Review: 2014 Salsa Horsethief

29er All Mountain Trail
Model Spec and Pricepoints

The 2014 Horsethief will be available in three well-equipped models, all featuring 130mm front and 120mm rear Fox F29 suspension in either Evolution, CTD Performance FIT or Factory FIT with Kashima coating. It should be noted that all three Horsethief models feature the same frame with Split Pivot design, enabling those with the entry level Horsethief 2 to get essentially the same suspension performance as the Horsethief XX1. As their budget allows, buyers can upgrade components over time.

Horsethief 2 retails for $3,299.

The entry-level Horsethief 2 come in the classic Kawasaki Green livery featuring a mix of SRAM X7 and X9 shifting with Avid Elixir 7 braking, NoTubes ZTR Rapid hoops, WTB Volt saddle and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, making it a standout value at only $3,299. A Fox Float CTD comes standard, as does a Fox F29 Evolution front fork. Getting someone on a bike with this much suspension and technology for such a low pricepoint is a notable achievement for Salsa’s brand manager, Tim Krueger.

Horsethief 1 retails for $4,599.

At $4,599, Horsethief 1 models up the ante with a gray and lime paint scheme, SRAM X0 Trail braking system and  the new XO1 1×11 drivetrain. A Thomson Elite seatpost, DT Swiss 350 hubs with NoTubes Arch EX wheels, Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35” tires and a SRAM X1 single front chainring with MRP 1x guide complete this well-equipped mid-range spec sheet.

Horsethief XX1 retails for $5,699.

Created to dominate the Enduro racing scene, the full g-ride Horsethief XX1 features a paint job so bad ass that extra letters are required to spell out Badd Asss Orangee.  Loaded with the hot new SRAM XX1 shifting system, XO Trail brakes, a RockShox Reverb dropper post, Thomson stem, DT Swiss 350 hubs, NoTubes Arch EX hoops, Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35” tires and a Salsa carbon riser bar, the Spearfish XX1 rings the register at $5,699. You can also get the Horsethief as a frameset only in Badd Ass Orangee for $1,699.

Riding Impressions
The Horsethief strikes an ideal balance between all-mountain and XC riding.

I spent two solid days piloting the Horsethief, and although it’s a bit too much bike for my preferences, I was really impressed with how nimble and responsive it was for such a big bike. Whether behind the saddle dropping the big rock faces at Piedmont Trails known as “Medropolis”, carving up tight, technical singletrack above the town of Duluth or doing numerous runs down the irresistible Candyland flow trail at Spirit Mountain ski resort, the Horsethief showed off its versatility.

DW himself spent the majority of the week on the Horsethief as opposed to the Spearfish, as he prefers the added 30mm of front and 40 mm of rear travel. Hitting the Candyland flow trail really showed off the seemingly bottomless suspension of the Horsethief. Even when my complete lack of jumping skill found me casing the hell out of large tabletops or doubles, the Horsethief sucked up my follies, keeping me from going ass over teakettle.

Small bump compliance on the Horsethief is equally as impressive thanks to Split Pivot and the perfectly tuned Fox suspension. One of the design philosophies of DW and Salsa was to design the frame around an off-the-shelf, factory-tuned Fox suspension system. Most other manufacturers design the frame first, then try to find a suspension system that is compatible. Salsa’s reverse approach pays off with the Horsethief, as the only thing you need to do is set the sag to make the bike perform perfectly.

Uphill the Horsethief is surprisingly fast. It’s by no means anywhere near as zippy as the Spearfish, but for a bike with 120mm of rear travel, it climbs well. In order to keep the weight down, Salsa outfitted every Horsethief model with a 32mm stanchion Fox fork, as opposed to the heavier 34mm found on the previous generation Horsethief.  Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35” tires are spec on every Horsethief, providing plenty of tread and grip for both dry and muddy conditions – which we experienced both of while riding in Duluth.

The only niggle I found with the Horsethief was the drivetrain setup. I was on a Horsethief 1 with the 2x SRAM XO Trail system, and found the 22 tooth and 36 tooth front chainrings to be either too small or too large. Although a 2x system helps minimize cross-chaining, I still found myself either in the small ring far down the stack or in the big ring far up the stack. Either a 1x system with a 34 front would have been better for me or perhaps a 26 tooth granny ring and a 39 tooth big ring. Good news is that the Horsethief I rode was a pre-production model, and factory-spec drivetrain for the Horsethief 1 production model will actually be the new SRAM X01 1×11 system with a 10-42 cassette and 32 tooth front chainring.

Horsethief 1 taking a ride up the ski lift at Spirit Mountain in Duluth.

If lift service bike parks, Enduro races and shuttle runs are your style of riding, then the 2014 Salsa Horsethief should be on your short list of bikes to ride, especially if you have a full beard, a leathery handshake and a build like Paul Bunyan. In addition to sporting the proven Split Pivot rear suspension design, every model in the Horsethief lineup features an outstanding spec sheet of high-quality components packed with value and technology. The 2014 Horsethief should be arriving at your local Salsa dealer starting this August, so mark your calendar.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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  • Rob says:

    My one question is how does that yoke on the shock attach to it?
    Can it be bolted to the end of a stock shock, or is it proprietary like Specialized thus making upgrades only available through Salsa?

    • Dr.Ew says:

      The lower mounting hole on the shock is rotated, the bolt is vertical instead of horizontal. The new ibis ripely uses the same concept. Nothing proprietary about it.

      This new horsethief looks so badass! So happy I waited out for the new model. I almost pulled the trigger on a ’13, this looks so much more refined and even more capable. Well done Salsa!

  • xc biker says:

    Is it offered as a frame only option? If so hoswmuch is the frame?

  • Angry Singlespeeder says:

    Yes, frame only option I believe is $1600, same price as Spearfish.

  • RedHotFuzz says:

    “the Spearfish XX1 rings the register at $5,699″

    I think you meant to say the Horsethief XX1.

  • Jim Groser says:

    It seems like all the new 2014 mtb FS bikes try to copy the geometry of the Trailbike of the year 2013. The English Whyte T129 S was the first with slack 68 degree headangle and chain stay of only 43 cm.
    It worked. Now we see all the copy cats. But T129 is still cheaper, including a stealth dropper post.

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