Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: 2013 Salsa Beargrease

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The Beargrease, one of two fat bike platforms from Salsa, is billed as a soft conditions racing bike. It’s designed for maximum performance when floatation and stability are necessary. As spec’d, it’s ready to take on frosty winter races or weekend fun on pretty much any terrain.

Made EV6 Xtrolite aluminum, the Beargrease has size-specific, double- butted tubing. For stiffness there’s a tapered head tube and hydro- formed top and down tubes. Full-length cable housing helps to inhibit contamination and the durable matte anodized finish saves weight over paint. Geometry is designed for stability at slow speeds with plenty of clearance to stuff those fat tires into the frame and fork. A 170mm spaced rear accommodates a 26-inch x 4.0-inch tire while the 135mm fork can fit a 4.8-inch fatty. Its relaxed 69.5-degree head tube adds stability and helps control the heavy front wheel, while the 45-inch wheelbase increases stability in soft conditions.

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Air pressure is a key factor in how the Beargrease (and any fat bike) is going to perform. Too much tire pressure will cause a bouncy ride and loss of traction; too little pressure and the tires become squirmy and unresponsive. Each ride began with 8psi in the tires, then I slowly let a touch of air out as the conditions dictated. The 45NRTH Hüsker Dü tires hooked up in snow and provided more traction than anticipated.

A 2×10 drivetrain uses an e*thirteen 22/36-tooth crankset and 11-36-tooth SRAM cassette. This combination was adequate for a majority of riding, and when I did hike-a-bike, it was due to loss of traction in slippery snow, not because of the gearing—I’d simply spun out. The wide Q-factor didn’t bother me, but the BB area did collect a lot of snow and salt, which likely contributed to the bearings seizing up after a few months of riding.

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Overall I was impressed with the pitch of snow-covered trails that I could climb and the amount of control on descents. There was very little squirminess and minimal drifting through turns. I could ride through deep snow and blast through snowdrifts without fear of going over the bars. The Beargrease inspires confidence to roll over log piles and obstacles that make trail riding fun, and I could settle into a groove, ride and enjoy the scenery around me.

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On hard packed, snowy trails, the tires mute frozen footprints and other divots, and made it relatively easy to maintain traction and momentum. On the road, the low tire pressure felt like I was riding on flat tires, but once I was on the trails the squirminess disappeared.

Cold and snow conditions prevailed during my time on the Beargrease, but our publisher got a chance to ride one during the height of summer in Utah. He said, “My ride on the Beargrease was a blast. The bike climbed as well as my six-inch travel dually mountain bike, which weighs more than this bike. When I turned back down the hill, I attacked sharp rocks and railed through the loose, ball-bearing like surface. It rode like a bike, nothing weird except a super-grippy connection to the earth below me. Later that day I got on a regular bike and it felt weird and out of control.”

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In the realm of fat bikes, the Beargrease is a capable racer that will keep you pedaling through powder and on freshly-traveled snow. Riding the Beargrease is about reaching the destination, if you have one, with as much control and speed as possible. Anyone who spends time racing or riding on soft conditions like sand or snow should have this bike on their short list. If you haven’t tried one, you should. The amount of control, stability, traction and speed it offers is a rewarding experience.

If your groove is less about speed and more about hauling stuff, check out Salsa’s Mukluk, designed for the all-surface adventurer. The Mukluk has Alternator dropouts that allow for geared or singlespeed use, braze-ons for front and rear racks and bottle mounts on the fork for extended adventures.

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Vital stats

  • Price: $2,999, frameset: $999
  • Sizes available: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
  • Country of Origin: Taiwan

 Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #169. For 2014, Salsa has updated the Beargrease with a carbon fiber frame and fork.

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