Salsa’s El Mariachi 29er has been produced in various limited interest guises, but this new Kung Fu steel offering is probably the one that’ll sell in the greatest numbers. It’s reasonably priced, is a subtle and classy looker, is tough without being hefty, offers a stable, comfy and conﬁdent ride and has a unique rear wheel dropout conﬁguration that allows you to adjust chain tension to accommodate a single sprocket or hub gears.
Ride & handling: Competent and comfortable 29er that'll get the job done
Like most conservatively conﬁgured 29ers the El Mariachi trundles along happily enough, without feeling especially sprightly, and feels comfy almost to the point of dull on rough terrain. It doesn’t produce any characterful handling traits, even on technically demanding terrain. It’s a workmanlike multitool of a bike, and as such it simply does the job. Of course that’s why it’ll sell well and be cherished by so many riders.
If you want your El Mariachi to have zing consider the more costly (frame £1,700) titanium version. If you think that sounds a bit boring, consider this: after a month of testing in everything Mother Nature could chuck at us, we couldn’t ﬁnd a single thing to moan about. This is a bike that simply makes riding seem easier. Big-wheelers tend to do that, but the neutral handling of the El Mariachi emphasizes it.
It’s not lightweight – at over 27lb it reminds you of ﬁtness issues when you run out of gears on climbs – but it’s not meant to be a race machine. It’s a reliable all-day trail tamer that lets you get on with the job of riding whatever the terrain.
Frame: Premium quality chassis with superb attention to detail
The El Mariachi will appeal to those who like the skinny steel tubes and neat TIG-welded quality construction that has distinguished so many Salsa frames over the years. The Japanese-made Sanko tubes are seamless, triple-butted in the mainframe, gusset reinforced behind the head tube and ring reinforced at the base of the head tube. There’s enough clearance for 2.4in tyres and we like the galvanised-bolt-ﬁxed design of the Alternator drop-outs.
Our test bike came in the Charcoal Briquette colour scheme but you could opt for a frame on its own in Bomb Pop Blue. The geometry is designed to take an 80- or 100mm-travel suspension fork but Salsa also have a rigid fork choice, for £80, if you go for the frame-only option. Finishing detail is superb, with post disc brake mounts, two sets of water bottle bosses and a forward facing seatpost clamp; Salsa’s own Lip-Lock collar is included.
Despite the good deal price for the complete bike, we suspect a lot of riders will opt for the frame alone. We’d probably go for a frame and rigid fork package because it would create a more characterful/quirky bike, something that seems to suit the Salsa heritage. As it is, the complete bike is simply a great tool for the job, and those adjustable dropouts make it ready, willing and able to become something completely different.