At first glance the Salsa Warbird 3 looks like a cyclocross bike, but take a closer look and you’ll see its longer reach, shorter wheelbase and a head angle that’s a touch slacker than a ’cross machine’s.
- BUY IF… Your commute covers varied terrain and you want a tough bike to handle it all
The result is a gravel-riding bike with comfort and versatility – rather than performance – as its watchwords. It has stable, familiar handling with comfortable contact points. The saddle is padded to perfection, the 35mm tyres are accomplished on the road, and the swept-out drops are a place where you’ll want to spend as much time as possible.
On the road, we’ve found the Warbird especially adept at dealing with the sort of dire conditions typical of British back lanes, which it smooths like nothing else. On unpaved roads, the Salsa is faster than a ’cross bike and as stable as a 29er mountain bike, but quicker – allowing you to hit reckless speeds on pockmarked byways that you’d usually be carefully picking your way across.
But the downside of all this plushness is a significant weight penalty. And even with a 36/46 compact chainset and 11-30 cassette, the Warbird always feels sluggish on prolonged climbs.
On descents, Clement’s big ‘adventure’ tyres hold their line very well and offer plenty of good all-weather grip. They may weigh around 375g each, but they do cope with most surfaces and add to the Warbird’s all-round credentials.
The Avid mechanical disc brakes are superb: noise- and vibration-free, with a fantastic feel. There’s so much modulationat the lever you’ll never over-brake, lock up a wheel or scrub off too much speed. The drivetrain is mainly Shimano Sora with a CX50 chainset. It worked well in all but the most grimy conditions, where it was occasionally prone to dropping a cog under load.
We haven’t yet found a route that we wouldn’t be confident of taking the Warbird on. Its ride position is similar to a road bike’s, and with lighter tyres, it would make a decent sportive machine.
Its toughness makes it suitable for commuting too, especially if your commute takes in mixed surfaces, but we would like to see a drivetrain upgrade or a price drop to fully justify its price.