Salsa Woodsmoke first ride

Elevating the hardtail with wheel size versatility

27.5 29er Cross Country Plus
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.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 29+.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 29+.

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.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 27.5+.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 27.5+.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 29er.

Salsa Woodsmoke Geometry for 29er.


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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  • RobDink says:

    Something different & fun looking from Salsa! Always been a fan going back to the steel HT I inherited from an uncle in the early-mid 90s. Definitely want to throw a leg over one of these to test it out in all wheel sizes. I’m digging the fugly “dog with tail between its legs” look.

  • Durk Bentknee says:

    Sounds interesting but $2000 for a heavy NX build? I think I’ll hang on to my present hardtail for a while.

  • alias says:

    Curious why the author did not take note of the extreme BB height differences if one were to actually switch wheel sizes. A 4cm bb height difference is insane. Who other than the dealer benefits from using one frame for 3 wheel sizes? How many consumers will actually swap wheels?

    multi-wheel-size frames are pretty hoaky.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      >> Curious why the author did not take note of the extreme BB height differences…

      On page 3 of the article, you’ll see the BB drop (height) on each configuration. Two are identical and one is 3mm lower.

      This is accomplished by a cool dropout feature that allows the height of the rear dropouts to be raised or lowered. For the front, the length of the fork is changed depending on configuration.

      We believe that most will select their preferred wheel configuration at purchase time giving this bike a broader market. Many buyers will take comfort that they can try a Plus size but still be able to switch to a 29er in case they don’t like it.

      And the minority will switch between two wheel sizes. winter vs. summer riding for example.

      • Arek says:

        Francis, how is BB drop the same as BB height??? They are not. While BB drop may remain fairly unchanged – as different wheel sizes have absolutely no effect on it, but rather fork length – the BB height will absolutely change and be quite visible between 27.5+ and 29.5+ wheeled bikes. While I’m not sure what the exact differences in BB height between the 3 bikes are, there will be a difference, no question about that – the 10mm difference in fork height between 27.5+ and 29.5+ builds helps a bit, but not enough to keep them constant.

  • jiw71 says:

    14 & 12 seems a tad high for air pressure. I weigh 210 and run 10 & 12 on a Stache 29+

  • Tom says:

    For those stressing about the BB height, take a look at the removable dropouts, and have look at different photos of different configurations on the internet, they have different shaped attachments which correct the BB height.

  • John says:

    Just bought a 2017 Woodsmoke XO1 27.5+ on sale. I thought I’d be buying a Stache but on test ride, I preferred the Woodsmoke’s 27.5 tire size for the type of riding I do. People shouldn’t worry about the Woodsmoke’s BB offset. It’s 65mm for the Stache, and 3 mm higher at 62mm for the 29+ Woodsmoke. BB offset is 59mm for the 27.5+ Woodsmoke with 130mm fork and 51mm for the 27.5+ ‘only’ Specialized Fuse, an 8mm difference.

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