Salsa Bucksaw: A year in the life of a squishy fatbike
It was over a year ago when I had the rare and enviable opportunity to not just attend the launch of the world’s first full suspension fatbike, but organize the event itself. That product was the Salsa Bucksaw, a bike I had the privilege to ride months before the general public, and better yet on my own backyard trails…
That may seem like a hyperbolic statement, and who knows it probably is, but I can only think of a small handful of bikes that have impressed me as much as the Bucksaw, and it continues to do so with every ride. With more journalists and riders swinging a leg over this unique rig, the collective reviews have been overwhelmingly positive confirming that I’m not alone in my glowing opinion. However, those yet to get the chance to ride the Bucksaw frequently ask me the same question: What’s the big deal?
What makes the Bucksaw so exceptional is how it single handedly redefined what many of us expected of a fatbike. What we once perceived as a snow day diversion or a lumbering ox of a bikepacking platform, has now been elevated to ripper status. The Bucksaw does not really ride like a fatbike, at least not one with all of the common drawbacks.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was not only reluctant to adopt the fatbike, I secretly wanted it to die a painful death. They just seemed hokey, and the more I rode them the more disdain I developed. My early judgments castigated fatbikes as slow and lethargic with all of the spunk of a hippo with a tranquilizer dart in its neck. My biggest gripe was with the undampened rebound of the big tires. Launching into a rock with an unsprung fat tire is ill advised as the bounce effect can be severe. This is why mountain bikers glommed onto full suspension years ago. It simply keeps your wheels positioned where they can do their magic of maintaining ground contact for spirited cornering and efficient forward motion.
So in that, the things that make the Bucksaw brilliant are the same things we loved about the early full suspension bikes. Only, the Bucksaw is lightyears ahead of that now ancient technology. This marriage of positive attributes pairs the fatbike’s superior traction to bounce-free ride qualities. That said, there’s a great deal more to the Bucksaw than just big meat and soft springs.
The surprisingly low overall weight of the bike at just over 30 pounds helps give it a liveliness that few riders anticipate. The predictable handling is another strong benefit. Its ability to hold a hard line in a corner is almost bizarre in its accuracy and ease of effort. It just does not ride like a fatbike. It shreds like a proper trail bike.
The biggest test for me came last year when I dismantled my Bucksaw and shoved it in a box headed for Iceland. I had plotted out a 12 day ride along black sand beaches, over glaciers and snowfields, along routes better suited to feet than wheels. All of this under the weight of a rather hulking bikepacking load. The nine pounds of camera gear alone would challenge not just the Bucksaw, but certainly me.
To my surprise, and great relief, the Bucksaw proved to be the ideal bicycle for my trip. Iceland’s riding surfaces vary wildly from volcanic gravel to crunchy snow, often within a handful of feet. The Bucksaw trundled over everything in its path with little steering input or dramatic change to power levels. With the suspension bits soaking up the bigger bumps, it’s the closest thing to a hovercraft that I’ve ever ridden. Again, that could be more hyperbole, but I’m sticking to it.
The astute critics have asked me if the Bucksaw has any shortcomings. True enough, no bike is perfect. If I had to catalog a couple of nit-pics, the wheel weight would fall within that list. I could solve that foible with a set of carbon hoops, but that would eat up big coin. I also tend to think the cockpit is a tad low, but that’s more of a personal peccadillo than a ding against the bike itself. Lastly, I wish the fork owned more performance, but I am also quick to laud it for what it is at the given price-point. The rest of the parts spec is fantastic, even the brakes, which have restored my faith in SRAM as a viable brake maker.
The real question to be asked is: Who is the ideal Bucksaw rider?
That’s tough to answer, but I’ll take a stab at it. A Bucksaw rider clearly endorses the benefits of full-fat. They understand the benefits to traction and have made their peace with the slightly slower roll of those tires. This rider also has a penchant for pushing a bike hard and fast over varied terrain. Lastly, a Bucksaw rider likes challenging trails, and knows the Bucksaw will allow them to conquer those trails with greater efficiency. Is it cheating? Sorta, but in the best ways possible.
- Frame: Bucksaw w/ Split Pivot AL6066 w/ Carbon seatstay
- Fork: RockShox Bluto, 100mm travel, tapered, 15 x 150mm
- Rear Shock: RockShox Monarch RT3, Fast Black
- Rear Der: SRAM X01, Type 2, 11-speed
- Cassette: SRAM 11-speed, 10-42t
- Crankset: SRAM XX1, 30t
- Handlebar: Salsa Rustler 1 Carbon, 15mm riser, 740mm wide
- Stem: Thomson X4
- Shifter: SRAM X01, 11-speed
- Brakes: SRAM Guide RS
- Headset: Cane Creek 10 ZS44/56
- Handlebar: Crank Brothers Cobalt riser (cut to about 680mm)
- Stem: Easton EA70 100mm
- Saddle: WTB Pure V Race
- Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
- Wheels: Salsa Fat Conversion, 150mm/177 on Surly Marge Lites
- Tires: Surly Nate 26 x 3.8″, 120tpi, folding
- Bike Weight (from Salsa): 32 lb 6 oz for size Medium