more stable on tight switchbacks.  Comparing XTR brakes to Sram Guide, I don’t have a preference–both are perfect.  Comparing XTR 1x to Sram GX 1x (which isn’t really an apples to apples comparison), both have the same level of perfection in their function, but the Shimano drivetrain feels better (more mechanical and more precise) getting there.  I prefer the Thomson dropper to the Rockshox dropper that the Fuel had.

The Thief feels like it has more travel front and rear–it feels more trail oriented.  I think a lot of that is the difference in the front end–with the Thief being more confident up front.  If I had both sitting there and could pick one, which would it be?  In a ‘money no object’ world–wait, no.  We’re in the real world.  In the real world, at MSRP, the Fuel would cost more than double what the Thief cost, and there’s just no way that it’s worth it.  In the real world, the Fuel does not offer double the capability.  Frankly, even if cost were not an object, I have a hard time finding merit in the Fuel that the Thief doesn’t have, other than the ENVE wheels and swanky paint.  The Thief is an incredible bike with a great spec for actually riding.  I don’t miss the Fuel, and don’t feel like I lost any capability.

Thus far, it’s an incredible bike, and I’m looking forward to more time on it.

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