First Ride: Salsa Deadwood SUS 29+

Feb 13, 2017
by Mike Kazimer  


Stokesville, Virginia, is located a little over 2.5 hours southwest of Washington D.C., but it's about as far removed from the chaos of the US capital as you can get. There are more cows than cars, and seemingly endless miles of singletrack that trace the contours of the surrounding ridgelines. It's also the location that Salsa chose to launch their new Deadwood SUS, one of the few full suspension 29+ bikes on the market.

The Deadwood SUS has 90mm of rear travel that's delivered via a Split Pivot suspension design, and up front there's either a 100mm RockShox Pike or Yari depending on the model. Although 90mm of travel may bring to mind images of full-blown XC rigs typically piloted by rail thin racer-types, that's not the Deadwood's target demographic, which the 29x3.0” tires make abundantly clear. It's designed to be more of a backcountry adventure mobile, a human powered ATV if you will.
Deadwood SUS Details
• Intended use: mountain biking / adventure
• 29" wheels w/ 3.0" tires
• Carbon front triangle, alloy swingarm
• 90mm rear travel / 100mm fork
• 68° head angle
• Boost spacing
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Claimed weight: 30-33 pounds depending on model
• Complete bikes start at $3,799 USD. Frame only: $2,499
www.salsacycles.com

All three models use the same frame and rear shock, but the different paint job and parts kits set them apart. I spent time on the bright orange Deadwood Carbon XT pictured above, which retails for $4,499 USD and comes equipped with a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, 100mm RockShox Pike RC, and DT Swiss hubs laced to WTB i35 rims.

Salsa Deadwood Launch Photo Scott Haraldson
The Deadwood Carbon X01 has a SRAM Eagle 12-speed drievetrain, Guide RS brakes, and a price tag of $5,999.
Salsa Deadwood Launch Photo Scott Haraldson
The base model Deadwood Carbon GX1 ($3,799) has a 1x11 SRAM GX drivetrain and SRAM Level T brakes.

According to Salsa, the Deadwood's DNA comes from the Spearfish, their 80mm XC/endurance bike. The goal was to create a shorter travel bike with more relaxed geometry, and to that end the Deadwood has a 68° head angle and a 45mm bottom bracket drop. If you're used to reading the geometry figures for long travel enduro race sleds 68-degrees may not sound slack, but don't forget that that number is with a 100mm fork.

The Deadwood's front triangle is constructed from carbon fiber (it's actually the same front end used on their Pony Rustler model), and the back end is aluminum. Boost spacing is in place front and rear, which helps provide enough room for those meaty 3.0” tires. Although the bike was designed first and foremost to be a Plus bike, it is possible to run more 'normal' sized tires, and with a 29 x 2.3” - 2.5” tires the bottom bracket height is roughly the same as the aforementioned Spearfish.

Excluding the stealth-routed dropper, and where the derailleur housing runs through the chainstay, the vast majority of the cable routing is external, running along the top of the downtube. None of the complete bikes come with a front derailleur, although it is possible to run one without any issues. There are even ISCG 05 tabs that make it possible to run a chain guide, a feature that all-too-often gets overlooked on shorter travel bikes.

Salsa Deadwood Launch Photo Scott Haraldson
Salsa's distinctive hot pepper logo stands out against the bright orange color scheme.
Salsa Deadwood Launch Photo Scott Haraldson
The carbon front triangle is connected to an alloy swingarm.

Salsa Deadwood
There's plenty of clearance for 3.0" tires.
Salsa Deadwood Launch
The Split Pivot suspension layout handles the bike's 90mm of travel.

Geometry
Deadwood geometry




Over the course of three days I was able to put in roughly 60 miles on the Deadwood, plenty of time to get acquainted with its handling and overall feel. The terrain around Stokesville is cross-country heaven, full of smooth, winding singletrack, with just enough tricky rock gardens, berms, and jumps to keep things interesting.

I kept the Deadwood's Monarch RT3 shock in the fully open position for most of those miles, only flipping it to the locked out setting when one of the rides finished with a couple miles of paved road. There's a nice platform at the beginning of the shock's stroke that minimizes any unwanted motion, even when mashing on the pedals to get up a punchy climb or unexpected obstacle.

