Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Salsa Horsethief 2 2014 – Split Pivot review

Posted by DaveC | September 25, 2013 | 13 comments so far

Salsa Horsethief 2014

I confess to being a little nervous about trying the latest iteration of the Salsa Horsethief, complete with Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot rear end. As a long time owner of a Salsa Spearfish I’ve grown to love the brand and the design.

When Pat from Ison Distribution was kind enough to let us review a Horsethief 3 complete bike I’d felt a little cheated. There wasn’t anything wrong with it as such but the specification just didn’t wow me and I ended up feeling very flat about the bike. Pat later lent me his own Horsethief which was specc’d much more as I would my own bike and I was much more positive about it.

Now we have Salsa playing with the very feature of the Horsethief (and the Spearfish) that made it so suitable to UK weather and mud. They were putting a pivot right on the rear axle! These replaced the flexy seat stays of the old model and is obviously very similar to the way a major brand (starting with T, ending with K, four letters……which, funnily enough, may well be the number of letters Mr Weagle uses to describe the brand as well). There’s a lot of info here about how and why this is the best single pivot you can buy but I also ride an Orange Gyro and that has to be one of the best single pivot bikes…..surely?Salsa Horsethief 2014

Anyway, nerves aside we got to Swinley, Pat arrived and I got to see the Horsethief in all it’s glory. This is the Horsethief 2 in a rather lovely green which regrettably won’t be making it to our shores where we will only get the choice of the frame only. This will be the “Gun Metal Grey” of the Horsethief 1, which I suspect is also a classy colour. The “basic” Horsethief 2 isn’t really very basic and this led to a totally different experience from the older bike. The specification is somewhat different to the one listed on the Salsa site. This bike had Fox Evolution forks (51mm offset), Fox CTD shock, SRAM X9 running gear and Stan’s ZTR Rapid rims. It’s also a pre-production sample and hence there may well be minor tweaks to cable routing and linkage before the final frames hit the warehouse.

Salsa Horsethief 2014

The frame itself was a large and that also concerned me as I normally ride a medium. As it turned out I needn’t have worried as the 750mm bar were the thing that first hit me. Coming from 685mm bars they seemed huge. I’m not so different in stature from Pat so after a little saddle adjusting we all headed off to the start of the Swinley Blue trail. Unfamiliar bikes always feel different and maybe a little awkward but I have to say that the Horsethief felt comfortable from the outset. Even the WTB saddle felt good.

At the trail head I sternly warned everyone not to start off to quickly and headed off up the track. Getting the cornering tuned on the first few turns I found myself spinning the speed up, standing up for the climbs and generally ignoring my own warning and I flew down the first section. This is a big 120mm travel rig, capable of much fun on a wide variety of trails but it climbed like the proverbial mountain goat. I’m sure a decent set of wheels helped the rotational weight but whatever Mr Weagle did to the suspension it worked! I had to wait for the others to catch up!

The ride was generally good natured with no one really noticing I was on a bike that had no right to be in the UK yet. I had the ideal smoke screen of Matt (and pretty much everyone else at some time or another) on a Salsa Mukluk. Comments such as, “where’s the engine”, “look a Landrover” and “look at the size of the tyres on that” kept eyes focused away from the Horsethief. I was happy, I was enjoying this bike that was supposed to be too big…..Salsa Horsethief 2014

We got to Death by Berms…..I mean Stickler and that passed quickly and rather nicely. The bike handled smoothly and accurately not fighting me on the tight berms and carrying speed that wasn’t there in the first place. Matt then fancied ago and I swapped to the Mukluk for the beginning of Tank Traps. Bike swapping continued with us ending up at Corkscrew and here most people had a go on on bike or another. I then wrestled it back for the ride over to Deer Stalker via Reservoir Cogs.Salsa Horsethief 2014

This is one of the best sections at Swinley and given it is followed by Deerstalker I could spend all day on those two sections. Reservoir Cogs is a fast flowing section with some table tops and sweeping berms. The Horsethief felt almost like a magic carpet with the way it smoothed the trail out but always told you what was going on. It felt like the grip was just around optimal with just the possibility of carrying sufficient speed to get me into trouble if I overstepped the mark. I didn’t or the bike didn’t let me, either way, grin factor five. Equally impressive was the way I then climbed up to the start of Deerstalker. It could be the whole bike package but as a “whole” it felt just right. There was no critical setting up for me (could be Pat and I were closer in weight than we might want to admit!) but everything just seemed to work. I guess the engineers that designed this new version should be really proud of it!Salsa Horsethief 2014

So Deer stalker. A flowing, tightly bermed, narrow downhill that if ridden well rewards, if ridden badly damages rider and bike. Wowser! I flew down it, setting a new Strava time for me (always take with a pinch of salt but I felt like it should be my quickest run) and grinning from ear to ear as I exited. The only downside was I now had to follow Matt down with me on the Mukluk!!

