Salsa Cycles Fargo: Conclusions

Normally after this long a period with one bicycle I would be giving a “Final Review”. The thing is- I’m not done with this bike yet. The Fargo is just too versatile a rig to put a final word out on it already. That said, I am going to give you readers my thoughts on the Fargo and tell you where I’m going with the bicycle after this point.

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The “Big Question”: First of all, the Fargo elicits a strong reaction from folks. Often I get a “Just what is that bike for? Is it a______” (Insert any one of several specific bicycle types here.) The “Big Question” really should be the “Big Clue”. It means that the Fargo is, if nothing else, a very versatile bicycle that could do many tasks well. I can not possibly call out every one of the Fargo’s possible uses, but I can tell you what it isreally good at. The other question about the Fargo has to do with its “drop bar centric” design. I’ve covered the drop bar thing in great detail, but if you have not seen any of those posts, you can check them out here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

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The Off Road Fargo: The Fargo off road is a wonderful rig. It really is a fun single track shredder. One thing to remember though: The Fargo is a rigid bike with a non-suspension corrected fork that has a specific offset designed to work with the geometry of the frame. Okay, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you shouldn’t put a suspension fork on this bike. You really should stick with the stock fork as it comes with the Fargo. The good news is that this is a fantastic steel fork. The bad news is that this is a fantastic steel fork! The “rigidness” of the Fargo imparts a certain riding style and technique, a certain use that will not be suited to, oh let’s say….. all mountain riding. (Although, once upon a time mountain bikers rode all over the place on rigid steel rigs, ya know.) I think that the Fargo is best suited to buff single track to maybe some light technical trails. I rode it on several occasions where there were rooty, rocky descents, drop ins, and tight, twisty ascents. The Fargo can do this, and it shreds in fast, flowy trail settings. However; the Fargo has a lower bottom bracket height that may, or may not, be a problem for you. I liked it, and yes- I got ejected out of my pedals and struck things with the pedals from time to time.

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The Back Roads Fargo: This is where the Fargo starts to come into its own. The Fargo absolutely shines on fire roads, dirt paths, gravel roads, and the like. Anywhere a road bike starts to become a liability, the Fargo starts to really make a lot of sense. Of course, if you are putting the Fargo to touring duty, and you have to traverse this sort of terrain, there are not many other choices in 700c wheels that can do what the Fargo can. One thing I found is that the heavier the load, the comfier the Fargo gets, just like a nice steel touring bike for the road. Gravel road riding and dirt road riding, for fun, adventure, or racing is tailor made for Fargo owners. Call it “multi-terrain”, or whatever, the Fargo is the right tool for the job here.

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The Pavement Fargo: Here is where maybe some folks will have a harder time justifying the Fargo as a viable choice, but they really shouldn’t. Put on some nice, voluminous street rubber and the Fargo becomes an urban pot hole eating machine. That burly steel frame, the rider position bred from off roading, and the way the Fargo’s steel frame gives in that classic way that only steel can makes it a great choice for the urban-bound rider. Add in the fact that it can be decked out easily with fenders, racks front and rear, and any assortment of bags one could desire, and you have a sleeper of a commuter rig. Not only that, but you could spend about a half an hour and swap out rubber, remove some of the urban trappings, and be mountain biking on your favorite secret inner city trail. Going real skinny with the rubber will cause you to have a bottom bracket height that may be an issue though, so if high speed city travel or spirited club riding is in your cards, their are far better rigs for those purposes. (Perhaps Salsa’s own Casseroll model?) However; don’t discount the Fargo as pavement bike. It is a suitable heavy city cruiser capable of carrying a big load and laughing at rough city streets.

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The Fargo From Here To…: The Fargo here at Twenty Nine Inches is now going to be set up as a light tourer in more of a “bike packing” vein. Think minimalistic gear, lighter weight than full bagged touring, and capable of going off road. The adventures will wait until I can assemble the proper satellite gear, but when I do, I’ll be back with some reports.

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The Bottom Line: The Fargo is not only a very unique 29″er, it is a very unique bike- period. It is capable of pulling off mountain biking, and doing a decent job of it. It can shine as your “multi-terrain” steed, or it can pull duty on city streets with the best commuter rigs. Is it the one bike for everything? Well, the answer to that question is “no” of course. Here’s where I stand on the Fargo: If I had to get rid of all my bikes but one, the Fargo would be at the top of my list of choices to keep.

