Salsa Fargo 4,000 Mile Review – Why You Should Buy a Fargo, Not a Vaya

Salsa Fargo on Lake Koocanusa

An overlook in Montana on Lake Koocanusa.

I pedaled my Salsa Fargo 4,000 miles through the U.S. in summer 2014 and (update October 2015) another 2,500 miles through Europe in 2015. This post explains why I think it’s is a great choice for anyone looking for a commuter or a touring bike that can handle pavement, gravel or dirt roads with equal ease.

There aren’t many bikes out there with such great versatility, yet most people don’t consider the Fargo for road touring. I think they should! I have no affiliation with Salsa (other than what I put on fajitas), and write this only to help discuss this fairly new bike (at the time of writing) because I couldn’t find a comprehensive review during my search.

Making friends in Montana.

Making friends in Montana. “Hey, is that a Salsa?”

Rationale for Choosing the Salsa Fargo

When I started looking for a touring bike to replace my Lemond Poprad cyclocross bike (which I used for light-weight touring and commuting), I debated forever before deciding on a bike. There are a dozen great options out there – how does one choose? After many test rides and hours combing through online forums and reviews, I bought a new 2013 Salsa Fargo 3. After the bike tour this summer, I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

For me, it came down to three important factors: versatility, comfort and a steel frame. Weight was not a big factor since touring and commuting both add significant weight that I feel obscures the savings from, say, a titanium frame. I also needed braze-ons for fenders, plus front/rear rack mounting since I haul panniers.

Fargo in the White Mountains

Fall colors in New Hampshire.

Versatility

Trek, Surly, Salsa, Raleigh, and a few other models made my short list. At first, I leaned heavily toward Salsa’s well-regarded touring bike (the Vaya), largely due to Path Less Pedaled and their satisfaction with the bike. However, I felt limited by the Vaya’s scope (limited to road touring/commuting) and not being able to throw tires bigger than 40 series on it for serious off-road adventures. Also, I would need to immediately switch up the Vaya’s gearing since it comes with a 30-tooth small front chain ring and 30-tooth rear, which isn’t a good ratio for spinning up steep mountain passes without destroying ones knees and back. I’m not 21 anymore, dammit! (I’m totally going to be the 60 year old guy on an electric bike crushing whippersnappers on climbs.)

My buddy Nate, a badass off-road tourer who throws down single week, 600 mile rides with 35k elevation gain, recommended the Fargo. It turned out to be the ideal bike for my needs and allows me to own one bike for touring plus town riding. Plus, I can run mountain bike tires (it comes stock with 2.2’s”, but I rode with Schwalbe Marathon 40’s) or slim road tires for various types of touring. I’ve hauled up to 75 pounds of gear on the Fargo with the Salsa racks with no problems. Gravel, dirt, pavement – it handles it all. Update 8/19/15: during our bike tour around Europe, I used Continental 42 series tires, which are designed for the fatty rims on the Salsa and allow slightly higher pressure. The bigger tires are great for touring over here.

Gravel grinding on the Fargo

Back gravel paths of upstate New York.

Sizing Your Salsa Fargo

What size to buy? I’m 5’10” with a 32” inseam and always fit a medium in anything – clothing, bikes, jetpacks, corsets; you name it. Sizing charts all pointed to medium. And yet when I test rode the Fargo’s various sizes, the medium and large felt practically the same due to the relaxed geometry. (It’s the most comfortable bike I’ve owned). Tough choice. Nate pointed out that I could use a bigger frame bag if I went with the large, and many other people my size rode a large also. Coupled with my positive test ride experience, I chose large.

For me, it was the right choice. Unless you have monkey arms and dwarf legs, I bet you’ll fit great on a large if you’re 5’10”-6’0”. Note that Salsa will tell you otherwise; I spoke with their customer service and they couldn’t recommend anything other than what sizing charts tell you. Forums will disagree, and who knows how it feels for you, but a large worked for me.

Salsa Fargo on the Erie Canal

Hanging on the Erie Canal in NY. Chelsea is being sneaky.

Salsa Fargo Models – What’s the Difference?

The other dilemma was which Fargo model to buy. There’s the Fargo 3 (cheapest model), Fargo 2 or Fargo Titanium. At $4,500, the titanium was out – I don’t plan on racing on my Fargo unless it’s to meet friends for Thai food. At face value, the Fargo 2 was great because it has better components (SRAM X5/X7 versus X7/X9 on the Fargo 3), a suspension seat and a carbon fork. BUT that carbon fork lacks braze-ons for mounting a front rack or water bottles. Deal killer for someone like me who wants the versatility without needing multiple forks. I could have bought the 2 and switched out the fork, but it wasn’t worth it. Fargo 3 it was.

I should also add that the Fargo 3 has braze-ons with enough space for five water bottles. That can work well if you use a frame bag; there’s still room for three water bottle cages. If you don’t want to run a front rack, you can use Salsa’s Anything Cage and carry a sleeping bag or pad on your forks. I’ll be doing this for future bike packing adventures.

Note: I use Salsa’s Alternator rear rack and down-under front rack. They work great – I carried 50 pounds on the rear rack on some seriously rough terrain in Europe and had zero issues.

Fargo in South Dakota

Cruising the MIchelson Trail in South Dakota’s Black Hills. 110 miles of off-road gravel grinding!

