Salsa Fargo review

Eyecatching alternative road/light off-road cruiser

BikeRadar score2/5

Salsa’s Fargo 29er is a beautifully made and presented on-/off-road option, lovingly crafted from Salsa’s Classico chromoly. For local rough stuffing or as a way of expanding your commuting options, it’s worth considering. Unfortunately the harsh ride, hot brakes and potential spares issues mean its touring horizons are far more restricted than its extensive fixtures list would suggest.

Ride & handling: Enjoyably responsive monster 'cross bike when unloaded

The minimal tread WTB Vulpine tyres and chromoly frame certainly bowl along nicely once you’ve got them going and there’s a reassuring tightness to the Fargo's tracking that many 29ers lack.

The quick handling is also involvingly agile through the drop bars and Avid cable disc brakes will lock either wheel easily. Once you’re used to them the bar end shifters click through the Shimano XT transmission very crisply too.

This all makes for a distinctive but fun ride for mixed road/rough stuff/ugly urban commuting or even dry singletracking. As a serious tourer, though, it’s far from ideal.

For a start, the big fork – needed to resist disc brake torque at the tips – makes for a jarring ride as soon as the tarmac ends. Start loading it up and the handling feels nervy rather than reassuring and cable discs have no place on an off-road tourer. Not only are they hard to find spares for, but the lack of automatic pad wear adjustment can easily catch you out.

From experience of the same brakes on our own bikes (before we replaced them), rapid heat build-up with the small disc rotors means you can quickly hit potentially dangerous meltdown on long, even medium loaded descents.

If you’re relying on lower pressures in the balloon tyres to try to provide some cushioning under the frame then you’re more likely to suffer tyre and rim damage, too. 29er wheel and tyre spares are hard enough to come by in UK bike shops, let alone the back of beyond.

Frame: Trademark Salsa details plus all the fixtures you could need

Using smooth rolling 29in wheels in a mountain bike style compact frame loaded with every fixture boss you can think of seems like the ultimate in versatility.

With six bottle cages (including two on the rigid forks), rack and mudguard mounts front and rear, and masses of mud clearance even with 2.4in tyres, the Fargo certainly ticks all the long- distance rough trail boxes.

Detailing like the coachlined Salsa logo panel, chromed fork ends, super-neat Salsa script dropouts and Salsa’s iconic rounded seat collar in bolted form complete a very sweet looking frame.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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