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Salsa Timberjack NX Eagle 27.5+ Review

A versatile hardtail mountain bike that is comfortable ripping singletrack or on a multi-day bikepacking mission.
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Price:  $1,999 List | $1,999.00 at REI
Pros:  Versatile, well-rounded performance, very capable bikepacking rig
Cons:  Front end wanders on steep climbs, poor fork specification
Manufacturer:   Salsa
By Pat Donahue, Kyle Smaine  ⋅  May 22, 2019
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Fun Factor - 25% 7
  • Downhill - 30% 7
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Build - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Salsa Timberjack 27.5+ is a capable hardtail that delivers solid versatility. Salsa markets this bicycle as a great option for those who want a fun rig that is at home riding singletrack or embarking on a bikepacking mission. We feel this is an accurate assessment. The Timberjack delivers predictable and capable downhill performance and solid climbing abilities. This bike won't blow you away on any area of the trail, but it gets the job done pretty darn well. The Salsa has excellent bikepacking capabilities with a large front triangle to fit a full-size frame bag, an adjustable wheelbase, and room for a substantial seat bag, even with the dropper post. Our Timberjack NX Eagle sells for $1,999 and comes with a respectable build kit highlighted by an NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and a big, burly, 2.8-inch WTB Vigilante front tire.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $1,999.00 at REI$1,600 List$2,199 List$1,599 List$1,499 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Versatile, well-rounded performance, very capable bikepacking rigHigh fun factor, stable and precise downhill performance, climbing tractionSwift climbing, sharp handling, excellent valueExcellent descender, high-end fork, excellent pop out of cornersExcellent high-speed stability, great traction, capable on rough terrain
Cons Front end wanders on steep climbs, poor fork specification3.0-inch tires cause some drag, chain slap is noisyNot as fun on rough trails, 11-speed drivetrainNo dropper post, weak tire specificationGeometry could be awkward for some, no dropper post, long wheelbase
Bottom Line A versatile hardtail mountain bike that is comfortable ripping singletrack or on a multi-day bikepacking mission.An extremely fun and well-rounded 27.5-plus hardtail.A swift-climbing hardtail that could serve as a daily driver or a cross-country race bikeAn aggressive descender with an impressive build kit despite a couple notable drawbacks.An aggressive hardtail built for high speeds with some geometry quirks.
Rating Categories Timberjack NX Eagle 27.5+ Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie Ibis DV9 NX Meta HT AM Essential Whyte 901
Fun Factor (25%)
10
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7
10
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8
10
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8
10
0
8
10
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8
Downhill (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
Climbing (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
6
Build (15%)
10
0
6
10
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8
10
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8
10
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7
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7
Specs Timberjack NX... Specialized Fuse... Ibis DV9 NX Meta HT AM Essential Whyte 901
Wheelsize 27.5+ 27.5+ 29 27.5+ 27.5+
Measured Weight (w/o pedals, Medium) 29lbs 13oz 30lbs 9oz 26lbs 8oz 29lbs 8oz 28lbs 2oz
Frame Material Carbon Aluminum Carbon Aluminum Aluminum
Frame Size Large Large Large Medium Large
Available Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL, XXL S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L
Fork RockShox Sektor RL 130mm Manitou Macheter 29/6Fattie, 120mm, 35mm stanchions Fox Float Rhythm 34 RockShox Yari RC, 160mm, 35mm stanchons RockShox Recon RL Gold 130mm, 32mm stanchions
Wheelset SUNringle S.R.C. Duroc 45 Specialized Stout Trail SL, Specialized Hubs, 38mm ID Ibis Hubs, Ibis 938 Alloy rims E*Thirteen TRS, w/ Formula Hubs, 35mm ID WTB i29 w/ Boost hubs, 29mm ID
Front Tire WTB Vigilante TCS Light/Fast Rolling 2.8" Specialized Purgatory GRID 27.5 x 3" Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.6" Vee Tire Co Flow Snap 27.5 x 2.6 Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6
Rear Tire WTB Ranger TCS Light/Fast Rolling 2.8" Specialized Ground Control 27.5 x 3" Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6" Vee Tire Co Flow Snap 27.5 x 2.6 Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6
Shifters SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-speed SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed
Rear Derailleur SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed
Crankset SRAM NX Eagle PS 32T Specialized Stout Direct Mount 28t SRAM NX 30T SRAM NX 32t SRAM NX 30t
Bottom Bracket not specified Press Fit SRAM GXP XR Press Fit Threaded
Cassette SRAM NX Eagle 11-50T SRAM PG-1130 11-42t SRAM PG 1130 11-42T SRAM PG-1130 11-42t SRAM PG-1130 11-42t
Saddle WTB Volt Comp Specialized Body Geometry Henge Comp WTB Silverado 142 Ride Alpha Whyte Custom
Seatpost Tranz-X JD-YSP15L Tranzx Dropper, 120mm travel, 30.9 diameter KS E30i Dropper Ride Alpha Rigid Whyte Rigid
Handlebar Salsa Rustler, 760mm Specialized Stout, 750mm Ibis 780mm Alloy Ride Alpha 780mm, 31.8 clamp Whyte 760mm
Stem Salsa Guide Trail Specialized 3D Forged Ibis Ride Alpha 40mm Whyte 40mm
Brakes SRAM Level Tektro M-735 Hydraulic SRAM Level SRAM Level SRAM Level
Grips Salsa File Tread Specialized Sip Grip Lizard Skins Charger Evo Ride Alpha Whyte Lock-On
Warranty Three Years Lifetime Seven Years Five Years Four Years

