First Ride: Salsa Cutthroat Ultra Endurance Bike
Somewhat of a cross between a mountain bike and a roadie, the inclusion of the Cutthroat from Salsa on the Bicycling Australia website may come as a surprise to some readers. But, as Editor Nat Bromhead discovered, this purpose-designed endurance machine may just be the perfect ‘N+1’ choice.
Conditions for the first ride of this review couldn’t have been any worse … wind, rain, and barely double digit temperatures.
“You’re actually the first and only cyclist we’ve seen here today,” the friendly barista said at my local haunt, heavily frequented every day of the week by similarly afflicted addicts.
“And sorry,” he continued, “I turned the coffee machine off at 3pm as no-one was here.”
Yep, it was 3:30pm, my knees were a purpley blue colour from the cold 3km descent, I was soaked to the bone, and had a 3km climb then 15km ride back to the van.
Perfectly Imperfect Weather
Just maybe, I thought during the ride back, maybe these conditions are perfect for the Cutthroat, and exactly what US-based Salsa Cycles had in mind when they dreamt up this go anywhere / do anything adventure machine.
Originally created as the ideal bike for the Tour Divide, one of the world’s most gruelling annual all-weather races, there’s no mistaking the intended purpose of this utilitarian adventure platform.
Where Does It Slot Into The Market?
“This bike is for the rider who really wants adventure,” Aussie distributor Stuart Voysey from SCV Imports told us.
“More specifically, it’s perfect for long distance adventure at a good speed. It is surprisingly lightweight, is well geared with SRAM Apex 1x, and has a comfortable endurance-focussed geometry.”
“There’s plenty of space for seatpacks and frame bags,” Stuart continued. “The flared bars allow a handlebar bag and the frame and fork are dotted with mounts to carry all the gear, bags, bottles and accessories you’d ever need.”
Stuart told us how the Cutthroat had developed a cult status over the years, particularly among North American riders, and how Salsa were a pioneering manufacturer in the adventure market.
Onto The Road
The road was barren, the rain was splattering down, the 29er Maxxis tyres were humming along the smooth blacktop, and I felt like King of the Road.
Within a few kilometres I realised the Cutthroat is a bike that will have you quickly adapting to a more consistent riding style. This platform is more about daily totals and overall kilometre count than bursts of speed and segment hunting along the way.
Having quickly worked out that this bike is a serious, no-nonsense, long-distance cruiser, it felt perfectly geared for lugging bags, gear, food and water along those adventures - whether that be for weekends or weeks on end.
Sticking with SRAM Apex - a simple, no-nonsense drivetrain incorporating cable-operated 160mm disc brakes front and rear - the overall price is kept low (around $5000 as tested) with the groupset providing smooth, responsive and reliable functionality.
Through a wet and windy descent filled with twists and turns the Cutthroat held its line and didn’t flinch. It was becoming a recurring theme but that feeling of kilometre-after-kilometre reliability shone through … unlike the sun.
Further up the road and as the cold rain continued to tumble down I turned off the blacktop and onto a familiar sidetrack. A loop that eventually connected back to the main road, this firetrail consisted of gravel, mud, sand, granite … and a lot of water. Powering through, the Cutthroat just kept tractoring.
It felt a seamless transition between road and trail and was a heap of fun to drop it down a couple of cogs, feel the trackside foliage and long grass brush past my legs, dodge the bigger rocks, and power along the wet track.
Bunnyhopping off the track and back onto the blacktop is always a good experience and the transition was seamless. A couple of kilometres on and the next firetrail of choice was to the right, a 4km out and back that consisted of around 3.5km of undulating, heavily-mudded track followed by 500m of what feels and looks like the path to hell .... straight down.
The climb out - usually a walk on all other bikes I've taken to The Basin - was handled with relative ease thanks to the 38t chainring and 11- 42T cassette. Gathering some speed from the top of the climb on, the ride back to the van was fast, slippery and a heap of fun. But alas, the setting sun was hidden behind deep cloud, the southern sky was blacker than black, and the rain was becoming more intense.
Mission accomplished with ease, part one of this review was over.
A full review of the Salsa Cutthroat - compiled by endurance & adventure rider Mike O’Connor - will appear in the September / October edition of Bicycling Australia Magazine.