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New Salsa Blackthorn trail bike converts to Cassidy enduro MTB (and back again)

mountain bike rider drifts salsa cassidy enduro bike loose hard pack surface with mountainscape in background
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Salsa Cycles have unveiled two new, aggressive looking full suspension mountain bikes for 2021. Choose between the Salsa Blackthorn or the Salsa Cassidy, either way you essentially get two bikes for the price of one.

What wizardry is this? The two share the same front and rear triangles but, both with the same Split Pivot+ suspension platform and the Clevis and Control links. Yet, the Blackthorn can morph into its longer travel sibling, the Cassidy, and back.

Here’s how they pull the switcharoo, along with some other really clever frame features we haven’t seen before!

Salsa Blackthorn Trail Bike

2021 salsa blackthorn trail bike has 140mm rear wheel travel
The Salsa Blackthorn Carbon X01 Eagle model gets a Fox Float Factory 36 fork with GRIP 2 damper

The new Salsa Blackthorn 29er trail bike boasts 140mm of rear wheel travel, paired with a 160mm fork. It’s pitched at aggressive trail riders who want the option to go full enduro. More on that later.

salsa blackthorn trail bike 140mm travel mtb carbon
The Salsa Blackthorn 140mm trail bike is available in carbon and aluminium build models

The Blackthorn has a modern trail bike geometry with a 64.6° HA and a 76.5° SA. Its 432mm chainstays aren’t the shortest out there, but allow sufficient clearance for 2.6″ tires. A flip-chip permits fine tuning of the head angle (0.3°) and BB (4mm) to allow the bike to accommodate 27.5″ plus wheels and tires.

mtb rider sends large rock slab feature on salsa blackthorn carbon slx trail bike
The Salsa Blackthorn Carbon SLX build gets an RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork

Reach is extremely generous, starting at 448mm in small, stretching to 510mm in XL. Seat tubes are short, though. The small has a 405mm seat tube while the XL comes in at 480mm. So, the Salsa Blackthorn will be worthy of consideration for riders who enjoy a roomy bike.

salsa blackthorn geometry 140mm trail bike

The rest of the geo is, well, here’s what you need to know about this geometry chart: Measurements are shown based on an unloaded rear shock, but with a 160mm fork loaded to 25% sag, sitting on a 29″ wheelset running a 2.4″ tire measuring 746mm in diameter. So, make of it what you will.

aluminium frame salsa blackthorn slx build yari fork
The Salsa Blackthorn SLX build with aluminium frame features a RockShox Yari fork and Super Deluxe Select+ shock

The Blackthorn’s rear wheel travel comes from an updated Split Pivot+ suspension platform. The new linkage layout is designed to keep pedaling efficient and keep the suspension active under braking. Salsa describe the leverage curve as offering “predictable support throughout the stroke”.

Kinematics of both bikes are optimized for air shocks. Salsa Cycles do not recommend using a coil shock on either. A handlebar mounted remote locks out the shock.

salsa cycles split pivot+ suspension platform switches blackthorn trail bike to cassidy enduro mtb
The Salsa Blackthorn Carbon frame running 140mm rear wheel travel serviced by the Split Pivot+ suspension platform

Now, here’s where the magic happens. The Split Pivot+ is an adaptable system thanks to swappable Control and Clevis links. Swap these and Blackthorn riders can change the bike’s rear wheel travel to 165mm. OK, so you’ll have to change a couple more things, too…

Salsa Cassidy Enduro MTB

salsa cassidy is 165mm travel enduro mountain bike with 180mm fork
The Salsa Cassidy Carbon SLX build gets a RockShox ZEB Select+ fork and Super Deluxe Select+ shock

Switching out the Control and Clevis links upgrades the 140mm Blackthorn trail bike to a very aggressive 165mm travel enduro bike. The links aren’t the only thing you’d have to change though. You’d have to upgrade your shock to a longer stroke length and pair it with a longer travel fork. The Cassidy is sold as its own complete bike too, so here’s how it comes.

salsa cassidy carbon gx eagle build features fox performance elite 38 fork grip 2 damper 180mm travel
The top end Salsa Cassidy Carbon GX Eagle build gets Fox Float 38 Performance Elite fork with GRIP 2 damper paired with an X2 Performance shock

Said 165mm of rear wheel travel is paired with a 180mm travel fork. This bike means business. Carrying around that kind of booty, you’d hope the bike pedals very efficiently. Luckily, Salsa say the Split Pivot+ suspension platform was designed with pedaling efficiency high on the list of priorities. 

salsa cassidy enduro mtb frame carbon progressive geometry
The Salsa Cassidy frame with the Split Pivot+ set to 165mm of rear wheel travel

The Salsa Cassidy has a very progressive geometry. A 63.5° head angle is paired with a 75.7° seat tube angle. Those angles result in reach figures spanning from 439mm to 502mm across the S to XL size range.

mountain biker sends salsa cassidy enduro bike into whip with epic mountain backdrop

As with the Blackthorn (because it’s the same frame, remember) a flip-chip allows adjustment of the head angle and BB height. This allows the frame to accommodate a 27.5″ wheel setup running plus-sized tires.

salsa cassidy geometry enduro mountain bike with flip chip in low setting

Same caveats on this geo chart. Measurements for the Cassidy were made on a 180mm fork with 25% sag, unloaded rear shock, and a 29″ wheelset running a 2.4″ tire measuring 746mm in diameter.

