Bike maker Salsa has unveiled two 2009 bikes this week, the El Kaboing 26-inch-wheel suspension bike and the Big Mama, a 29er suspension rig for those folks for whom 26-inch wheels just aren’t big enough.
Both bikes fall into the ‘trail bike’ category, with five inches of travel for the El Kaboing and four for the Big Mama. Both also use custom-drawn aluminium-scandium alloy tubing (usually just referred to as ‘Scandium’ even though scandium is actually just one of the alloying elements) to increase fatigue life and allow the shaving of some weight.
At a claimed 6.6lb (16in) for the El Kaboing and 7lb (18in) for the Big Mama they’re right in the trail bike ballpark. Salsa’s clearly not going for the superlight market here but is aiming these bikes at riders who want rugged, dependable, ride-all-day machines.
The suspension looks like a swingarm-and-link ‘faux’ bar, but when you look close you realise that there’s a pivot missing. The rear subframe is one piece between main pivot and the top of the shock linkage. To keep everything moving, Salsa has designed ‘tuned’ aluminium-scandium seatstays that are slightly flattened and flex gently as the rear suspension moves.
Salsa says the advantage of this is that removing a pivot from the back end "eliminates a high-stress fastening point from the frame and increases rear triangle stiffness."
The frames bristle with custom parts, including forged aluminium-scandium drop-outs with brake post mounts, forged bottom bracket shell/swingarm pivot mount and a forged swingarm yoke that provides mud room to spare around a 2.5in tyre. All the bearings are Enduro sealed cartridges.
There's a fanatical level of attention to detail going on here, which reminds us, old farts that some of us are, of Salsa under its founder Ross Schafer. Good to see that spirit return under Salsa honch Jason Boucher.
Writing on his blog, Boucher homes in on one area of the bike that perhaps best displays this attention to detail.
"The post mount disc brake mount is quite possibly the most innovative part of this bike," he writes. "Do you think there is a reason why all the fork manufacturers are switching to post mounts? Post mounts are stronger. They are simple. They remove the sheer forces on the bolts."
So why aren't they common on the rear too? "It's hard. It's costly. They have to be forged. It requires all new tooling and quality control. We did it anyway."
Pricing is yet to be decided. Frames will be available in September and complete bikes in January 2009.