Salsa Fargo: The Off Road Update

I’ve been riding the Salsa Fargo mostly in a mountain biking vein of late. Here is an update on what I think of the Fargo as a single track machine. Please keep in mind that the Fargo’s main intent isn’t pure single tracking, so this is just one facet of the Fargo’s many faceted personality.

Fargo against the Wall

I used the “stock” (for the complete) WTB Vulpine tires on my first few rides. The limited grip in the wet caused me to swap out to a different tread and wheel set. I put on some Saguaro TNT tires mounted on Mavic Cr29max wheels. I also moved to a 185mm front rotor but retained the Avid BB-7’s. Here’s a look at what it looks like with these changes. (See below)

Fargo in the snow III

Okay, so how does it ride then? Well, like a mountain bike, thank you! Only with a few important differences. I don’t mean to be smart, but the Fargo is born out of a mountain biking mold, so it only makes sense. There are a few “quirks” that one may want to think about here though.

Drop bars: Drop bars off road are either a whole lot of fun, or just not your style. Here are a couple of caveats to think about concerning their use. First, the shifting is either bar end or STI type. The STI type is far more preferable from a pure mountain biking sensability where shifting and braking are sometimes done simultaneously. Also, STI levers will help promote shifting, which can be seen as both good and bad, I suppose! Bar end shifters are a little inconvenient when the action gets hot and heavy off road. From that standpoint, racing a Fargo may be best done with STI type shifters. Casual mountain biking, all terrain rides, and touring are all fine with bar end shifers.

Then there are the bars themselves, which are limited in terms of width choices and basically are only available from three sources. (For “real” offroad drops, that is) The Salsa Bell Lap comes stock on the “complete” version, but it has a pretty deep drop, which gets into fit problems, so that can be an issue. (Rumor has it that Salsa is working on a off road drop bar solution for the Fargo.)

Fork Offset: To avoid toe overlap with Salsa’s preferred shorter top tube design for this rig, and for handling heavy front end loads, the offset was increased to 55mm on small through large sizes and 50mm on the XL and XXL sizes. This means that even with the “slack” head angle Salsa uses on these rigs, the steering will be on the quick side for some. Just be prepared for a rig that rips it on fast, tight single track, and may be a bit of a hand full in some longer technical descents.

Lower Bottom Bracket: Here is the thing that may turn some folks off to the Fargo as a “true” off roader. The bottom bracket was lowered purposefully with the intentions that this would be a “adventure/touring” 29″er and not pigeon holed as an off road bike adapted to touring/adventuring. This means that it’s versatility off road is compromised somewhat to achieve it’s intended purpose. I found that this was evidenced by pedal strikes where I never experienced them before on my trails. Those that already are striking their pedals on their 29″ers may not appreciate the lower BB on the Fargo.

About that shorter top tube…: As stated, the top tube was shortened on the Fargo to accomodate longer rides. This may impact the feel off road for you, and it may not. The Fargo I am riding is a full inch shorter in the cockpit measurement than any other bike I ride off road. I didn’t seem to notice that at all. It may really bother some folks, but as always, you can put a longer stem on it. Typically I run an 80-90mm stem on a large. On this Large sized Fargo, I have a 100mm stem and the saddle is as far back as it will go. Just be advised, the Fargo is designed to fit just a bit differently than a typical mtb. That is because, well……it isn’t just a mountain bike! It’s something very unique and different than that.

The ride is really different. The lower bottom bracket makes you feel more “in the bike” rather than “on top of the bike”. This translates to a feeling of more stability and I wanted to rail every turn I could to take advantage of this. The bike climbs pretty well, and soaks up trail chatter very nicely. It still is a rigid bike though, so rocks and roots will send your eyeballs rattling. Descents are really fun. I felt like I was in a rocket ship flying down the hills compared to most 29″ers I’ve ridden. Still, you have to remember that clearance is limited.

I was made aware of this when I stuck the big ring on the XT trekking crank right into a log! Folks getting the complete bike next year may want to look into a bash ring or smaller outer ring if you will be spending a lot of time on rough terrain.

To sum it all up from an off road perspective, the Fargo is a capable single track bike that is only limited by its lower bottom bracket and rigid chassis. Due to the specific nature of its geometry, a suspension fork could be mounted, but that would radically change the way the bike fit and handled, so it may not be a viable choice in this case. On terrain suited to the Fargo, the bike is a fun, fast handling, awesome mountain bike. Rougher, rocky, chunky, and trails that demand a high bottom bracket are not the Fargos forte’. Finally, drop bars are not everyones cup of tea. The Fargo can be set up with flat bars, or “funky” bars, such as a Titec H-Bar, but if you crave lower front ends,this may not work for you.

