Salsa Cycles Big Mama: First Impressions

I have a few rides on the Salsa Cycles Big Mama now and also have a build list to check out. Let’s take a closer look at how I kitted out the Big Mama first.  Some of the items are reviewed components, some are swapped over from another rig.

Frame: Salsa Cycles Big Mama- size large, Fox RP-2 damper

Fork: Rock Shox Reba Team 10mm travel with Maxle Lite and remote Pop-Loc

Wheels: Handbuilt Gordo rims on Hope Pro  II hubs, 20mm through axle, Wheelsmith double butted spokes and alloy nipples

Rear Skewer; Take off from a Cannondale touring bike. Steel shaft.

Tires: Specialized “The Captain” with “2Blis” Control casing.

Stem: KORE B-52, 75mm long

Handle Bar: Salsa Cycles Pro-Moto Riser

Grips: Ergon GE1 Team Green

Saddle: Bontrager Race

Seat Post: Bontrager Race Lite

Brakes: Avid Juicy 3, 185mm rotor frt/160mm rear

Shifters: SRAM X-9 triggers

Derailluers: Front/SRAM X-Gen, Rear/SRAM X-9

Chain: Shimano 9 speed

Cassette: SRAM 12-34T

Crank set/BB: Shimano LX/ 22-32-42T

Other: Salsa Cycles Lip-Lock seat QR, Bontrager handle bar end plugs, Slime tubes

Okay, enough spec! How about some ride impressions?

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The Ride: I have done some time on another Big Mama, but not set up like this. With the tallish bottom bracket, (over 14 inches static height), and short cockpit, I sat upright and comfortable. Climbing wasn’t an issue if you “assumed the position” of hovering just above the nose of the saddle. (Or, actually perching there, if I wanted to) I could keep the front end from wandering at all but the slowest of speeds and the bike would scale steeps as long as I had the legs and traction. Fortunately, the legs were working well, but the greasy soil left me walking a couple of times that I knew I could have made it had the dirt been drier. Oh well! Another time then.  However; “crawling” should be a hoot on this rig, whether it be over rocks or logs.

The rear suspension is plush, as in I feel totally suspended by a spring and isolated from trail chatter. Big sharp hits haven’t been encountered yet due to the soft, loamy conditions here in spring, but the few rocks I could find were dealt with in amazing fashion. I will be playing with the pressure in the Fox RP-2 a bit to see what sort of tuning I can get from this rig, but think along the lines of a Niner R.I.P. 9 for rear feel with the set up I have in it now. In fact, it was smoother in the rear than the Reba up front by a touch. And I have the Reba set pretty soft as it is.  So “plush” is totally doable on the Big Mama, if you want it. After the ride, I saw the “O” ring on the rear shock and I could tell that the travel had been used up at least once, but I never felt it bottom out. The rate of travel felt very linear, no real “ramping up” that I could make out. This only added to the “plush” feel.

The bike can lean over and carve, but it also can be “tipped” into sharp corners, no doubt due to the high bottom bracket. I found no issues with getting around steep 180 degree switchbacks. The front triangle is super stiff, the Reba with a Maxle is super stiff, and the forged bits in the rear suspension with Enduro bearings are very stiff. This bike will not “noodle” on you. This gives the bike a very precise feel in all situations.  But in slow, tight, descending switchbacks, if there is any flex in a bike, it will show up here. Nothing close to flex was felt in the Big Mama in that situation. I felt totally confident in railing corners, hitting off cambers, and climbing was a cinch with the lack of  lateral flex in the chassis.

The Big Mama is pretty much flex free.

The Big Mama is pretty much flex free.

Looking to the next few weeks, I will be searching out some rockier, and more technical trails to put the Big Mama to the test. (And in the process, me!)  I will say that in the configuration that I have the Big Mama in now, it would qualify as an All Mountain set up that should be capable of all day epics just about anywhere. That is what we’ll be testing for and will report on next time we bring you news on the Big Mama.
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