For 2016, Salsa is kicking their gravel-friendly Warbird up a notch. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours aboard it on a 40 mile mixed road/dirt ride for the 2016 SRAM media launch. I was so impressed with this bike that I didn’t want to give it back at the end of the ride.
Salsa Warbird Features:
- Completely new for 2016
- Endure geometry for extended gravel adventures
- Hydroformed 6069 Al frameset with 42mm tire clearance
- 27.2 mm seatpost for added compliance
- Class 5 Vibration Reduction System (VRS)
- Full-length cable housing with internal cable routing
- Thru axles front and rear
- Carbon front fork with 44mm tire clearance
- Accepts 3 water bottles
- Price: $999 (frame), $1999-$2499 (complete)
Custom-kitted and Ready for Adventure
With a mixture of gravel-friendly bikes available, I was pleasantly surprised to be kitted up with the 2016 Salsa Warbird. This all-new frame was hung with a full spectrum of SRAM components including Zipp cockpit, SRAM Force 1 groupset and Zipp 30 Course Disc-brake wheels. The best part about the Warbird was the absolutely perfect fit that the SRAM mechanics set up. I emailed them my Retul measurements and it fit like a glove without a single tweak. The 55cm frameset gave me just the right fit and proved to be responsive and fun on varied terrain.
Again, this bike was custom-kitted with the forthcoming gravel-friendly components from SRAM. Hopefully, Salsa will offer a 1x option once the 2016 components start shipping because the combination of the 40t chainring and 10-36t cassette was right on the money for all-around riding. The frame-only option hits the street at $999, which is a reasonable price for what you’re getting. And, it is the only option available in a killer-looking teal blue color.
The all-new Warbird is available in 6069 aluminum (tested) and a full-carbon model. While the aluminum model may lack the perceived sexiness and zip of a carbon frameset, it hits the budget just right and, frankly, performs at an amazing level.
Our course for the day was a 40 mile loop near San Luis Obispo, CA. Have a look at the Strava log below.
As mentioned, the bike was instantly comfortable with responsive handling and smoothness not usually found on aluminum framesets. Granted, I was floating on a pair of 33mm tires inflated at 55 psi, so that will make about any frame feel smooth. That said, there was enough rough stuff on our route that even wider tires can’t erase.
We made our way on pavement which turned into soft dirt and gravel on our initial climb. I was really impressed with the climbing manners of the Warbird as it tracked perfectly straight and felt natural during standing efforts. The longish wheelbase didn’t make things awkward as handling remained responsive and predictable.
The seatstays splay out really wide, which provides some of the magic of the Class 5 VRS and it works. Chattery washboard and sharp granite gardens were absorbed and softened in a wonderful way. I also loved the added confidence of thru axles front and rear and the predictable braking that the Force 1 hydraulic brakes provided.
Something to note with the Warbird is that while it does have a gravel-friendly geometry, the head tube lengths remain low and racy. The 140mm length on my 55cm frame is pretty short and required a number of spacers to get the proper fit. Low and aggressive riders will appreciate it, but most of us will need several spacers to get things dialed in.
I’d have to say my favorite part of the Warbird was its predictable and fun nature. I pushed it hard on the flats and ascended with speed while confidently making my way down some choppy, rutted, muddy and sloppy descents and it was always game for whatever I threw its way.
- Really comfortable ride
- Snappy and responsive — really
- Really great on the road, actually
- Fantastically smooth on gravel and dirt roads
- Can stand and sprint with gusto
- Excellent price point
- Front brake cable routing looks unfinished (but makes for easy maintenance)
- Short head tube may require several spacers for proper fit
- Not available with SRAM Force 1 — yet
The Bottom Line: 2016 Salsa Warbird Frameset
The Warbird impressed me enough on the demanding 40 mile course that I didn’t want to part with it. With the ability to confidently ride any road, the Warbird is wicked-fun, comfortable and surprisingly responsive. Get this one and proceed to ride any road you please.
More Info: Visit SalsaCycles.com
Though I only had a 40-mile ride aboard the new Warbird, this bike was a ton of fun. You can't get one outfitted like my test bike unless you build it yourself, but just know that the new frameset is capable, compliant and fun to ride.
Agree on the 1X option. But…. I think all of the gravel grinder bikes are missing the solution Rivendell found a long time ago. How about running an 11-27 rear cog, with a double chain ring, say a 46-30 or so. You might spin out with the 46, but probably only down hill. That combo would give great range without the pie-plate massive heavy 32 or 36 rear cog required for the same gearing. I’m running the 11-27 9 speed titanium dura ace rear cog. It’s small and light and the look is very clean. I’d love to get the Sugino double for the big hills. CX gearing or a compact double is just wrong for these bikes, but only if you have big hills, and some of us do.
do you have any idea what the warbird you tested with the sram and zipp components would cost?
Good question. Since it was all custom, I’d estimate it to be around $4000. I haven’t looked at the MSRP of the full 2016 Force 1 kit, but that’s a good ballpark.
thanks so much for the reply! i’m looking for a 57 frame built just like the one you reviewed. i’m not sure if it’s your bike or if it was just a demo? if it’s ever up for sale and it’s the right size – let me know.
It was a demo bike that I rode for the day. Definitely a great build and wicked fun to ride!
Hi Jason. How tall are you? Just looking at size options. Thanks 🙂
Hey Scott… I’m 5’11” on a good day. As you can see, I needed a fair bit of spacers in there to get into my position (about a 2.25″ drop). The Warbird does have a short head tube — all things considered. They put me on a 55, but I think I could go with a 56, but I’d likely need a zero setback post to do it.
As it was, the setback post gave me extra compliance and even though there is a gaggle of spacers in there, it was all good. You just might get guff from the “slam that stem” crowd that doesn’t know a proper bike fit if it slapped them in the behind.
Thanks Jason. I am 5 10, reviewed a niner RLT in a 56 but it felt too big. Salsa recommend the same large size.
Did you have any toe overlap issues? Someone mentioned this as an issue with the Warbird, with a 44Eu size shoe, so not a sasquatch.
I think I did recall having overlap issues with my 44’s. Just one of those things that only come into play on rare occasions.
NIce review as usual!