With a wide range of mountain, touring and fat bikes, many built for niche pursuits, Salsa has off-road riding and adventure in its DNA. The Minnesotabased brand has been into this whole gravel thing for a lot longer than most, giving it time to develop and refine a machine purpose-built for riding over endless expanses of gravel. That machine is the Warbird and it’s ready to take on the big gravel events covering 200 miles, or those lasting multiple days.
As with most bikes, the secret sauce for the Warbird is in the geometry. When racing for 10 or more hours, comfort comes to the forefront of concerns—the fastest position you can hold for a few hours won’t help you much when turning over the cranks starts feeling uncomfortable many hours later. The Warbird has a slack head-tube angle of 70.75 degrees, a long wheelbase and a low bottom bracket—all with stability in mind. Additionally, a long top tube paired with a short stem furthers the stableness of the ride. Overall, the bike puts you into an in-between position that’s somewhat upright, but aggressive enough to remind you to ride quickly.
For comfort on rough roads, Salsa includes its Class 5 Reduction Vibration System which features long, bowed seatstays that flex to reduce the constant vibrations of gravel. But the seat post, a prime component for mitigating road buzz, is made of alloy instead of carbon, a lost opportunity to further the comfort of the bike (the more expensive Di2 Warbird build includes a flexible carbon post). Complementing the vibration reduction of the seat stays are horizontally shaped chainstays, which Salsa says increase the lateral stiffness of the bike’s rear end.
The Warbird is made for all-day or multi-day rides. So, in addition to the standard two bottle cage mounts inside the main triangle (sizes 56cm and up get a third one), there are two additional mounts—one on the top tube and the other underneath the down tube—which provide additional capacity for bags and accessories. And the fork is just as adept, with three pack mounts on either side for adding water bottles or gear cages for big excursions. Also, you can add fenders as well as a front rack for paniers. This bike really is made to handle whatever you throw at it.
For $4,099, the Warbird comes equipped with Shimano’s top mechanical gravel group, GRX 810, in a 2x setup. The 48/31 crankset and 11–34 cassette provide a nice range for going up hills as well as chugging along on flat, open roads. The entire build is suitably light at 19.62 pounds (8.9 kilograms) in a size 52.5 without pedals or cages.
Delightfully stable at speed, the Warbird lets you rip over everything with confidence, from tame roads to beat-up trails and deep gravel. At the same time, this bike doesn’t have the quickest reflexes, but that’s on purpose. The tradeoff of that stable geometry, which is built for long-haul gravel riding like Dirty Kanza, is a bike that’s a little reluctant to stray from its path. Of course, it’s not as if the bike is mounted on rails; you just have to put a little more input into turning or avoiding rogue tree roots.
Stocked with 42mm tires (which can be swapped for up to 700×45 or 650×2.0-inch), the Warbird arrives equipped to float over true gravel roads and sandy sections. In extended sections of especially deep sand or gravel, the bike lets you keep riding when you might otherwise have to put a foot down or start hiking. And while not offering a ride that would be considered plush, the bike does an excellent job of mitigating gravel road vibrations, especially given that it doesn’t rely on any moving parts, suspension or other sorts of frame inserts. Upgrading the seat post to a flexible carbon is an easy upgrade to get even more out of this bike.
If you seek out true gravel roads and long rides, the Warbird is a purpose-built tool that has been around the block a time or two. And with ample gear mounts it easily does double duty, going from gravel racer to bikepacking companion—whatever the day calls for.