The Fargo is a bike with a purpose and intention that isn’t limited by “just mountain biking”. I’ll be doing some different sort of adventuring in the coming weeks, as you can see, due to the onset of winter. I’ll be exploring the different aspects of the Fargo that are not specific to mountain biking. Stay tuned for the coming adventures!


No Responses to “Salsa Fargo: The Off Road Update”

  1. jmoote Says:

    I thought Salsa designed around drop bars so that a bar like the Bell lap would not be an issue. Though they used a ton of spacers to do it, the setup on the stock photo from the Salsa website actually has the bars higher than most would want them.

  2. Kid Riemer Says:


    Yes, the Fargo was designed around drop bars. The rumor that GTed mentions doesn’t mean that the Bell Lap bars aren’t good bars. They function quite well. That of course doesn’t mean that designing something that works even better isn’t possible. Not saying the rumor is necessarily true though!

    RE: the spacers in the photo. That’s a common theme in many of our bike images simply because we prefer not to cut the steerer tubes too short just for a photo. Most of the bikes we take photos of are eventually being ridden by someone.

    Mike Riemer
    Salsa Marketing Manager

  3. mg Says:

    Good point Kid. No sense wasting a perfectly good bike simply for the sake of vanity. I don’t think G-Ted was disrespecting the Bell Lap bars either… just reflecting on the fact that perhaps for some, the preference may be moving towards less drop and more swept ends. Personally, I love the Bell Laps, and I ride ’em on two of my bikes, but that said, I’ll definitely be looking to try them alongside other newer options when it comes time to build my new Fargo up. I’ve still got my fingers crossed for an innovative new Salsa bar… šŸ˜‰ I know you guys have got it in you!

  4. mg Says:

    BTW, Guitar Ted, awesome write up. Thanks for the update. This is super… I’m more stoked than ever on the Fargo, and can’t wait to get one built up now. Yeah, the low BB is a bit of a concern, because I am a notorious pedal dragger (partly due to the conditions at our local riding areas), but I also love the feel of a low BB when it comes to the cat-like turning ability it imparts on a bicycle. Salsa has always had that “turn-on-a-dime-and-give-nine-cents-change” feel nailed down tight, so I suspect the Fargo will be no different in that respect.

    Thanks again, good buddy!


  5. Guitar Ted Says:

    To all: The thing that I hold important in riding off road with drop bars is this: You should be able to get a position set up to use the drops as your primary position off road. If you can not do this, it is usually due to one of three things. #1, your head tube is short (The Fargos isn’t) #2 you can not find a stem with enough rise (Not an issue with the Fargo) or #3 the drop bars you are using have excessive drop (A possibility with the Bell Laps) I had no issues getting my set up on the Fargo using Bell Lap bars, and yes, they are good bars. However; after switching to Midge bars, I could leave out 2 inches of spacers and achieve he same position. That’s a lot of spacers!

    Bottom line- Both bars worked off road. However; there are some folks that are going to take Salsa to task for putting the Bell Lap on this bike if they want their drops high enough to use the drops as their primary grip posistion because of aesthetics.

  6. jmoote Says:

    I guess that was my point – you seem to be going for a higher position than most in the drops (drops of your Midge bars around saddle height). I agree that the drops should be your primary position, but with the generous headtube on the Fargo I would expect the Bell laps to be comfortable without an large amount of spacers or silly stem. I suppose there has been a trend for higher bar positions recently (even with flat bars), and of course whatever works for you is how you’re going to setup your bike šŸ™‚

    Thanks to Mike from Salsa for commenting. I did not take GTed’s post to mean the Bell laps were not good bars, nor did I take issue with the spacers in the photo. I was observing however that all pictures of this bike seem to have an excessively tall cockpit, even considering the drops the main riding position (which I do).

  7. Guitar Ted Says:

    jmoote: I can see where you are getting that idea. You know, it is funny, but the pics I take always surprise me in that the Fargo looks odd. When I walk out here in the other room and take a gander, (The Fargo is about ten feet away from me as I type this) it doesn’t look that way. Weird.

    For the record, my drops position is about three inches lower than the nose of the saddle on level ground.