Handling

The Salsa is a solid bike. If you’re used to a carbon rocket or a tight geometry touring bike, it’s going to feel a big sluggish at first. I had those leanings…but only for a few hours. And after a couple days on it, I realized my wrists weren’t hurting, my back felt great and it was a joy to ride, both uphill and downhill. With the low-rider front rack from Salsa, loaded panniers (I used Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus for rear and Sport-Packers for the front) still allowed smooth handling with no chatter or wobbling, even at 40 mph down a mountain pass.

Gearing, Chainrings and Other Boring Gearhead Info

The Fargo is basically the same frame weight as the Vaya. It comes with SRAM DoubleTap shifters, which some people may not like. Such as me! I’m a Shimano guy and this is my first bike with SRAM. No reason to be concerned – any Luddite gorilla can figure out the shifting. Call me a Shimano heretic, but I actually grew to like the DoubleTap mechanism.

Gearing-wise, the Salsa come stock with a mountain double setup. I run 26/42 up front and an 11-36, 10-speed rear cassette, though I believe the new models are stock at 26/39, which would also work great. The sizeable head tube allows for a 100mm suspension fork to be installed with clearance for mountain bike tire, which results in a great off-road touring rig. All that together makes this a killer rig for the Continental Divide ride from Banff to Mexico, which is on my bucket list.

Only a double front chainring, you gasp into your PBR (dude, why are you drinking at work?). Yep, that’s right. I’m of the humble opinion that a triple front chainring is unnecessary for bike touring. Who wants to pedal downhill at 50 mph on a loaded bike? Self-imposed death sentence, no thanks. (And stop dreaming about tailwinds where you need a top-gear chainring. You’ll get one tailwind during your entire tour, and you’ll probably be eating lunch when it happens.) In fact, I spent 3/4 of my time touring in the small chainring. Go double and thank me later.

Middle of Montana

Snack by the side of a back country highway in eastern Montana.

Disc Brakes Rock

Don’t listen to rim brake snobs. Disc brakes on a loaded bike are fantastic. You’ll agree the first time you’re riding downhill in the rain and can actually stop without sacrificing a foot into spinning spokes. They’re easy to adjust (albeit occasionally squeaky) and won’t heat up your rims on the non-rainy descents. If you’re touring in Mongolia where parts are more than a falcon flight away, maybe rim brakes make sense. Most other places, I bet you’ll be fine. Brakes are overrated anyway; ask any fixie rider!

Riding Position and Comfort

The Salsa Fargo is one of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ever ridden. I usually slam my bars down as low as possible on mountain bikes for handling purposes, but that’s totally unnecessary for bike touring or commuting. Instead, my seat was slightly lower than the handlebars and it felt like sitting in a throne. For climbing, the stock Woodchipper handlebars were fantastic; their flared shape provided great hand position variation during long days. And saying “Woodchipper bars” is like wearing a flannel shirt and chopping two cords of wood in 5 degree weather – it makes you a badass.

Making friends with burly bikers at the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota.

Making friends with burly bikers at the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota.

Downsides

Thinking hard for this part, but can’t come up with anything! (Seriously, I’m not getting paid to write this.) The weight is all I’ve got – 36.5 pounds for my bike with fenders and front/rear racks installed was the final tally. Other than a few flats, I experienced zero issues with my Fargo over our 4,000+ mile bike tour, not to mention shorter rides post-tour. The bike feels bulletproof, the drivetrain wasn’t even noticeably worn at the end, and my body felt great afterward.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a serious ass-kicker of a bike with tons of versatility for whatever two-wheeled adventure you’re contemplating, the Salsa Fargo is worth considering. After one big tour, I’m stoked to stuff mine in a box this coming summer, fly over the Atlantic and rampage all over Europe starting in early June.

Any other questions? Drop me a line via email or in the comments. Otherwise, cheers and happy bike shopping!

Dakota

P.S. Please contribute comments or thoughts below. This review is just my opinion and perhaps you have a different take on things. Share away!

Salsa on a tree

95 replies
  1. Asa
    Asa says:

    Nice write up. I have a Surly Cross Check and talk about the way you do your Fargo. Just curious if you considered Surly at all.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy Asa. Actually, my wife rides a Cross-Check so I know them well. Great bikes for sure, but they can’t handle off-road touring quite as well (in my understanding). I like that the Fargo can handle the 100mm fork, though I haven’t actually ridden the bike with suspension.

      Have you used the Surly for off-road touring?

      Reply
  2. Jeffrey Fritts
    Jeffrey Fritts says:

    There are a few things in life that make a man truly happy. A good wife, a fine
    bottle of wine, and an excellent bike (not necessarily in that order.)

    Wise cracks about guys in their 60s needing electric bikes are not allowed. I’m 62 and I may need a bent when I reach the tender age of 90, but the AWOL and Roubaix are just fine thank you. Speaking of Shimano vs. SRAM I have the best of both. The AWOL is a SRAM double-tap (which I too prefer) and the Roubaix is Shimano. When riding the Roubaix I often find myself down shifting when I meant to upshift. It only takes a few miss-shifts like that to remind me, “Oh, I’m riding a Shimano equipped bike.”

    And speaking of wind you are so right. Here in Walla Walla when a warm front blows through it BLOWS through. Was out riding yesterday in 20-30mph winds with gusts to 50mph and 60˚F warm.

