Salsa Cycles was one of the first companies to embrace North America’s burgeoning gravel race scene when it introduced the Warbird in 2012. As the popularity of riding back roads has grown, so too have the number of companies offering purpose-built gravel or 'all-road' models. For 2015, Salsa has updated the Warbird with a number of features intended to give the bike, and more importantly, the rider, a competitive edge.
“Salsa owns gravel!” exclaimed Salsa’s marketing manager, Mike Riemer, at the unveiling of the redesigned Warbird. Salsa chose Frostbike, the annual dealer expo of its parent company, Quality Bicycle Products, to release its latest creation.
So what does it take to “own gravel?”
According to Salsa, it takes employees that are intimately familiar with grassroots gravel racing. “We were riding events like the Almanzo, Ragnarök, and Dirty Kanza and we realized that the bikes that we were riding – cyclocross bikes – weren’t really suiting our needs,” said Salsa product manager Joe Meiser.
Related reading:Defining the gravel race bike
This second iteration of the Warbird doesn’t stray dramatically from the original in terms of geometry, though it appears the company listened to the needs to racers to refine the platform.
The Warbird has a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket than most cyclocross bikes and makes stability for endurance racing a priority
The most significant change is the incorporation of carbon into the line. Thankfully for budget-minded riders, many of the technologies developed for the composite bike trickle down into the alloy version as well.
Comfort for the long haul
The Warbird is designed to keep racers as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. To that end, Salsa developed what it calls 'Class 5 VRS'. Class 5 refers to a specific type of gravel aggregate commonly used to construct gravel roads, while VRS stands for Vibration Reduction System.
The Warbird's seat- and chainstays work together to increase comfort
The alloy and carbon Warbirds have long, thin, outwardly bowed seatstays that function much like leaf springs. The chainstays are wide and flattened to work in concert with the chainstays to absorb vibration. The lack of seat- and chainstay bridges increase the amount of vertically-tuned flex. The absence of these of bridges necessitated the use of a 142x12mm thru-axle in order to tie the rear end together.
Salsa claims the Warbird Carbon transmits nine percent less vibration to the rider than the titanium version of the previous Warbird, which is conspicuously absent from the redesign. Similarly, the new alloy Warbird is said to transmit six percent less vibration to the rider than the Ti Warbird Salsa used as its benchmark for comfort.
Upfront, Salsa reduced the frame’s stack height, and replaced the 1.125 to 1.5in tapered carbon fork used on the original Warbird with a 1.125 to 1.25in tapered carbon model to improve comfort. The new carbon fork uses a 15x100mm thru-axle.
Other updates include the use of internal cable routing for the front and rear derailleurs through ports on the sides of the down tube. The rear brake line is routed externally along the down tube. According to Salsa, the Warbird Carbon will be Di2 compatible.
One frequent criticism of the previous design was that it lacked sufficient mud clearance for popular gravel tyres such as the 40mm-wide Clement X'Plor MSO and the Surly Knard. It appears Salsa was mindful of this, as the new Warbird Carbon can clear 44mm-wide tyres, while the alloy version can accommodate 42mm treads.
Salsa product designer Sean Mailen’s personal Warbird is outfitted with 700x41mm Surly Knards tyres with plenty of room to spare
Specs, pricing, weights and availability
For 2015, Salsa will offer the Warbird in one carbon and two alloy versions.
The Warbird Carbon
The Warbird Carbon will come with a hydraulic SRAM Rival 22 group and a tubeless-compatible DT Swiss R24 wheelset. Pricing is set at US$3,499 for the complete bike. The frame with matching carbon fork will retail for US$1,999.
The claimed weight for the Warbird Carbon frame is 1,210g (size 56cm). The matching full carbon fork has a claimed weight of 410g (uncut).
The Warbird Carbon will be available this summer.
The Warbird 105
The aluminium Warbird comes in versions with an 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain with as well as an entry-level 10-speed Tiagra version. Both aluminium bikes use Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes and come with tubeless-compatible wheelsets.
The Warbird 105 retails for US$2,499, while the entry-level Warbird Tiagra comes in at $1,999. Salsa will also offer the alloy Warbird as frameset for US$999.
The Warbird Tiagra
The claimed weight for the alloy Warbird frame is 1,600g (size 56cm). Both aluminium Warbirds use the same 410g full carbon fork as the Warbird Carbon.
The Warbird 105 and Warbird Tiagra are available now.
UK and Australian pricing and availability TBC – for more information go to salsacycles.com.