Outerbike Test Sessions: Salsa Woodsmoke

29er with plus sized wheels and clever rear dropouts

29er All Mountain Trail Outerbike Test Sessions

Interbike Mtbr

Carbon frame, RockShox front end and giant 29x3.0" tires.

Carbon frame, RockShox front end and giant 29×3.0″ tires.

Editor’s Note: Along with longtime Mtbr forum member Kent Robertson (KRob), the 2016 Outerbike Test Sessions were conducted by Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr. Ben, 37, has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC side of things. This year, the pair headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only — not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes. All bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35.

Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive.

The pot-bellied oddity that is the Salsa Woodsmoke jumped out at me and I found myself needing to take one for a joyride. Something in me craves the weirdness of the bleeding edge of bike design and engineering, which helped me discover fat biking in the first place a few years ago.

The “Alternator” dropouts are clever for changing the drivetrain, geometry, and chain stay length options of the frame.

The “Alternator” dropouts are clever for changing the drivetrain, geometry, and chain stay length options of the frame.

The wheels! Just look at them! Basically, they are the biggest thing I’ve ever ridden at 29×3.0. I know lots of folks have been on Surly Krampus iterations for awhile, but the Woodsmoke is different with a carbon backbone and a springy RockShox front end.

My thoughts on the Woodsmoke are pretty straightforward, as there just wasn’t a lot of nuance to the bike. The frame is overly stiff and jostles you around a good bit. I did not find it as compliant as I might want a touring frame to be over long miles. Some of this can likely be tuned out by dialing in tire pressure, but not all of it. The bike feels ponderous and sort of the opposite of fast.

Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.

Surprisingly, it does close down gaps with what feels like little effort, like you took an airport slide walk to catch up. Full 3.0” tires on 29er rims feel so much like a fat setup in look and ride quality, that I would be looking at other fat options if I was in the market for a bike like this.

The “Alternator” dropouts are clever for changing the drivetrain, geometry, and chain stay length options of the frame.

See how Mtbr rated another plus-sized monster, the 29×3.0″ Borealis Crestone set-up.

The build kit wasn’t doing the bike any favors from a refinement standpoint. The RockShox Yari fork is basic and lacks the standard smoothness of the Pike. SRAM Level brakes are on my hate list now, as they wailed and sounded as if the rear rotor was ripping loose. The Salsa alloy handlebar was out of place on a carbon rig.

On the plus side (pun intended) the WTB Rangers totally hook up. I’d definitely ride these tires on a 29+ setup of my own. Bottle mounts everywhere and adequate heel clearance both check boxes for touring, and the Whiskey aluminum rims looked cool.

The beefy WTB 3.0 tires hooked up well.

The beefy WTB 3.0 tires hooked up well.

Bottom line, I would still rather put a 29+ wheelset on a fatbike for versatility rather than get a dedicated plus rig that has a 27.5 option. It will be interesting to see if Salsa finds a market for the Woodsmoke.

Outerbike Test Session Score: 17 out of 35.

For more information visit salsacycles.com.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Benjamin Slabaugh

Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr, lives near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The 37-year-old has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12. His first high-end bike was a 1995 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, which he still has. Ben considers himself a climber, and competes in local road and MTB events. But he also loves to cruise on fast, flowing singletrack, and even makes the occasional trip to the bike park. While not an industry insider, Ben is tuned in to the nuances of bikes and believes he can communicate those characteristics in ways that are helpful to others.


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  • crockpot2001 says:

    And yet again, they make another bike with a micro head tube. This is not intended for rivet head racing but still requires a pile of spacers and riser bars. Santa Cruz is the same.

  • BlackBean says:

    Dang this thing is ugly, and what a horribly boring color! It’s basically the abortion of a Trek Stache. Now THAT is a beautiful rig with psychedelic 80′s neon colors for pop.

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