Review: 2014 Salsa Spearfish

29er Cross Country
Model Spec and Pricepoints

The Spearfish comes in four well-equipped models, all outfitted with Fox front and rear shocks in either Evolution, Performance or Factory FIT. It should also be noted that regardless of which model, every Spearfish frame is exactly the same. This is terrific for those who can’t quite afford the top spec Spearfish with SRAM XX1, but would like to upgrade components over time.

Spearfish 3 retails for $2,750.

The entry level Spearfish 3 comes in gloss black and retails for a bargain price of $2,750. Featuring a mix of SRAM cranks, Shimano XT and SLX, WTB Silverado Saddle, Schwalbe tires and Fox F29 Evolution suspension with CTD, the Spearfish 3 is a standout value.

Spearfish 2 retails for $3,299.

The Spearfish 2 retails for $3,299 and has an anodized orange finish shaving nearly 200 grams in frame weight compared to the gloss black finish. Spearfish 3 features SRAM X7 and X9 components, Avid Elixir 5 brakes, No Tubes ZTR rims, WTB Silverado saddle and Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires.

Spearfish 1 retails for $4,099, features an anodized green finish – which is the color available for frameset only at $1,699 – and includes a high performance spec mix of SRAM XO and X9 shifting and braking, Thompson Elite stem and seatpost, DT Swiss 350 hubs with No Tubes Arch EX hoops and Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires.

Spearfish XX1 retails for $5,499.

The big daddy Spearfish XX1 retails for $5,499 and features a simply stunning teal blue anodized finish. This 23.8-pound, all-out race machine is equipped with the highly popular SRAM XX1 system, Avid XX brakes, DT Swiss 350 hubs with No Tubes Crest hoops, Thompson Elite stem and seatpost and Salsa carbon handlebars. Spearfish XX1 is exclusively outfitted with Fox Factory FIT suspension with Kashima coated stanchions.

Riding Impressions

I got some serious saddle time on the Spearfish XX1, and front the moment I swung my leg over this bike I had an ear-to-ear grin. Some bikes are just perfect for certain people, and the way this Spearfish felt – from the fit to its uncanny ability to accelerate – I knew this bike was tailor made for my riding style.

The most immediate dynamic I noticed – or should I say didn’t notice – was the fact that the Spearfish is a 29er. As one of the last holdouts in America riding a hardtail 26er, I have always been wary of the slow handling and lethargic acceleration nature of big wagon wheels.  These typical drawbacks of a 29er were non-existent with the new Spearfish.

The Spearfish XX1 weighs in at a scant 23.8 lbs.

From the very first tight, technical and rocky singletrack turn on the Piedmont Trail system in Duluth, I could tell this full-suspension 29er was something special. By teaming up with DW, Salsa design engineers have absolutely nailed not only the rear suspension, but also the geometry that makes this 29er handle fast and descent even faster.

Out of the saddle, the Spearfish lunges forward with urgency, especially when the CTD dial is set to Climb mode. With both front and rear shocks set to Climb, the Spearfish feels almost as responsive as a fully rigid bike, making it a rocket on long, sustained fire road climbs. On bumpier sections, Descend mode is the setting of choice. Trail mode can be used, but really, the Split Pivot system is so effective that Descend mode is where I spent the majority of my time.

Ultra-short 437mm chainstays help the Spearfish handle like a 26er.

The ultra short 437mm chainstays, 51mm offset Fox fork and the slack 69.3 degree head tube angle all come together making the Spearfish rip corners with the agility of a 26er. Out back, the Split Pivot system fully lives up to its reputation, with zero pedaling-induced bob, chatter-free, high-traction braking and a progressive shock tune that takes the edge off small bumps as well as it sucks up big hits. Some may ask the question why the Spearfish doesn’t have 100mm of rear travel, the answer is because of the effectiveness of Split Pivot, you simply don’t need the extra 20mm.