    May the sun always shine on you, may the wind always be at your back and the farm dogs lazy my friend. (And you just wait till you are 60…) 😉

    AKJeff riding his AWOL

    Reply
  3. Phillip
    Phillip says:

    Hey there Dakota,

    I just ran across your write-up and wanted to chime in briefly. I too own a Fargo (2012, model 3) and spent last summer touring from Alaska to Colorado on it.

    Like you, I had a great experience touring on it, and love it’s versatility as well. Thanks for the great write-up and happy travels!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Fantastic! That sounds like a badass trip, Phillip. Thanks for the feedback as well. I just rode my bike around town and was thinking how much I enjoy it.

      What’s next on your tick list? Wanna do the Continental Divide? I’m recruiting…

      Reply
      • Phillip
        Phillip says:

        Haha….I actually would love to do it “someday”. But for now the next few trips on my dream list consist of more “reasonable” choices, such as a West Coast and Trans-Canada trip. Something about riding through Canada the first time makes me want to do it again!

        Reply
  4. Visage Eleven
    Visage Eleven says:

    I’ve just bought a Surly Troll frame to build it as an off-road tourer; your blog post is making me want to buy a ready-to-go Salsa!!! Are the wheels on your Salsa 26 or 29ers? I’m still researching on the spec and trying to find the perfect forks, (frame didn’t come with forks). Nearly bought a cross check but figured I needed more fixing points for panniers, bottles, etc. hmm.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      700cc rims (29er). I liked all the bottle/extra storage cage mounts on the front fork as well. You can get a 100mm suspension fork for the Fargo as well, which is what I’m going to do when I ride the Divide.

      Ride on!

      Reply
      • Risandi Pradipto
        Risandi Pradipto says:

        Hello Dakota.
        I’m considering Surly Straggler, Salsa Vaya, and (seriously) Salsa Fargo after read your review. Could you please elaborate more on the Fargo’s fork? Is it tapered or straight. I got fixed fork from MRP as well as the other 100mm suspension. And what about Straggler and Vaya (those got disc brake mount as well). Cheers.

        Reply
        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          No idea on Straggler and Vaya, but the Fargo is a tapered fork. Google around to check on the new bikes. Good luck choosing a bike!

          Reply
  5. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Great write up. I’m looking to buy a do-it-all drop bar bike to replace one of my mountain bikes. Been considering gravel bikes from Kona and Norco as well as the Fargo 3. I have a couple friends who are in the midst of a roundtheworld bike tour on their Fargo’s. Given that all the gravel bikes seem to be only a couple hundred less than the Fargo, I’m having a hard time deciding. Your writeup helped a little bit … and it was a fun read too.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Great, glad it helped. I had a hard time deciding as well, and there are more gravel grinders out there these days too. Tough to figure out what the heck to do… Good luck!

      Reply
  6. Bikes And Bows
    Bikes And Bows says:

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been riding my Fargo 3 for a while and love the crap out of it.
    I am currently preparing for a 5000mile tour around the Western U.S. and am wondering what road tires you would suggest for a loaded Fargo?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Nice! I run the Schwalbe Marathon 38s. I also hear the Continental 42’s are really good for the stock Fargo rim. That’s what I’m running for an upcoming tour this summer in Europe.

      What’s the route for your tour?

      Reply
      • Bikes And Bows
        Bikes And Bows says:

        Thank you! I’ve been looking into the Continental’s, and I also looked at Vittoria Randonneur Touring Tires – but those are cheaper, so I wasn’t sure how they would compare!
        We’re going from Spearfish, SD – Seattle, WA – San Francisco, CA – Sequoia National Park – Grand Canyon – Denver, CO – Back to Spearfish, SD. So we’ll be having to conquer some serious climbing in a few stages of the overall ride.

        This is the first time going on such a long ride! We will be “fully loaded” but will stay as light as possible – but we’ll see how packing goes.

        Reply
        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          You’ve got it! I’d only done two weekend-type tours prior to our big one. Same gear, just more days of pedaling. In fact, we came through Spearfish riiiight during Sturgis Rally. Pretty funny scene. Our route up through Montana was a fun one if you want to check out the write ups/route (here’s the map: http://www.traipsingabout.com/map/). SE Montana is reeeeemote, but the NW section of the state is awesome, as is Idaho and the Cascades. Ride on man!

          Reply
  7. Marc MkKoy
    Marc MkKoy says:

    Great read. I’ve just scratched the surface of biking, being primarily a commuter with a backpack and Topeak rack/panniers. I’m riding a hybrid at the moment (Trek FX 7.3) and use my bike year-round for everything.I probably drive less than 500 miles per year. I’m looking at a new bike with disc brakes and more comfortable geometry for longer hauls and touring. I was mired in cyclocross versions (Trek CrossRip, Giant Anyroad, and Raleigh Willard) but could not find a bike with all the functional amenities such as braze-ons for racks, fenders, water…. A sales guy pointed me to Salsa, and during my research, I found your story.

    I work in IT and am semi-remote, being a work-from-home tech for a major hosting provider. I get my daily bout of cabin fever and half-way through my shift I pack up my laptop, get on the bike, and try to rack up some miles before ending up at a coffee shop with WiFi to finish my day. Biking is freedom, escape, and relaxation. The Salsa sounds like a more practical bike for my needs. I’m a utilitarian by nature, and seek out functional, practical, and reliable tools for productive/happy living.

    I’m seriously perusing the Salsa line – sales guy suggested Vaya – but your story has me considering Fargo. I tend to research ad nauseum, but I seldom regret my purchases over being too spontaneous.