Thanks to Salsa Cycles for providing the Fargo for review. Stay tuned for some “adventurous” updates soon.

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No Responses to “Salsa Cycles Fargo: Conclusions”

  1. xChokex Says:

    Have you seen Soma’s Junebug off-road drops yet? A lil’ bit different from the the Midge and WTB bars and it comes in WHITE! I liked to see a side by side comparison of off-road drops in the future.

  2. Willie Says:

    With the lower BB and drop bars, can you bunny hop small logs/rock ledges?
    GT-we know you love it……

  3. t0m Says:

    I love versatile bikes. My “road bike” is a steel Gunnar with a slack head angle and clearance for 700 X 37 tires with fenders. The thing is actually pretty capable on mild singletrack with 37s, and the road ride defines silky. Most of these wannabe racers you see on carbon racing bikes would be much better served by a bike with some setup and use options. Anyway, I salute Salsa for the Fargo and wish I could get one. There are large parts of Colorado where a dropbar rigid steel bike with actual MTB tires would be just the ticket.

  4. Kid Riemer Says:

    Willie,

    Everyone has a different skill set. That in mind, the short answer to your question, in my opinion, is yes.

    Take a look at the Salsa blog. A few days ago I posted about a June overnighter and give a short review of how I think the Fargo handled the Lebanon Hills mtb trails here in Minnesota.

    http://www.salsacycles.com/agigos

    You will need to scroll down a bit to see that posting. Cheers.

  5. maheo Says:

    What is the BB height? I’ve crawled around with my dialup, havn’t found it. What is considered low for an MTB?

  6. MG Says:

    maheo, I’ll measure mine tonight and report back… i don’t have a tape measure here at work. the top picture in this post actually includes my Fargo in the shot (it’s the one in the back of the picture — the XL/22-inch frame). as for what’s considered “low” for a mountain bike, my recollection is that anything much lower than 11.25 inches is pretty darn low. the fargo is definitely low, and it handles awesome because of it. you sit “in” the bike instead of “on” the bike, and it loves to tuck and carve, but you definitely do have to be conscious of where your pedals and chainrings are, more so than when riding a Big Mama, for example. it’s a distinctly different experience.

    guitar ted is right though, the Fargo is a tough bike to classify due to its awesome versatility. it can be whatever you want it to be, within reason. that’s its beauty… it’s a hard bike to get off of once you get it dialed. you almost want two or three of them, like jason at salsa has, so you can have multiple Fargo setups — one for off-road, one for gravel… but who else is that fortunate?!! i feel lucky enough that my wife let me have one. and with all the wheels/tires i have at home, i suppose that’s the route for me to have the multiple Fargo feelings I crave. just swap ’em out… that’s why i run 160mm discs on everything — it makes swapping around easy.

  7. MG Says:

    I just measured my Fargo, and with a Crossmark on the front and a Vulpine on the rear, the BB is measuring out at 11.5 inches. That’s just right with those tires mounted. I like it.

  8. mtbboy2000 Says:

    GT- what do you think of the stock Salsa complete Fargo? Seems like a reasonable build, but I am seeing a retail of about $1950.00. About 1300.00 in parts. Should I just build 1 up myself and pick and choose? Anyone thoguhts?

  9. Guitar Ted Says:

    mtbboy2000: My Fargo is almost a “complete” and I like the components really well. I only changed the contact items: Saddle, handle bars, pedals. The rest of the bike was stock spec. I have thrown on several different wheel sets, but the stock wheel set- A Semi/XT set- is solid and would be really long lasting.

    Should you build your own? Well, that depends on whether or not you have a specific use in mind for your Fargo that the stock spec doesn’t work with real well. Say you are only going to mountain bike the Fargo. Then you might want to build it up. Or if you are doing a “race” build, or something like that.

    Otherwise I think the stock parts are a great value and I would bet that spending 1300 would not quite score you all those identical parts that the complete comes with. Plus, it’s just easier to go with the stock parts versus ferreting out the best deals or figuring out shipping cost, etc.

    That’s my take.

