Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Salsa El Mariachi – Build up and first rides review

Posted by DaveC | February 13, 2014 | 13 comments so far

Salsa El Mariachi

Time to say “goodbye” to my venerable On-One Inbred 29er that has served me well for many year. Time to say “hello” to my bright Orange Salsa El Mariachi!

This started out as a frame swap. You know the sort of mental reasoning, cheap cost, very few new bits needed etc… I did keep the saddle, brakes and front chainring!

I saw the El Mariachi as a good general replacement for my singlespeed. The “Alternator” drop outs allow easy chain tensioning if being run singlespeed and chainstay length adjustment if running geared. The 2014 model features shorter chainstays than the 2013 model but unlike the new Horsethief and Spearfish it isn’t specifically designed to run with 51mm offset forks. As it happens the Manitous hedge their bets and offer 48mm offset, bang in the middle of the “normal” 44mm offset and the “Gary Fisher” 51mm.

Planning wasn’t going to be too spectacular, RockShox forks would be on the plan and a wheelset based on the Stan’s rims would be ideal with a hub to suit a bolt through axle. Sorted. So I now have a bike bike with Manitou Tower Pro forks and some rather lovely Halo Vapour 29er rims in silver. This Silver has set the theme for my “retro” colour scheme. Silver is retro because it was all silver when I started in the post purple anodising era.

Halo Vapour 29er rims

Full build is as follows;

  • Salsa El Mariachi Frame 18″
  • Manitou Tower Pro forks 100mm, 15nn axle
  • Halo Vapour 29er rims on Superstar Switch Evo Hubs
  • Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35 front and rear
  • On-One seat post (silver)
  • On-One stem (silver)
  • Bontrager carbon bars
  • Superstar foam grips
  • Shimano SLX calipers with XT lever, Staitline conversions (all old)
  • Superstar Braided brake hose
  • Specialized Avatar Saddle 155
  • Uberbike components titanium headset spacers
  • Superstar Titanium top cap
  • various Ti bolts!
  • Specialized white bottle holder
  • Old XT cranks, hand stripped and polished (never again!)
  • VeloSolo front 32T chainring
  • Rear 20T sprocket and chain from VeloSolo

The build went together really well over about 2 months. “2 months” I hear you cry? Yes, I got a virus, or multiple viruses and ended up being very ill and run down for almost 3 months. Cathie got quite worried as the Salsa frame box sat in the hallway for hours, then days and finally weeks before I could even muster enough interest to put it in the garage.

Stripping whatever coating Shimano use on their cranks was another interesting process. Forget all the current eco-friendly (read fecking useless) paint strippers. I ended up dipping it in Caustic soda (don’t do this inside people!) which got most of it off, then a process of fine sanding paper and polish with the dremel got it to the state you see here.


The VeloSolo 32T ring also started out gold from the Inbred and got reverted to plain in the caustic bath. It won’t last in that state as aluminium is rather reactive but it’ll do for now and the odd polish with Autosol should keep it looking OK.

First ride was a “gentle” ride over to Epsom Downs and back with Kevin on his newly SS converted Specialized Stumpy. It took a lot out of me but I was getting the feel for the bike as well and it performed great in our muddy routes. Second ride took me over Ranmore and this was a lot more climbing that I might have been ready for on a mid-week evening ride. On less muddy trails I realised I needed to dial in the forks a bit more but the handling was feeling sharp, sharper than the Inbred.

Salsa El Mariachi

So far so good, everything is working as it should, the frame feels compliant but the handling sharp. The dropouts are staying put keeping the chain tight. Sunday’s ride had me out for 26+ miles in terrible mud and I thoroughly enjoyed the bike. I’ll post some other reviews detailing the components and another El Mariachi review once I have had more mile son it and some “dry” miles (so… err… don’t expect it to be this side of May!)

More photos on Flickr

Filed under Bikes, Reviews in February 2014


About the author

Dave's been riding seriously since about 1997 and is one of the founding Molefathers — along with Matt and Mark — that came up with the idea of a MTB website for Mole Valley riders.

He's had several different bikes but it's now mainly 29ers in Dave's stable, apart from an Orange 5.

Current Bikes: Orange 5, Salsa Spearfish and Kona Big Unit

There are 13 comments on ‘Salsa El Mariachi – Build up and first rides review’

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  1. tony says:

    Looks nice and hopefully the Manitou Towers perform well (for a little build that I’m doing).
    How many more before you have completed your gaol and got the whole Salsa range?

  2. Elliot says:

    I like the colour! Orange seems quite popular this year, especially since green got a bit over used in the last few. My Tower Pro forks were fantastic, and even better if you can get used to the back arch look.

  3. tony says:

    Oh and BTW you might want to have a look at the moss in that “grass” if the summer ever comes along.

  4. Big Al says:

    Very nice Dave , I look forward to having a go . Nice to see you’ve used proper handlebars .

  5. Dandy says:

    I can confirm it looks just as good ‘in the flesh’ as in the photos; well, until my route choice plastered it in mud. Even then, the silver rims were catching the eye as we looked out of the café window. We’ll have to plan a mass bike swap session as there’s quite a few interesting models in the Moles’ ‘quiver’. Fat, semi-fat, steel-framed, etc. I use Infestation as my test trail, it really shows up the character of a frame !

    Also, it’s time I brought my orange Univega out again, as the 90s fluoro colours are back in fashion 😉

  6. Karl says:

    I particularly like the wheels. They’re even more or less the same size.. Cool. 😉

    Silver.. Think you may start a trend there Dave.. 🙂

  7. Colin says:

    Lovely bike Dave, classy. Those dropouts are a work of art

  8. Kevs2010 says:

    One of the nicest looking bikes I have seen in a while and nicely finished.

    Huge relief that you have fitted Proper bars at last!!

    However, is that Honeydew fungus at the base of your Cherry tree? 😉

  9. Matt says:

    This is one of the nicest bikes I haven’t seen! 🙂

    Mainly on account of not having been out when Dave has been riding it. I nearly got last year’s model off Ison when they were flogging ex-demo bikes but they couldn’t manage to get back to me so I didn’t bother – I didn’t like the green they had either (a bit too BRG for me), but this orange is good and bang on trend. It’s also a lot better to look at than their baby-sick brown efforts on the Pugsley they had at the London Bike Show!

    Interesting behaviour sticking bike bits into caustic soda! Starting to think Dave’s garage is turning into a Frankenlab!

  10. paul901 says:

    I often read the reviews like this Dave, even if I understand less than most/all. the roadie in me looked at the frame wondered if it is steel or titanium and scouring the write-up I still couldn’t tell. Is it a case of if you can’t tell you can’t appreciate it? 🙂

  11. Related: Salsa El Mariachi Review - Bikes, Reviews - Muddymoles - Mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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