    Thanks for the story, and inspiration. I can’t think of a better way to spend time than on my bike, and being a restless spirit by nature, touring is becoming quite the temptress in my pulling up roots and taking to the road.

    Pura vida!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Awesome! Thanks for the backstory – sounds like a Fargo would work great. If you aren’t planning much off-road riding, another good option is the Specialized AWOL. I’ve never ridden it, but it seems to be well-liked out there.

      Keep on living the good life. Seems like you’ve got it dialed. See you on the road in the NE sometime!

      Reply
  8. Manny Relucano
    Manny Relucano says:

    Hello there Dakota,
    I think I am undergoing a which bike conundrum just like what you’ve experience. I am debating about a 26 disk trucker, a fargo and a vaya. I guess I narrowed down my choice base on your write ups which is the Fargo. The thing I like about the fargo is its 29 wheels because a couple of mtb’s that I ride are all 29.
    I plan to ride the old silk road in china and possibly towards Mongolia so the 26″ thing kind of screw my decision making. I have a couple of friends touring now on the same routes riding a cheap 29 wheeled Giant bike and it seems hold up.
    So now to sum it up, I would like to get a Fargo too. Now for the wheels, what rims are you using and how many spoke holes you got?
    I think this is the missing link into my search for my ideal touring bike.
    Thanks again,

    Manny

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hey Manny! If I were you, the reason I’d get a Fargo would be the ability to run larger tires. On a touring route like the one you’re eyeing, big tires are important. The 42 series Continentals that I’m currently running would work great – there’s a link in the comments above yours. I have no idea what the spoke count is on my Salsa rims, sorry; it’s merely the rims that the bike came with. For what it’s worth, I have 10,000 km of riding on them with lots of gear and have not had any issues at all.

      Happy touring!

      D

      Reply
      • Steely Dan
        Steely Dan says:

        Manny! I just read this and thought of something an old boss of mine told me about once. We worked in a bike shop and I asked him why bikes like the trucker have the popular option for 26″ wheels, and he told me some stories about when he toured around the world, and there were more than a few places where the only wheels, spokes, tubes or tires were for 26″ wheels. Say for example you’re in rural Mongolia, and you need a new tube or tire, or even a whole new wheel. There’s a much better chance you’ll find supplies for a 26″ wheel than for 29″ or 700c. Definitely something to keep in mind!

        Reply
  9. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Glad I found this review. I was looking at the vaya, but this pretty much describes exactly what Im looking to do with a bike.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Shane
    Shane says:

    Hey Manny I have the 26″ lht and a 29″ Fargo. I’ve toured on my lht and really liked it great bike all around can’t go wrong. I have not toured on my Fargo yet, but if I could only have one I’d keep the Fargo. It just feels better to me. Riding it seems to give the feeling of sitting in the bike not on it like the lht.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Sitting in the bike versus on it is a great way to describe the Fargo! That’s exactly what I was going for when I bought it. Thanks for the input, Shane.

      Reply
  11. Mike
    Mike says:

    Dakota, Enjoyed reading your blog on the Salsa Fargo. I have been researching the Fargo for awhile. I use my beloved Surly Cross Check for commuting, and have done a couple gravel grinder races on the Cross Check. Do you think the Fargo would also be up to a gravel grinder?

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yes, I think the Fargo would be a fantastic gravel grinder. Plus then you’ll have the capacity to add a suspension fork if you want to do some bike packing. It has been a great bike for me – it’s very comfortable and handles great as well.

      If you are only planning to gravel grind or commute, perhaps check out some of the other options out there. I haven’t looked for more than a year now and there may be some good options out there. Let me know what you find out!

      Reply
  12. Mike
    Mike says:

    Dakota, Thank you for your quick response. I should have mentioned that I also intend to do some bike packing as well. We live in Michigan with a lot of great rail trails, some paved but mostly dirt. My wife and I have also discussed the Allegheny Passage Trail on a bike packing trip. Thank you again for your wonderful blog!

    Reply
  13. kristen campbell
    kristen campbell says:

    hey dakota-
    i’m wondering what fenders you are using with the stock 2.2 tires that came with the fargo? i had my planet bike fenders perfect with schwalbe marathon tour plus 37c and when i tried to put the 2.2 mt bike tires on i could never get the front fender to clear the tread-

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hey there Kristen, I frankly have never run 2.2″ tires with fenders on my Fargo. The only time I’ve had fenders is when we’re long-distance touring on roads, but 42’s clear the fender with tons of space. My Cascadia 29er fenders say they go up to only 2″, but I think there should be enough space to run 2.2″, if I had a guess. Here’s a link to what I’m using: http://amzn.to/1hmOKu0

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Barry
        Barry says:

        Dakota, I stumbled upon this write-up on your Fargo 3 while searching for a compatible front rack for my 2014 Fargo 2 (with steel fork) as I’m preparing for a 5 day tour in & around Glacier NP this July. So, seeing your other write-ups/pics of this area, has really pumped me up for this trip. Great job on your blog! I’ll come back to read it all when time allows. I do have a few specific questions for you.

