Salsa Cycles Stormchaser: At The Finish – by Guitar Ted
The unusual single speed Salsa Cycles Stormchaser has provided me with one of my more unique reviewing experiences of a bicycle in a long time. A seemingly simple rig, this bike can become different things based upon how you outfit it, using its various accessory attachment points, or by what sort of wheel set you use on the frame. Throw in some unique geometry and some various quirks this design has and I cannot think of anything quite like the Stormchaser. I mentioned in my last update on this review that I was going to try some fatter 700c sized rubber on the Stormchaser and that proved to give another, very different experience with this bike.
With the stock 700c wheels back in the bike, I mounted some 700 X 50mm Donnelly MSO tires, the biggest size Salsa recommends in 700c diameter for this bike. The tires cleared the frame well, but they do not leave, in my opinion, enough room for a situation that the Stormchaser was designed for. That being muddy, sloppy roads and inclement weather. The clearances with the 700 X 50mm MSO’s was completely adequate for dry weather riding, but in my experience, there just wasn’t enough room there for severe conditions riding.
To be honest, I didn’t think the Stormchaser with those big tires on it would be adequate for muddy, sloppy rides, but I was not too disappointed by that. In fact, if I owned one of these bikes, the big, meaty 700c tires would stay on there until I had occasion to get into the muck and mire. Why? Well, with these tires and wheels, I experienced the best ride qualities of all the variations I used during the review period. In fact, nothing else came close.
With the stock 42mm tires I experienced speed and stability in looser gravel and sand. With the 700c X 50mm tires, these traits were magnified. With the 650B tires and wheels, I experienced slightly better ride qualities, and with the 700c X 50mm set up I had even better ride feel. In fact, these 50mm tires quelled the front end chatter to such an extent that I feel I could live with that ultra-stiff carbon fork on the Stormchaser.
What did the 50mm tire set up lack? Well, a quicker spin-up the 650B wheels had was no longer there. The slightly ponderous, slow (below 10mph) handling came back with the 700c wheels, but anything at a speed above 10mph was no problem to deal with. Otherwise, I had zero to complain about. The bigger 700c tires helped the Class 5 VRS system feel even more cushy, and downhill at speeds of 30+ mph on loose gravel was a much more secure feeling with this set up. These sized wheels and tires, in my opinion, unlock the best of what the Stormchaser has to offer, as long as it isn’t a muddy route that you are trying to tackle.
At The Finish: Here we have a bicycle meant for the very worst that gravel roads can throw at it, a bike with bad weather riding in mind, and a unique take on geometry and the drive train to suit these conditions. I think Salsa Cycles has hit the marks with much of what they claimed for the Stormchaser.
There is that low stack height though. That’s not going to cater to those with a desire for a more upright seated position. There is also the single speed drive train to consider, but Salsa does offer a rear drop out with a derailleur hangar, so the bike could be set up for a 1X geared drive train. Still- that’s an extra expense. And speaking of expense, the Stormchaser, at $1499.00, is hard to see as a “great value”. There isn’t anything that really jumps out at you on the spec sheet for this price. That said, you have to consider Salsa’s new “Flat Mount Alternator Drop Outs” (read- sliding drop outs), and the excellent Class 5 VRS rear design, both of which work extremely well. Those two design features are valuable to the single speed rider, and you cannot find that anywhere else.
I ended up really liking this bicycle. Of course, it helps that I happen to enjoy single speed bicycles, but this one has features, like the above mentioned drop outs and rear stay design, that I found particularly useful and well executed. I also liked the slightly slacker front end geometry, the decent bottom bracket height, and the stability of the long-ish geometry over-all. The stiff fork was tamed by the ability of the bike to accept a fat 700c tire. The versatility in mounting bottles and accessories is a Salsa Cycles hallmark and was welcomed here as well. Too often a single speed offering in any category tends to be a stripped down, featureless bicycle, and the Stormchaser is a refreshing change from that.
You have to see the value in the purpose of the Stormchaser to get the most out of this bike. Those who just don’t see riding in bad weather, cannot understand single speeding, or those who cannot buy into the unique characteristics of the Stormchaser should steer well clear of this bike. If, however; you have been waiting for such a purposeful bike like the Stormchaser, this is a well thought out bike with some great design features for the intrepid gravel rider. It has its quirks and warts, but there aren’t many choices in bikes like this, and this is well enough done that, in my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong with a Stormchaser.
See more about the Salsa Cycles Stormchaser at Salsa Cycle’s website here.
Note: Salsa Cycles sent the Stormchaser to RidingGravel.com for test and review at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.