First Look: Salsa Timberjack, Fargo 27.5+ & the New Mukluk

At this weeks Saddledrive, with the introduction of a bikepacking bag kit, two new bikes, and major upgrades to several existing models, Salsa hammered their stake a little deeper in the Adventure cycling category. Here’s our first ride impressions on the Fargo 27.5+, the affordable Timberjack, and the redesigned carbon Mukluk…

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Within the last couple of years, numerous companies in the bike industry have attempted to lay claim to a wedge of the burgeoning ‘adventure’ niche. When considering those who’ve historically owned this turf — companies that helped build it, no doubt — a few come to mind. One of which etched adventure into their tagline and company operational mantra back in 2009. As Mike ‘Kid’ Riemer, Salsa’s Marketing Manager, avowed during the media launch, “Adventure by Bike is more than just our tagline, it’s what drives everything we do at Salsa…”

Salsa’s 2017 bike lineup is a case in point. The robust list of new and reworked models is almost difficult to keep up with. While the new Woodsmoke stole the show — which we’ll showcase later with a full review — we’ll start with their new budget plus trail bike and two classics that each earned a major makeover.

Salsa Timberjack 27.5+ GX1

With the recent introduction of several 27.5+ hardtails, there’s a pretty good selection of sub $1.5k plus bikes currently on the market. The format is particularly attractive to bikepackers given the added potential for a full-frame bag, fixed space for a seat pack, and a sure-footed, terrain expanding platform — not to mention, affordability. If you’re debating such a rig, now there’s another one to pencil into your list.

Salsa Timberjack 27.5+

  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+
  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+

While the Woodsmoke, Salsa’s new high end 27.5 or 29 plus hardtail, is soaking up most of the post-launch limelight, the Salsa team insisted that the Timberjack not be ignored. And after riding it, I can see why. Like their other new and revamped trail-bound bikes, the Timberjack was built around a long top tube, compact chainstays, and a short stem, giving it a somewhat aggressive trail prowess. But at the same time, the Timberjack offers a nice blend of utility and expandability. It ships with a Boost rear-end, but Alternator dropout plate options are available for 135mm QR, which could tack on a little added insurance should you take the Timberjack on a longer overseas trip; it also adds the option for a Rohloff internally geared hub via Salsa’s Alternator Reduction kit.

  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+
  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+
  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+
  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+
  • Salsa Timberjack 27.5+

At its heart, the Timberjack is an aluminum alloy frame that can be shod with 29” or 27.5+ wheels and tires. Given that aluminum isn’t the most shock absorbent material, we’d recommend the latter. In fact, during my test ride on the 27.5+ it surprisingly didn’t feel like an aluminum bike. Working in tandem with the 120mm Recon fork, the hefty 3” Knobby Nics on the demo seemed to do a fine job dampening the rough and rocky trails at Northstar. Honestly, I expected it to take issue with it, but had so much fun riding it I didn’t even notice.

The geometry of the Timberjack sits right in my personal sweet spot. It possesses a nice balance of lively attitude, and sure-footed stability. If you’re on the hunt for an affordable 27.5+ bike that can double as a weekend bikepacking rig and an after work trail bike, the Timberjack shouldn’t be ignored.

The Timberjack comes in the 27.5+ GX1 for $1,399 (shown) and the 29” NX1 for $999.

  • Sizes available XS/S/M/L/XL
  • Max tire size 27×3″
  • Colors Matte Gray, Matte Khaki
  • Intended Use Trail riding, bikepacking, backcountry exploration
  • Price $1,399 (27.5+ GX1)
  • Availability October 2016 for both models
  • More info

Salsa Fargo 27.5+ Rival 1

Gone is the Deadwood from the 2017 lineup. Or is it? The new Fargo comes in two new tasty flavors, the 29” GX 2×10 in Forest Service Green, and the eye popping 27.5+ in Matte Warm Gray. And with the clearance expanding capability of the Alternator 2 dropouts, the Fargo can also fit 29+ wheels and tires. And, like the Deadwood, the Fargo frame is now constructed with a premium Cobra Kai CroMoly tubeset. The Deadwood lives.

Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus

  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus
  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus

Since 2008, Salsa has had a Fargo in their line up in one form or another. The first Fargo was a ‘Fun Guy Green’ non-suspension corrected 29er designed for drop bars. When it was released it had folks asking, “Exactly what is that bike for?” Ultimately, people adopted it as a choice Tour Divide rig, a trail bike, and generally just a bike that does a lot of things well. Now with fatter tires, the rabbit hole of versatility deepens.

As with Timberjack and other bikes in Salsa’s lineup, the Fargo reaps the benefits afforded by the swappable Alternator plates, allowing 135mm QR, the potential to run a Rohloff drivetrain, and even a belt drive via their new split-able driveside Alternator Dropout.

The first thing most folks will drool over with the new Fargo plus is its graphics. It’s a gorgeous bike. Metallic red pictograms are sprinkled throughout the seat tube, inner chain stay and fork legs. Get it in the sun and the matte warm gray finish makes the primitive icons pop off the bike. I almost didn’t want to get it dirty.

  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus
  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus
  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus
  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus
  • Salsa Fargo 27.5+, Plus

For those who’ve ridden a Fargo, the geometry is pretty consistent with past iterations. It continues in the tradition of long distance comfort and climbs meandering switchbacks effortlessly. The addition of plus tires simply adds to its range and capability. Put a pair of the fast new Ranger+ tires on it and you have a Tour Divide machine. During my time with the Fargo+, I climbed gravel for a bit then took it down a slice of techy singletrack. With hands in the Woodchipper drops, it’s a more than capable trail machine that will elicit grins and whoops many times over.

