Salsa was one of the first companies to break the mold on full-suspension fat bikes with its Bucksaw. Featuring 100mm of rear travel and a 100mm fork, the Bucksaw opened a whole new era of fat bike riding for a lot of riders. While the tires suggest riding in snow, I found it to really come into its own on dirt trails.
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Salsa Bucksaw Carbon GX1 highlights
Salsa Bucksaw Carbon GX1 build
The $4,499 GX1 is the middle offering with a carbon X01 slotting in above at $5,999 and an aluminum framed Bucksaw GX1 retailing at $3,499. (£2,500 for the frameset in the UK.)
The components performed well throughout my testing. SRAM's GX 11-speed drivetrain bits grabbed gears even when caked with snow and the Guide R disc brakes were solid. The Surly Marge Lite rims remained dent-free despite some less-than-graceful landings.
Up front, the Bluto RL Solo Air fork did its job but its skinny 32mm stanchions were overwhelmed by the weight of the front wheel and the tire's huge footprint twisting it out of shape. I'm still surprised no other major fork brand has yet to make a contender to the Bluto.
The only minor issue with the parts was the Reverb dropper post. I bled the post's hydraulic remote in my unheated garage but that proved to be too warm a setting. The Reverb is a closed system so bleeding it in the same temperatures as it will be ridden is key.
I experienced a very slow return and then complete failure after riding in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) conditions. Another bleed, this time outside in very cold temps, seems to have cured any ills.
Salsa Bucksaw Carbon GX1 on the snow
Having 4in tires front and rear qualifies the Bucksaw as a snow bike, right? Yes and no.
First the yes part. There's no mistaking the giant tires and the way they felt compared to a regular mountain bike. On packed snow, rolling 5psi or less, the Vanhelga tires bounced and bit into the snow, leveled pock-marked trails and slid through the corners.
Now the no part. While the tires were willing to play the part, the frame, fork and dropper post had more fun things in mind. Sure, of course I could have just plodded along and ridden slowly, but any bike is capable of that. The thing was, the Bucksaw was capable of so much more.
The Bucksaw actually rode like a normal mountain bike. The carbon frame was so good, it truly made me want to get rowdy on it. The stiffness, the predictability of the Split Pivot rear end, the slightly slack geometry — it all combined to create a playful, super-fun ride eager to be thrown about and hustled into crazy situations.
Salsa's marketing man Mike Riemer explained that "most of the time we don’t promote the Bucksaw as a winter bike. We consider it a full-suspension trail bike that was fully designed around fat bike tires."
Salsa Bucksaw Carbon GX1 on the dirt
So Salsa bills the Bucksaw not as a snow bike per se, but rather as a trail bike that can be ridden anywhere. Even Salsa's Bucksaw web page shows the bike in the rocky desert, not a frozen snow field.
Pumping the tires up to a crazy (for a fat bike) 12 psi, I took the Bucksaw on some dirt singletrack. It was pretty astounding how the 4in tires, full suspension and carbon annihilate all the buzz. It was an incredibly smooth ride; the biggest distraction was the hum of the large tire patch on the dirt.
Having the immense 4in Vanhelga tires on the dirt made line choices somewhat of an afterthought. Sections where I'd normally slice and dice my way through were barely on my radar since I could just smash right over them.
The steering took more concentration at first, but within a lap or so, the extra effort to lean the big meats became normalized. Whipping the bike around and snapping through familiar sections took a lot more effort though, there's no getting around the massive tires and associated weight. Instead of being able to pick the bike up and throw it around here and there, doing so on the Bucksaw took bigger efforts and a lot more determination.
The same could be said for sprinting out of corners. The hefty rotating weight of the tires and wheels was noticeable and zapped my legs pretty quickly, but on the flip side, once up to speed, pumping backsides and staying clear of the brakes let me slingshot my momentum up some tricky sections.
Those massive tires also let me scale some nasty climbs. The traction is insane, my legs were the only thing holding the Bucksaw back from ascending fall lines.
Salsa Bucksaw Carbon GX1 vs. the competition
The Bucksaw is a niche within a niche within a niche — a full-suspension, carbon fat bike that's billed as more of an all-around mountain bike. As such, there's not a ton of apples-to-apples competition, but luckily I have the two closest rivals on hand, Trek's Farley EX 9.8 and Lamere's Dopamine. Reviews of each are coming after I ride them more.
Bottom line: more of an all-conditions monster than a fat bike
The Bucksaw is enhanced and limited by its 4in fat bike tires. The Bucksaw is a very nice mountain bike. It's carbon, has a dialed geometry, and employs a quality rear suspension design.
It's fun to ride, likes to go fast and encourages riding aggressively. The bulbous tires nullify trail chatter and deliver loads of grip and stability. The Bucksaw would destroy high-speed, super-chunky terrain.
But riding on snow requires ridiculously low tire pressures and when I rode the Bucksaw as it egged me to do, the tires and lack of sidewall support punished me.
Putting energy through the bike, such as jumping, landing, or squaring off turns was met with squirming and folding tire sidewalls, and crashing. And I mean full-on ragdoll, yard-sale crashes.
Salsa agrees. That's why they bill the Bucksaw as a trail bike. However that may be slightly wrong as well, since it's more of an all-conditions mountain bike monster that can decimate practically everything in its path, up or down the trail.