Our Analysis and Test Results

Searching for the limitations of the Timberjack on some short steep slabs.
Searching for the limitations of the Timberjack on some short steep slabs.

Should I Buy This Bike?


The Timberjack is a sensible option for the rider who wants a hardtail for adventure riding on the weekend and wants to get out for some trail riding with the crew during the week. Riders who are simply looking for a ripping trail bike should look elsewhere. While the Salsa is fun and capable on singletrack, there are significantly better options at this price. Bikepacking, touring, and self-supported adventure riding has exploded in popularity in recent years. The Timberjack was clearly designed to shine on these multi-day missions with carefully thought-out design features. As a result, we would call this a great bike for those bikepacking missions while it is only a decent option for day to day trail riding.

If you are seeking a fun hardtail for thrashing singletrack day in and day out, look no further than the Editor's Choice Specialized Fuse. This has been our Editor's Choice hardtail for over two years. The Fuse has an aluminum frame and delivers a very comfortable ride thanks to 3.0-inch tires and thin seat stays that provides some flex and damping properties. This minor amount of flex eats up some of the vibrations from the trail surface and keeps the rider from getting beaten up too badly. This bike has superb climbing traction thanks to its huge footprint. This velcro-like traction greatly outweighs any drag created by the super-wide tires. On the descent, the Specialized shreds thanks to its spot-on geometry, quick, handling, and surprising amounts of comfort. While the Fuse is a killer trail bike, riders who want to go on multi-day, self-supported, slogs will still do much better with the Timberjack.

Are you on a tight budget? Do Like the idea of a bikepacking rig that can double as a trail bike? Do you believe that steel is real? Well, the Marin Pine Mountain is an affordable steel hardtail. The steel frame on the Pine Mountain is comfortable and provides a smooth and damp ride. This added element of comfort can be hugely beneficial on bikepacking missions when you are in the saddle all day long. External cable routing makes emergency repairs in the backcountry more manageable. The Timberjack is significantly more competent trail bike compared to the Marin and delivers superior climbing and descending performance. The component grouping is also more impressive on the Salsa. That said, at $1,299, the Marin could serve as a formidable long distance bike for the budget conscious rider.

Do you prefer your hardtail mountain bikes to have some cross-country DNA? Well the Ibis DV9 is a fast and efficient hardtail. The DV9 is our Top Pick for the cross-country application thanks to its feathery climbing abilities and zippy acceleration. The Ibis has a carbon fiber frame and moves uphill far more effectively than the Salsa. On the descent, the DV9 has a more precise feel and more predictable handling than the Timberjack. Still, the wider tires on the Timberjack deliver a more comfortable ride over rock and chop since you can run a lower tire pressure. Our DV9 NX sells for $2119 with a high-end carbon fiber frame, killer tires, and a rock-solid fork.