  8. MG Says:

    it’s funny, because i might’ve been lured into thinking jmoote was right in my household, but i gotta’ admit, in my household, on my mountain bikes, i’m back to the racer-boy, 3-4 inches of drop from the tip of the saddle to the bars, depending on the bike, and unsagged, my big mama has the biggest differential, believe it or not. i think that’s because i run more sag in the rear than the front, since the fork has slightly less travel (i’m running an sc32 maverick, currently, some may recall). but i digress… these are all flat bar bikes that i’m speaking of here, btw, for those who don’t know.

    ironically, both of my el mariachis, my big mama, my chili con crosso and my la cruz are all sitting immediately in-front of me as i type these words. i love laptops and wireless connections… the bike room is my domain!!

    have i mentioned how much i can’t wait to add a fargo to the stable?

  9. jmoote Says:

    Sounds like it’s just photo trickery then – 3″ of drop sounds perfect to me! The Fargo seems like something you have to experience in person, so hopefully I am able to do that someday.

  10. Cloxxki Says:

    LOL, I think I actually was the one starting that rumor šŸ™‚
    At least, I seem to remember having openly put my trust in Salsa to come up with a drop bar right to its full potential.

    I ride the Bell Lap 46cm to work every day, on my Surly Pacer – in office wear and overcoat. With all due respect, but I regard it a crit handlebar for broadshouldered men. Better for cross than a 100% road bar, but no culture shock.

    If I were to get a Fargo, I would probably ride it off-road for a fair bit of the time (too lazy for long hauls lately), even racing if it were just for the heck of it, to piss off fellow racers sporting racerboy kiddy wheels and carbon broomstick handlebars.
    I was figuring, if I take a Fargo in a larger-than perfect size (XXL in stead of XL), and stick in a custom fork of 465/470x55mm, I would closely match the smaller Fargo’s front end geometry, while in the process rasing the BB as well as shortening the effective reach.
    With such an uber-tall front end, I’d just mount a zero degree stem to -til we get something better from you- a Midge bar.
    – more bar height
    – more BB height
    – less reach (needed due to getting too-large frame)
    – better matched seat tube height for my uber-long legs.
    The only thing, I suppose, I would suffer, is a taller BB on the longer hauls, but then, I will run longer cranks than an S rider anyway.

    How do you think such a franken-Fargo would work out?

  11. mg Says:

    Well Cloxxi, I wouldn’t assume it’s just a rumor… and it’s a big world. Lots of people talk.

    The Bell Lap has more drop, reach and not enough sweep in the drops for what I’m looking for in a strictly off-road drop bar. That’s what I’ve verbalized to Jason at Salsa, and I’m content to let him run with that feedback. I trust that he and the team in Minneapolis will combine my feedback with the feedback from other Amigos around the country, and their vast perspective and experience, and come up with something similar in innovation to the Fargo itself. That’s my hope at least… Perhaps it’s a bit of a tall order, but hey, I can dream, right?

  12. GreenLightGo Says:

    Salsa and Surly ought to collaborate on a drop bar production – something that would work for a Fargo and Karate Monkey šŸ™‚ It could cross some boundaries and attract more to the proposition of drop-bar MTB’ing.

  13. dan Says:

    Hello from NM does salsa sell the fork ? Seems like a new option for big wheel .Do you now the lenght of fork ?

  14. Guitar Ted Says:

    dan: Sorry about the late reply!

    Salsa does not sell this particular fork aftermarket. The fork’s axle to crown measurement is 444.3mm. The offset on small to Large sizes is 55mm. The XL and XXL get 50mm offsets (See this link for the whole geometry story: )

    You could see if you could get a Blackbuck rigid fork ( ) which has a simlar axle to crown at 440mm and 51mm offset. It is a curved blade fork and has no provisions for bottles, fenders, or racks, however.

    Otherwise, your only alternative is custom.

  15. Guitar Ted Says:

    dan: Late Update: It now looks as though Salsa is bringing in both offsets of the Fargo fork for aftermarket sales. I do not have a time line on when they will become available, but stay tuned, if I do hear anythng, I’ll post it up here.

  16. Darren Says:

    I would love to hear how it rides with 700×32 on it…Any feedback on the road rides?


  17. Guitar Ted Says:

    Darren: Hey, I bet it would ride great, but I doubt I’ll get anything that skinny for it. I divested myself of all my roadie stuff and all I have are mtb rims, which I wouldn’t put that narrow of a tire on. I just do not feel that is a wise thing to do.

    That said, I will certainly try something in the 38mm range and let folks know about that when the weather warms up here. šŸ˜‰

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