Salsa Mukluk SX Eagle Review
Cons: Has a speed limit, not exciting
Manufacturer: Salsa Cycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the Mukluk against a diverse selection of the best fat bikes on the market. It didn't really stand out from the crowd, but what it lacked in wow-factor it made up for with a comfortable, consistent, and predictable performance throughout testing. We feel the Mukluk is a very quality fat bike that would be a great addition to anyone's bike quiver.
The Mukluk is a perfectly capable fat bike, and it works really well for riding the moderate rolling terrain that it was designed for. Sure, you can point it down some steeper, rougher trails, but this bike's conservative geometry and lack of suspension simply work better on mellower terrain. When riding within its speed and aggressiveness limits on packed snow, sand, and smoother singletracks, the Mukluk performs admirably.
Like many other models in this review, the Mukluk is a fully rigid bike. As such, it isn't meant to charge down steep and rough trails at speed. Instead, it was designed to ride smoother and often soft conditions like snow and sand. The Mukluk's geometry also speaks to its mellower intentions. The 69-degree head tube angle is right about the norm for fat bikes and helps give it quick and responsive handling, though it doesn't inspire loads of confidence to point it down steeper trails. The 1155 mm wheelbase is on the conservative side, though similar to many of the other bikes in this review. This shorter wheelbase helps to keep the Mukluk maneuverable, though it doesn't exactly beg to be ridden super fast. When pushing the envelope of speed, you can tell when you've hit the Mukluk's limit, and it starts to feel a little twitchy compared to longer and slacker models. That said, it does have a moderately long reach measurement, for a fat bike, of 446mm that helps to give the rider a comfortable, and not too upright, upper body position when descending. The low 315mm bottom bracket height felt good when cornering, and when you lean the Mukluk over to turn, it responds well to rider input.
Much like the geometry, the component spec is clearly intended for a specific type of riding and is best suited to smoother terrain and soft conditions. The rigid fork is fine, though it can feel a bit harsh over refrozen snowmobile tracks or rocky sections of trail. The massive 4.6-inch wide tires have loads of air volume and provide some dampening to help smooth the ride, and when ridden at low pressures, they provide great traction when cornering and braking. The SRAM Level brakes aren't especially powerful, though they do work just fine for controlling the speeds the Mukluk likes to travel. Most of the fat bikes we've tested don't come with dropper posts, though our testers are very used to them these days and feel it would be a great addition to the Mukluk.
The Mukluk performs well on the climbs. It's a reasonably lightweight, the geometry is comfortable, and the components work well enough; out testers had little to complain about. It isn't especially fast, but it rolls along efficiently and scrambles up moderate pitches of snow, sand, and smooth singletrack well.
Our size large Mukluk tipped the scales at 32 lbs and 7 oz without pedals. While it isn't exactly lightweight, it is right about average for the models we tested and three pounds lighter than the heaviest competitors. The Mukluk's geometry works well on the climbs. The 73-degree seat tube angle is pretty standard for a hardtail, with a moderate length reach measurement that puts the rider in a comfortable seated pedaling position. Power transfer down into the pedals feels direct and efficient. The Mukluk motors along just fine in a straight line and the shorter wheelbase and steeper head tube angle provide quick, responsive handling. This bike is easy to steer around obstacles and even tight uphill switchbacks.
The SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain provides ample range for any pitch of climb and plenty of low gears for wallowing in soft snow and sandy conditions. Our only gripe with the SX level components is that it doesn't shift nearly as smoothly or consistently as some of the higher-end options in our experience. The 45NRTH Dillinger tires were a pleasant surprise. They rolled along with minimal resistance considering their 4.6-inch width, yet they still provided loads of climbing traction. Our testers are big fans of WTB saddles, and the Volt Sport was a welcoming spot to sit and pedal away the miles.
