Salsa Cycles Fargo: On Test

We are breaking with our usual “Out Of The Box” post for the Fargo. Since we have covered the bike pretty thoroughly since it was introduced we felt that most folks already know about it. However; if you are just tuning in, here are some previous posts on the Fargo to whet your appetite.

Salsa Cycles “Fargo” Sneak Peek

Interbike Outdoor Demo Day One

Fargo on a dirt road

The Fargo also was the focus of a recent trip I took to Minneapolis/St. Paul where I rode a Fargo on an “adventure ride” with the Salsa Crew. You can read about all of that here in my three part report which is published on my blog

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Fargo on a dirt path

The Fargo is available as a frame and fork. In early 2009 it will come as a complete bike. The complete bike will feature an XT drivetrain, Avid brakes, Salsa drop bar with bar end shifters, and Salsa parts gracing other parts of the bicycle as well. You can check out the Fargo Complete specs here. This tester is slightly different in that I have personally modified it a bit from stock with an On One Midge Bar, WTB SST vintage saddle, and double wrapped bar tape.

Climbing on the Fargo

The Fargo is billed as a bike that will “take you wherever you wish to go”. So, the goal of this test will be to go to a lot of places that I want to go to to ride. Most of these trips I am going to try to do on the Fargo- not driving to and from. We’ll find out where the Fargo shines, and how brightly it does on a variety of surfaces and types of rides.

The Salsa at the camp grounds

The Fargo is also billed as a touring rig. I will also be loading this bicycle down and doing some “bikepacking” type trips to see how it deals with an adventure of that sort. Look for trips to and from work as well as a race here or there. We’ll just see how far we can go on the Fargo.

Salsa logo


20 Responses to “Salsa Cycles Fargo: On Test”

  1. Rob Y from Ottawa Says:

    As much as I have a lot of nit picks with the Fargo frame, the basic idea is pretty swell. Could you try it out with a four pannier setup? I’m curious to see how it handles that.

  2. Guitar Ted Says:

    Rob Y From Ottawa: Yes, the front and rear rack idea is on the radar. I have a set of Jandd Mountaineering panniers, (the old style) to try on it. I’ll be looking at racks for it next. Stay tuned!

  3. MontclairBobbyB Says:


    I’ve been drooling over this bike ever since I first laid eyes on it, and I even sent a note to Jason B, thanking him for whatever role he played in getting this beast to market. This is exactly the bike I (and others) have long been waiting for.

    I have Tubus racks (Logo for the rear, Tara for the front) which I hope will fit nicely on the Fargo (fingers crossed).

    I’m just deciding on which frame size, which is where I need your advice. I seem to be stuck between choosing the L and the XL, (a seemingly simple choice for any other bike)… But the Fargo is entirely unique, (and even after reading through the forum conversations ad nauseum I’m still uncertain about how to make a rational sizing decision):

    I am 6’1″ with a 34 inch inseam, which is about the size range that several individuals on the Fargo discussions (including you) fall into. I plan to run Titec H-bars (so I can run hydraulic brakes and Suntour XC thumbies), and I’ve got a set of 2.3 Big Apple tires… plan to do mostly combination rides (pavement and dirt).

    For comparison I currently ride two 29er mountain bikes: A size large Karate Monkey rigid SS, and a size large Niner MCS (geared with Reba fork). I run a 120mm stem on each, and the setup is quite comfortable (for offroad). I seldom ride either on road.

    My current road bike is a Kogswell 650B P/R in size 61 (if that means anything). It has a straight top-tube 23.3 inches long and a standover height of 32.5 inches. I run a 100mm 25 degree riser stem with several spacers and Midge drop bars, and it’s very comfortable. The drops are approx level with the seat.

    Even though the TT and standover dimensions of my current brood may point me in the direction of a size large, my instinctive inclination is to go with the XL, since I will be riding it mostly on road surfaces, and with the H-bar. To your point about long-range fatigue and enjoying a shorter, more upright reach when you’re tired, I have similar concerns, yet I worry about being too cramped on this bike.

    Assuming I fall somewhere in between the L and XL (for arguments sake), I suppose I can compensate with a longer or shorter stem, correct?