It was on long, steady climbs that the large tires made themselves known, and there were a few times where it felt like I was trapped in a dream, the one where everything seems like it's in slow motion. It's worth mentioning that the Deadwood's stock WTB Ranger tires had been swapped out for Surly Dirt Wizards, which have a much more aggressive tread pattern – the lower profile Rangers would have undoubtedly rolled faster, although there wouldn't have been as much grip for the descents. Either way, the Deadwood is more of a turtle than a hare when it comes to climbing – you'll get there eventually, but probably without breaking any land speed records on the way.

It was on more technical sections of trail that the benefits of the Plus sized rubber came to light, both on the climbs and descents. They deliver an inordinate amount of traction, and on steep climbs as long as you have the power to keep turning the cranks those big wheels will roll over pretty much anything that gets in their way. Rocks that smaller tires would have gotten hung up on simply disappear, squashed into submission.

Salsa Deadwood Launch Photo Scott Haraldson

That roll-over-anything sensation persisted on the descents, and even though the Deadwood only has 90mm of rear travel, it certainly feels like there's more due to the extra volume in the tires. I ran 17psi in the front and 18psi in the rear, which provided enough give to smooth out any wanted trail chatter while remaining supportive enough to push hard into corners. The wide tires take the edge off what would otherwise be jarring impacts, providing a little extra cushion between the rider and the ground.

Several of the trail near Stokesville are flowy, machine built creations punctuated with berms and tabletops. The Deadwood did surprisingly well touching back to earth after some air time; I was half-expecting it to feel bouncy and uncontrolled, but I never experienced that sensation, and I never experienced any harsh bottoming out, either. It is a littler harder to get the Deadwood in the air without the help of a manmade lip, and the same goes for settling into a manual – that 449mm chainstay length makes the front end reluctant to lift off the ground.

Who exactly is the Deadwood SUS for? That's a good question. It's not an XC race bike, even though it has a similar amount of travel, and it doesn't feel as quick as a trail bike with skinnier tires would (although that can be changed), but that doesn't mean a niche doesn't exist for a bike like this. I could see riders who already spend a solid chunk of the year on fat bikes being intrigued by it, and the same goes for riders who are planning on heading out for multi-day adventures where outright speed isn't the goal, but the ability to keep chugging along in everything from loose sand to endless scree fields is.



Visit the high-res gallery for more images from this article.





104 Comments

  • + 189
 Once again Salsa is answering a question nobody is asking.
  • + 4
 hahaha
  • + 57
 Seems to be working out OK for them
  • + 4
 Unless your name is Al Swearengen, then this bike is for you.
  • + 35
 This Salsa just rolled over your opinion.
  • + 95
 "Once again Salsa is answering a question nobody (on PinkBike) is asking."

