Category Archives: Bike Reviews
Bay Area riding consists of diverse terrain and numerous different parks and trail systems, many of which can be connected by equally interesting back roads. Although there is not a singular bike that is best-suited for it all, I’ve been scheming about building one nonetheless that would fill the gap between my 5” all mountain trail bike and cyclocross bike. The more researched I did, the more I kept coming back to the same result: the 2012 ElMariachi. This steel 29er was designed for long days in the saddle and was recently updated to include swinging rear dropouts for single-speed duty, a tapered head tube, and a lowered top tube. Built up rigid with bombproof and light components, it would be more than capable of long training rides, exploring new areas, and testing the waters of endurance and adventure racing events.
The guys at Endless Cycles were invaluable in putting together a custom build package that would be wellsuited for the job at hand:
Frame: 2012 El Mariachi, Large, Steel Slate Blue
Fork: Whiskey Parts #7 Matte Finish
Crankset: Shimano XT Hollowtech 2×10 (28×40)
BB: Shimano XT
Brakes: XT ICE 185F/160R
Rotors: XT ICE RT-86 185F/160R
Cassette: XT 11-36 10-spd
Derlr (F): XT Traditional 28.3 Multi-pull
Derlr (R): XT Shadow Black
Handlebar: Easton EC90 CF Low-Rise
Grips: Ergon GS1 Large
Headset: Chris King Tapered – Black
Pedals: Time ATAC XS
Saddle: Fizik Allante Gamma
Seatpost: Thomson Elite Layback Black
Stem: Thomson Elite 90mm, 10 deg
Hub (F): King ISO 9mm Standard QR Black
Hub (R): King ISO 10mm Standard QR Black
Rim (F): Stans Arch 29” Black 32
Rim (R): Stans Arch 29” Black 32
Tire (F): Maxxis Ardent 2.4 tubeless
Tire (R): WTB Bronson 2.3 tubeless
Spokes: DT Comp Blk w/Blk Nipples
Skewers: Salsa SS Black
After over 300 miles on the bike, I can say that the El Mariachi is an excellent tool to get a particular job done: long days in the saddle, hammering out lots of miles of trail and having a damn good time while doing it. Single track and fire road alike, this bike eats up the terrain. The ride is smooth and there is spring in the frame when you want it. When you drop a few gears to stand and mash on the pedals, power transfer is direct, allowing you to keep the momentum rolling in the 29” wheels. The 28×40 with 11-36 cassette is more than enough gear range, most of the time. Long sustained climbs towards the end of a big day can make one wish for a triple, especially in places like Mt Diablo, but as long as you’re willing to suffer from time to time, the 28×36 gets you up. Having the 40t front ring allows for big gear climbing through moderate terrain when you’re in the groove. And if I spin out the 40×11, I’m usually okay with that amount of speed. Only occasionally have I desired a bigger gear and that was while pedaling downhill on pavement.
The Whiskey #7 fork makes the front end light and extremely precise. It allows you to make a direct connection to the trail in front of you and hold the line you tell it. The advantages of the rigid front really shine when climbing – you can stand up and direct your power right through the front end to the rear wheel. Letting it out downhill through rocky terrain can get a little sketchy and I find that my vision gets overly blurry before I lose any
confidence in the front end.
The custom wheels (King+Arches) built by Endless Cycles are flawless. They ride great and have held their true and tension thus far despite the beating I have given them. The King’s precise engagement contributes to direct power engagement to the wheel and the legendary buzzing of the pawls makes you smile from ear to ear, yet isn’t so loud as to disturb the wildlife.
The XT drivetrain is crisp and exact, albeit a little noisy at times. The XT Ice-Tech brakes are predictable and have great power and modulation. They are definitely an improvement over previous generations of XT hydraulics. At times however, the combination of the vibrational flex of the carbon fork and the big 180mm rotor can cause the front brake to be a bit grabby going down through rock gardens and really loose fire roads, if you’re not feathering it.
So far I’m happy with the 2.4 Maxxis Ardent (F) and 2.3 WTB Bronson (R) tires. This was a recommended tire combo by Endless Cycles and after we debated going with a more wet-specific combo, I’m more than happy I stuck with this set-up especially given the unusually dry winter we’ve had. For racing I would likely mount something a bit lighter and faster, but for everyday riding and training, I’m happy with the grip and rolling resistance as they are.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the 2012 El Mariachi and don’t have a single complaint about the bike. If anything, it would be nice to shed a little weight, but at 25 lbs I’m happy. Getting the bike to go on a diet at this point would be extremely pricey. With bikes, the more you pay the less you get, and at a certain point the cost benefit is just not there, especially given the duty this bike was designed for. Although I have other bikes in the stable that I still ride depending on the trails (and so they don’t feel too left out), my El Mariachi is my go-to rig for most of my rides, be it for training or all day Saturday epics.
– Jesse M
As promised, at the bottom of this post I’ve listed the most current parts spec of my beloved Salsa Fargo! The only change I’ve made, since the porting over of parts from my Surly Cross Check, is to the crankset. In the photos from last week, you will see a FSA Gossomer Crankset. That was until this past Friday, when:
Happened 13.5 miles into my 16.5 mile commute! I had to push my beast the last 3 miles! And even though this 65lb monster is on 2 wheels, I’d still rather ride it! It was quite an awkward push!
