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  1. #1
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    Horsethief & Spearfish Questions

    Hello all,

    I've been lurking on MTBR off and on for the past couple of years, but this is my first post. I'm in the market for a new bike and am seriously considering a Salsa Horsethief or Spearfish and have a few questions from those who know more than I do (which will be just about everyone).

    I've been riding for many years on a fully rigid 1998 Giant Yukon, which I bought new. I have mostly used it as a general fitness bike with only occasional trail riding. Two summers ago I finally started trail riding more seriously and have been having a blast with it. I love my Yukon, but I really want something a bit more modern and easier on my aging 45 year old back.

    I like that Salsa is a small company. Their bikes seem to be of decent quality for a decent price and, based on reviews and what I've read here in the forums, Salsa owners seem pretty happy with them.

    I live in SE Michigan, about 45 minutes south of the nearest trails in the Pontiac / Auburn Hills areas north of Detroit. There are some hills, but this is far from an All Mountain area. For that reason I was thinking about the Spearfish. It seems like more of an all-around cross country bike that wouldn't mind a little more rugged use now and again.

    But, I'm 6'2" tall and weigh a bit north of 250lbs. I'm wondering if I need a more sturdy bike than the Spearfish and maybe the Horsethief is the way to go. From what I've read the HT is a fun bike, a little heavier, but also a more plush ride for the larger gentleman. I've also read that the Spearfish has some frame cracking issues, which do concern me.

    For my budget I'm looking at the 2013 Spearfish 2 vs. the 2013 Horsethief 2. I've found both of these at an online dealer right now. They're asking about $1,700 for the Horsethief and about $1,900 for the Spearfish and both retailed for about $3,000 last year.

    My initial hunch is that I would prefer the Spearfish. I mostly like riding fast and would like a bike that climbs well, but I also don't want to break a bike that's just not made for guys like me.

    Of course another option is the El Mariachi, but I'm wondering if a hardtail would be too similar to riding fully rigid.

    Any thoughts and recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I'm no suspension bike expert but I did pick up a SF II around Thanksgiving (killer deal from TreeFortBikes). My other bike is a fully rigid Karate Monkey. My first ride on the SF was 2 weeks ago when we had a break in the weather and I had ridden the KM on the same trail the day before. The trail is a new single track in Mammoth Cave National Park that was professionally built. On a 1 to 10 scale of smooth to gnarly, I'd give it a 5 in it's current state. Definitely a fun trail to ride and quite manageable on the rigid KM if you pick your line.

    There is no doubt that the SF takes the edge off the bumps, but I wouldn't call it a plush ride either. It's really a pretty good match for this trail and I felt like I had more gas in the tank riding it than the day before on the Monkey. So, as long as you're not getting into intense rock gardens and/or your trail has a lot of roots and bumps, the SF probably offers enough cush to take the edge off, which means you're be able to ride longer than on your rigid. I would imagine that he HT is more plush, but it carries the penalty of just being a bigger bike that leans more toward hardcore trail and downhill riding and may give up more of that flickable quick feel that is so awesome on a fast & flowy trail. I feel like I gave up enough of that with the SF compared to the Monkey, but I'm 53 and need to start thinking preservation.

    The SF II is a decent build, but I'm not sure I get the point of a 2x10. Maybe I'm not good enough for the big ring but I'd rather just have a 32t up front so I don't feel like a total wuss riding on the dinky ring all the time. Note that this won't work on this crank due to the 120mm bcd. Also, I changed out the tires to a 2.35 Nobby Nic up front and an On One Smorgasbord on the back, both tubeless. I'm not real crazy about the ass cleaver for a saddle either and will probably change it.

    The part of your quandry I can't address is your height & weight. I'm 5'11 and 180 lbs on a medium and am not in the least concerned about the durability of the SF any more than I am with my Monkey.

    Good luck with your decision and let us know which way you go.
    Best to ya!
    klm

  3. #3
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    For a guy your size, the 2013 SF might not be enough frame for you. I think there have been a few cracking issues with bigger guys on that bike. The HT is a much beefier bike but might be too much for your local trails. If you ride other places that are more technical, it might be more useful. If you're mostly only going to be riding in the midwest, why not just get a really light but sturdy hardtail 29er with a good suspension fork?
    2012 Salsa Horsethief
    2005 Independent Fabrication Deluxe

  4. #4
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    If I were you, riding in the midwest, I'd look in to an El mariachi 2. A steel-framed 29er with a nice 100mm rock shox reba (or whatever is on the ElMar 2 these days) and fat tubeless tires is not going to be anything like your 16 year old rigid aluminum 26er. If you've had fun riding that Yukon, you will love the El Mar. And while your wheels may need truing from time to time, its likely to handle any abuse your size can throw at it.

  5. #5
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    Revised plan...

