Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Salsa Mukluk and Horsethief at Swinley

Posted by Matt | September 22, 2013 | 19 comments so far

Salsa Mukluk at Swinley corkscrew

Today we were treated to a mini demo day round Swinley, courtesy Pat from Ison Distribution and Salsa Bikes.

Earlier in the year we got hold of a Salsa Horsethief 3 for review but with the new DW Split Pivot redesign to the back end we wanted to see how things have progressed. Plus, for laughs Pat brought along a Salsa Mukluk fat bike to satisfy our super-size cravings.

It felt strange to be driving to Swinley minus our bikes, knowing we’d be riding a couple of machines we’d never set eyes on before today. Equally weird was the sensation of starting out on a ride on that fat bike with everyone’s eyes on it as I made my way through the car park. I kept thinking I’d forogtten some important part of my outfit, like my shorts for example. I haven’t had that much attention in years…

But before that our band of weekend warriors had the pre-ride prepping ritual to enact, which as usual included much fettling, fiddling and fondling of machinery. I needed to adjust air pressures on the Mukluk, which started with an ultra squidgy lack of air that had everyone pondering how effective it might be out on the trails as it folded over on itself at the slightest obstacle.

Thankfully, Tony had a track pump which made short work of getting up to about 15psi. If he hadn’t the alternative might have left me to undertake an extended pump session with Dave’s Mighty Morph hand pump.

Meanwhile, Dave was readying the Horsethief for action which consisted mainly of putting some pedals on it as it was pretty much ready to go, looking very fetching in bright green. Eventually we were ready to go, with a big group of fourteen (14) consisting of Al, Tony, Jem, Albert, Yvette, Chrissy, Lloyd, Elliott, John, Andrew, Pat, Ed, Dave and myself.

Salsa Horsethief at Swinley

We were planning a stop and start kind of ride to swap bikes between anyone who was interested but there was nothing leisurely about our first mile or two. I had the pleasure of trying the Mukluk first and it was soon apparant that a drastic adjustment to riding style was needed. Put simply you need a big haul on the wide handlebars to get it to do what you want but once you’ve adjusted to it the bike is a blast to ride up and downhill, with simply tons of grip on the dry, almost dusty Swinley trails.

Ultimately a rigid bike will have it’s limits but that said this fat bike certainly liked spending time off the ground. I imagine tyre pressure experimentation would pay dividends over the course of a couple of ride to get the behaviour you want.

But today was a bit of a swinger’s party with everyone in a share and share alike mindset. Before long I’d exchanged the Mukluk for Tony’s carbon Specialized Camber 29er and was recalibrating my expectations again on a bike which feels very fast and very light. The contrast with the Mukluk was huge with the normally reliable Spesh handling suddenly feeling darty and nervous. And that’s after just a few miles on the fat bike!

After that I was on the Horsethief which feels like a markedly different machine to the original Salsa design. It too felt immediately fast and although us Euro-boys use the word Enduro sparingly it was clear this machine is well suited to fast running with plenty of trail variety thrown in.

Swinley’s all-weather work is growing on me, today the trails felt pretty good with their bermy goodness not causing me too much trouble, probably becuase we were for the most part riding briskly but not flat out. Stickler came and went without feeling you had berm indigestion and Tank Traps was running well too.

Our machine swapping continued with riders grabbing their chances when they came to throw a leg over the Mukluk or Horsethief and being impressed by them in equal measure but for very different reasons. At various poits I found myself on Elliott’s Stumpjumper (which is sofa-soft), John’s Five (which has suspension in far better tune than mine, but brakes that scared me!), Chrissy’s Whyte T129 (tiny! fun!) and God knows what else! The amazing thing was how differently everyone seems to set up their bikes, it just shows there’s no obvious right or wrong answer to anything.

Salsa Mukluk at Swinley

Of course, we used the Corkscrew area as a short-course playground which was excellent fun but hard work lapping round and round on different bikes. Dave managed a spectacular (and painful) off-piste excursion on Al’s bike. After lapping til we all got dizzy it was off to Seagull and then Reservoir Cogs.

Wow! I took the Mukluk down there, chasing Tony and had a blast on all the smooth swoops and over tables and such like. The fat bike likes to fly but I was soon giggling nervously when we hit the rootier lower sections, where I rattled through on a wing and a prayer and a regretable absence of suspension. I would have turned white if I hadn’t been blowing so hard from all the effort.