        1.) I purchased these exact same fenders you have and have the same Salsa Alternator Rear Rack (and will be getting the Down Under HD Front Rack . But I’m trying to determine the best way to mount the Fenders. Specifically, since the alternator frame on the rear doesn’t have threaded eyelets, how did you mount the rear fender arms? It appears I could possibly mount them with the same bolts as the fender, but do I need longer bolts than what came with the rack mounting kit? For the front rack, it doesn’t seem to fit with the standard attachment hardware because it’s too high above the tire/wheel & the attachment arms will not reach the threaded eyelets at the bottom of the fork. It seems from what I can tell by the pics of your bike, you may have used some sort of extension with the metal tab that secures the fender to the bolt through the top of the fork crown, but even if I do this to lower the fender some, it appears that the arms will still not reach the bottom eyelets. I’m thinking mounting to the mid-fork eyelets may work? Any advice / pictures that show how your fenders are mounted would be greatly appreciated.

        2.) Are you still recruiting for a Continental Divide Tour? It’s on my bucket list too and one of the reasons I purchased the Fargo. If so, do you have a specific time planned yet? What’s your plan on daily mileage, etc.?

        Thanks!

        Reply
        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          Hey man! Glad you’re digging our site. To answer your questions: 1) Yep, I got a longer rack mounting bolt for the rear racks and attached the fender with that. 2) For the front tire, it’s simply a piece of thin metal with a slot in the middle that allows the fender to be adjusted easily. Works great.

          RE: the Continental Divide, thanks for asking! That could be fun. However, I am taking this summer off from long-distance cycle touring and focusing on shorter stints of mountain biking. I’ve missed it too much the last two summers. Perhaps in 2017? If you haven’t already done it, maybe that’ll be an option. Cheers to springtime pedaling!

          Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yep! I like pedals with both flat and SPD options. Something like this Wellgo pedal works great for touring: http://amzn.to/1jxELmX.

      It isn’t super light, but cutting a few ounces (even for rotational weight) just isn’t a big deal on touring bikes if you ask me.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hmmm, I have no idea! Given that the fork is running disc brakes, you might be fine. I’d ping Salsa directly to confirm. Come back and post a comment if you find out, I’m sure other people are wondering as well.

      Reply
      • Steely Dan
        Steely Dan says:

        I’m a little late here, but in case you’re still wondering, yes you can run 27.5″ wheels no problem. In fact with 27.5″ wheels you could go to 27.5+, since that gives you clearance in the rear for 3″ tires (with 29″ wheels you only have clearance up to 2.3″). I only know because I have a Fargo myself and am considering building a 27.5+ wheelset for the winter.

        Reply
  14. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I have a 2010 Fargo. Like many folks, I have a few bikes. If I had to go to one, I would keep the Fargo. Rode it on Cycle Oregon 2012. I was slow, but the scenery was great.

    Reply
  15. Steely Dan
    Steely Dan says:

    Hey Dakota, quick question –
    First off, I have a Fargo and absolutely love it, this review brought on a big smile. A friend and I are planing a cross country ride next summer, and my first thought was to use the Fargo, for obvious reasons. However, my buddy is going to be cruising on a Kona Jake, and even though I will be running thinner tires, I’m wondering if the geometry of the two bikes alone will lead to him riding much faster than me (assuming we’re equal strength riders, etc. etc.). I’m considering the possibility of buying a Warbird to do this tour with. I know it’s not the ideal touring bike, but neither is the Jake, and I figure this way we’d both be on cross bikes and be able to ride fast and fairly light. I’m considering the Warbird rather than the Vaya because I’ve wanted one for a while, already have the Fargo, and this way will have a kickass gravel grinder when we’re done. Have you ever ridden with anybody on loaded cross bikes or other more aggressively framed touring bikes? Did you have any troubles with speed on your trip??

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yo! I think your Fargo will work great. The body position has not noticeably slowed me down other than the perhaps heavier weight of the bike. For that long a ride, I vote for comfort! I’ve ridden with other tourers on their faster bikes and think that tires are the biggest factor. Unless you want a Warbird (they look badass), it’s probably not worth getting one, in my opinion. Just draft off your buddy if it’s an issue. 🙂 Have a great tour! Which route are you taking?

      Thanks for the insight on the 27.5″ setup – I thought that was the case but hadn’t tried it out.

      Reply
      • Steely Dan
        Steely Dan says:

        Good to know!! I figured tires were the biggest issue, I’ve just only ever done overnights bikepacking with friends who have even bigger tires than me and I was always speedier than them! I do very much want a warbird though, I imagine the decision will have to wait until spring when we see how much extra spending money I have around (we’re finishing up our last year in college)…. Plus, I’ll only have to buy the frame and build a wheelset for it, I have a practically new 105 group I can throw on it! So we’ll see, I’ll let you know.

        As for the route, we’re still deciding the details but it’s looking like we’ll be headed along the northern states, since we’ll be leaving the east coast in the beginning of June. Any suggestions?!

        Reply
        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          My recommendation may not be what you want to hear… Skip the west/east and ride north/south through the mountains! We toured XC in the U.S. last year and through Europe this summer (writeups are all under “bike touring” category on the blog) and the mountains of the west and then New England were my favorite parts. 1,500 miles of corn…wellll, I’ll pass on that. Check out the Cascades/Sierra Nevadas route that ACA just put out. It looks SWEET.

          Reply
          • Steely Dan
            Steely Dan says:

            Hmmmmmm an interesting proposal…. I have always thought about taking a shot at the Great Divide Trail! That may have to be a later trip, but something to keep in mind for sure.