  10. Keith Drury Says:

    I plan to start the Great Divide Route in 2010 so I bought a Fargo this summer for warming up. I only have 500 miles in on this bike (including the GAP-C&O a few weeks ago) and it is a tremendous bike. I did not expect to fall in love this much! It is a beast for carrying loads and for rough roads yet provides a great ride. I was dubious to be honest since it is a hardtail with a hard front but the only thing I changed was the seat and the 29er rides like a Mercedes—solid but comfy!

  11. Nick Says:

    Keith, how long did you take to do the GAP/C&O? I was thinking of doing that in the near future on my Fargo-like bike. I’m debating whether to “time trial” it or “tour” it.

  12. Keith Drury Says:

    Nick… three of us did it–two of whom never biked before…and one had never slept out… so we toured it for fun … it took us 5 days.

  13. Daniel Molloy Says:

    I rode a prototype Rivendell Bombadil 29er on the Great Divide Route last year, and it’s a very similar concept to the Fargo, however if this had been out at the time I think I would have definitely ridden a Fargo. Schwalbe Marathon 29×2.0 tires and a fully rigid platform worked just fine, as most of the terrain is mild fire roads with only very occasional technical or rocky trails.

  14. MontclairBobbyB Says:

    GT:

    Excellent and insightful description. I wanted to give an update on my Fargo shifter and brake configuration, as I too am not sure I’m completely “done” and settled with mine (although I know I’m close).

    From the very first build I chose the Titec H-bar (and that hasn’t changed… still love em). I chose a set of mid-80s Suntour XC thumbshifters along with Shimano hydraulic brakes, mainly because of the shifters’ simplicity, reliability and (admittedly) the retro-coolness factor…. They worked fine, especially since I could mount the brake levers on the extensions, and the shifters on to riser section, leaving the aft section open for full-size grips (or in my case, camo-tape). As cool and fun as this was to ride, I soon discovered that on a 9-speed cassette, it takes a great skill to nail your shifts perfectly without alot of unnecessary chain-jumping… This was especially noticeable when bursting up a hill, or starting across an intersection… two situations where one can ill-afford drivetrain hiccups. I also found that even my heavily padded camo tape wasn’t so comfortable on long rides.

    So I fell back on my preferred shifter/derailleur setup, SRAM XO Grip Shifters with an X9 derailleur. Shifting was awesome, but I struggled to get a comfortable grip setup. The aft section of the Titec H-bars unfortunately is barely long enough for a set of full grips (like the Ergons, my fave). Add a GripShifter and there’s virtually zero room for even the shortie version of the Ergons (which are made for Grip Shifters). This required my using the stock SRAM rubber grips, cut really short… Not fatal, but not ideal for long rides. Plus I found that my hand was naturally crowded on the bar, much of it resting on the shifter, which is also not so comfortable on long rides, and you really can’t/shouldn’t rely on gripping the shifter in a dicey situation without an unexpected shift… you really need a solid gripping area with nothing under it but handlebar …

    Finally I picked up a set of the new XT shifter/brake combo levers (M775) for the “fell-off-a-truck” price of $99 from Nashbar; otherwise I’d never spend the full price on these and I even cringe at the thought of using these for anything remotely resembling a mountain bike (no offense to the fanbase of duallies). The AMAZING thing I discovered about these… THEY FREAKIN WORK!!!! Especially on the H-bar, these are the absolute BOMB!!! I can mount them on the H-bar extension, leaving the aft section for a full-size pair of Ergons… halleluiah! The shiting is precise and nearly effortless, and the brake modulation is superb….

    But… there’s still a part of me that cringes at the over-engineering of the duallies, vs the simplicity of Grip Shifters and separate hydro brake levers… But this currently is a challenge on the H-bars. So I sent a note to the folks at Titec, asking them to consider lengthening the aft section of the H-bar, which will allow Grip Shift users like me a bit more room to add Ergon shorties, and those who prefer a slightly shorter section can simply trim the bars to their liking. (Let’s hope they’ll consider this for the future).

    So my conclusion thus far (for those who’d like to try the H-bars on the Fargo): Consider the Shimano duallies.. In fact the older styles are currently being sold at DEEP discounts… aside from their odd looks, they were virtually made for a setup like the H-bar…. besides…. If you’re averse to oddiities, you wouldn’t be loving your Fargo or your H-bar, now would you?

    Peace,
    BB

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