Next was Deerstalker after the Mukluk 2×10 gearing made steady work of the climb up. Coming down, yikes! I followed Dave, briefly, who was reunited with the Horsethief and soon lost him as the fat bike was soon showing that fast technical singletrack is not really it’s natural habitat. It’s mainly just that there’s too much rolling mass to turn quickly enough, although it makes short work of the flowier bits.

Salsa Horsethief at Swinley Reservoir Cogs

Round again and this time Dave had the Mukluk and I lead on the Horsethief which was a night and day experience. That DW-link back end is unobtrusively active if that makes sense? I felt suddenly that I had upgraded to business class as that Horsethief really makes a decent job of things. Continuing over into the Labyrinth I found the suspension was very stable under out of the saddle climbs with little bob to worry about and lots of traction.

As we were starting to head back I swapped for the last time, getting to ride Pat’s titanium El Mariachi hardtail and handing Ed the Mukluk. This was once again a completely different kettle of fish with a very racy XC oriented set up that included relatively narrow Salsa carbon handlebars and a lightweight Stans 355 wheelset. I expected fast fun which it surely provided but I thought at first I had a puncture as it was squirreling very noticeably powering out of turns.

I thought this might be a titanium or design trade off for what was a very smooth ride but eventually Pat and I agreed it’s probably the lightweight wheelset that might be in need to a spoke key or two. It was still a lot of fun on the monster berms on the final few sections back to the car park.

All in all today was one of the best rides I’ve had for ages. The company was fantastic with a large group of us out to have fun and share plenty of jokes, and trying different riders’ bikes was a real eye opener. Trying the three Salsa bikes was a real treat, I’ve managed to cross off titanium and fat bikes from my must ride list.

Look out for individual summaries of the Mukluk and Horsethief over the next few days, for now you can see pictures from our ride on Flickr.

Filed under Rides in September 2013


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 19 comments on ‘Ride report: Salsa Mukluk and Horsethief at Swinley’

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  1. Elliot says:

    Liking the style in that first shot Matt…with blue, green, purple and plaid eclectically working together!

    It’s always nice to have a look around the Swinley trails. They’re in great shape considering the constant use. It must be said I’m not a fan of the trail surface. Flint may add to the lifespan but it doesn’t half make things sketchy, particularly with the morning drizzle on those sections nearer the start. I definitely preferred the unsurfaced trails and those flowing ones where it was possible to catch a little air.

    All the bike swapping was fun, I just need to work out what to learn from it. Thanks Dave, Pat and anyone else who made it happen!

  2. Dave says:

    I’d gone into yesterday worrying a little that the ride would be too disjointed and not flow well. My last minute change to SPD cleats on a spare pair of shoes worked well there though as it just meant we swapped bikes at will.

    I won’t say more about the bikes although it was interesting to me that you could swap bikes and adapt to a range of sizes and set ups without too much concern…..

    As for Matt’s style….I think I’ll leave that for our very own fashionista to comment on…

    Massive thanks to Pat for making the journey to meet and ride with us.

  3. paul901 says:

    Crikey Matt, with my low level of bikes for the rough stuff my first thoughts on your headline picture were “where’s the engine?”.

    I’m guessing some Cancellara-type electric assist in the seat-tube would make for an interesting experience.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Paul, you be surprised how often people suggested an electric motor yesterday but it wasn’t really needed. It was tremendous fun and with some ultra low gearing engaged at times managed to climb anything in its’ path.

      As you often find, people have already thought that thought; try one of these – the Felt Fat-E shown at Interbike recently.

      Felt Fat-E

      With apologies to Bikeradar

      Apparantly people were getting annoyed at being passed at 20mph going uphill by an electric motorbike – understandable really!

  4. tony says:

    Not feeling very good the day before I was certainly in two minds about riding yesterday but I’m glad I did since I certainly enjoyed it.

    The fat bike was a hoot. Really weird to ride since it certainly had to be steered round corners rather than just leant like a standard MTB. Although once you did lean it the grip just seemed to go on for ever. A fat bike with a suspension fork would be a very interesting thing, since even with fat tyres, rigid isn’t my thing anymore (bad back). LBM’s Whyte 29er full sus was a great little bike, great handling. Lloyds Canfield was interesting too, really short (compared to my Camber) and almost twitchy for a 29er.

