If there’s one bike that’s appropriately named for a comically cowboy and western sounding place like Bootleg Canyon, it’s the new Salsa Horsethief. First impressions are that it’s also an equally appropriate bike in terms of ride for the often treacherous trails found here.
Following the same template established by the Spearfish 29er Salsa debuted at Interbike last year, it features a swing link design that uses flex in the rear seat stays rather than a rear pivot. By missing out two pivots it immediately reduces weight, cost and complexity compared to a double linkage or four bar bike. Frames should be around £1,200 with a Fox Kashima RP23 shock when they land in the UK. Complete bikes like the one we rode will be along later, but expect similarly solid value.
Solid also describes the Horsethief character. At 6.7lbs for the frame and fixtures it’s definitely more of a Clydesdale than the Foal-like 5.5lb Spearfish. 120mm of travel at the rear are matched with a 120mm version of Fox’s new 34 fork at the front too, tapered at the top for a reassuringly firm grip on the trail. While it takes some getting used to at first, the steep (nominally 73.5 degree, but changes according to seat height due to the backward slant) seat angle keeps the front end securely pegged - ideal for the skittery kitty litter corners of Bootleg. A long back end means big high speed sweeper stability. Looking back at the photos we took, the lean angles are far more aggressive than we sensed when riding and it flatters the grip levels of the Schwalbe tyres in turns or up climbs.
Climbs do show up a dramatic amount of bob from the steeply angled rear linkage though, so Pro Pedal is essential for stable upwards progress. The ease with which it eats through the mid stroke also made Pro Pedal our default choice for cornering too, otherwise there was a real ‘3D’ twist feel as the shock bobbled and the back end twisted noticeably under pressure.
Jumping between the Horsethief and other 29ers during the day, its surefooted security was always a highlight. Add high traction levels and smooth bump absorption, and this is a steady feeling, but deceptively quick and capable bike at a very affordable price.