The Salsa Beargrease comes to the OutdoorGearLab fat bike test as the only model with a full carbon frame. The first thing testers noticed was how light and lively it felt thanks mostly to its stiff and responsive carbon skeleton. This bike is impressively efficient and it responds very well to pedaling input on flat and uphill terrain. It's also competent on the descents with a more relaxed 68-degree head tube angle and a shorter wheelbase and moderate reach and chainstay lengths that help to give it a short turning radius and relatively playful attitude. As a fully rigid bike, it is most at home on smooth snow or dirt, but it also has a little more forgiveness over slightly rougher terrain than some of the competition. The frame and fork also have plentiful bike packing and accessory mounts that make it a versatile ride that can be used for bike packing and adventure riding as well as snow biking and regular mountain biking. Its component specification is clearly budget oriented but it's functional and helps keep the price of this carbon framed bike out of the stratosphere.
Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore 2019 Review
Cons: Budget component spec, excessive handlebar back sweep
Our Analysis and Test Results
Salsa has been producing quality bikes for many years now, yet they have remained on the fringes as somewhat of a niche brand. That hasn't stopped them from growing their product line to include everything from gravel grinders and touring bikes to high-end full suspension mountain bikes and several models of fat bikes. The Beargrease comes to our fat bike test as the only full carbon model, up against a competitive field of comparably priced and equipped alloy framed competitors. In addition to being lightweight and looking really cool, the Beargrease shined with a solid all-around performance, decent component specification, and reasonable price (for carbon). Read on to see how the Beargrease compares to the competition.
The Beargrease is more capable and fun to ride on the descents than you might expect a fully rigid bike to be. Much like its other fully rigid competitors, it excels on smooth snow or dirt and tends to be a little harsh on choppy or rugged terrain. Thankfully, it has a 68-degree head tube angle which is tied for the slackest in the test and actually does help to calm the front end of this bike down and perform better when the trail steepens. When ridden back to back with the Cannondale Fat CAAD 2, which has a 69-degree head tube angle and lower front end, the Beargrease was notably more comfortable, collected, and confidence inspiring while riding a steep and technical trail. At the same time, the shorter wheelbase and moderate length reach and chainstays help maintain a lively and somewhat playful demeanor on the descents. The 80mm wide SUNringle Mulefut rims give the 27.5" x 3.8" Maxxis Minion FBF and FBR tires a nice wide profile and ample traction on both packed snow and dirt alike.
Our gripes with the downhill performance of the Beargrease are few and somewhat nit-picky build related complaints but they do affect the ride. The Salsa Rustler handlebar is a great width but testers felt the 11-degree back sweep to be a bit much and it wasn't quite as comfortable as some of the competition, it just felt a bit off. Obviously, we'd have also loved for this bike to come with a dropper seat post, but since it didn't we think a quick release seat post clamp would be the way to go to expedite the saddle height changing process. It's clear that we generally liked the way this bike performed on the descents but it simply can't compare to the plush front end of the Kona Wozo and its 100 mm of suspension.
Fully rigid bikes are inherently good at going uphill, rigid bikes with lightweight carbon frames are even better. The Beargrease is the lightest model in this test at 29 lbs 11 oz, that's with 80mm rims and 27.5" x 3.8" tires with tubes, thanks to its full carbon frame. That same lightweight frame is super stiff and responsive to pedaling input and there is no energy lost when climbing, except for a little through the soft and wide tires. When you put effort into pedaling this bike uphill it responds almost exactly like the Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q which looks, weighs, and measures almost the same as the Beargrease but has an alloy frame. The 73-degree seat tube is steep enough, and combined with the moderate length reach puts the rider in a comfortable seated climbing position. Thanks to the short-ish wheelbase, it is very maneuverable and weight is distributed relatively evenly which helps to keep the front end from wandering when the going gets steep.
There was little not to like about the Beargrease on the climbs, this bike is efficient and comfortable. If we had to find fault with it uphill performance it would have to be in its drivetrain setup. The 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain works well, but we feel that it could use a little lower range. The 28 tooth chainring and 11-42 tooth cassette provide a huge range, but considering the soft and potentially challenging conditions you are likely to encounter on this bike we'd love to have at least one easier gear.
Both the Beargrease and the Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q look like they were cut from the same mold and have very similar geometries and performance characteristics. The biggest difference between the two bikes is their seat tube angles, every other measurement is nearly identical, so it comes as no surprise that these are our two favorite rigid models. The Beargrease has a 68-degree head tube angle which qualifies as somewhat slack for a rigid fat bike and helps to give this bike a more easy-going feel when pointed downhill. It's also got a short-moderate length wheelbase of 1158mm and medium length 442mm chainstays which keep this bike nimble and relatively playful. The 73-degree seat tube angle isn't exactly steep by today's standards, although it's only 2 degrees off the steepest in our test, but it works and puts the rider close to right above the cranks and not too far out above the rear wheel. The seated pedaling position on the Beargrease is quite comfortable, you aren't bent too much at the waist, stretched out, or cramped, it nails the middle ground nicely. We also measured its Q-factor, the width between the cranks, at 185mm, comparable to most of the models in this test but 15mm wider than the Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q which feel the most "normal" of all the fat bikes.