While our testers probably wouldn't start using the Mukluk as a substitute for their everyday trail bikes, we do feel that it is a relatively versatile bike. Of course, it works best for its intended use on moderate terrain riding packed snow, sand, and smooth dirt conditions. Mellow riders who primarily ride smooth singletrack and aren't pushing the limits in terms of speed or aggressiveness may also enjoy this bike. With numerous bottle cage mounts, three-pack mounts on the fork, and the ability to mount a rear rack, the Mukluk could also make for a great bike packing rig for overnight summer, winter, or desert adventures.
The Mukluk SX Eagle is built around Salsa's 6066-T6 Aluminum frame and a Bearpaw carbon fork. The frame features full-length internal cable routing and routing for the use of an internally routed dropper post. It also features Salsa's Alternator adjustable dropouts that allow the user to move the rear axle fore and aft, run a single speed or geared setup, or choose between a thru-axle or QR. The Mukluk is also rear rack compatible and has numerous accessory mounts on both the frame and fork. The frame has clearance for up to 4.8-inch tires when using 26-inch wheels.
The SX Eagle build features a full SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. This is the lowest end Eagle drivetrain, and it offers a huge gear range on the 11-50-tooth cassette that is paired with a 30-tooth front chainring. The SX version of this drivetrain works well enough, though the shifting performance can't match its higher-end siblings, and its long-term durability seems a little questionable. It also has SRAM Level brakes, which work just fine on this bike.
Salsa makes a full range of cockpit components, including the Guide Trail stem and 800mm wide Rustler handlebar. Testers felt the handlebar was a little wide for a fat bike, though that it can easily be trimmed to width. We've tested many bikes with the Rustler handlebar in recent years, and every time testers comment on the back sweep and how it feels a little excessive. Salsa mounted a set of non-lock-on grips to the handlebar, and while they were comfortable, they tended to spin. The Mukluk comes with a rigid Guide seatpost with a comfortable WTB Volt Sport saddle mounted to it.
The Mukluk rolls on a 26-inch set of SUNRingle Mulefut SL 80 rims with SUNRingle SRC hubs. The rims are 80mm wide and come mounted with a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger 4.6-inch tires. The Dillinger tires are tubeless-ready and are custom stud-able should you require studded tires where you ride.
Salsa claims that the Mukluk's geometry "works extremely well in all conditions and use cases, whether it be riding groomed singletrack at your local trail, exploring a beach coastline, or embarking across the wild frozen expanses of Alaska." We can't really argue with that, as it has a comfortable and relatively standard fat bike geometry that seems to work well within this bike's intended applications. We measured our size large test bike and found it had a 635mm effective top tube length and a 446mm reach. The head tube angle was 69-degrees with a 73-degree seat tube. The bottom bracket was 315mm off the ground with 440mm chainstays and a 1155mm wheelbase. The Mukluk also has an adjustable rear dropout, and you can extend the length of the chainstays from 440mm up to 457mm. Adjusting the rear dropout and chainstay length also changes the length of the wheelbase by the same amount.
With a retail price of $1,999, we feel the Mukluk SX Eagle is a pretty good value. It may not be super exciting, but it doesn't really have to be. This is a quality fat bike with a comfortable geometry that performs well in its intended application of winter and soft conditions riding. Add to that its versatility for bike packing thanks to a myriad of frame mounts, and we'd be happy recommending this bike to anyone, especially at this price.
The Mukluk SX Eagle is a quality fat bike that unfortunately gets a little lost in the middle of the pack in this review. The fact that this bike doesn't win any awards certainly doesn't mean that we didn't like it, nor should it deter any would-be buyers. This is a great fat bike for riding snow, sand, even smooth dirt trails, that works very well for the conditions it was designed for. Whether you're looking for a bike to extend your riding season through the winter or for adventure riding year-round, we think the Mukluk is worth a look.
Salsa makes two versions of the Mukluk with either an aluminum frame (tested) or a carbon fiber frame. They also sell the carbon frame/fork on its own for $1,999.The Carbon NX Eagle, $3,149, has the same geometry as the model we tested, but comes with an NX Eagle drivetrain and SRAM Guide T brakes.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue