Salsa Vaya £1349

Do-it-all touring machine

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Salsa’s Vaya is designed as a cyclocross/commuter/touring hybrid. Like its big brother the Fargo, a heavyweight expedition bike, it has provision for large-volume tyres, three bottle mounts, mudguards, racks and disc brakes, but in a lighter package with a specially designed steel tubeset.

With a sloping, mountain bike style top tube, the Vaya’s geometry gives an upright riding position. It feels both nimble and stable – riding qualities that are enhanced by the super-wide Salsa Moto Ace Bell Lap handlebar.

Its flared, shallow drop shape provides the perfect balance between hardtail mountain bike and commanding, look-around-you, comfortable sportive cockpit. The bar also provides plenty of different hand holds.

Big-volume 38mm Continental Tour Ride tyres give huge amounts of cushioning, as does the well shaped and padded Salsa Pepper Globe saddle. The Vaya is as at home being trundled on back roads and towpaths at a sedate pace as it is being thrown through singletrack and down fire roads.

The sheer enjoyment of its beautifully balanced handling makes every ride an event. We found ourselves always looking for the path least travelled. Why go down that back road when there’s a bridleway we could be following? A road descent on the edge of a wood? Nah, let’s just go through the trees.

Clever Fargo-style rear dropouts make fitting a rack easy, even with a disc brake, and we loaded up the Vaya with a set of rear panniers to see how it affected the ride. The big tyres do take some effort to wind up to speed – they do even without the bike being loaded – but once you’ve got going the Vaya’s frame remains stable and smooth.

The combination of a compact 34/50T Shimano Tiagra chainset and 11-32T LX mountain bike rear cassette means flat-out speed isn’t overly compromised and the Vaya has the climbing ability of a mountain goat.

Its cable disc brakes don’t have the all-out stopping power of hydraulic mountain bike units, but for a bike that you might take touring they make perfect sense: the pads last longer and if you buckle your wheel miles from anywhere it won’t affect your braking and you can still ride on to find help with a wobbly hoop.

Aimed at tourists and commuters who take the back roads rather than the A roads, the Vaya is a supremely adept machine that’s at the very top of this particular tree. If a law were to come in that said we could only have one bike, we’d be tempted to dispose of all our other bikes and just have one of these. It’s rare for a bike to have the ability to make you smile every time you swing a leg over it, but the Vaya does just that.

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