    Quote Originally Posted by progfan1 View Post
    For a guy your size, the 2013 SF might not be enough frame for you. I think there have been a few cracking issues with bigger guys on that bike. The HT is a much beefier bike but might be too much for your local trails. If you ride other places that are more technical, it might be more useful. If you're mostly only going to be riding in the midwest, why not just get a really light but sturdy hardtail 29er with a good suspension fork?
    Hm, maybe that's a good idea. I think it's probably true that a hardtail is all I need given the Michigan trails I'm riding on. You also get a lot more bike for your money.
    Last edited by Hawksbill; 03-09-2014 at 07:53 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawksbill View Post
    Hm, maybe that's a good idea. I think it's probably true that a hardtail is all I need given the Michigan trails I'm riding on. You also get a lot more bike for your money.
    Seems like a good idea. My Horsethief is too much bike for about half of my local trails, but my wife and I travel to ride other places where the suspension and big tires definitely help out. If you're mostly riding buff midwest trails, I see no need for suspension.
    2012 Salsa Horsethief
    2005 Independent Fabrication Deluxe

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies. I think I've narrowed my choice to the El Mar or the Spearfish. I has the chance to test both yesterday, a 2014 El Mar 2 and a 2014 Spearfish 3. Both would be in my budget, if I waited until the fall to get a better deal. The Spearfish felt plenty sturdy and the sales guy said he wouldn't worry about me breaking the bike with my 250lbs. I'm torn. The El Mar was nice, but the Spearfish just felt "right". Alternately, there is a very good deal on spearfish 3 at Universal Cycles right now ($1200).

    Heres my next question: I'm not a racer or a weight weenie, just a guy who likes to ride fast in the woods. With my lack of experience would I notice the difference between the Spearfish 3 vs the Spearfish 2? Or the difference between the 2013 vs the 2014 model even with the new split pivot? That is: I could get a 2013 Spearfish 3 now for $1200 and save a lot of money or wait until October or November and get a 2014 for the best deal I can at that time. I still haven't ruled out the El Mar, but today my thoughts are all Spearfishy. Thanks again for your replies.
    Last edited by Hawksbill; 03-12-2014 at 09:58 AM. Reason: Fixed a typo

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawksbill View Post
    Thanks for the replies. I think I've narrowed my choice to the El Mar or the Spearfish. I has the chance to test both yesterday, a 2014 El Mar 2 and a 2014 Spearfish 3. Both would be in my budget, if I waited until the fall to get a better deal. The Spearfish felt plenty sturdy and the sales guy said he wouldn't worry about me breaking the bike with my 250lbs. I'm torn. The El Mar was nice, but the Spearfish just felt "right". Alternately, there is a very good deal on spearfish 3 at Universal Cycles right now ($1200).

    Heres my next question: I'm not a racer or a weight weenie, just a guy who likes to ride fast in the woods. With my lack of experience would I notice the difference between the Spearfish 3 vs the Spearfish 2? Or the difference between the 2013 vs the 2014 model even with the new split pivot? That is: I could get a 2013 Spearfish 3 now for $1200 and save a lot of money or wait until October or November and get a 2014 for the best deal I can at that time. I still haven't ruled out the El Mar, but today my thoughts are all Spearfishy. Thanks again for your replies.
    I'd do the 2014 if you can afford to. In addition to the split pivot, the 2014 has shorter chain stays and a slacker head angle, which would be more nimble and fun. I have a 2011, and while it's been great for providing comfort and efficiency for all day rides, I wouldn't call it nimble.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawksbill View Post

    Heres my next question: I'm not a racer or a weight weenie, just a guy who likes to ride fast in the woods. With my lack of experience would I notice the difference between the Spearfish 3 vs the Spearfish 2? Or the difference between the 2013 vs the 2014 model even with the new split pivot? That is: I could get a 2013 Spearfish 3 now for $1200 and save a lot of money or wait until October or November and get a 2014 for the best deal I can at that time. I still haven't ruled out the El Mar, but today my thoughts are all Spearfishy. Thanks again for your replies.
    My two cents:

    I have a 2012 Spearfish 2 and I love it. It is a stellar bike and works great for me in Missouri (we have the Ozark "Mountains" down here and we have some good trails). I actually purchased an El Mar and returned it (after a fork issue and having a loaner bike with full suspension) for the SF 2 and I can strongly advise the full suspension if you are worried about your back. It really makes a difference.

    That said, my good friend (who is likely around 250 lbs.) just purchased a 2014 Spearfish 3 and is VERY happy with it. I have spent a little time riding his 2014 SF 3 and I must say that I can notice a difference with the split-pivot as it rides even smoother and absorbs bumps even better than my 2012 SF 2. My 2012 is great, but I really think Salsa made a good decision by adding the split-pivot.

    Looking at the specs for the 2013 vs. 2014 SF 3, there isn't even a comparison - all of the components are much better on the 2014 (fork, rear shock, brakes, shifters, etc.). Along with the split-pivot, this is why it is much more expensive.

    I think the biggest question is if you are willing to wait another season before you get a new bike. You will be happy with either, but I think that the 2014 will treat you better in the long term.

  10. #10
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    I'd go with 2014 Spearfish over the 2013. Slacker geometry, better suspension and slightly beefier frame.
    2012 Salsa Horsethief
    2005 Independent Fabrication Deluxe

  11. #11
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    I have a 2012 Spearfish 1 and really like the bike after sending the rear shock to PUSH. Huge improvement in pedaling efficiency and control.

    I also have a 2014 Horsethief 1 and can say that the new rear suspension is noticeably better.

    I can not wait to get a 2014 Spearfish frame.

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