Fixed it for you.
  • + 6
 @UtahBrent: so true!
  • + 2
 @McNubbin: Swejjen! lol
  • + 8
 i have wanted a full sus 29x3.0 bike for 4 years now. when you are 6'2'' and 200lbs you dont want the same bike as the 150lb enduro bros
  • + 11
 You could say the same thing about Surly. What these two companies, and others as well, are doing is putting out bikes that are different.....and fun to ride. I see no problem with that.
  • + 5
 The only cool thing about salsa announcing a new product is waiting for what nonsense bycicle pubes will post on instagram about it.
  • + 1
 I have been riding my Salsa Beargrease year round with 29" x 3" in the summer for 2 years now. This bike is for me, and yes I'm 6' 200pounds. Can you buy that fork aftermarket? I'm surprised it fits Dirt Wizzards.
  • + 1
 @RoverDover: 6'4" and 235lbs, i have never wanted a 29+ full suspension bike. ever.
  • + 1
 They call it Deadwood because your dong is basically dead after taking big hits on 90mm of travel.
  • + 1
 @raditude: if your name is rad then ya it's not for you
  • + 59
 I was looking for a heavier slower less travel 29er...lolllllllllllllllllllllllll
  • + 17
 When 2+2=5 since Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia never Eurasia
  • + 1
 Its a training bike - build strength and stamina then change to your 73 deg XC hardtail at 23 lbs.
  • + 2
 @fercho25: What are you talking about? It's always been at war with Eurasia, never with Eastasia!
  • + 47
 When did lack of traction become a such a big problem for mountain bikers? ;-)
  • + 3
 It comes from the same people who think a fatbike is the only bike that can clean technical climbs
  • + 24
 @birdman2447: that is not why i own a fat bike at all. there is something about ripping around on a rigid steel fatbike that put a big old stupid smile on my face. they sound ridiculous, the rider looks kinda ridiculous, and at the end of the day this sport is ridiculous.
  • - 22
flag nozes (Feb 13, 2017 at 17:25) (Below Threshold)
 @adrennan: Sorry if your mountain biking is ridiculous. Mine sure ain't.
  • + 9
 When did lack of tradition become such a big problem for mountain bikes?
  • + 45
 Is bikepacking a forbidden word? Yeesh. Just say it already. This would be a sick bike to throw some bags on and head into the wilderness with.
  • + 5
 Hallelujah brother! Exactly!
  • + 6
 Do you mean "adventure riding"?
  • + 6
 Ugh...the only problem I have with plus bikes for bikepacking is....the tires themselves. I own a 650b+ bike and agree that it'd be awesome to tour on, but if you f*ck up a tire in the middle of nowhere, no shop is going to have a tire for you. Whereas if you wreck a 29er tire, just throw on any 700c tire that a shop has and keep going.
  • + 1
 @mnorris122: Yah it's too bad no shops carry 650b.
  • + 1
 Except that's exactly what Salsa wants you to think aside from the fact that there are plenty other bikes (lighter) that would be more capable.
  • + 6
 @scottzg: have fun putting a 2.3 onto a 45mm rim
  • + 0
 That's right! Most of riders don't have that spirit of bike-packing and get lost, but I'd love to get this bike to do exactly that.
  • + 1
 I've got a couple buddies that bike pack on the trek stash and love them!
  • + 22
 I didn't know you could get a 100 mm pike
  • + 5
 You can get different lengths on OEM forks.
  • + 9
 pike dj? 29er edition? for the more xc style dirt jumps.
  • + 16
 Riding the trek Stache 29+ I found 29+ to either have too low of pressures to roll quick enough or to high of pressure that it bounces around as if it has a bunch of undamped suspension. What the hell is the application for this wheel size? Buy a fatbike
  • + 2
 I demoed a stache. It was fun, but I wouldn't own one. The 90mm rear is actually perfect to negate the bounce that plus tires have.
  • + 0
 Probably very dependent on the tires. I hear the Surly Dirt Wizards are shit hot.
  • + 15
 So, the same front triangle is used for 27.5+ (Pony Rustler), 29" (Horsthief) and 29+ (Deadwood)? That is some effective use of a mold.
  • + 12
 Have ya'll ridden a 29x3 bike? They're a blast, and roll over stuff better than anything except maybe 27.5 x 4.5. Having ridden 29x3, 27.5x3, 26x4.8, 27.5 x 4.5 and probably some other combinations too I think 29x3 is a really nice compromise between an XC bike and a fat bike. The longer travel plus bikes like the Specialized 6Fattie make little sense because they have so much travel AND squishy tires. This Salsa is going in the right direction, more tire squish=less suspension squish. I bet this thing is a freaking monster truck in rock gardens and loose marbles.

Probably get around 28# with carbon post/bars and Bontrager Chupacabras tubeless on carbon wheels. I'd ride it.
  • + 10
 dont buy this for your girlfriend
  • + 6
 Sounds like a very fun and interesting bike. Must be running tubeless for below 20 lbs pressure. Seems the suspension is basically all in the tires. Love the burly short travel fork too.
  • + 8
 I'd love to have a go on one to see what it's like. Edit: Stokesville - great name for a mountain biking town!
  • + 2
 Ain't much of a town in Stokesville. There used to be a train that ran there from Richmond, but really the Lodge with the campground is the only thing there... other than an incredible amount of trails of course. You could ride for weeks from Stokesville, but need to go 30 minutes north or south to grab food after a day of riding.
  • + 9
 Intended use: mountain biking

Ya don't say
  • + 4
 Love it. Probably not the right bike for me, but there are some people out there for whom this is the absolute most perfect bike in existence. Kudos to Salsa for making something different, and interesting.