Whether coasting at speed through the endless rocks and roots of Piedmont or pedaling through them, Split Pivot makes no distinction because of its ability to completely isolate bump absorption from pedaling. Split Pivot also completely isolates the suspension from braking, resulting in zero chatter, chop or any other funky attributes that plague other rear suspension designs. The Maxle rear through axle is a gigantic step forward, and should really be the de-facto standard for all bikes, rear suspension or not. The improvement in tracking and rear-end tightness on the Spearfish is significant, making this bike an absolute hooty-hoo to ride.

We had a great couple of days riding the new bikes with the Salsa crew.

Drawbacks? Geez, aside from this bike not being available until August, I really can’t find any. Perhaps the only drawback is for those who prefer 3x front chainring systems. In order to make the chainstays as short as possible, the Spearfish is only designed for 1x and 2x drivetrains. I prefer the 1x system, not only because it provides plenty of gear range in a simpler, lighter platform, but also because I found the 2x setup of a 22 tooth small ring and a 36 big ring was either a bit too small or too large for most conditions. Having a single 34 tooth front ring was like Goldilocks – just right.

Never before have I even considered adding a 29er to my stable, as I have been perfectly happy with my pair of 26” hardtails. But after two days of ripping up some extremely tasty singletrack around Duluth with the Salsa crew, I have to say that a teal anodized Spearfish XX1 could possibly find itself in the hands of an Angry Singlespeeder. And because of the efficiencies of Split Pivot, it might actually get some time as a singlespeed.

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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  • Adam says:

    “With the rise in popularity of marathon and 24 hour cross-country racing…”


    24 hour races are shutting down left and right. Enduro is the new 24.

  • Angry Singlespeeder says:

    They are? Last I saw 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo sold out within a few weeks of registration opening. More than 2,000 participants. Enduro is new and might be very popular, but it remains to be seen if it has longevity. I hope it does, as it’s a great format, but time will tell.

  • Onewldcat says:

    I ride a Devinci Atlas Carbon with split pivot Sus and love it. This new Spearfish was sounding great until I read G2 offset fork, ugh…

  • Chet Tazewell says:

    Lethargic acceleration of a 29 wheel isn’t overcome by linkage tuning or CS shortening. It’s all to do with wheel (incl tire) weight. So I’m not sure I understand how you can say this 29 FS bike has fixed the acceleration problem, unless it had markedly lighter wheels/tires compared to every other 29 bike you’ve ridden.

  • Rob says:

    Look the frameset has become even more swoopy. With those curves it does look like a lot of other high end bikes. While I find the numbers and configuration suit me – I hate all these curves that seem to be “styling cues”. Bring back the diamond esque styling! That being said a new Spearfish is high on my list to replace my old Giant NRS and bring me into the modern MTB world.

  • Angry Singlespeeder says:

    Hi Chet,

    You’re right. It’s still slower than a 26″ out of the saddle. It just the perceived acceleration is faster than what I’ve experienced with other 29ers, especially full suspension 29ers. I went from riding the Horsethief to the much lighter and faster Spearfish, so that might have had something to do with my perceived acceleration observations. Because as soon as I got home and got back on my 26″ hardtail, I realized the Spearfish wasn’t nearly as quick off the line. As you eluded, its a law of physics. Regardless, the Spearfish is still very quick off the line.


  • Kirk says:

    I just don’t like press fit BB, but everything else looks good.

  • r1Gel says:

    All I want for Christmas is a Spearfish 3 (and a Surly Krampus ;p )

  • Russ says:

    If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Too bad Salsa ignored the old adage. The absence of a pivot on the rear triangle is what makes the original spearfish the best riding full suspension mountain bike in the world (and I’ve ridden me all). The seat says gave resilience and a unique stiff yet plush ride with superb handling. I haven’t ridden the new spearfish yet but I suppose it will bog down just like all the other d’s bikes with this same design . What a shame. Salsa, you really blew it!

  • Russ says:

    The new spearfish looks like crap. I prefer my original spearfish one in black/white/red.

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