Four Seasons with the Salsa Blackborow
Photos and words by Jarrod Bunk
It started over a 2 years ago, when I was riding my current fatbike – a Surly Moonlander – for much more than just winter riding. It was slowly becoming my everything bike, and eventually that Moonlander replaced my carbon Cannondale Scalpel. Looking back, that piqued my interest in a more aggressive geometry bike, that could handle some sort of suspension fork.
There were a handful of manufacturers with tapered head tubes to allow for a Rock Shox Bluto or other fork. Simply put my next bike had to have the ability to run suspension, fat 5” tires, and through axles. Of the handful of bikes out at the time this wasn’t possible. Along comes a Blackborow. It has checked all of my boxes, and even some that I didn’t know I needed checking. THAT FOREST SERVICE GREEN, I had to have it. Things fell into place and a few months after waiting my dinglespeed build showed up. I have a tendency to build my bikes custom, so I stripped the bike down and rebuilt it with some stuff that I prefer to use. Industry 9 Hubs, dropper post, RaceFace NEXT SL cranks and the cockpit from Chromag.
Going into the build I knew that this bike would be my four season ride.
I remember throwing a leg over this bike for the first time. I felt an immediate improvement over my Moonlander: this bike was noticeably stiffer. I felt like what I was putting into it, I was getting out of it, no small part thanks to the 6066 T6 aluminum tube set that Salsa used in this bike. While riding the Blackborow I noticed that it didn’t feel like a fatbike in the way I was used to. This handled like a playful MTB just begging to be ripped. The 440mm chain stays make it a wheelie machine.
There seems to be a growing number of people who want to sub their trainer out for just being out there.
This is the beauty of a fatbike to me, the versatility that has been built into the Blackborow. I can run a rigid fork and adjust the Alternator dropouts back for winter riding. Slamming the dropout forward and adding a RockShox Bluto makes for an all mountain machine packed into a package that doesn’t look the part. Salsa really marketed this bike as an adventure bike, and yes it is. I could go and get lost on it for weeks if I wanted. So marketing aside this bike really has multi purposes, and once you see the light and ride one you’ll get it, I swear. Certainly a fatbike doesn’t make sense if you’re riding the Tour Divide Route, but for general riding I think that it fits the bill.
Spending over a year on the Blackborow, I have ridden a few forks on it. The Blackborow started off with the Alloy Salsa Bearpaw 150 fork from the factory. Since I was building this bike up in the fall, I left the rigid fork on as I much prefer the predictability of rigid forks on the different snow packs, as well as some more technical slow speed stuff. That said, the Bluto had been on my mind since the bike was released, and as one of the reasons for going to the Blackborow I swapped to it early spring.
A suspension fork really changed the handling of the bike and allowed me to push my speed much faster, but in a very controlled manner. Transitioning from turn to turn was quicker, easier, and at one point I remember everything clicking. I felt so much more in control. Riding the Bluto all spring and summer made for a great time on this my one and only MTB.
For winter I transitioned again to rigid, but this time to a Salsa Bearpaw Carbon fork. The weight of my front end dropped drastically and again I had found another sweet spot of this bike. This winter has been a blast on the rigid carbon fork. No matter what fork you ride on this bike it’s playful, and precise, not just for a fatbike.
In closing I think that for people in colder climates, the fatbike is a no brainer, and for people who want a different experience this could be for you. I usually have gripes with bikes, and with this one I just wish Salsa did stealth routing for the dropper post. Having ridden other fatbikes from major players in the industry I would still stand behind this purchase and do it all over again. I love my Blackborow, and Salsa is doing something right with their fatbikes.
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