So, after I got to work, I took a look around for something to replace it with. Since I thought we didn’t have a suitable replacement in stock, so good friend of the shop, John B, used his car to make a run out to our local supplier, to pick up what I thought would be a perfect replacement. But, due to a conflict with the chainstays, it turned out is was a no go. Thanks again John!
Then, low an behold, what’s this? A Shimano M770 XT crankset and bottom bracket, hiding out in the front show case? And a matching XT front derailleur as well? PERFECT! Now these old legs can push this bad boy over anything! Wa la!
MY 2010 (in ugly baby diarrhea green) SALSA FARGO BUILD SPEC:FORK – 2010 SALSA FARGO 1 1/8” CHROMOLY FRAME – 2010 SALSA FARGO KUNG FU CROMOLY TUBING BOTTOM BRACKET – SHIMANO XT HOLLOWTECH II BRAKE F – AVID BB7 ROAD DISC BRAKE R – AVID BB7 ROAD DISC BRAKE LEVERS – CANE CREEK SCR-5 BRAKE ROTOR F – AVID ROUNDAGON BRAKE ROTOR R – AVID ROUNDAGON CASSETTE – SRAM PC-990 9 SPEED RED SPIDER 11-34 CABLE – BONTRAGER SS CHAIN – SRAM PC-990 9 SPEED CRANKSET – SHIMANO XT M770 TRIPLE DER F – SHIMANO XT DER R – SHIMANO XT HANDLEBAR – SALSA BELL LAP HUB F – SHIMANO XT 756 36 HOLE HIGH FLANGE HUB R – SHIMANO XT 756 36 HOLE HIGH FLANGE BARTAPE – SALSA GEL CORK DARK BROWN HEADSET – CANE CREEK S3 HOUSING – BONTRAGER PEDALS – SPEEDPLAY DRILLIUMS RIM F – DT TK540 TOURING 36 HOLE RIM R – DT TK540 TOURING 36 HOLE SADDLE – BROOKS B-17 SEATPOST – CANE CREEK THUDBUSTER ST SEATPOST CLAMP – SALSA LIPLOCK SHIFTERS – SHIMANO DURA ACE 9 SPEED BAR END SPOKES – DT SWISS COMPETION BLACK STEM – SALSA PROMOTO TIRE F – SERFAS DRIFTER 29ER 2.0 TIRE R – SERFAS DRIFTER 29ER 2.0 TUBES – BONTRAGER 29X1.75 – 2.275 WATERBOTTLE CAGE – SALSA NICKLESS CAGE
My 2 stem, handlebar bag setup, and my rear rack/trucnk bag combo!
See you next Monday!
Recently, so many customers have mentioned that they had actually enjoyed reading these posts and had wondered why I stopped posting them. The reason I stopped was that the shop got busy, real busy, and more sleep was required (I typically wrote these posts at 1am before I went to sleep) and something had to give. So, the blog fell by the wayside. Well, now that we are closed on Mondays, I have decided to dedicate myself to writing at least one post per week, starting now! I hope someone, anyone, still enjoys them!
Now, all about my Fargo, Part 1.
I’ve been riding my custom 2010 Salsa Fargo for about month now, and I’d have to say, that compared to my Cannondale Caad 5 Commuter, Surly Cross Check Light Tourer and my Surly Long Haul Trucker, there is no real comparison. Without a doubt, this bike is the most comfortable riding commuter/touring rig I have owned, ever!
Loaded down with bags full of my clothes for the day, my shoes, my laptop computer, along with water, pump, tools, spare tubes, phone, lights and then my large body, the entire load I push down the road it upwards of 375lbs! But this bike just takes that in stride and just locamotes on down the road in luxurious comfort that, in some European countries, would be illegal for a bicycle!
The combination of 29er wheels, drop bars, Thudbuster seatpost, Brooks saddle and frame geometry make this bike feel like you are riding a hammock on top of a comfy couch while riding on a cloud!
It wasn’t always this way though. It had to evolve a bit. Here is how it went:
The photo above shows it with Conti Tour Ride 700×37 tires. I thought by using these tires that I’d experience a more efficient ride. Well, I was wrong. The tire’s smaller diameter had lowered the fork to the ground to a point that it effected the bikes trail. This made for a very squirrely handling bike. It was so bad that I decided to go back to the 29×2.0 size originally spec’d for the Fargo, to make sure it wasn’t a characteristic of the bike itself.
I chose to go with Serfas Drifter 29×2.0 tires due to their extreme flat resistance and fast rolling casing. I thought they were too heavy at first, but the “flywheel effect” they generate is great for maintaining speed! The photo below shows how they look on the Fargo, and I think it makes it look gooood!
Within the first few feet on the test ride after the new tires were installed, it was immediately apparent that the handling had been stabilized with the larger tire size. Then, that night, on the ride home, I was in love with these tires! The bike just flew and ran over everything, and I mean everything! Glass, potholes, cats, dogs (not really, but it could), curbs. It was like being on a runaway train, in a good way!
I have just started riding my Fargo 3 days a week from my home in Fremont to the shop in Castro Valley, a 17 mile ride one way, and then Barting it home after work, another 4 miles (I’m one month ahead of my schedule in getting back to riding this distance. It seems like just yesterday I thought I was going to die riding the 4 miles from Bart to work!). I am so comfortable on this bike, that typical rider fatigue is non-existent. I look forward to each and evey time I get to ride my “Freight Train Commuter”!
Next week: A Full Parts Spec List and Photos.
Coming Soon: I get tons of people asking me all about my 2 stem bag system. I’ll tell you why I like it and show you the step by step process on how to put it all together.