Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 first ride review

Huge tires in a surprisingly playful package

Options are a good thing, right? Salsa's Woodsmoke comes in 29+, 29er and 27.5+ wheel sizes. Which one is best? Well that depends on what you want out of your bike. I took the massive 29+ version on some gravity runs to find out how the biggest brother gets along.

Huge berms and plenty of tabletops, this Woodsmoke 29+ saw a couple of laps of lift-served gravity runs
Huge berms and plenty of tabletops, this Woodsmoke 29+ saw a couple of laps of lift-served gravity runs

Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 spec overview

  • Carbon frame
  • RockShox Yari RC Solo Air, 120mm
  • SRAM GX1 drivetrain
  • SRAM Level discs
  • Boost front and rear axles
  • WTB Ranger 29x3.0 tires

Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 frame

The Woodsmoke is full carbon with internally routed cables and a Boost 148 rear end. The reach is long and pairs well with the 50mm stem, and the head angle is a sporty 67.8 degrees. All pretty current stuff for a modern hardtail bike, where it gets interesting is in the rear stays and dropouts.

The elevated driveside chainstay keeps the rear end super short (409-417mm in 29+ mode), which gives the bike its mind-bending riding characteristics. It also allows a two-ring crankset for mega-gear range and should work with a belt drive because, well, the stay doesn't intersect the chain. Salsa's Alternator 2 dropouts allow for all the wheel size variations and make singlespeeding a reality. 

The elevated chainstay keeps the rear end short and allows for a front derailleur
The elevated chainstay keeps the rear end short and allows for a front derailleur

Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 ride impression

Plus size tires are a little smaller than full-on fat bike tires, yet much, much wider and bulbous than a standard tire. On appearances alone, the Woodsmoke 29+ looks like it's going to be a handful to move around, to corner, to jump, basically to ride aggressively. The humongous rims and tires, paired with a 120mm fork, make the front end tall, like seriously up there. What's that saying about books and covers?

Right out off the bat (actually 10 feet away from Salsa's tent), I gave a little tug on the bars to wheelie and nearly looped it out. Looks can definitely be deceiving. Once I began riding, it was pretty clear that the Woodsmoke wanted to get zesty. Within the first two turns and tabletops I could tell I was wrong and this thing was rad.

The front end was really light and the whole bike is actually flickable, despite what the massive wheels and tires had me thinking. Sending it off jumps was rewarded with ultra stable in-air manners. Those large hoops created a gyro effect that kept me sailing straight. 

The big kink in the down tube will likely catch some rock hits
The big kink in the down tube will likely catch some rock hits

Even without take offs, the Woodsmoke was still more than willing to jump. The short chainstays give the bike a super playful demeanour, letting me manual over trail debris, snap the rear wheel around, and as previously mentioned, get the wheels off the ground. 

Even though the front end is tall, it pops right up and just as importantly responds well to being weighted through the thankfully stubby 50mm stem. The big WTB tires also help with front-end bite. There's a good amount of carbon at the head tube junction as well, which surely keeps things stiff. 

Back to the tires, they're super grippy, huge WTB 29x3.0 Rangers. It was nice to see a plus tire with some actual knobs instead of just row after row of tiny nubs that skim the surface and have minimal traction.

Underneath all the dust notice that Whisky Parts Co. supply the massive plus-size rims
Underneath all the dust notice that Whisky Parts Co. supply the massive plus-size rims

I did notice some things that had me scratching my head, though. First off, there's no padding or bash guard under the seriously bent down tube. There are bottle mounts, but realistically this is going to see rock strikes, and it's not going to be pretty. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the elevated chainstays on the driveside. I acknowledge it's a practical design to allow a front derailleur and keep the back end tight, but it just makes the bike look like it's reeling from a bad joke in my opinion.

I also noticed a bit of heel rub, especially with my size 45s. Upon closer inspection of the demo bike it looked like I wasn't the only one. There was some cable rattle in the internally routed frame, although this might be remedied with shortened cables as this was a demo bike and the cables were plenty long. And lastly, with a bike this fun, it's just begging for a dropper post. Of course it's a cost-saving measure and allows the shop to upgrade the consumer to the best post for their riding style, and the frame does have a hole for an internally routed post. 

Internal cable routing is nice, but cable rattle could be heard in the frame
Internal cable routing is nice, but cable rattle could be heard in the frame

Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 price and availability

$2,999 available December 2016, UK and Australia pricing unavailable

Salsa Woodsmoke 29+ GX1 vs the competition

The 29+ platform is still very new, with Trek being the only big brand getting on board with their impressive Stache line. Other than that, the mega wheel size is still the domain of custom frame builders and small companies.

The Woodsmoke chassis is unique in its multi wheel size capability and its seriously short rear end. It's super fun and surprised me with its irrepressible attitude.
Russell Eich

Tech Writer
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 38
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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