As long as there have been road bikes, there have been riders pedaling over gravel roads. While the surface is nothing new to cycling, the way riders experience probably has. Now home to grueling races covering huge distances through varied conditions, gravel races present a unique set of challenges for bicycle designers.
For Salsa Cycles, the company has no problem stating that they own gravel. Many bikes have been created that function on multiple surfaces, but when it comes to gravel race bikes specifically, there aren’t many that can rival the Warbird for their racing pedigree. That bit of bragging that goes against the company’s self proclaimed “Minnesota Nice” demeanor comes at the unveiling of the all new Warbid gravel bike – a lighter, more compliant race bike available in both carbon and aluminum….
All new for the Warbird is the addition of a carbon fiber frame to fill in as the top end model. Available in two colors, the Warbird Carbon Rival 22 will retail for $3,499 complete, or $1,999 for the frameset in black. In addition to being a full pound lighter than the previous aluminum Warbird frame, the carbon frame is dramatically more compliant thanks to the Class 5 VRS system. Named after a grade of gravel, the Vibration Reduction System includes the slender seat stays which are vertically oriented and bowed to the outside. When combined with the lack of a brake bridge, the stays help keep the rear end comfortable.
To counter those forces and keep the drivetrain efficient, the chainstay orientation is flipped – with the profile wider than it is tall. Bolted together with a 12x142mm thru axle, the carbon Class 5 VRS frame results in a 9% vibration reduction compared to the previous titanium Warbird frame. The aluminum frame takes advantage of the same Class 5 VRS system and also sees a 6% improvement over the titanium Warbird as well.
The seatstay and chainstay design also allow for an increased maximum tire size with the carbon frame capable of running 44mm tires, and the aluminum frame with 42mm tires. Claimed weights for the frames include 1210g for a 56cm carbon frame and 1600g for the 56cm aluminum frame, with the fork coming in around 410g.
Up front, all Warbird models are equipped with the Warbird Carbon fork. Utilizing a DT Swiss RWS 15x100mm thru axle, the post mount fork uses a 1 1/8-1 1/4″ tapered steerer which Salsa says provides the best mix of weight to strength for the build. The full carbon layup is designed to match the ride quality of the Class 5 VRS system in the rear, which is why they went with their own fork instead of using something like a Whisky no.9.
All models rely on internal cable routing for the shift housings, but the brake routing provides the choice to be run internal or external. Press fit 86 bottom brackets are found on both carbon and aluminum frames.
Geometry wise, the Warbirds are exactly the same as the previous models with the exception of a lower stack height to allow for more aggressive riding positions. While not a huge focus for the bike, touches like this and the internal cable routing improve aerodynamics which should help when you’re fighting cross winds across Iowa.
Along with the two carbon Warbird models, there will be an additional 4 aluminum models with the Warbird 105 11 speed for $2,499 complete and $999 for the frameset…
Plus the Warbird Tiagra build which will sell for $1,999 complete and the same frame as the 105 bike. Framesets will be available in the mint green Tiagra build and blue color for the 105.
Other than the change in materials, the aluminum Warbird is built to be very similar to the carbon frame. Internal cable routing, press fit 86 bottom bracket, thru axles, and post mount disc brakes should make it a pretty popular option.
If you’re itching to get your hands on the new Warbird, the aluminum models are in stock now with carbon frames on the way for summer 2015.
Obviously a mountain bike first, the new Salsa Powderkeg tandem is another bike that Salsa expects to see gravel. Engineered around 29×2.4″ max wheels and tires, you may remember the Salsa mountain tandem from previous Frostbike experiences. According to Salsa, the frame has undergone numerous design changes and improvements and a lot of testing (including finishing the Tour Divide). As you can imagine, two full grown adults on a tandem meant to go off road will be putting the frame through a lot of different stresses and Salsa wanted to be sure the frame would be perfect for its release.
The 4130 chromoly steel frame is paired with their tandem specific Powderkeg steel fork which happens to be the strongest fork they’ve ever made. If you look at the fork legs themselves, the cross section is larger than most downtubes for normal steel frames. The tubing size, plus the 15mm Maxle light and 1.5″ tapered steerer tube is what gives the fork its impressive strength. However, the frame can also be run with any tandem rated 100mm suspension fork for 29″ wheels.
At the back of the bike the Alternator dropouts allow some flexibility with the set up, and Salsa chose to go with a standard twin pinch bolt eccentric bottom bracket for the timing chain. Specified with three pack, and low rider mounts, the Powderkeg is capable of carrying 9 water bottles which is important for long distance events. Sold in three frame sizes, the Powderkeg will come in Medium Captain/Small Stoker, Large/Small, and Large/Medium.
Available summer 2015, the complete bike will come in at $3,999 with framesets selling for $1,999. Just remember – it’s two bikes for the price of one!