more options=more better
  • + 4
 I think it looks pretty sweet! And really very proportional looking. Think of how well this will fit a lot of very tall riders. Def not a bike for everybody, but absolutely a bike that will work extremely well for the ones that find themselves dealing with bikes that are always too small, and put in a lot of miles in terrain where + tires will shine.
  • + 4
 give the geo numbers for the XL, it won't fit very tall riders well at all
  • + 2
 @LuvAZ:
I agree they should def be making a XXL, especially in place of the size small for this kind of a bike. But the numbers and height recommendations on the L and XL don't look so bad for a bike of this nature, where the focus is going to be primarily on backcountry trail/XC and endurance type riding.
  • + 4
 I can finally talk about it!!! Can't wait to give this a rip! We have 29+ on one of our Farley EX's and damn is that thing fun!!
  • - 5
flag mudmandhbrazil (Feb 13, 2017 at 11:02) (Below Threshold)
 RIP
  • + 2
 Who exactly is the Deadwood SUS for? That's a good question.... And seem's like there wasn't an answer for it either, they really should have put a little more ravel into it, shame.
  • + 3
 I see the plus and fat bike as the self powered version of the Yamaha TW200. How many of those short fat motorbikes do you actually see on the streets these days?
  • + 2
 Actually a lot. Seems no one rode them enough to destroy them.
  • + 4
 Salsa, Please come out with a "Deadass" Spec "B" bike...
  • + 2
 I just woke up from a nightmare where the mountain bike industry was trying to convince us that expensive short travel bikes were fun... but its really happening!
  • + 15
 Go ride the latest Santa Cruz Tallboy and see if it's a nightmare. It's a 120/110 29er that is unbelievably poppy and playful...manuals for days and feels super agile/comfy in the air. I demoed one 3 months ago and am still buzzing from that ride. Don't get hung up on geo chart and travel numbers. The proof is in the ride. 29+ is pretty friggin fun too if you don't take yourself too seriously....
  • - 2
 @thebigschott: the Salsa has 90mm rear travel, a lot less than the Tallboy and even an XC bike.
  • + 4
 @parallaxid: So it's settled then. 110mm is the cutoff in travel. I was wondering why I had such a bad time on my friends 85mm travel Specialized P-Slope.
  • + 1
 It should have the shock mounted outside the front triangle (like an old genius) so you can fit a massive frame bagels in there!
  • + 0
 If the intended use of that bike is "mountain biking" means that cornering isn't part of mountain biking any more. I need to build new trails to stay trendy. My current trails are too twisty for mountain biking.
  • + 3
 Are you implying that plus bikes don't corner well, or just this particular bike?
  • + 8
 What makes a bike that can turn vs. a bike that cannot turn? Wheelbase? Chainstays? HTA? BB drop? Provide a more nuanced understanding of riding and maybe you'll be taken seriously.

Otherwise, I would offer the point that bikes with a long wheelbase are the cause of trail gentrification. Which 'logically' means that all you XL and XXL riders are the cause. I vote to impose rider height restrictions so I can keep corners on my trails. No one over 6' tall.

Quit complaining about what people choose to ride, the more riders the better. When did mountain biking became such an elitist enclave of trolls.
  • + 4
 @Nizhoni: Hey, WAIT, that would eliminate me at 6'2" though! I say me make the cutoff six two and a half. Smile Seriously, well put though. There's a lot that goes into how a bike "feels", and handles. And for anyone that hasn't ridden a well dialed plus bike, you're missing out. Once you figure out the PSI number that works for you, they corner like the tires are made of Velcro.
  • + 1
 @Nizhoni: Tyres that folds under preassure can't rail turns. Ask WC/EWS guys.
  • + 2
 And how many average riders are attaining those speeds? Very damn few I'd bet. As I stated, you have to take the time to figure out the PSI that works for you, and your riding style. They're much more sensitive to air pressure adjustment, 1/2lb can be a big change. Are they the perfect bike everywhere? Nope, but no bike is, and they're a lot of fun as an addition to the stable.
  • + 2
 @rcksurfer: What hpiguy stated. Individuals who are looking for plus size tires are not 'railing' turns. They are casual cyclists or individuals looking for fun or a tire directly suited to their riding conditions. Which may include riding more primitive trails.