The Timberjack is a capable climber  but we found the front end to feel light and wander on steeper sections.
The Timberjack is a capable climber, but we found the front end to feel light and wander on steeper sections.

Frame Design


The Timberjack is built around an aluminum frame and is designed around a 130mm fork. This bicycle has an enormous amount of space in the front triangle to accommodate a full-size frame bag. The rear end has a stout look, and this bike has adjustable rear dropouts. This allows riders to lengthen or shorten the rear end. The longer setting would be ideal for putting in big miles and riding long distances while the shorter setting is intended to create snappier handling and a more playful ride.

We measured our large Timberjack and found a 640mm effective top tube and 440mm reach measurement. The head tube angle is 66.6 degrees, and the effective seat tube angle measures 72.3-degrees. The bottom bracket is 320mm off of the ground. The chainstays measure 424mm in the short setting with a 1168mm wheelbase. Our large test bike tips the scales at 29 lbs 13 ounces set up tubeless without pedals.

Design Highlights


-Aluminum frame
-The frame can accept 27.5+(tested) wheels or 29-inch wheels
-27.5+ max tire size = 3.0-inches
-29-inch max tire size = 2.6-inches
-Adjustable dropouts/chainstays
-Mounts for three water bottle cages
-Frame bag-friendly

-Boost Spacing

Like most hardtails  the Timberjack eats up smooth flowy trails  plus it has great traction with the 2.8" Vigilante tire up front.
Like most hardtails, the Timberjack eats up smooth flowy trails, plus it has great traction with the 2.8" Vigilante tire up front.

Downhill Performance


The Timberjack delivers solid, if not thrilling, downhill performance. The 66.6-degree head tube angle is slack enough to feel confident when things get a little steep, that said, this bike does not feel especially stable at speed. Handling is predictable, and steering is fairly confident thanks to the impressive front tire spec. The component grouping is somewhat of a mixed bag, and the flimsy RockShox Sektor fork is a notable lowlight.

When perched in the attack position, the Salsa feels a little tight in the top tube. The 440mm reach measurement is relatively short for a large frame in 2019. When standing up on the descent, your hands feel precariously close to your chest. The 66.6-degree head tube angle is reasonable for a trail-oriented hardtail. It's slack enough to feel confident when pointed down a steep section of trail. That said, the bike feels a little too short to feel stable when the speedometer is cranked up. The 1168mm wheelbase is a bit twitchy when you open it up, and this bicycle didn't inspire testers to push the limits. We fiddled with the adjustable dropouts to lengthen the bike. The wheelbase grew approximately 16mm. We found that it didn't feel substantially different or more confident at speed.

It prefers the smoother trails over the chunk  but the Salsa does okay just about everywhere on the descents.
It prefers the smoother trails over the chunk, but the Salsa does okay just about everywhere on the descents.

The Timberjack delivers impressive handling on the descent. As we mentioned before, when you're cooking down a trail at Mach 10, it doesn't feel fantastic, but in most scenarios, the handling is crisp. The 2.8-inch WTB Vigilante front tire is a big reason why this bike can handle aggressive movements. When you are slicing and dicing down a technical stretch of trail, the Vigilante has an excellent bite to back up the rider's quick moves. Even in loose and sandy conditions, this bike reacts well to hard cornering and quick snaps of the handlebar. Also, at 29 lbs 13 oz, it is relatively light for an aluminum hardtail with 2.8-inch rubber. This means that it requires a bit less energy and effort to get the bike to react. The Salsa is a surprisingly fun bike. No, it may not be the hardest charger, but the short rear end and quick handling create a surprisingly playful ride. Manuals and trailside shenanigans are encouraged.

The Salsa handles chunky terrain well enough. The aluminum frame has a bit of flex to it and eats up some of the trail surface imperfections. Additionally, you can run the 2.8-inch rubber at a low pressure to provide a little additional damping. We found 19 PSI in the front tire and approximately 21 PSI in the rear to be the sweet spot. This delivers a good balance of traction and damping without feeling sloppy. Lighter riders might be able to get away with slightly lower tire pressures while heavier riders should be wary of dinging and damaging the rim.

