2019 Salsa Cutthroat
We have tons of bicycle options in today's market and it can be a little daunting trying to identify where our money might best be spent. With the rise of 650b plus gravel and road bikes there has certainly been some focus on riding larger volume tires and the benefits associated. Skinny tired road bikes are becoming a thing of the past for most general riding (they're still applicable in the competitive realm) and for good reason. We'll get into tires sizes more in a future write-up.
The Cutthroat is considered a drop bar mountain bike which means it, of course, has drop bars, will clear up to 2.4" tires, has the capability of running a suspended fork, and is mighty capable of off-road terrain without compromise.
While this bike is categorized as a drop bar mountain bike and is marketed as a bikepacking and ultra-endurance race machine, we have discovered that it is a very comfortable and capable (without compromise) gravel road rig. You might say, "no sh!t" and I would agree, except that any other bike I've ridden that is built around a 29" off-road tire tends to be cumbersome, sluggish, and slow on hardpack/gravel.
I tested the Apex 1 version, but not without some modifications. The aluminum Cowchipper bars were swapped with the carbon version along with the seatpost swap to a Whiskey. The Apex 1 drivetrain was removed and we installed a Shimano Ultegra RX derailleur (Wolftooth Road Link included), 11-40t Sunrace road cassette, and an 11spd Shimano road bar end shifter. The stock wheels were replaced with a set of custom built Velocity Blunt SS hoops, SP dynamo front hub, White Industries XMR Rear hub, and DT Swiss Competition Race spokes. I prefer fenders on my gravel rigs since a fair bit of my riding can be during wet conditions, so I added some Velo Orange aluminum fenders which was no easy task given the lack of mounts on the Cutthroat frame. One might consider the lack of fender mounts ridiculous, but keeping in mind the amount of engineering that Salsa put into the Class 5 Vibration Reduction System and the resulting quality of the ride.....we won't complain.
After spending 6 months on the bike across some extremely varying terrain I've concluded that this bike is absolutely what might be considered a quiver killer. As an allround all-road machine it really does handle pavement, gravel, and trail all without compromise. I've held pace with "roadies" riding much skinnier tired gravel bikes on pavement much to their surprise.....all with a 2.2" tire. I attribute the performance and compliant ride quality to the bikes lateral rigidity and Class 5 VRS design. So, for a bike that handles hardpack and pavement so well one might find thyself asking why they would ride anything less. The bike is stable on technical terrain, comfortable in a wide range of riding conditions, and wicked fast on hardpack and pavement.
Disadvantages? Sure, if the majority of your riding is on sketchy two track trails, class 4 roads, and logging trails then maybe you would prefer a dedicated purpose built ATB bike. Something with a short travel suspension fork, flat or Alt bars, and a dropper post. On the other end of the spectrum, if you're riding 90% pavement and hard packed gravel (like we have in Vermont) then you probably don't need something as robust and versatile as the Cutthroat.
However, don't let the large volume tires scare you. If you're looking for a fast and comfortable gravel rig that can easily fill the shoes of an ATB and holds pace with your roadie friends....you've found it.
Rider Height: 6'4"
Rider Weight: 200lbs
Riding Style: Fast and fairly aggressive
Preferred "Road" Terrain: Gravel and class IV roads