The Beargrease Carbon Deore has a relatively standard budget minded build attached to a full carbon frame. What the build of this bike lacks in wow factor it makes up for with functionality and affordability, for a carbon frame. The front and rear triangles of the frame are all carbon fiber with Salsa's Bearpaw rigid carbon fork up front. The Bearpaw fork has carbon legs and an aluminum steerer, plus a set of 3-pack mounts on each side. The frame has typical modern fat bike thru axle spacing of 15 x 150mm in the front and 12 x 197mm in the rear. The front and rear triangles also come with a variety of mounts to accommodate all of your bike packing/adventure biking accessories.
The Deore build of the Beargrease Carbon comes with, not surprisingly, a Shimano Deore 1x11-speed drivetrain. This includes a Deore Shadow+ 11-speed rear derailleur, a Deore shifter, and an 11-42 tooth cassette paired with Race Face Ride cranks and a 28 tooth front chainring. This drivetrain setup provides a good amount of range that will be suitable for most riders, although the easiest gear is a bit tougher than some of its competitors. Like most of the other models in this review, the Beargrease is equipped with SRAM Level brakes and 160mm centerline brake rotors front and rear. We typically prefer the power and braking feel of higher end brakes, but the Levels work relatively well, especially for the low to moderate speeds of fat bikes.
The cockpit of the Beargrease is well appointed and consists of a handful of Salsa's own parts. They've used their own Guide stem and Rustler handlebar with comfortable lock on grips. Testers liked the width of the handlebar but felt that it had a bit more back sweep than they like making it feel a little bit off. In the rear, they've mounted a Salsa Guide seat post with a quality WTB Volt saddle. Of course, we'd love for this bike to come equipped with a dropper seat post or at least a quick release seat post clamp to speed up saddle height changes. That said, none of the fat bikes models we tested for this review come with dropper posts although a couple do come with a quick release.
SUNringle dominates the fat bike wheels market and like most fat bikes the Beargrease is clad with one of their wheelsets. It rolls on a set of 27.5" SUNringle Mulefut 80 rims laced to SUNringle SRC hubs. The 80mm rim width is nice and wide and pairs well with the 3.8" Maxxis Minion FBF and FBR tires giving them a slightly wider profile than a narrower rim.
Much like the Rocky Mountain Suzi Q, the Beargrease is a very versatile fat bike. This carbon framed beauty is good for just about everything, snow riding, adventure rides, bike packing, and everyday mountain biking so long as you don't mind riding a rigid bike. The frame and fork come equipped with all the mounts you'll probably ever need to attach all of your overnight gear for bike packing adventures. The complete bike is also light enough that you could easily use it for fat bike racing or all day sufferfests if that's your thing. If you're looking for an all-around performer in a lightweight carbon framed package, the Beargrease should be on your short list.
With a retail price of only $2,299, we feel the Beargrease Carbon Deore is a very good value for any bike that comes with a full carbon frame. This bike weighs the least of all the models we tested and has a stiff, precise, and nimble ride quality. The component specification won't knock anyone's socks off, but it's functional and on par with most of the competition. If you want a premium carbon frame at a very competitive price, the Beargrease Deore simply can't be beat.
Testers found little they didn't like about the Beargrease. This lightweight carbon framed ride was just barely edged out by the slimmest of margins by the Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q for our favorite of the fully rigid bikes in this review. The Beargrease is a comfortable and adept climber, a playful and relatively competent descender, and a versatile ride that can go bike packing one day and take on a snowy backyard ride the next. It's also an impressive value, with a full carbon frame and a build specification similar to the other models in the test. Unfortunately, we can't give every bike and award because the Beargrease is certainly worthy of one, it was just bested by the competition this time around.
Other Versions and Accessories
Salsa makes 4 version of their Beargrease Carbon fat bikes, including the Deore version reviewed here.
The Beargrease Carbon XO1 Eagle ($5,599) has the same carbon frame, but with their Kingpin Deluxe fork that has a full carbon steerer and more accessory mounting options on the fork legs. It comes with a full SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide RS brakes, a carbon handlebar and seatpost, and Carbon Whisky No. 9 wheels. The size large is claimed to have a complete bike weight of 26 lbs 10 oz.
The Beargrease Carbon GX Eagle ($3,899) has the same frame and fork as the model above but comes with a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and Stylo carbon cranks, SRAM Guide R brakes, and alloy wheels.
The Beargrease Carbon NX Eagle ($2,899) has the same frame and fork as both models above but comes with a SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, and SRAM Guide T brakes.
Salsa also makes two other fat bike models, the Mukluk and the Blackborow. The Mukluk is designed for maximum floatation and comes in three versions ranging from $3,999 to $1,899 with massive 4.8" wide tires. The Blackborow is intended for fat bike touring and adventure riding and has a cargo-bike design that includes a rear rack. It comes in a GX Eagle version only and retails for $3,099.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue