Salsa Fargo Review: Long Distance Hauler

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Built for long distances and multi-day tours — but also suitable for commuting and moderate mountain biking — the Fargo by Salsa Cycles is one of the more unique bikes you might find at the shop. It has drop-bar-style handlebars and attachment points for gear racks, fenders, and up to five water bottle cages.

Salsa calls the Fargo an “off-road touring bike,” and its one-of-a-kind design makes the bike just as at home on long cross-country singletrack or for 100-mile days on a gravel road. Though it has no suspension, the Fargo is a cushy enough ride for its task — 29-inch wheels and a shock-absorbing seat post dampen the blows.

salsa fargo.jpg

Salsa Cycles’ Fargo complete bike

This spring, I have put the Fargo complete bike, $1,650, to the test riding gravel roads and some easy singletrack. First impressions? The bike is built like a tank. Its steel frame, big wheels, and “ram-horn” handlebars give the initial feel of power and bulk. It’s a bit heavy, ranging past 26 pounds, depending on size, and it starts up slow on the pedal, as many 29ers can. But once rolling, this big bike really moves.

The big wheels — 29-inchers with Formula hubs and DT Swiss rims — seem to perpetuate motion even more on this hybrid bike. Or maybe it’s the drop-bars; you can get into a tuck and crank on the Fargo. Another speed increaser: The bike’s suspension-less frame grants good response and zero bounce.

salsa fargo - detail shot2.jpg

Fargo has a “full compliment of braze-ons”

Comfort is another hallmark. The seat, a WTB Pure V Race saddle, mates with a Cane Creek “Thudbuster” seatpost, which absorbs shock. For hand position, the drop bars give you a lot of options. On a long ride, switching grip around as you fatigue is a big bonus.

The Fargo excels less on technical trails. It’s not a race bike, and its bulk and big handlebars make it not ideal on twisting singletrack, drops, or for steep climbs. The lack of a suspension fork isn’t a huge deal with the big tires, though anyone used to some spring up front might wish for that add-on.

salsa fargo - detail shot.jpg

Fargo frame up close

But black diamond trails are not this bike’s venue. As noted, there are five — five! — water bottle cage mounts. A “full compliment of braze-ons,” as Salsa puts it, give mucho options for mounting racks, bags, and panniers. On moderate trails and dirt roads where you need to haul gear and go long, this one-of-a-kind mountain bike has it made.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. A version of this post ran originally on Gear Junkie’s blog on VentureThere.com, a USA Today property.

Posted by Mike - 05/31/2011 05:01 PM

I have a Gen1 Fargo XT build and its the coolest bike ever. It handles any terrain with ease, from dirt to pavement. I put on Salsa’s Woodchipper handlebars(now standard on the Complete bike), Mallet1 pedals, and a Brooks saddle and can ride this thing all day. I’ve used these tires: 2” Schwalbe Big Apples, 2.35 Big Apples, Bonty XDX, and Maxxis 2.4 Ardent(great for the Iron Range of MN). Next I may try the Race Kings, but am still looking for the perfect tire that allows me to ride the ‘necessary’ pavement in order to get to the gravels and dirt.

Posted by Elvis - 05/31/2011 06:34 PM

I also have a Gen 1 Fargo. Set up with flat bar & barends (shock horror). I love it. I’m also running a Shimano Alfine 8 rear hub which makes the bike the perfect tourer/commuter.

I’ve just bought a new ti Fargo which will be a more multi use machine. Woodchippers, suspension fork and lighter wheels.

Posted by Nick - 06/04/2011 10:35 AM

Mike – Try the WTB NanoRaptor. It’s the original 29er tire, nice low knobs and big round casing. I’ve tried all of those tires except the Ardents, and WTBs seem to do the job for me. Fast enough on pavement and able to run low pressures on the gravel.

Posted by Flash29er - 06/17/2011 10:13 PM

Kenda Small Block 8’s work excellent on or off-road.

Posted by Terrance L. Miller - 06/29/2011 12:52 PM

I have this bike with a SLX build. What junk! I was told by Bikemanns that I couldn’t get it built with XT components for the $1650 price tag. So I got the SLX build and paid $1600. As time went by things kept going wrong. I kept having to adjust the rear derailer and the brakes wouldn’t work properly after the first 50 miles. In addition, the bike was slow. After other problems, I replaced everything to the same specs as the XT 2009 build except for the frame. No more problems. If I had purchased the frame and components seperately I could have built the bike for $1650 and that is with custom made wheels. Now if I can build this bike purchasing the parts from retail sellers for $1650, ( I used ebay and Amazon.com )why can’t Sulsa build it for that instead of changing the build every year with other less worthy components? Save yourself the trouble and get a Surly LHT frame and build it up with xt components for even less. I purchased this bike because of the great reviews. I didn’t notice that every review I read was about the xt build until I went back and reviewed them with a more critical eye. Of course that was after I purchased the SLX build. I couldn’t believe that many people were that wrong about this bike. They weren’t, I was reading about a bike that didn’t exist any more. In fact, I couldn’t find a SLX review. I haven’t seen one with their 2011 build either. Wonder why? Bikemanns is not at fault here. They gave me what I asked for. And I paid for my mistake. I did get something for my money though. I know a great deal more about building bikes and I bet I that will save me some money down the road. Funny how things work out.

Terry

Posted by Mojoron - 07/16/2011 11:27 AM

I found my Fargo in a bicycle shop in Manhattan, KS purely by accident. Not looking for a bike in particular, but a set of road pedals. I road the bike around the area for a test ride and found it the most comfortable non suspension bike I have ever ridden. I am a roadie and have really never desired to have a off road bike, but my wife and my plans are to move to Kansas to retire in a couple of years and I needed a bike to be able to handle the crushed rock roads of rural Kansas and the incredible short but steep (>10%) hills and to be able to carry a lot of fluid for those hot days on the road. I purchased the bike without any hesitation, although I’m not real keen on Sram components, I’ve had to replace an entire groupo on my Specialized Roubaix due to excessive wear, I’ll give these a try and hope for the best. So far so good. If there was one suggestion that I might offer to Salsa or to the shops that sell Fargo’s is to equip one bike with all the accessories that might fit on the frame to give the purchaser ideas on what to use. I really like the bike.

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