I’ve put some 400km on my 2014 Salsa El Mariachi frame since January and I think that’s enough for me to pass judgement on the frame. So here is my Salsa El Mariachi review!
I’ve ridden the El Mariachi frame in conditions ranging from muddy gloop to hard pack trail. I’ve even managed to kick up a little dust which is amazing considering the rain we had earlier in the year. It’s been ridden on singletrack, open XC route and done the odd bit of trail work and lumpy stuff over at Leith Hill.
I guess I need to be careful about writing about the frame and not the other components. What I want to say is that I haven’t overly thought about the bike for the last 3 or 4 rides, it’s just felt right. I think you’d class it as “classic” 29er geometry being the 71/73 degree combo that is on my original Salsa Horsethief. I know there’s a lot of talk about modern geometry, with Head Angles becoming even slacker than Dandy’s work ethic, but for me it feels OK for most of the stuff I do. It handles the steeper bomb-hole style drops I do and sprints up hill very nicely with the 32/20 gearing it currently has.
It’s not the lightest frame, the convenient alternator drop-outs do add weight but it is made of KUNG-FU tubing so that’s a good thing for someone that grew up with Hong Kong Fuey. The tubing itself is stiff enough when it needs to be and yet compliant enough in the rear triangle to make it a comfortable enough ride. Shortened rear chain stays for 2014 make it zip around corners nicely.
The alternator drop outs are currently near full tension to give me the tension I need on the chain with the gear combo I’m running. That said the frame is certainly nimble enough with the “longer” chainstays. I’ll probably need gears fitted to run it fully shortened and maybe a slimmer tyre but as it is I’m happy enough in tight singletrack. While we are on the subject of tyres the Schwalbe Nobby Nick 2.35 fits fine within the rear end and I’m sure you could fit a tad larger if needed.
So what of the components? I’ve been nicely surprised by the forks. These are my first Manitou forks and I’ve been impressed by their stiffness and at the same time suppleness. I had to play around with the rebound a bit to get it right and they use their travel up quite easily but never seem to bottom out in a bad way. The reverse arch does cause an issue with the SKS Switchblade and it’s already left 3 marks on the arch from collisions on bottoming. Hopefully the guards can come off soon anyway. Although it’s worth noting I do stay very clean with the SKS front and rear.
I did change the grips very soon after the first couple of rides. Foam grips not for me. Currently it has some Specialised ergonomic grips with a bit of a palm support on them. Then need much more care setting up but do seem quite comfy.
Everything else seems to be OK and although I looked at it and wondered about gearing it I think it’ll stay singlespeed for quite some time to come.
Read my First thoughts here