How does it ride?
We’ve had a lot of experience with the Trek Stache 9 and the Niner Ros 9+ which both have 29+ wheels so we sought out this configuration for a test ride in Northstar Bike Park near Lake Tahoe, CA. After all, this is the configuration the shows the most promise but is very difficult to execute because of the large tire diameter and subsequent sluggish handling tendency.
The important geometry stat to look for is chainstay length since this is the key that unlocks the handling puzzle. The Trek Stache 9 is at 420mm, the Niner Ros 9+ at 445mm and the Woodsmoke measures in at 417mm. Considering that the Trek chainstay is a feat of engineering with a carved out BB shell to achieve 420mm, this Salsa ultra short chainstay is truly a marvel.
The fork on the Salsa is great too with a RockShox instead of a Manitou. The bike park trails were not ideal for the Woodsmoke by any means, but it performed flawlessly on the first day. Handling was quick and manageable. Steering with the 67.8 head angle was confidence-inspiring. With the 29 x 3.0 rollover ability and the slack head angle, rocks and rough terrain were confidently tackled by this hardtail.
Climbing traction was awesome too, as the rider seems to sit right over that rear tire. Dialing in the tire pressure at 14 psi rear and 12 psi front for our 150 lb. weight seemed to establish a happy medium. This was one capable and comfortable hardtail that allowed us to go fast in the difficult terrain. We cased a couple jumps though and the tire bounce on the rear was noticeable. Put a dropper post on this bike and that would expand the sweet spot of this rig.
Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better shakedown ride.
Five different geometry charts
The curse of three different wheel sizes is different geometries and this usually results in compromises in one or more of the configurations. But Salsa did their homework and with different forks and and different rear wheel positions (enabled by their unique dropout), Salsa is proud to publish and tout all three geometries which are markedly similar in angles and BB heights.