  • Sizes available XS/S/M/L/XL
  • Max tire size 29×3″ (ships with 27.5×3)
  • Colors Matte Warm Gray
  • Intended Use Long distance bikepacking, drop-bar trail riding
  • Price $2,299 (27.5+ Rival 1)
  • Availability November 2016 for both models
  • More info

Salsa Mukluk Carbon X1

The Mukluk was originally released for 2011 as Salsa’s first aluminum fatbike. Later the Beargrease was Salsa’s initial stab at a carbon fat bike, and one of the first carbon fat bikes on the market. The Mukluk lived on as it’s more comfortable fatpacking, do-all sibling, only available in aluminum. This year, Salsa reinvented the Muk in carbon with a slightly more aggressive geometry — a 69° head angle, 73° seat angle, 63mm BB drop, shorter chainstays, and a long top tube/short stem combo. However, it’s still tuned somewhere in the between a trail bike and a go-to ‘long days in the saddle’ steed.

2017 Salsa Mukluk

  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk
  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk

The Mukluk carbon ships with a two position Alternator Dropout fixed plate. The first position allows room for a 4.7” tire on a 70mm rim giving the Muk a 432mm chainstay, one of, if not the shortest fatbike chainstays on the market. The second position makes room for 5” tires and slightly larger rims.

There are a few other features worth noting about the Mukluk Carbon. Its threaded 100mm BB allows a few different crank options to keep a moderate Q-factor (moreso with a 1x crank), which is beneficial to some for knee and hip preservation during high mileage rides. For utility, the carbon Mukluk has an extra set of downtube bosses for an added bottle cage as well as three-pack bosses on each fork leg. There are also toptube mounts for their new EXP Series Toptube Bag (more on that very soon). Other frame features include internal cable routing and stealth dropper routing.

  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk
  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk
  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk
  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk
  • 2017 Salsa Mukluk

I took the Muk up the same gravel climb where I tested the Fargo and down the same stretch of chunky singletrack. I can honestly say it’s the most stable fat bike I’ve been on. It can methodically turn and pick through chunky terrain as well as bowl over it. It’s insanely light and well balanced. Otherwise, not having a chance to find any faults, all I can add is that I want one.

  • Sizes available XS/S/M/L/XL
  • Max tire size 26×5″ (ships with 26×4.8 Dillinger 5s)
  • Colors Army Green
  • Intended Use Fatpacking, Winter fatbiking, All around fat bike
  • Price $3,499 (X1), base carbon GX1 for $2,699
  • Availability Some models October 2016. Others November 2016.
  • More info
  • Eric

    Thanks for the ride quality review on the timberjack – can you tell me what sizes you have pictured there?

  • Thanks, albeit brief! The Timberjack (dirty photo) is an XL. It was a hair too big for me, but felt pretty good. I’d be torn whether to get a large or XL, to be honest. I’m 6′ even with a 33″ inseam. I think the clean/new one is a medium. The Fargo and Muk are both larges (the dirty photos)… the clean and new Fargo is a medium.

  • Eric

    Awesome, thanks for the reply. I’m 6′ as well but with shorter legs, usually a L, but I prefer my mountain frames long and low so sometimes M/L. My next bike is definitely between this and the new surly karate monkey. Awesome site and reviews!

  • Thanks Eric! Good luck deciding… lots to choose from these days!

  • Tom Parsons

    Some people have been putting 27.5+ tires on their old model Fargos and I plan on doing the same with my X7 model. But I wonder how much differently this new one handles with 27.5+.

  • Good question. Maybe one of the Salsa engineers will chime in.

  • Christophe Noel

    Great information, Logan. Nice work with the camera. It’s always tough to shoot at these things in the hot midday sun. Nice work.

  • Sean M

    Tom and Logan,
    The 2017 Fargo was updated to have proper clearance [at least 6 mm] between the 27.5 x 3.0″ tire at the chainstays and seatstays, and the geometry was slightly updated to have the proper mechanical trail when using this size of wheel.

  • Rarebeasts

    When I grow up I’m getting the Fargo+ beast. Looks awesome.

  • Nate Jones

    Sad to see the El Mar drop out of the Salsa lineup. Hopefully they’ll offer the Timberjack in a steel frame in the coming years.

  • Andrew Wade

    Or offer the El Mar 27.5+ option. Seems to be the direction they are headed and it would make a great adventure rig for places the Fargo isn’t comfortable in.

  • Ryan Edwards

    Ditto. I guess, while we wait, there’s the new Surly Kararte Monkey…

  • Donnieboy

    You’re a large, believe it or not :)

  • Can this carbon Mukluk run a Rohloff as well? Heard there were some new 12mm thru axle Rohloffs released in the right width…

  • Hmm, good question. In theory, with aftermarket Alternator plates, I would think so… but not sure exactly.

  • Tauramengo

    Out of curiosity how does it compare to the Surly wednesday and have you tried the alu version of the Mukluk

  • Jtree

    How about someone who is 6’1″ with a 34 inseam? Still a large? I rode a 2016 XL Mukluk and it felt right. I’m leaning toward an XL in the carbon 2017, but I’m torn.

  • Joe Fatbike

    Great articles man! I love my SUS MUK! It monster trucks me anywhere I wish to go.

  • I realize that I’m chiming in pretty late here, but I now own the Salsa Fargo 27.5+ and it’s by far the funnest bike I’ve owned. I have a question for other owners of the “drop bar mountain biking” crew: At what angle do you have your bars? I love the hoods, but also want to be able to grab the brake easier when descending on singletrack. Any suggestions, Logan? (or anyone else?)

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