Salsa El Mariachi 29er – First ride review

Premium quality steel big-wheeler

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,900.00 RRP | USD $1,750.00

Our review

Pleasing multitool bike. Not especially exciting but sensible in design and a practical and comfy ride
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Salsa’s El Mariachi 29er has been produced in various limited interest guises, but this new Kung Fu steel offering is probably the one that’ll sell in the greatest numbers. It’s reasonably priced, is a subtle and classy looker, is tough without being hefty, offers a stable, comfy and confident ride and has a unique rear wheel dropout configuration that allows you to adjust chain tension to accommodate a single sprocket or hub gears.


Ride & handling: Competent and comfortable 29er that’ll get the job done

Like most conservatively configured 29ers the El Mariachi trundles along happily enough, without feeling especially sprightly, and feels comfy almost to the point of dull on rough terrain. It doesn’t produce any characterful handling traits, even on technically demanding terrain. It’s a workmanlike multitool of a bike, and as such it simply does the job. Of course that’s why it’ll sell well and be cherished by so many riders.

If you want your El Mariachi to have zing consider the more costly (frame £1,700) titanium version. If you think that sounds a bit boring, consider this: after a month of testing in everything Mother Nature could chuck at us, we couldn’t find a single thing to moan about. This is a bike that simply makes riding seem easier. Big-wheelers tend to do that, but the neutral handling of the El Mariachi emphasizes it.

It’s not lightweight – at over 27lb it reminds you of fitness issues when you run out of gears on climbs – but it’s not meant to be a race machine. It’s a reliable all-day trail tamer that lets you get on with the job of riding whatever the terrain.

Frame: Premium quality chassis with superb attention to detail

The El Mariachi will appeal to those who like the skinny steel tubes and neat TIG-welded quality construction that has distinguished so many Salsa frames over the years. The Japanese-made Sanko tubes are seamless, triple-butted in the mainframe, gusset reinforced behind the head tube and ring reinforced at the base of the head tube. There’s enough clearance for 2.4in tyres and we like the galvanised-bolt-fixed design of the Alternator drop-outs.

Our test bike came in the Charcoal Briquette colour scheme but you could opt for a frame on its own in Bomb Pop Blue. The geometry is designed to take an 80- or 100mm-travel suspension fork but Salsa also have a rigid fork choice, for £80, if you go for the frame-only option. Finishing detail is superb, with post disc brake mounts, two sets of water bottle bosses and a forward facing seatpost clamp; Salsa’s own Lip-Lock collar is included.


Despite the good deal price for the complete bike, we suspect a lot of riders will opt for the frame alone. We’d probably go for a frame and rigid fork package because it would create a more characterful/quirky bike, something that seems to suit the Salsa heritage. As it is, the complete bike is simply a great tool for the job, and those adjustable dropouts make it ready, willing and able to become something completely different.

Product Specifications


Name El Mariachi (11)
Brand Salsa Bikes

Available Colours Black
Rims Arch 29er
Top Tube (in) 23.5
Seat Tube (in) 18
Chainstays (in) 17.5
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 12.5
Spoke Type DT Swiss Competition
Brake Levers Elixir 5
Weight (lb) 27.5
Weight (kg) 12.4
Stem Promoto
Shifters X7
Seatpost tbc
Seat Angle 70.5
Saddle TBC
Rear Tyre WTB Bronson 29x2.3
Available Sizes 16 18 20 22
Rear Hub sealed bearing
Rear Derailleur X9 10 Speed
Headset Type S-3
Head Angle 69.5
Handlebar Promoto 11degree
Front Tyre WTB Bronson 29x2.3
Front Hub sealed bearing
Front Derailleur X7
Frame Material Cro-mo
Fork Reba RL Maxle 100mm
Cranks Comet 27/40
Cassette Sram PG-1030
Brakes Elixir 5
Wheelbase (in) 44