The Salsa Bucksaw may not be the first full-suspension fat bike, but it appears to be the most refined execution of the concept to date. The combination of 3.8in tires and 100mm of front and rear suspension yield a machine capable of going where no fat bike has gone before.
Salsa gave BikeRadar the opportunity to take the Bucksaw for a spin at this year’s Sea Otter Classic so we could bring you an exclusive first ride review.
The Bucksaw started as a test mule constructed around a first generation, pre-Split Pivot, Salsa Horsethief. It garnered a great deal of attention on Salsa’s blog, but appeared to be a pipedream for the last three years.
Fat bikes have been awash in so many different axle standards and preferred tire widths over the last fews years that it seemed prudent to wait until things settled down before bringing a complete bike to market. Not to mention the fact that suspension fork availability was limited to modified Maverick SUC32s, DUC32s, Marzocchi Z1s and Lefty’s stretched to accommodate fat tires. Salsa even experimented with a lowered Manitou Dorado. None of these provided the purpose-built solution the category needed in order to grow.
(Click here to read more about the development of the Bucksaw on Salsa’s blog.)
Frame and equipment: full suspension gets fat
Like the redesigned Horsethief and Spearfish introduced last summer, the Bucksaw uses Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension design to serve up 100mm of suspension travel. Salsa notes that Weagle had to fine-tune the kinematics of his design specifically for this fat-tired rig.
The Buzzaw is constructed primarily from 6066-T6 aluminum, with carbon used for the seatstays to bolster rear-end stiffness. The rear end has clearance for up to 3.8in-wide tires mounted to 82mm rims
The Bucksaw will be available this fall and will be offered in two builds. The top end build we tested will come with a SRAM X01 drivetrain and SRAM Guide brakes. It will retail for US$4,999. The second-tier build has a SRAM 2x10 drivetrain and will retail for US$3,999. Both bikes will come equipped with internally-routed RockShox Reverb seatposts, as well as with the new 100mm-travel RockShox Bluto fork.
Ride and handling: a learning curve even for seasoned fat bikers
While Salsa wasn’t willing to disclose specific geometry numbers, our time aboard the Bucksaw made it clear the bike it has more in common with 150mm trail bikes than with traditional 100mm-travel cross-country mountain bikes. The headangle feels slack — probably in the neighborhood of 67 to 67.5 degrees — and the rear end feels surprisingly short, considering the massive tire the frame has to clear.
Short travel, fat tires and slack geometry make for a confidence-inspiring ride
At lower speeds the Bucksaw rides, quite surprisingly, like a traditional trail bike. Our size medium tipped the scale at 32.8lb. It was by no means a speedy climber, but the tires provide ample traction, so long as the rider was in a low enough gear to patiently spin to the top.
This tester settled on a tire pressure of approximately 10psi, that’s about 2-4psi higher than would generally be used for rigid fat bike adventures. The higher pressure reduced excessive tire squirm when cornering at higher speeds and the Bucksaw’s suspension damped the tires along with the trail. The ability of the 3.8in-wide tires to plow over most everything in their path, coupled with just enough suspension travel to damp the bouncy ride of big tires at high speeds means it is quite easy to push the Bucksaw much further than rigid fat bikes.
The Bucksaw does start to become a handful during fast descents. There is a tremendous amount of momentum generated by its massive tires. The result is a bike that wants to go fast and wants to go straight. The handling is predictable, but be prepared to steer from the hips with a concerted effort to initiate turns.
We swapped out the stock wheelset for a lighter set of hoops built around prototype Whisky carbon rims midway though our ride and could immediately notice a difference in terms of responsiveness.
Massive tires and wide rims place a lot of leverage the RockShox Bluto fork
It appears Salsa was well aware of just how capable the combination of fat tires and full suspension make a bike when they settled on the frame’s geometry. Unfortunately, the Bluto, with its 32mm chassis, feels underbuilt in comparison and does not offer a level of steering precision on par with the frame.
Many readers will look at the Bucksaw and ask “Where would I ride such a thing?” The answer is, of course, “Wherever you want.” From our brief time aboard the Bucksaw it is clear that this bike is best suited to heinously rough terrain and for exploring trails less traveled.
Fat bikes are already quite capable machines for backcountry expeditions. The addition of front and rear suspension dramatically increases the scope of terrain that the Bucksaw is capable of conquering.
While we applaud RockShox for stepping up to meet pent-up demand for a fat fork, a more trail-oriented model with 35mm stanchions would be a better match for the Bucksaw’s abilities.