Salsa Cycles recently spiced up its top-tier trail bike with increased tire volume and a slightly longer fork. To see how it stacks up, I recently spent several weeks atop the 2018 Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle on some of Arizona’s roughest trails.
With the “Adventure by Bike” mantra, Minnesota-based Salsa Cycles is best known for bikepacking and endurance cycles. Long-travel rippers have not traditionally been its thing. But the 2018 Redpoint confirms it knows how to make a proper trail bike.
In short: The Salsa Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle ($5,099) hammers technical terrain and fast descents without compromising the pedaling efficiency the brand is known for. Now fitted with wider rims and beefier tires, they provide most of the benefits of a mid-fat 27-inch wheel without the excess weight or bulk. It’s a hard charging bike, but easy to pedal all day long.
Salsa Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle: A Semi-Slack Trail Slayer
In keeping with current trends, the carbon fiber Redpoint has relatively relaxed frame geometry. Head and seat tube angles for a large frame are 66.9 and 73.5 degrees, respectively. While climbing steep pitches, I noticed the reclined seat angle and short chain stays kept me positioned over the rear wheel for optimal traction.
Another contemporary feature is the longer reach of the top tube. The extra length accommodates a shorter stem to improve handling. Unlike other trail bikes that come into their own only on the downhills, the Redpoint’s balanced geometry makes it a good all-around rig. I had no problems spending all day in the saddle dispatching big miles.
Plush Squish and Longer Legs
Like all of the full-suspension bikes in the Salsa catalog, the Redpoint uses Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot design. Salsa adjusted the kinematics themselves to improve pedaling efficiency without compromising big-hit performance. To that end, they gave it the most progressive spring curve in the brand’s lineup. At times I felt it might be a tad too progressive.
During the first few rides, I repeatedly checked the position of the sag ring on the Monarch RT DebonAir shock unit to ensure I was getting all 150 mm of travel I was promised. While I know the suspension was giving me all it had to give, the Redpoint periodically felt like it had less squish than advertised.
Up front the Redpoint uses the popular Rockshox Pike RC 160-mm fork. It is easy to adjust and plush throughout the range of motion. For a bike built to tackle tough terrain, it’s a solid choice.
Fresh Hoops and Bigger Rubber
The most significant update to the 2018 bike is the addition of wider rims and tires. The previous model had 21-mm internal-width rims. They were not too narrow, but the new bike rolls on 30-mm DT Swiss 1900 Spline 30 wheels. The difference is immediately noticeable. The 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF tires are toothy and create a large contact patch with the trail.
As grippy as the bigger wheel package is, it sometimes feels slightly heavy and wooden. To regain some pedaling efficiency, I occasionally ride with more air pressure than normal. It’s not an ideal solution depending on the surface, but it does help. The big tires shine once up to speed, harnessing the bike’s full potential.
Trail Test: 2018 Salsa Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle
Initial ride impressions are often deceiving. Out of the box, the Redpoint made me cranky. I wasn’t sure we would get along. Setting up the rear suspension required considerable fiddling. I bounced between too firm and overly soft until I finally found the sweet spot. It was a narrow target to hit, but I eventually got there with my sag set to a shade over 25 percent.
When properly dialed, the Redpoint’s rear suspension is surprisingly capable. Small bump compliance is great: There’s minimal disruption to pedaling efficiency, but there is some movement under power. Nothing more than I would expect form a long-travel bike.
The DT Swiss wheels are well suited to the bike’s aggressive character, but the wide footprint and extra rubber are noticeable on climbs. But just when I begin to lament the heft of the wheels on the way up, I start bombing downhill, and those concerns melt away.
Where the Redpoint comes to life is on fast descents strewn with chunk. The faster I pushed, the lighter and more responsive it felt. To really get the most out Salsa’s play bike, you have to rail into turns and not shy away from intimidating impacts.
Build Specs and Noteworthy Bits
The build spec includes a nice assortment of parts relative to the $5,099 MSRP. The SRAM Guide R brakes grab 180-mm rotors on both ends. They provide just enough power to slow the big wheels, if just barely. The GX Eagle drivetrain shifts with typical SRAM precision and the 32×50 bottom gear ratio is low enough to climb a tree.
On the spec sheet, the large Redpoint lists a handlebar width of just 750 mm. My test sample’s bars were 800 mm wide, and every last millimeter was beneficial. The wide span helped lever the front wheel into a steep lean.
Who Should Buy the Redpoint?
The Redpoint is a solid trail bike with better-than-average pedaling chops. It will comfortably crank out miles of ascents in search of ripping downhills.
There are other bikes available that climb and descend better, but not many that do both as well as the Redpoint. If you’re a gram counter, you may want to turn a blind eye to the 29.8 pounds of the size large bike. While not heavy, it’s definitely not the lightest in the category.
Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle: The Wrap-Up
It was a brave move for Salsa to go head-to-head with manufacturers who specialize in this type of bike.
I didn’t expect the Redpoint Carbon GX Eagle to ride as well as it did across a wide range of conditions. It reflects the brand’s attention to pedaling efficiency, but it’s not afraid to get rowdy.