Salsa Cassidy and Blackthorn Frame Details

store tools spares on front triangle trail bike

The Salsa Blackthorn (and Cassidy) front triangles feature a dedicated space for tools and spares. Just above the top shock mount is a loop through the frame. This provides a platform for a small frame pack to sit securely in the space for a backpackless setup.

salsa cycles mtb frames optimized for packless riding setup with space for tools spare on frame full sized water bottle
A molded frame protector on the carbon models protects the frame from abrasions

Top tube mounts allow riders to fit a top tube bag. Salsa offer an EXP Series Direct Mount Top Tube Bag, or a K-Edge Top Tube mount for cycle computers.

salsa blackthorn trail bike fots full sze water bottle front triangle
Salsa reckon they can fit a full sized water bottle in the front triangle of all frame sizes

Super BOOST 12mm x 157mm rear axle spacing allows for a stiffer, more durable rear wheel and extra tire clearance. All Cassidy and Blackthorn builds are spec’d with a 32T chainring but will fit up to a 34T.

salsa cycles trail bike 140mm rear wheel travel frame shock only

Bikes are available in both carbon and aluminum. The carbon bikes feature a high-modulus carbon fiber front triangle and seatstays, with 6061-T6 aluminum chainstays for durability. All frames have anodized laser-etched aluminium hardware and the frame pivots house sealed cartridge bearings. 

salsa cycles blackthron aluminium frame threaded bottom bracket iscg-5 chain guide bash guard mountsBBs are threaded. The head tubes are of ZS44/56 sizing. Seat tubes are 30.9mm. All frames feature ISCG-05 mounts for the addition of a chain guide and bash guard, which are removable on the carbon frame.

salsa cycles cassidy enduro bike internal cable routing rubber clamp cover downtube

Cable routing is internal. On the carbon models, cable tunnels run the full length of the front triangle. A “housing keeper” in the downtube keeps cables still and silent. On the aluminium builds, customisable rubber port covers keep the noise down.

salsa mtb chainslap protector chainstay seatstay

The frames are well protected at the stays and downtube. On the DS chain stay, a rubber guard runs the length of the stay, almost right up to the main pivot area to protect from chain slap and keep noise to a minimum. 

Salsa Blackthorn and Cassidy Build Models

The Salsa Blackthorn trail bike is available in five complete builds. Three carbon offerings include a SRAM X01 Eagle build a GX Eagle build and a Shimano SLX build. Two aluminium builds include an SLX build and a 12 speed Deore build. 

Salsa Blackthorn Carbon X01 Eagle Carbon GX Eagle Carbon SLX Aluminium SLX Aluminium 12 Speed Deore
USD Price $7,499 $5,999 $4,899 $3,899 $3,199
CAD Price $10,999 $8,099 $6,699 $5,299 $4,399
Fork Fox Float Factory 36 Fox Float Performance Elite 36 RS Lyrik Select+ RS Yari RC RS 35 Gold RL
Shock Fox Float DPX2 Factory Fox Float DPX2 Performance Elite RS Super Deluxe Select+ RS Super Deluxe Select+ RS Super Deluxe Select+
Wheelset Reynolds C-Series 309 Carbon DT SWISS M1900 Shimano SLX/DT SWISS EX 532 Shimano SLX/ WTB ST i30 Novatec/WTB ST i30
Brakes SRAM Code RSC SRAM Code R Shimano SLX Shimano SLX Shimano Deore


The Salsa Cassidy is also available in three model options; a carbon GX Eagle, a carbon SLX and an aluminium SLX. 

Salsa Cassidy Carbon GX Eagle Carbon SLX Aluminium SLX
USD Price $6,099 $4,899 $3,899
CAD Price $8,299 $6,699 $5,299
Fork Fox Float 38 Performance Elite GRIP 2 RS ZEB Select+ RockShox ZEB
Shock Fox Float X2 Performance RS Super Deluxe Select+ RS Super Deluxe Select+
Wheelset DT SWISS M1900 Shimano SLX/DT SWISS EX 532 Shimano SLX
Brakes SRAM Code R Shimano SLX Shimano SLX/ WTB ST i30


You can also pick up the Salsa Blackthorn and Cassidy bikes as frame only. The Carbon will set you back $3,199 USD. Get the aluminium frame for $2,099 USD.

Want to convert your Blackthorn into a Cassidy, or your Cassidy into a Blackthorn? The Control and Clevis links you’ll need are priced at $150 USD.


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Jason West
Jason West
3 years ago

Looks good Salsa! Slx is priced well and the paint job on the top end Cassidy is pretty rad. Im anxious to for a review.

3 years ago

Seriously, who thought that geo charts with a sagged fork, but uncompressed rear were a good idea?

3 years ago

“Here’s what you need to know about this geometry chart: Measurements are shown based on an unloaded rear shock, but with a 160mm fork loaded to 25% sag”

Right. So the geometry chart is pretty much useless unless I re-create the frame in BikeCad Pro and reverse engineer the fork length. Cool, I will just go look at another brand that makes it easy to make a purchasing decision. Well done Salsa. 10/10 on the new bike. 1/10 on the geometry info.

3 years ago

Salsa website tells that Geo is based on an unsprung bike (no sag).

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