The WC/EWS courses are more blown out than anything I ever ride. So maybe 'railing' turns is the culprit of your trail gentrification, not riding plus sized tires.
  • + 3
 @Nizhoni: Actually, my Stache rails turns just fine.. Albeit at my average guy speeds. I think that's the big difference is the speed at which pros are folding the tire over. Also, tire / rim choice plays a huge part as well. Some tires have a much stiffer sidewall, and running really wide rims and low pressure does give a vague feeling and can let the carcass flex more which would equate to the rolling over feeling.I too cannot stand the feeling of the tire rolling over. But, with some time spent finding the right PSI, you can a setup that gives the best of both worlds; the compliance and traction of 29+, and the handling of a regular tire. The only downfall is they weight just a bit more than the burly tires on my regular 29er.
  • + 1
 @hpiguy: Apologies. When I see rcksurfer say railing at EWS/WC I assume pro speeds, berms, step downs, etc. Which having owned an original Krampus 29+ for 2 years I would agree those are areas a plus tire could struggle. I eventually sold mine and went back to a regular 29er due to a few reasons. Early plus tires had thin sidewalls, I cut mine numerous times. I also couldn't get over the tire roll feeling in high speed compression. However I believe some of this is rectified with narrower rims, something in the 35-40mm range instead of 52mm, and the thicker tires, such as GRID from Specialized and EXO from Maxxis.
  • - 1
 @Nizhoni: Obviously, when I talk about plus bikes I talk about ride plus bikes on my local terrain and rided by me. Maybe on straigh, wide and rocky terrain can be good, but not in my trails (narrow and twisted). and not for my style. Hard to see the point of plus bikes to me. That was my opinion. Now that is a fact: the guys that ride bikes properly (pro riders) don't ride plus bikes.
  • + 3
 @rcksurfer: So professional racers are the only people who ride bikes properly? You sound fun at parties.
  • + 1
 Ya you're way too rad for this thing
  • + 3
 Any place called Stokesville has got to be a great riding destination.
  • + 2
 I live there. It's real badass
  • + 1
 I've got some buddies who just started riding 29+ Stache's and they've been PRing their times on the enduro bikes they used to ride. This looks sick!
  • + 2
 Got my wife a Stache 9.6 for christmas and she loves it way better than her old Santa Cruz FS. Only bad part is it's not my size :-(
  • + 7
 That's surprising. I have a Stache and don't PR anything on it. Uphill it's pretty quick, but it's a heavy bike with a lot of rotational mass, downhill, lol... It rips and I love the bike, but my Bronson is way faster downhill.
  • + 2
 Might need an electric assist for hills? Retrofit?
  • + 1
 GWNF is a pretty awesome place to ride!
salsacycles.com/culture/introducing_deadwood_sus
  • + 1
 If this bike doesn't make sense to you, you're clearly not the target audience. Different strokes for different folks, yo.
  • + 0
 This thing is sick...and stop blaming manual imputance on long chainstays. Spend enough time on any bike and you'll be able to get it up.
  • + 5
 I didn't say it was impossible, just not that easy. The weight of the front wheel probably doesn't help either.
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: You run the 60tpi or 120tpi dirt wizards? 1300g for the latter is pretty heavy. Most of the 29+ guys I know down here are happy with the Chupacabras, plenty of traction and durability in a lighter package.

i35's are kind of a weird spec for this. I'd have gone with 40-50mm inner width rims for 3.0's. Probably allow lower pressures and give you a little more support from rolling over.
  • + 2
 @mikekazimer: That was not a direct criticism Mike. It was more in a broader sense and a means to get punny. Point is our frame of reference is most likely that of bikes with the current trend of 17"ish chainstays. I bet the more you rode this thing the easier it would be to find that sweet spot. Sorry if you felt slighted. That was certainly not my intention. Btw, nice write up.
  • + 1
 Wait to you see 29ers down hill bikes you guys are going to flip.
  • + 2
 I'd ride one DH 29r
  • + 1
 love the "Intended Use"...
  • + 2
 "Virgina"?
  • + 2
 Looks like it was fixed. You can send the check for my editing services to pinhead907@yourmom.com
  • + 2
 *bag... (full of bagels)
  • + 1
 Just another bike for the history pile....
  • + 1
 "Human-powered ATV" - as no bike as ever been described before.
  • + 0
 If you cant manual a modern MTB bike , its because you lack the testicular fortitude to make the bike do it.
  • + 0
 29+ is still a thing? wonder if trek paid them to make this bike.
  • - 1
 All joking aside i like the color and head badge, other than that not so much. For Suck Fake just make a 30"er already!
  • + 7
 "DEADWOOD" is the last thing I want between my legs, Really!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 0
 wish they'd review the woodsmoke, it looks sweet
  • + 0
 This is just a silly idea.
  • + 0
 Perhaps
  • - 3
 2006 want's their bike back.
  • - 1
 27.5 -2.35
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