First Look: Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler 27.5+ trail bike

Salsa releases their Split-Pivot platform with the new 27.5 Plus tires

27.5 All Mountain Trail Plus
The Pony Rustler was the bike for #wholeenchilada last week. 120mm of travel and 3" of 27.5+ tires made picking lines awesome. Salsa Product Manager Joe Meiser. Photo courtesy of Salsa Cycles

The Pony Rustler was the bike for #wholeenchilada last week. 120mm of travel and 3″ of 27.5+ tires made picking lines awesome. Salsa Product Manager Joe Meiser. Photo courtesy of Salsa Cycles

We blame fat bikes. Fat bikes demonstrated to us that fat tires, low pressures and wide rims were cool. They introduced new levels of traction, control and fun. They also proved that companies could make money by taking risks and pursuing new trends. But they’re not for everybody and everywhere as they showed their limitations when it came to speed, agility and jumping prowess. The full suspension fat bike Bucksaw for example was a monster truck, terrain eating machine but nimbleness was not its strong suit. And when one picked up speed, it was pretty difficult to change direction due to the weight and traction of the tires.

Enter Plus bikes with 27.5 wheels and three inch tires. These machines seem to merge the strengths of 29ers and fat bikes to produce a blend of traction, control, speed and fun. This new Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler is one such bike as it uses the suspension of the Bucksaw the and the Horsethief to produce a 120mm travel Plus bike. We’re not jazzed about the name ‘Pony Rustler’ but the number seem to check out with good head and seat angles. And with an aluminum and carbon version available, buyers will have a good selection off the bat.

Salsa Cycles Official Press Release

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of Pete Koski, a product development engineer for Salsa Cycles.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler Carbon XO1.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler Carbon XO1 (click to enlarge).

Pony Rustler is based off its older sibling, the Horsethief; melding the same 120mm of incredible Split Pivot rear wheel suspension technology with the enhanced performance characteristics of 27.5 x 3.0” tires. Like the Horsethief, Pony Rustler can tackle any trail, anywhere with confidence, while raising the bar for how hard you can push through corners, scratch and claw you way up climbs, and monster truck down chunky descents.

Pony Rustler features a Split Pivot chassis with a Boost 148 rear end that makes room for 27.5 x 3.0 tires. The 27.5+ tire features a similar overall tire diameter as a 29er, but with a smaller diameter rim and drastically increased tire volume. Paired with the wider hub flanges of the Boost 148 rear hub, the end result is a stiffer and stronger rear wheel that has the same roll-over characteristics of a 29er, but with an insane amount of climbing and cornering traction due to the sub-20 psi (approaching single-digit tire pressures) than can be run. With traction and tire pressures approaching a fatbike-like threshold, one might mistake the Pony Rustler for feeling and riding like a fatbike. Quite the opposite is true however. The magic of the mid-sized tires is closer to a modern 29er on steroids; think fast, smooth, and nimble. All that rubber on the ground means Pony Rustler redefines where and how you choose to ride your lines.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler Carbon GX1.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler Carbon GX1 (click to enlarge).

Pony Rustler’s new tire size is coupled with 120mm of Split Pivot rear suspension that is incredibly efficient, further enhances traction, and offers superior performance under braking. Pony Rustler retains the same short 437mm chainstays as Horsethief, making for a quick and agile handling bike, even with large diameter wheels. A 130mm travel, 51mm offset Boost 110 fork is used up front to compliment the stiffness and tire clearance of the rear, and provides a modern 67.5-degree head angle that allows the rider to unleash the full potential of the 27.5+ tires on descents and in corners, while still remaining balanced enough to handle technical climbs with ease.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler GX 2x10.

Salsa Cycles Pony Rustler GX 2×10 (click to enlarge).

Pony Rustler will be offered in four sizes in both carbon and aluminum versions. Every frame size features a mount for a full size water bottle and stealth dropper seatpost routing. A Boost 148 compatible crank is required (and spec’d on completes) for adequate ring clearance and drivetrain alignment with the wider Boost hubs, while retaining a standard MTB Q-factor. All other components are standard sizing. Pony Rustler is compatible with both 1x (32T max) and 2x (34/24T) drivetrains. All Pony Rustler completes come with 27.5+ wheels and tires, but the bike is fully compatible with 29 x 2.2-2.4” wheels and tires with no compromises to handling or geometry, so long as the wheelset is laced to Boost 148 and Boost 110 hubs.

Continue to page 2 for pricing and availability »

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Izzy says:

    The Carbon GX1 is my new dream bike!

  • Jeff Scanlan says:

    Great geometry for sure, looks like a great bike.

    I just wonder what the market is for these + sized bikes, will this be a main ride or an addition to someone’s “quiver”.

    Given the prices of bikes today and the options that are out there, I am curious to see how these bikes are received.

    I’m in the position to finally replace my 26″ bike soon but I don’t think I could go all in on a + bike.

  • stiingya says:

    yeah, with so many new standards and new wheel/tire sizes it makes a person a little gun shy on new purchases. worried of buyying into the wrong standard and b stuck with some tech that gets left behind…

  • mikeetheviking says:

    I’m gonna have to rustle up some ponies before i can afford this…. But damn! This is a nice bike

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