    The top comedy moment was (at the very start of the blue) LBM taking the mick out of her friends friend, Russell, for carrying a track pump in his back pack. Then her realising 100yds down the trail that her rear tyre was almost flat and, yes you have guessed it, having to ask to use said track pump.

    Closely followed by LMB’s track pump episode was BigAls riding yesterday. To say he was not “on it” might be an understatement unless he was getting off the bike especially to look at the local flora.

    The Swinley trails were a little slippy but I think that it was no big challenge. I’d certainly trade that for having somewhere to ride come the deep mud of mid-winter.

    • Andrew AKAK says:

      You say that was the funniest because you missed the moment later when a dog ran off with both of Chrissy’s gloves. When I found out that she was unable to touch it I did try to catch the dog but it wasn’t keen, the owner eventually showed up and spent 5 minutes trying to get the adorable thing to drop them – see the pic on flickr 🙂

  5. Jonesy says:

    The fat bike looks incredible. I want one just for joining around town on!
    Matt looks tiny on it !

    What happened to Al?

  6. Big al says:

    Can’t a bloke have a little off without everyone going on about it ????

    • Matt says:

      I never noticed you were having a donkey day Al, must have been too far in front 🙂

      But then I never noticed the glove theft, or the pump incident. I did see the aftermath of Dave’s stack on Corkscrew but didn’t actually see that either!

      The beauty of swapping bikes is you get a chance to stack other people’s equipment! Only just got the Mukluk down Deerstalker with it and me in one piece…

  7. Yvette says:

    Thanks that was really a good experiance! I am in love with the horse thief! And the land rover was awsome round corners and uphill. Thanks Tony for letting me try your bike too. I just have to say that no one was man enough to try out Pinky!

  8. Markymark says:

    Sounds like a right blast!

    As for the Swingers reference, i wondered how long it would be before you levered that one in to a ride report Matt 🙂

  9. Karl says:

    Really sorry I missed this ride.. 🙁

    Would have loved to try the Mukluk, but rib still just that bit too sore.. Although by the sound of it, one of the Moles may well be buying one red?

    Hey D’Andy.. rekon I could get a 3inch tyre on a Crest easy.. might wobble a bit tho 🙂

    Tally Ho.

  10. Gordo says:

    Hmmm, video of the moles at Swinley yesterday available here from about 2 mins in???

  11. little big mouth says:

    Awesome day and great company with you all!
    Certainly beats my solo night run round there on Monday when I encountered a man in just a trench coat and pervy smile half way round stickler and felt the need to haul my big ass back to car park double time!

    My not so fav part is well captured by Andrew as I stand hands on my hips waiting for that ruddy dog to release my brand new gloves! So unimpressed.

    I now want a purple bike.

    That is all.
    LBM x

  12. Dandy says:

    I’m sure that was not a pleasant experience the other evening, LBM, but I have to question the perv’s choice of location. After all, you’re more likely to encounter sweaty old gits on an mtb trail; unless that was what he wanted and was most disappointed when you showed up 😉

    I used to regularly encounter a flasher on Barnes Common (not that was my intention), and he was always hastily adjusting himself when me and my mate Stu rolled by !

  13. Attilio says:

    I have been riding a Mukluk Carbon XT for a couple years and recently upgraded it with carbon handlebar and wheels for a nice plush ride and WOW is it fast.

    Sadly a friend of mine just died and his family gave me his Horsethief carbon SLX but it feels very slow in comparison. I even got carbon wheels for it, good ones but it just can’t climb. Even if I put the rear suspension in full lockout it just dies on obstacles, roots and rocks. I just can’t make it also because one big problem is that it lacks ground clearance so when you’re grinding away on the gnarly stuff you are constantly getting pedal strikes. Strangely the area where it shines the most is asphalt. Very fast on tarmac both up and downhill. Strange.

    I don’t think I want to keep the Horsethief but I feel bad for the family. I think I might give it to one of my kids are they are older and very close to being as tall as I am. Strange how such a high performance bike just doesn’t do well in the places its rated to go. Not a bad rider at all but I just can’t get past the lack of ground clearance and pedal strikes that stops you in your tracks!

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