This went on for the rest of the trails. I could eulogise more but it wouldn’t change my opinion. I was left with one question though. What the hell is the new Spearfish like???

So, get the picture? This is a fast, well mannered, goat like climber and flowing gravity machine. It’s as happy on the fast and flowing as it is on the tight and twisty. Granted it’s not a full, long term review but given most of you might get an hour’s ride on a demo day if you’re lucky I’d be parting with money by now. Well I would if I didn’t have the best single pivot 29er already……..hmmm…do I though? “Pat!, how much for this large one?”

Filed under Bikes, Reviews in September 2013


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 Horsethief 2 2014 – Split Pivot review’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. Big Al says:

    Having had a quick go , I’m the one trying to fly ! .
    I would Agree with Dave , it’s a very capable bike . 140 mm travel 29ers are the way to go !!!

  2. Matt says:

    I think we can agree that Dave loved this bike! Only one way to tell if it’s going to be five stars (or moles) for the long term though…

    Actually, I agree with Dave, I enjoyed this bike as well but only really had a relatively brief experience on it. I’d like to know how heavy it is in that build but it certainly felt quite handy, much like my Five in some ways but with the added stability of the big wheels. Being SRAM equipped eased the transition for me.

    Small bump performance felt nice and supple which I always like, so long as the mid/end stroke is under control. If I was looking to have just one bike I think I’d put this on the shortlist and in Dave’s case this would certainly cover both his older Spearfish and Gyro rides.

    The lime green is awesome (officially Light Tequila Lime) but I’d have to change my wardrobe as I’d be risking green-out!

    Big bars feel the way to go, I’m wondering about something wider for my Five now.

  3. Tony says:

    It’s a pity I didn’t get a chance to ride this since having a shorter travel 29er (although I think that it could probably take a longer fork) and a split pivot full susser (from the manufacturer that can’t be named) I like to ride a bike that combines the two plus is 140mm. Fab colour too but might require a new wardrobe from Matt!

    So beta on how long it is before Dave buys one and a fat bike?

  4. Elliot says:

    I think the real story here, other than the cracking colour, is the handling. A combination of short chainstays, slack head angle, 51mm offset fork, stiff frame and a generally well thought out build kept things feeling dialled.

    While providing noticeably quick yet stable steering I do wonder how hard to obtain or expensive a 51mm fork would be. I have a feeling the ride will loose some of its magic without that. Price for price it’s well worth it but not so much when CRC are still selling off Revelations and only high end forks seem to be available with the longer offset.

    Despite the new design and licensed suspension it’s nice to see the price it still competitive.

  5. Dave says:

    It’s a fair point. Pat did tell me that Mojo will be bringing a quantity of 51mm Fox forx in for sale but they are bound to be double the price of the Revs you mention.

  6. Erik Napa says:

    2014 horsethief vs spearfish, any thoughts comparing the two?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Erik,

      The same thought is with me but no Spearfish 2014 in the UK as far as I know yet and only the one Horsethief. Based on the way the Horsethief rides I expect the Spearfish to be a very confident, nimble bike with the emphasis on fast XC, climbing better than the old one. The Horsethief is competent at XC but I think it’s real beauty is as a fun bike for areas that have a bit of everything.
      Time will tell though and as soon as I get my leg over a Spearfish 2014 I’ll be writing it up here.

  7. r1Gel says:

    Is a 2014 Spearfish anywhere in sight?

  8. Slim says:

    Just as a note, the Horsethief is 120mm rear travel, stock with 130mm F32 fork, so if you put on 140mm F34, you will raise and slacken the front end a fair bit.
    As far as 51mm offset forks, many of the Rockshocks forks are available in 51mm offset too, including the Pike.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the comment Slim.

      RS may be available in 51mm offset but as far as I am aware Fisher do not import them into the UK? The only fork you can actually buy stock in the UK is the 2014 X-Fusion Slide and the Salsa importer has supposed to have badgered Mojo (the Fox importer) to bring one SKU of Fox Float in. I’d love to give some 51mm SIDs a go!

      Manitou are an interesting alternative as their Towers are 48mm offset.

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.