  16. Matt Chadwell
    Matt Chadwell says:

    This is a great write-up on the Fargo. I have been touring on a Straggler and really wanted to find something that I could use for touring as well as bikepacking simply by switching out the tires and swapping racks/panniers for bags. It looks like this might just do the trick. To be honest, I’m surprised how well this worked for you on the long fully loaded tours.

    You say it’s the 2013 model. Does it have the alternator dropouts? And what rear rack do you have setup on it?

    I’m really excited to start my build. I might be ordering the frameset soon.

    Thanks again..

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hey Matt, I’ve dug the Fargo for touring. Over 7,500 miles of touring on it so far. Haven’t even had the chance to use it for strict bikepacking, but I’ve taken it on some rough terrain in Europe on 42 series tires and it does great.

      I run the Salsa rear rack (their standard one). And yep, I have alternator dropouts. For what it’s worth, I didn’t even use a front rack for our tour in summer 2015. You could get the new Fargo with the carbon fork and braze ons and run the Anything cage and be dialed in. Good luck with your build! Sounds like you have some fun adventures planned.

      Reply
      • Matt Chadwell
        Matt Chadwell says:

        Thanks. I was thinking about going with the carbon fork, but have mixed feelings. What is your thought with using a carbon fork when touring fully loaded? I think I’d have more confidence using a steel fork.

        Reply
        • Dakota
          Dakota says:

          I vote steel for touring. Considering how much weight you’re hauling, an extra pound or two (I don’t know what the difference is) won’t change a thing in the feel of the bike.

          Reply
  17. Jen
    Jen says:

    Hi there
    I enjoyed reading your article. I’m just waiting the arrival of an eBay purchase, a second hand Salsa Fargo 2015 (same colour as yours) to be delivered from the US to Australia. Awesome bikes, my partner rides an XS Fargo Ti & I’ve had to pedal like stink to keep up. Hence the purchase. Second hand Fargo’s are as scarce as hen’s teeth. What pannier racks are you using as I will now need to order front & rear racks.
    Cheers, Jen

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy Jen! I bought Salsa’s low rider front rack and standard rear rack. Even with carrying ~60 pounds on the rear rack in Europe this summer on ROUGH terrain, the rack (and bike) held up. Enjoy your new ride!

      Reply
  18. John
    John says:

    Interesting write-up and commentary. Looks like there are many fans of this bike!

    I built a FrankenBike from a 2012 Fargo frame and spec’d my own components – rather than buying one pre-built and swapping lots of stuff around. All of my twenty-niners run a 3×9 drive train, and using that setup on the Fargo allows me to swap wheels/tires between them at will. Crank is currently set up with 48-36-26T chain rings. I actually use all of them while riding out area trails.

    In addition to the stock fork I have an Enabler (for use with a second rear wheel up front, similar to the Surly Pugsley approach) and a recently acquired Recon Silver. These can be swapped around based on the type of riding I’m planning to do.

    There are three bikes besides the Fargo in my garage. I put more miles on it per year than the other three combined and ride the thing year round – except when the trails are snow-covered. Then the Pugs gets the nod. A few past and present riding friends seem to agree with the Fargo as a mainstay. I hope that Salsa keeps making them.

    Reply
  19. Fred
    Fred says:

    Dakota, great write-up! Your blog has put me straight in the middle of the sam Vaya/Fargo conundrum you were in! Going to be doing mostly 100-200 mile road trips with the more than occasional jaunt on dirt roads and trails. Looks like they’ve changed the frames a bit – the 2016 Vaya can handle up to 47mm tires, while the Fargo can only handle up to 42-tooth large chainring doubles. With the Vaya, my concern is being under gunned on the trails, with the Fargo, it’s being too slow for brevets and centuries.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Interesting! Those are big tires on the Vaya. Smart move, Salsa. Depending whether you think you’d ever run a suspension fork, I’d lean toward the Vaya for what you’re describing.

      Reply
  20. MJ
    MJ says:

    Hey Dakota,

    Nice write up!

    Not sure If I will ever get into touring and not a hard core Mountain biker by any mean but prefer trails with some rocks and roots and like my cyclocross bike but want something with drop bars and Monstercross 2.0 tire capabilities. Thinking about downsizing to one bike. If I don’t plan on touring with it, Would you say the Fargo is still a good choice? Or, do you recommend something else?

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Glad you found it helpful. And yes! I think the Fargo would be a great bike. Get the newer model (Fargo 2, I believe) with the carbon fork and you’ll be set. Or try the new one with a suspension fork (100mm) if you are riding rougher terrain. Happy trails!

      Reply
  21. Ucan BikeXC
    Ucan BikeXC says:

    Dakota,
    I too am looking at a Sulsa Fargo 3 and I enjoyed your write up. You covered all the bases about forks, water bottles and alternative options. I was told by my local bike dealer that I too should take the large not the medium, as I was 5’11” many decades ago. My custom Bob Jackson touring bike stretches me out too much now as my core is weaker, and I carry another 20 pounds around the middle. Add this all up and it is hard on the back and arms. I do not trust the carbon as I know guys with 10 grand plus bikes, that take all kinds of noises which would drive me nuts.

