Salsa Pistola - First Ride £999

Steel sportive ride

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

A modern sportive bike made from steel emerges, but can this classic material mix it with the carbon and titanium-dominated long-distance class? Granted, at £999.99 for the frame and Alpha Q CS10 carbon fork, the Salsa Pistola is fairly pricey, but for that you’re getting a truly great looking bike that’s wonderfully made and finished, and has the kind of qualities that usually only come from boutique steel manufacturers.

Ride & handling: Light, springy bike which revels in long days in the saddle

Distance bikes, such as Specialized’s market-leading Roubaix or Cannondale’s Synapse, cleverly utilise carbon to introduce a bit of comfort. The Pistola has the spring of steel to provide all this, and in fact it’s one of those bikes that can cope with all types of riding. 

It’s light and swift enough for fast club runs with your mates, tough enough for light touring, and perfectly equipped and designed for long rides. It revels in long days in the saddle and would be ideal for any of Britain’s challenging sportives, even through to the rigours of a Gran Fondo, Marmotte or Etape.

There’s very little in the way of flex through hard pedalling or out of the saddle sprints. Riding seated feels fantastically cushioned and this, while partly due to the long expansion of seatpost showing, is also down to the cleverly shaped seatstays.

Chassis: Light and lively steel frame paired with buzz-reducing carbon fork

Salsa built its reputation with superb handcrafted steel road and mountain bikes, with its ‘A la Carte’ from the early 90s now a certified classic. Since those early days the company has continued its love affair with all things steel. 

This all-new sportive bike is built using True Temper’s OX Platinum steel. This is one of the newer steels and boasts good corrosion resistance, is relatively lightweight and has that lively spring associated with quality steel frames.

The frame has quite a radically sloping compact top tube with a 7cm drop from head tube to seat tube. This means the popular – and sensible – more upright position of sportive bikes can be achieved without the need for masses of headset spacers. 

The rear triangle features beautifully tapered seatstays, thinning out to just 11mm at the sculpted rear dropouts, while the chainstays beef up towards the bottom bracket. 

Up front, the matching Alpha Q CS10 carbon fork (also by True Temper), with an OX Platinum steerer tube, has sharply tapered legs, which also do an excellent job of reducing the buzz of coarse road surfaces.

Equipment: Full SRAM Rival, Ksyrium Elite wheels and classic Salsa finishing kit

UK distributors Ison are offering the Pistola as a frame and fork only, but the complete bike option from Salsa comes with a full Shimano Ultegra-matching SRAM Rival groupset. 

The Double Tap shifting is no longer the novelty it was and has proven success in the pro ranks (SRAM’s top groupset Red was ridden to victory in 2008’s Vuelta and Giro). It’s paired with a 50/34 compact chainset – perfect for that big climbing day out. 

All of the finishing kit is also by Salsa, the highlight of which is the superb CroMoto steel stem. In a world obsessed with oversized bar/stem combos, this classic slim design matches the frame’s lines perfectly. 

Salsa also specs Ksyrium Elite wheels, the standard by which all £400 hoops are judged, and they remained true and smooth throughout the test.

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