Salsa Cycles Stormchaser: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
Recently we learned of a new bike coming from Salsa Cycles, a single speed gravel bike. After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we dug in and realized this was a pretty interesting bike. If you are not completely acquainted with the Stormchaser, you can check out our post on it here. Since I am a big fan of single speeds, I put in for a demo bike to be sent to Riding Gravel. Here it is…..
What It Is: The previous introduction piece we did pretty much covers what this is, but since we now have the bike in hand, I can add a bit more to the story. This bike is based upon the Warbird, and that bike has always been unabashedly about racing. The Warbird was bred from races like the Dirty Kanza, Trans Iowa, and other events which informed the design choices made which resulted in the Warbird as we know it today. That “DNA” is clearly evident in the Stormchaser and when you mount the saddle, you immediately find yourself in a much more ‘racy’ position than many gravel bikes put you in.
The bike strikes me much the same as a bike we reviewed from 2015 from Grava Bikes, the Revenuer. That bike was also one that immediately let you know this ride was about going fast. Head down, rear end up, mash pedals. The Stormchaser puts you in the same position and the efficient chassis seems to point to this bike being all about racing. But hold on now! There is a major departure here from traditional, (can we say that about gravel bikes now?), racing fare. That being what the Stormchaser’s mission statement is and how that informed a few choices in this design.
The bike is all about taking on the worst in conditions on gravel roads during events. Mud? Rain? Slop? Those are the things the Stormchaser is meant to be going through, and it is a big reason the bike is a single speed. However; the geometry also includes a bit lengthier chain stays, a slacker than usual head angle, and the spec’ed wider Cowchipper which all add up to a lot of stability. This is good for where this bike is meant to go. Another thing you notice right away is the massive mud clearance for the 42mm Teravail Rutland tires, which are set up tubeless already on our test bike, by the way. (Look for a separate look at the Rutlands coming soon.)
So, this bike is a bit of a specialist,being set up as an aggressive racing bike but with a definite nod toward stability and rider comfort, with the Salsa Class 5 VRS rear stay design.
First Impressions: Everybody comments on the color. Salsa Cycles calls it simply “Copper“, but it is something more than ‘just that’. It’s hard to explain, and difficult to photograph, but I think I’ve come as close to reality as I can get with these images here. Anyway…. It’s a looker. In fact, for a bike that you are supposed to aim at the worst conditions, I almost cringe to think what is going to happen to that beautiful finish. Maybe it’ll look like an old penny later. Hmm…..
The bike we have is a 57.5cm, and it fits me well enough as I am 6’1″ with short torso, longer arms and legs. The seat post Salsa spec’s is a very short offset one, and this put me out over the front end a bit more than I’d like, and especially since the saddle to bar drop is pretty aggressive here. So I did one ride on it in purely stock set up and then swapped out to a seat post with longer offset, which made things just about right for me. In my case I could have gone with a size up, which is a 59cm, but then the top tube is a bit rangy, at a full 59cm, and I probably would have been swapping out stems on that one. I think it a bit better to have the 57.5cm here, even though the head tube is shorter than the 59cm. The front wheel seems ‘out there’ quite a ways already as it is with the 57.5cm. I imagine it would be even more so on the 59cm, and I think it would have proven to be a bad deal in the handling department for me.
Speaking of…. Handling, that is- The Stormchaser is one glued-to-the-ground bike. I felt like it was fast, but it isn’t the bike that you go popping off berms with, bunny hopping on, or lofting the front wheel over stuff with. I mean, you can do those things, but the Stormchaser would much rather drift corners, plow through and over stuff, and and getting the front end up is a chore. Might have something to do with the 447mm chain stay length with the 17T cog fitted. The bike hugs corners and rails dirt single track well. It’s a lot of fun on dirt. Grippier tires would make this a hoot on buff, twisty dirt trails, and it has the capability to swap in wider rubber. Might have to try that later. Just don’t ask me to get airborne, or to wheelie over anything! But, of course, this is a gravel bike. I have only done some multi-surface rides and commuting so far on this bike. So, I’ll be focusing on that gravel riding aspect first and foremost in the coming weeks.
So Far…. The Stormchaser’s heritage in the Warbird is easy to see here with the Class 5 VRS rear, the attention to details fitting for an endurance length effort, and in the race bred riding position for the rider. However; we have a bit of a different animal here due to the design intentions for this bike. I’m liking the stability for where this bike is meant to go, and it does seem pretty comfortable so far. Now to go get some gravel rides in, seek out some severe conditions riding, and put this bike to a proper test.
I expect that the Stormchaser will handle tough conditions in terms of handling and functionality as claimed. I also am expecting to find that the Class 5 VRS rear end will be a boon to comfort and control. How that slacker head tube angle and the longer chain stays work out on typical gravel rides will be interesting to find out. While the Stormchaser seems like a simple enough bike, there is a lot going on here. Since much of what this bike seems aimed for is very unique, I wonder if the bike will do well enough to make it seem more valuable as a main bike, and not just a ‘tool for a specific job’. We’ll see in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for the “Checkpoint” part of this review coming soon…….
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.