First Impression: Salsa Horsethief

By Matt Kaspzryk

For most of us, fall is time of the year when you can’t pass up opportunities to ride. I was lucky that in late October I was able to spend a few days riding some of the trails near State College, PA, which have helped develop the regions relentlessly technical reputation.

These trails, like Tussey Mountain and Bald Eagle can be punishing. It’s often slow and methodical battle of momentum and terrain. I think there’s more rocks than dirt on most of those ridgelines. Grueling fireroad accents and technical singletrack climbs are rewarded with beautiful vistas and challenging descents. Riders are tested, and many humbled, by the terrain. It’s a great place for a stage race. Oh, hey there’s the Trans-Sylvania Epic. It’s also a great place to punish a new test bike like the Salsa Horsethief.

The Salsa Horsethief is new for 2012. It’s like a thicker, slacker, longer travel and tougher brother to the Spearfish. It has the same link-actuated single pivot design and shaped seatstays, but with 120mm rear travel. It has a longer wheelbase, slacker angles, a 142x12mm rear spacing with wider diameter tubes and a new Fox 34 fork that you can run at either 120 or 140mm.

So if you’ve read this far I bet you’re waiting for some first impressions.

Boy howdy, I’ve been happy to be on the Horsethief lately. I had some reservations about the bike because of my “meh” time on the Spearfish, but the combination of that Fox 34, the tapered stearer, and the 15mm thru-axle makes for an incredibly stiff front end. No more quick releases on 29er forks, please. The slacker angles and stiff 142×12 rear end devour rough terrain. The bike immediately felt confident, allowing me to maintaining lines (good or bad) through rough sections of trail. The rear tracked predictably and felt laterally stiff, but plush through its travel. It may not pedal as well as I would like, but engage the ProPedal on the Fox RP23 shock and save yourself for the descents.

After a handful of rides on some of the most demanding trails around, I have been impressed with the overall stiffness of the bike when compared to the Spearfish. Most notably upfront, which is likely because of the new Fox 34 and 15mm thru-axle. Survive the climbs and crush the rough and descents. I think I’m going to like this.

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