Salsa Cycles Big Mama: Mid Term

It has been too long since I have posted about the Salsa Cycles Big Mama, but now that I have gotten in some more time with it I can now post this “Mid Term” report. My “First Impressions” of the Big Mama set up as a more aggressive trail rig are here.

julytesting09 091Here is the Big Mama with the latest set up.

I have been tweaking out the set up on the Big Mama over the last few months and here are some of the changes I have implemented: Swapped out to a Salsa Shaft seat post, swapped out the grips to the new Ergon GA-1 grips in white, swapped out to Quad Dime XC brakes in white with new Quad rotors coming soon, and finally, I have been running Specialized’s The Captain 2.2 inch tires on the Gordo rims.

The trails have been sloppy and wet for the most part over the duration of the test period. (As evidenced by the mud on the tires and the rest of the bike here.) This made for some sketchy moments in certain areas, but I was feeling secure on the sure footed suspension the Big Mama and the Rock Shox Reba Team have going on. The Fox damper and the Reba get along quite well on the Big Mama and I was happy to find that getting a balanced feel was easy front to rear. I was also pleased to find that I could dial in a very plush, almost disconnected to the trail feel to a more tactile feel with very smooth suspension action without a mushy sensation, or wallowing through the travel at all. In fact, I have been dialing in a bit more firmness into the rear suspension of late, which is a personal preference of mine. All in all a good, tunable platform that should provide most trail riders with something they will find comfortable using. As for the ProPedal switch, I never use it and leave it on the open setting all the time.

julytesting09 095The Fox damper works well with the Reba Team fork set at 120mm travel up front.

The Big Mama impresses me most by its lateral rigidity and solid feel. I have not had the pleasure of riding every full suspension bike out there, but I can say I’ve ridden some good ones. The Lenz Lunchbox, the Niner R.I.P. 9, and a short stint on a Pivot 429 come to mind. The Salsa Cycles Big Mama rides in the same league as these fine rigs in my opinion. Certainly it is very different than those bikes, but it has that level of refinement and high performance that those frames also exhibit. The seven forged frame parts and the overall design certainly add up to a solid performing rig no matter what you want to compare this bike to.

julytesting09 096One Enduro bearing on the left, two on the right. What does that equal? No flex!

I thought it might be fun to revisit a quote from my first report on the Big Mama just over a year ago:

I have ridden a lot of full suspension bikes and the first thing one should determine is “what type” of full suspension are we talking about. Salsa head honch, Jason Boucher, says this is first and foremost an “all day trail bike”. Taking that into consideration as I rode it, I could then discern if it fit into my expectations for such a bike. I would say that such a bike should be maneuverable, respond to pedaling input in a positive way, (read “like a hard tail”), be stiff laterally, and have overall handling that is easy to navigate when the rider is tired. It should also do what the best trail bike full suspension should do, that is, keep the rider fresh and keep the wheels in contact with the ground. Finally, it should be fun and look cool.

Okay! That was a lot of expectations loaded on to this bike right out of the gate. While I still am on my way to finalizing this review, here is what I have to say so far concerning the above. Is the Big Mama an “all day trail bike”? I will not hold back and wait till the end for this and say “Yes“. You could find a suspension setting that would work for almost any trail setting that isn’t full of big drops, huge stunts, or death defying down hills. The Big Mama is going to be great at doing some “all mountain” stuff, but it will be a better rig for all day “trail” rides that require the rider be fresh at the end of the day as possible. I guess everybody has their “definitions”, but here’s the bottom line: I’d take this into the back country any day and ride all day as long as the trails are not going to require me to dress like a hockey player. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just use that to illustrate a point.)

julytesting09 098Salsa promises a through axle compatible drop out will be available for the rear in the future.

I will also state for the record that the Big Mama looks good……to my eyes. I like the swoopy lines and the details that make this bike easy on the eye. I have seen a few peoples Big Mama set ups and I can honestly say I think they all look really cool. Sure, it doesn’t matter when you are in the middle of nowhere riding the Big Mama, but it doesn’t hurt either!

julytesting09 099Smart cable routing help make the Big Mama easy on the eyes, and function well.

As for the other early expectations, I will hold off judgment for the time being. Stay tuned as I wrap up the testing on The Big Mama in a month or so.

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No Responses to “Salsa Cycles Big Mama: Mid Term”

  1. GreenLightGo Says:

    GT great feedback! That’s a great looking ride, Salsa’s got another winner on their hands.

    FYI – since you mentioned not using it in the article – your ProPedal lever is ‘on’ in the pic 😉

  2. Guitar Ted Says:

    GLG: Yeah, I noticed that too. I must have flicked it over as I was pulling it up outta the Lab for a photo session in the backyard there. 🙂

  3. MG Says:

    Hey GT — Great review, as always. As a fellow Big Mama rider, I definitely concur with everything you’ve written here. I haven’t had the pleasure of riding the Pivot yet, but over the past seven months I’ve ridden and raced my Big Mama in the midwest and occasionally in Colorado and Utah, and it’s performed beautifully…

    Some folks have knocked the fact that it weighs 7lbs for a large frame, and I’d like to say that I’m glad they made it good and strong. Guitar Ted, I know you’ll back me up on this one. I’m not a big guy at 150 lbs, but I do ride aggressively, and having a frame that doesn’t flex all over the place is a nice thing to have going into a rough downhill. It is confident. That’s a trademark quality of the Big Mama you can count on. It’s not something you get with a 5.5 lb aluminum frame… It’s certainly something to think about when making a purchase decision. I’ll take the weight for the stiffness, durability and handling benefits it gives me on every ride. If you look at the weight of a current RIP or 429, they’re in the exact same weight class too, so it seems to me that their engineers may have thought similarly to Salsa’s.