    But there are OTHER tradeoffs between the 2 sizes, and this is where it gets MOST confusing. With the large frame I’d have 2 more inches of seatpost showing (ie more flex, OK), actually a LONGER wheelbase and a longer front-to-center (what’s up with that?), plus a more relaxed headtube (70 degree) than the XL, ALL of which are not-so-subtle differences (in my opinion). My head is spinning…

    So what advice have ye, o’ wise one?

    Many thanks,

  4. mg Says:

    Hey MontclairBobbyB, I’m almost the same size as you, and though I’m planning on running a drop bar, I’m going to say that both of us should go with a large. I believe that both of us will be able to get our desired riding positions without too many compromises on that size, and technically, that’s the size that’s designed for someone our height/proportion. The amount of seatpost you’re going to show is not going to be out of the realm of “normal” for a mountain bike, but it’s going to look like it’s got a long headtube for its size… because it does, by design. That’s because it’s designed for drop bars. That said, I think that with (perhaps) a negative rise stem, you’ll be able to nail your desired bar positioning with the H-bar. I don’t think the XL will give you any real advantages. In fact, it may put you behind, because you might have challenges getting the bars to be low enough with a flat bar (because on the XL, the headtube will be almost an inch longer).

    Good luck!! Just wait ’til you ride the Fargo… You’re really gonna’ be smitten to it then. It’s a keeper, and you are correct in giving Jason a fair amount of credit/thanks for its existence. He was a big driver for the bike to come to fruition, and his experience and perspective led to a lot of the features they incorporated into the frame (like the 5-6 bottle mounts, depending on frame size, the chainstay-located, post-style disc brake mount, etc…). It wasn’t Jason’s experience alone, because clearly guys like Joe Meiser (who has finished in the top-5 at TransIowa himself, in addition to being a kick-ass engineer, cyclist and all-around guy) and the rest of the Salsa crew, and the expanded network of Salsa Amigos have much perspective to give, but it was a great collaborative effort that netted a truly unique and beautiful creation that we’re all going to get to enjoy riding a lot.

    Salsa’s going to sell a lot of Fargos. It’s the Long Haul Trucker for the dirt… That’s how I look at it.

  5. MontclairBobbyB Says:


    Great advice, thank you! I took another look at the dimensions of my 3 bikes (side-by-side). I think you’re right… the bars will likely be too high. The Fargo large size will have virtually the same wheelbase as my MCR; except the Fargo will have a longer rear triangle and a shorter cockpit… makes perfect sense. And the Fargo SO height will be 2 inches higher than the MCR (my primary trail bike), which also makes sense. The reach and stem angle I can play with, but I’ll heed your advice on the negative angle. MANY THANKS!

    Kudos to ALL who shared in the design and manufacturing of the Fargo. And kudos to you, Ted for adding instant street-cred to it… I’m sure you’re selling quite a few of these, whether or not you realize it…

    As for me…. I’ll wait (albeit impatiently), build, ride and smile… then photograph and post!!!!
    Thanks again, Ted.


  6. Butcher Says:

    Thanks for the kind words folks. Thought I’d take a few minutes to call some specific people out because in reality, I had only 1 of many parts in this fine project.

    Joe Meiser – Lead designer, Gravel warrior, Trans Iowa finisher and who knows what for 2009!

    Burton Avery – graphic designer. Worked on the drop outs.

    Pete Koski – Engineer and technical guy.

    Mike Riemer & Wes Stobbe – Finish and graphics

    Me – A little overall project management, passion for this project and some personal experience. I also helped it along from a business perspective.

    A bunch of others that test rode, brainstormed, etc.

  7. MontclairBobbyB Says:

    …Kudos to the entire team… BRAVO !!

    Burton – Those dropouts are SO over the top cool, you really need to consider them as objects d’art and create some cool accessories, like:

    Fargo toilet paper holder – include the brake mounts and add a braze-on for a drink holder and a book / magazine holder… How cool would that be? (Hey, Park Tools has one…)

    …or just sell the dropout by itself, on a chain… heck, I’d wear one…


  8. mg Says:

    You’re welcome BB…

  9. Guitar Ted Says:

    Wow! šŸ™‚ For some reason I didn’t get any updates on the activit here, so I appologize, but I see some good folks have been “takin’ care of Business” since I’ve been away. Thanks guys! šŸ˜‰

    At any rate, I concur on the size Large. That’s what I am riding in a fargo, and it should work just peachy with an H-Bar.