    Reply
  22. William
    William says:

    Hi! Great article!
    I have a question. I am a legally blind cyclist who uses a bike for everything from commuting to centuries and light trail riding. I am currently riding a Kona Jake, but recently rode a friend’s Velo Orange Piolet with a 1×10 drive train, 29×2.4 knobbys, and dirt drops similar to the Woodchipper. I freaking loved it! It met my needs for speed as well as being able to hit and roll over obstacles that i didn’t see coming. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Fargo as a daily driver. I would probably try to run Maxxis Hookworms 29×2.5 (semi slick tires) Also, any thoughts on comparing the Fargo to the Piolet?

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Hey William! Glad you enjoyed the article. As for the Piolet, I haven’t ridden that and can’t speak to it. There are a lot more gravel grinder/drop bar MTB bikes out there now, so I’d say go with whatever feels good. If you can get 2.5″s on there and the geometry works well, go for it!

      As for the Fargo as a daily driver, it’s what I use for both touring and around town when we’re home (albeit rarely for the latter). It works great for both purposes. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  23. Nick Kovacs
    Nick Kovacs says:

    Thank you for a great review and continued discussion. I ride and Vaya and deliberated between that and a Warbird…never considered the Fargo but after buying a Mukluk, Specialized Fuse and recently a Fargo for my wife (a 2016 closeout that was way discounted) I’m about to be converted. Looking for a Fargo but they seem to be scarce now as the new ones have not yet hit the stores.
    Love those Woodchipper bars but it does take a bit to get them dialed in.
    Looks like the new Fargo is going to cover all the bases, especially the void now that the Deadwood is history.
    Keep up the great words…always a pleasure to read.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Sure thing, Nick! Thanks for the input. Seems like any mild gripes I had about the Fargo have been addressed, so it should be even BETTER now. For an all-arounder, it’s a great choice.

      Reply
  24. Jimbo99
    Jimbo99 says:

    Your review has convinced me that my 1997 Fuji MX-200 atb is all I need. The beauty of the slightly heavier than Vaya bike is that you have the option of going to 2.2 mtb knobbies that the Vaya/Warbird is limited to 40c. My Fuji has 26×2.125 front & rear. I can get 1.5-1.75’s on it that drop the weight to Cromolly Vaya 2 29.9 lbs (without pedals). My Fuji rigid fork hardtail is 32 lbs with pedals and u-lock. For the price of 2 tires and drop bars, I have a gravel bike. Granted it’s not disc brake, but I think that’s not even an issue on a gravel road ? Plenty of stopping power for asphalt too. The rim brakes will lock up both wheels and skid, just a matter of how much brake lever force is required to squeeze it to do that.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Totally agree! Stick with your rig and you’ll be all set. I dig disc brakes, but they are finicky relative to rim brakes. If the weather is good, you’ll be totally fine. Glad my write-up helped you out!

      Reply
  25. phanzy
    phanzy says:

    Hey D, great write up. I was wondering if you went tubeless? Also, I plan to be on the Colorado Trail middle of next year so your post gave me a lot more confidence in purchasing this bike. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yo! I don’t run tubeless on my Fargo, but I do on my Ibis mtb. For the Fargo, it would probably work well, but I didn’t want to go that route for loaded touring. For bikepacking, sure, why not? The Colorado Trail is on my bucket list – have a great time out there!

      Reply
  26. Manuel
    Manuel says:

    You sound as enthused about the Fargo as I am about Marrakesh. What do you think about the Marrakesh vs. the Fargo? I’ve been riding the Marr. with Surly Knards on pavement, fire roads, and some single-track. My hands still need to get stronger (I’m used to flat bars), but otherwise it’s been a dream.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Sorry, I don’t know a dang thing about the Marrakesh. I think multi-use bikes are excellent, so if it’s one similar to the Fargo, you’re set!

      Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Get a front fork. That’ll help a lot with fatigue. I don’t have one, but for off-road stuff, I think it’s totally worth it. We’ve mostly done on-road touring for long trips, but even then I’ve wanted a fork for rougher terrain in Europe.

      Reply
  27. Fritzov
    Fritzov says:

    Great article. Really into buying a Fargo but they are not easy to find here in Europe and a it doesn’t look like the 2017 models will be available for another couple of months. I found one store in Austria that have the Fargo in size L in stock. I’m 6.2 so really not sure if I will fit on a large one. I guess I could always order one and send it back if it’s to smal

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Could be a bit small if you’re 6’2″. I’d say it’ll be borderline for you. Then again, the way the geometry works, a medium and large felt almost identical to me. Maybe it’s worth a shot!

      Reply
  28. Fritzov
    Fritzov says:

    Thanks for the reply. Here is a follow up question and sorry if it might be a bit stupid. But how would u say to notice if a frame is to smal ?

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Tougher on a mountain bike because you can straddle it regardless. If you haven’t owned a lot of bikes and don’t know what you like or what feels good, then you may need to buy a different bike locally and get it professionally fit. I bet you could make a large frame work for you with a long stem though!

      Reply
  29. Mike
    Mike says:

    Thanks so much for the review! I have been looking for a do-it-all bike for awhile, and was almost sold on the Vaya Deore…and then I read this. So thanks for drawing out this discernment process even longer! 😉 I’m wondering if you ever considered the Fargo Suspension in your search? Did you know you would be doing more touring than mountain biking-conditions, so the front rack or pannier spec was more important? I had given up on an actual do-it-ALL bike and assumed I’d just need a mountain bike if I wanted to hit the rocky trails, but it seems like the Fargo Suspension could be the ticket. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Sure thing, man! I opted for the rigid front fork so that I could have the front panniers, but now I’d go with the suspension fork if I did it again. That with bikepacking gear allows for road touring anyway, and it’s nice to have suspension on the gravel/off-road stuff we’ve ridden even during road tours. A friend of mine who does big offroad tours like the Continental Divide uses the Fargo with suspension and swears by it. (He’s got both a steel and titanium one he likes them so much.) Good luck!