    I only end up using the ProPedal during smooth, fast xc races where I’m racing against a bunch of young, fit guys, and then it’s only on the first lap of the race, when tempo changes are the rule and not the exception. As soon as the pace settles in, I’m reaching down to flip the lever to the open position, because I always prefer the way the bike rides that way, and pedaling isn’t terribly affected. It’s just a little better at those micro accelerations with the ProPedal on when you’re going mano-a-mano with hardtail riders. It’s when you can tell you’re on a heavier bike too… regardless of whether you’re on 26 or 29 inch wheels (I’ve been racing dualies on and off in expert and semipro xc and endurance events since 1995).

  4. Lee T Says:

    What exactly is the weight of this bike as built?

    Tend to agree with MG, a heavier bike is actually a benefit in the aggressive envelope this bike is designed for. The use of forgings keeps it light for the strength – impressive engineering. The chainstay bridge, the frame at the BB, the damper link, all look bombproof – as a HiFi 29er rider, you notice these things…

  5. MG Says:

    Lee, mine is built up with a 100mm Fox and a drivetrain consisting of a mishmash of XTR 952 deraileurs, TruVativ crank and a wheelset hodgepodge of XTR/DT/King/NoTubes and Salsa parts and old school Hayes disc brakes. With an Ardent on the front and a 2.25 Racing Ralph on the rear, both running getto tubeless, on my bathroom scale this past weekend, it weighed 27 pounds for a large. It could easily get lighter… Witness Jason at Salsa’s large Big Mama. His, with XTR and Edge composite wheels, with Racing Ralphs (and tubes — he doesn’t do tubeless) weighs 25.9 lbs. Getting a large frame below 25.5 lbs without some wacky parts might be a bit of a stretch, but honestly, that’s a plenty light bike. I’m pretty darn happy with where my bike is now, truth be told.

  6. Lee T Says:

    I’d be happy too – that would go anywhere, up or down. This bike deserves a closer look.

  7. T Shepherd Says:

    As a Big Mama rider for a few months now, I’ve had a great time exploring the limits of this sled. Has anyone had issues with chainsuck? Its happened a dozen or so times, resulting in some tweaked chain and eating away at frame material.

  8. Sully Says:

    I have to agree, it is great to see some positive remarks on the Big Mama.

    I have only owned 26in bikes until my recent purchse (less than 2 weeks), and at 6ft 6in I haven’t been able to find a bike which actually fits properly…I thought I was destined to be in back pain for the rest of my riding life.
    I was so close to getting the Niner RIP9 and to be honest may have been on one if the distributor here in Australia could have been more helpful! I am actually extremely grateful for their service (or lack thereof) so I ended up on the Big Mama and haven’t been able to get the smile off my face since!
    I have the XL with a mish mash of XT and lower level components, I wouldn’t profess to having a large experience in racing, but really enjoy the 24hour endurance events that are run here in Canberra (SCOTT 24hr and MONT 24hr), this year will be the first that I have a bike which actally suits/fits me…I can’t wait!

  9. Sully Says:

    Yes T Shepherd….Just got the chain suck thng yesterday…I was devestated… this being the first scratchon the bike.

  10. Guitar Ted Says:

    @TShepherd- @Sully-

    Chainsuck is generally more a function of crank/chainring/chain/lube issues and usually is independant of what frame you are using.

    Check to make sure you have a clean, well lubed chain. Sticky, gooey, or dirty chains will chain suck far easier than clean well lubed ones do. Old parts mixed with new parts will sometimes chain suck. Make sure you aren’t using some older chain/chain rings with newer chain rings/chain. Finally, make sure your front derailluer is properly adjusted, that your chainline is correct, and that you do not have any damaged teeth on your chain rings. Bent or damaged teeth will chain suck in a heart beat.

  11. Sully Says:

    Thanks Guitar Ted, I think mine is just poor luck…All the components are only 2 weeks old and have been freshly tuned…it is running perfectly. I think the combination of a bump/drop off at the wrong time with the gear change (ie. my fault!)…Bugger.

  12. T Shepherd Says:

    Got it… drivetrain symptom to pay more attention to. I’m new to FS ownership, 5 years on a Karate Monkey with minimal BB framework to gnash into, and fixed stays.

    Another question, Is the Big Mama design optimised for newer offset forks? I’m running an older Reba.

  13. Guitar Ted Says:

    @ T Shephard

    Yes, it is optimised for 44-46 ofset and 100mm travel. But do not let that stop you. I’m running a 120mm Reba Team and loving it. 😉

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