  10. mg Says:

    great perspective to have. you’ve got way more time in on the bike than do i… thanks g-ted.


  11. cactuscorn Says:


    1 question: could this be a ragbrai bike for a old guy who cant hang with the geo of a stick bike any longer? i dig the lht plenty but at 5’9″, im not crazy about bein stuck with 26″ wheels. i do like the occasional fast day when we find a killer mini peleton.

    my dream is a disgustingly comfy 700c bike with a 28 or maybe a 32 tire, friggin tall headtube, drop bars, sti levers, road tripple, mtb cassette and some racks. talk to me chief!

    thanx – tom

  12. Guitar Ted Says:

    cactuscorn: I’m thinking your idea is great but for one thing: Go with some 35mm tires. The 32’s would put the BB low enough that I think it would become an issue. There are a lot of great road/gravel capable tires in that size range. (And dude- you know there will be gravel on RAGBRAI!)

    Might I suggest a Schwalbe Marathon? A most worthy contender, and you’ll still be able to swap out to fatter rubber for real mtb action with a Fargo too.

  13. AlanK Says:

    This looks like a great rig not only for touring but a do-everything bike. I’d also like to know how it works on pavement with slicks. My other question is also about tire size: I checked the Salsa page and didn’t see anything about specific tire ranges. If I did get it I’d probably run about 700×38 which I assume is a viable size. I’d just like to know the range of tire sizes that would work without any problems.

  14. montclairbobbyb Says:


    I’m running mine with Schwalbe Big Apples (2.35),,, no clearance issues. They roll extremely well on pavement as well as dirt. I have a Tubus Logo rack on the rear, which due to the geometry (ie sloping top tube), the rack clears the rear tire with little room to spare up top, making it difficult to fit my Cascadia fenders. Minor Dremel customization to the fender hopefully will allow it to all fit together. You’ll have zero problem with 38mm tires (the BAs are 60mm).


  15. Guitar Ted Says:

    AlanK: Just to tag onto what montclairbobbyb said, Salsa has stated a couple of times that 35mm tires would work all the way up to 2.5″ 29″er rubber.

  16. Steve Fuller Says:

    Gravel on RAGBRAI? They’re getting soft. Hasn’t been any gravel the last 3 years.

  17. Guitar Ted Says:

    Steve: But you haven’t seen my RAGBRAI route yet! Muwah ha ha ha! šŸ™‚

  18. hbruckus Says:

    Does anyone know if a 22 tooth granny will work with the stock drivetrain that comes with the complete bike?

  19. gypsy Says:

    I am preparing to leave Fort Collins, CO and head to Telluride, CO fully loaded, 70% pavement, 30% gravel. I’m thinking of using the stock tire in the front and a 35 in the rear – any comments. I’ve also been having a lot of problems with the front brake going out of adjustment, hitting the attachement bolts, and god forbid I should have to take the wheel off because I’ll have to start over with resetting the brake. Help!! I leave in two days – the shop has suggested “trimming” the offending bolt.

  20. MontclairBobbyB Says:

    Tire choice is your most important choice, so when it comes to tires for the Fargo I’ll give you MY very biased opinion: Bigger and Wider is BETTER!

    Schwalbe should name me official “ambassador of Big Apples”, I’ve put more people on a set of Big Apples…. That’s because they are AWESOME tires! it takes only a few seconds to fall in love with these tires, as you find yourself wondering “How can THESE feel so cushy, and yet roll so fast????”

    I run the 2.35s fatties on my Fargo, and I can’t imagine a better tire unless you want to run fenders, in which case I’d recommend the 29 x 2.0 Big As, which will give you fewer fender fit fits (say that 5 times fast….)

    Your ride sounds beyond epic!!! I am planning a 2-day light tour on my Fargo (mostly offroad)… I will ride with the Big Apples, for sure.

    Safe Travels…

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