      Reply
  30. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Great write-up. I specifically typed “compare Salsa Fargo and Vaya” into Google to provide insight on which would better suit my needs. Lo, this page was the first that came up and was exactly what I needed. I plan on using this for year-round in town commuting with some fire road and gravel road riding mixed in. In the summer I will do some mixed road bike camping. I read your article and ran down to my LBS to test ride a Fargo. I’m also 5’10” with a 32″ inseam. The large fit great. I’m in the process of having to sell an existing bike in order to make room for the Fargo, but I hope to pick it up in a week or two.

    My only question is whether to use a rear rack and panniers for bike camping or to rely on a frame bag, bar bag and gigantic sat bag, like the Revelate Viscacha. Any insight one one set up over the other? Anything Cages on the fork should handle sleeping bag and other light stuff. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Glad it helped you out! My advice: for road/gravel grinding, rear rack and panniers work great. For singletrack/rougher fire roads, go with frame/seat bag and Anything Cages and bar holders up front. Hey, more gear is always more fun, right? Have fun out there!

      Reply
  31. Paul
    Paul says:

    As others have said, nice right up. One of my biggest regrets was selling my 1st generation Fargo. Best fitting bike I ever had and it defied logic on pavement: it absolutely flew. Thinking of getting another one or a Bombtrack Beyond which is quite similar. I am not thrilled about the Alternator dropouts but by now I am sure they are proven. Any issues with yours? I really don’t like the fact there is only one rear rack that will work but it sounds like it worked well for you. I am going in for a fitting next week to see if they can make my current bike work for me and if not, I will get a Fargo frameset and move the parts over. That would be something to get excited about.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yo! The Alternators have worked great for me with over 10k miles of riding on them. Same with the Salsa rack – no issues at all and can carry a ton of weight without issues. Haven’t heard of the Bombtrack, but I’d still vote for the Fargo!

      Reply
  32. randy mccumber
    randy mccumber says:

    Hi Dakota! I am in the decision making process of buying a new bike in the new year. currently i own a recumbent trike, ad as much as i like riding it, scary people in cars keep trying to run over me. Anyway the decision process has been a long one, through every bike manufacturer i could find, and for a do all bike in my price range. after a couple of months of reading and comparing, the fargo has stood out from all the others. i no longer own a car and commute, do errands and cruise the local county dirt roads. i also those short 4 day touring things from here in south georgia to the gulf of mexico…..camping, checking out the sites and always on the lookout for a good local craft beer.

    anyway, everything seems to point to the fargo and your blog entry confirms my thoughts. thanks man, this 64 year old guy loves to beat the snot out of some whipper snapper that thinks he can ride. 🙂

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      I think the Fargo sounds like the perfect bike for you. Such a good all-arounder. Drop those whipper snappers and enjoy that sweet new ride!

      Reply
  33. Steve Sylvester
    Steve Sylvester says:

    I saw someone mentioned a Troll above and was dismissed because you can throw a suspension fork on the Fargo, etc. Same with the Troll.

    I’ve found my Troll to be a very versatile bike. Excellent commuter, comfortable tourer, nimble on single track, the three things I use it for. The only things the Troll can’t do are snow ( that’s what my Salsa Mukluk is for) and speed (Orbea Orca). So it’s another very good option for a whole range of touring. It will take wide tires with fenders, and, if for some reason want to do it, you can put a 29er wheeler on. I mostly ride Big Apple 2.35”. The Jones bars on my Troll really top the build off.

    Also, many folks don’t really that both Salsa and Surly are produced by the mothership, QBP. Biggest difference is that Surly is steel only, whereas Salsa does some models in carbon, aluminum and titanium.

    Reply
  34. glenn
    glenn says:

    after years on a surly cross check as my all terrain bike – mostly dirt road rides with occasional forays on trails and pavement, i switched over to a fargo last fall and couldn’t be happier. i was about to braze disc brake fittings on the cross check, but discovered the vaya and fargo siblings in a local bike shop just before surgery. i completely agree with dakota’s comments about brakes and gearing. after a few test rides i went with the fargo mostly because of the gearing, but also because the combination of upright position and weirdo woodchipper bars really started to grow on me. i find myself in the drop of the bars much more often than i did on the surly. something about getting older? (i’m under no illusions of schooling the young un’s.) for my application it’s a great bike out of the box with no need for swapping components. especially love how the fat 29 schwalbe’s smooth out the washboards.

    Reply
  35. Alex
    Alex says:

    I’m a long time MTB rider & former bike touring guy (Trek 520). Now I’m looking at off road bike packing however my wife isn’t interested in getting gnarly, sticking to road or gravel. Any who…the Fargo seems to be the best of both worlds. In my research I found a couple of forums listing an unstable front end when loaded. After reading your article it doesn’t seem like you have experienced that issue. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Howdy! With Salsa’s low-rider front rack weighed down with gear, I’ve ripped down mountains at 40 mph with no wobbling. I noticed some unsteadiness while touring in Europe without any front racks, especially when my hands were light on the bars (or no hands). Hope that helps!

      Reply

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