Salsa Cycles has embraced the fringes of cycling for years. With a variety of fat bikes and adventure bikes since as long as I can remember, their once-fringy lineup now sits squarely in the gravel revolution. SRAM built up a custom Salsa Journeyer to test their new APEX Eagle 1×12 mechanical drivetrain and I got a good sense of just what type of bike the Salsa Journeyer can be.
Salsa Journeyer Features:
- 6061-T6 alloy frameset
- Waxwing carbon fork with alloy steerer
- Massive 700x50c tire clearance (2.25″ for 650b)
- Internal cable routing with accommodations for a dropper and Dynamo front hub
- Tons of rack mounting options
- Threaded bottom bracket
- SRAM UDH for maximum drivetrain versatility
- Built around 700c or 650b tires
- 3-year frameset warranty
- MSRP: $699 (frame/fork), $899-$2799 (completes)
Get out and get your journey on
Having ridden gravel and road superbikes for years, it’s always refreshing to get onboard something more approachable. Much like the Canyon Neuron AL 6 mountain bike, the Salsa Journeyer is out to prove that alloy frames can be fun, versatile and most of all, affordable. With complete builds starting under $1000, the versatile Journeyer is a great gravel starter or an excellent bikepacking option for those looking to haul as much as possible to the next stop.
As mentioned, SRAM outfitted the Journeyer with their full spectrum of SRAM and Zipp components to highlight the new SRAM Apex Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. Along for the ride were the Zipp 303 S wheels, the Zipp SL-70 XPLR drop bars and Zipp Service Course SL Carbon seatpost. No, you can’t buy this build from Salsa, but it shows just what can be done to the $699 Journeyer frameset.
Salsa has hung their hats on compact frameset designs for years. Shorter tube lengths add lateral stiffness but they also then allow for extended seatpost exposure, due to the dropped top tube. So, it’s by design that the Journeyer allows more seatpost deflection for more comfort. Complete builds all include an alloy seatpost, which will deflect, but I would suggest upgrading to a carbon seatpost for more overall comfort.
Further comfort can be accomplished by mounting up wider tires (up to 50c) and going tubeless. In short, you can easily turn the Journeyer into something more comfortable and versatile than you might think possible. Luckily, you don’t have to get a set of carbon wheels to go tubeless as most of the build kits are tubeless-ready.
As tested, the complete build with a 55cm frame is 21 lbs. It’s definitely not a lightweight specimen, but respectable for the parts and price point.
Gravel starter (and finisher)
As an excellent gravel gateway bike, the Journeyer has a lot of good qualities about it that add its forgiving nature. Tops on that list is how balanced it feels on all terrain. From bike paths to mountain roads and gravel to singletrack trails, the Salsa Journeyer just feels balanced. There’s nothing twitchy about this bike and it tackles everything with a calm and collected demeanor.
Rolling to smooth gravel tracks, you quickly notice that it’s not a zippy bike. Yes, it does respond when pushed, but power is muted and it lacks the killer “pop” you’ll get with an Open UPPER, for example. But, all that works to your advantage when it comes to navigating slow, technical turns or other challenging terrain. Take your time and the Journeyer will get you both into and out of trouble with the wheel side down.
That balance does have its limits though and it’s most notable on technical, steep climbs that are best-suited for mountain bikes. Some gravel bikes can stay centered on steep, loose climbs and others require a lot of body english. The Journeyer is one of those bikes that you need to muscle to stay on top of on steep climbs. Single-digit climbs and smooth, steeper climbs are easy, but really technical stuff requires a steady hand to keep the front wheel planted and rolling straight. Overall, while climbing, it plows through rough terrain instead of dancing through it. And, should you need to dismount on one of those challenging climbs, you’ll appreciate all the standover this frame provides.
When tackling those same trails or gravel roads on the way back down, you’ll thoroughly appreciate the forgiving geometry and capable handling. I found myself seeking out challenging descents and having a blast in the process. Overall, the ride is very smooth, but you’ll be reminded that it is an alloy frame on rough, chattery descents or square-edged bumps. The only downside of all that forgiveness is you do have to angulate and leverage the bike a little more to get it to respond. While other bikes, like an Open WIDE, will almost be in tune with micro-movements, the Journeyer does require deliberate action to get it to respond.
On more typical gravel roads, the Journeyer gets along quite well and is an excellent option for anyone looking to get into gravel riding. Or, for someone seeking versatility. The stealth black frameset option is a beautiful option for someone looking to leverage existing parts or build out something more custom. Even with all the carbon bits on this test bike — including carbon wheels — this high-zoot build will still only be around $3k.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and tested the size 55cm Journeyer. I’m on the fringes of fitting that frame, but would likely go with the 57cm should this be a long-term affair.
- Extremely-balanced feel
- Forgiving on rough terrain
- Has the ability to get into and out of rough situations unscathed
- Modern looks and features in an affordable package
- Tons of mounting points
- Lots of exposed seatpost adds to comfort
- Carbon fork adds to the smooth ride
- Oodles of tire clearance
- Internal cable routing is quiet
- Love the natural 160mm front brake mount
- Standover galore
- You’ll still feel the stiff alloy frame when pushed hard
- You do have to muscle it sometimes to respond
- Not super zippy — slow and steady
- Why no carbon seatposts on any builds?
The Bottom Line: Salsa Journeyer Gravel Bike
Yes, this was a custom build, but it’s still representative of what you can get for around $3k these days. The Salsa Journeyer has been tons of fun to rip around the local gravel and singletrack loops. I’ve pushed it harder than anyone reasonably would and it takes it all in stride. As a foundation for adventure, this one is a great bike. Or, as a forgiving and versatile gravel starter, it’s hard to pass up.
Buy Now: Complete bikes available from REI
Salsa is no stranger to gravel bikes. With all the gravel roads that cover their home state of Minnesota, their testing grounds are numerous. As an approachable, versatile gravel bike, the Salsa Journeyer is a great option with a balanced feel, predictable handling and a forgiving demeanor. With builds for most budgets and an available frameset option, there's something for everyone.
- Ride Quality/Comfort
- Pedaling Efficiency