The Timberjack can get rad but is limited by its geometry and fork specification.
The Timberjack can get rad but is limited by its geometry and fork specification.

The RockShox Sektor fork that comes stock on the Timberjack is a miserable specification. The poor performance plays out in two ways. First, it is difficult, if not impossible, to dial in this fork. You can run it at too low of air pressure and it might feel somewhat plush, but you will be blowing through the travel on mid-size impacts. If you set the fork to proper air pressure, it feels exceptionally harsh and clunky. Second, the 32mm stanchions create a floppy and flimsy feel. When you are riding rough trails at a decent pace, you can feel the flex in the fork, once again, not confidence inspiring. The SRAM Level brakes are serviceable. Power is respectable, but they have a cheap lever feel.

Climbing Performance


The Timberjack is a decent climber that delivers a nice blend of efficiency and traction. The climbing position is comfortable despite a relatively slack seat tube angle. Climbing over technical trail features is surprisingly comfortable and capable. The component grouping works well on the ascent thanks to an NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and meaty rubber.

The Timberjack is a solid climber but gets a little funky on super steep sections of trail.
The Timberjack is a solid climber but gets a little funky on super steep sections of trail.

The Salsa sets you up in an okay climbing position that is comfortable for long slogs and bikepacking. The seat tube angle is on the slacker side of the spectrum at 72.3-degrees. This puts the rider's hips slightly behind the bottom bracket and can be detrimental to power transfer although we didn't find it to be a big problem on the Timberjack. Seat tube angles are less of an issue with hardtails, but it is noteworthy as seat tube angle is a huge buzzword in 2019. The cockpit feels decisively tight. The 440mm reach is short and can feel a little bit cramped on steeper pitches. Salsa likely uses a shorter reach to keep the rider in more of an upright position and not stretched out too much. This makes a lot of sense for bikepacking and long distances when you're in the saddle all day and comfort is critical. This tight cockpit is not a great trait for a trail bike.

The Salsa scoots up and over technical pitches remarkably well. The 2.8-inch tires deliver excellent traction. Even on off camber sections, you can almost hear the copious amount of grip coming from the tires. As we mentioned in the downhill section, the wide rubber also works to provide a little bit of extra damping. This can make an enormous difference on the ascent where you don't want to get kicked off your line by firm tire pressure. Even with a little extra cushion, it is best to get out of the saddle over rocks and roots. This saves your body a little bit of jarring and pays off over a long ride.

Grinding it out on a steep climb and getting out of the saddle to keep the front end planted.
Grinding it out on a steep climb and getting out of the saddle to keep the front end planted.

Overall, the Timberjack delivers sharp handling on the climb. That said, multiple testers had a hard time keeping the front end planted. The short chainstays made the bike want to loop out on steep pitches. This was especially noticeable when turning through a steep corner. The short chainstays push the axle forward under the rider's weight which makes it more challenging to keep the bike from doing a wheelie on steep trails under pedaling loads. We lowered the stem as far as we could to try to force more weight over the front end and keep the front wheel planted. This was helpful but didn't make a significant difference.

Climbing efficiency is respectable. This isn't a bike that you would want to enter in a cross country race like the 26.5-pound Ibis DV9 or the 26.75-pound. Trek Stache 9.7. That said, we would have no problem riding this bike all day long. This nearly 30-lb bike doesn't have the same zippy, peppy, acceleration as the DV9, but it never feels like too much of a pig. Given its intended bikepacking application, it makes sense that Salsa never designed this bike to be a featherweight. The best approach to climbing on the Timberjack is to take your time and grind it out.

Photo Tour


The aluminum frame has ample roof for bikepacking gear  plus it has adjustable dropouts in the rear.
The 27.5"+ tires on the Salsa Timberjack.

Value


The Timberjack NX 27.5+ carries a $1999 price tag and represents a decent value. As a trail bike, the Salsa delivers average performance. We expect this bike to function much better as a bikepack/adventure rig. Regardless, we appreciate its versatility and could be a strong value for the right buyer.

The Timberjack has a relatively good all-around performance and versatility to double as a bike pack rig.
The Timberjack has a relatively good all-around performance and versatility to double as a bike pack rig.

Conclusion


The Salsa Timberjack is a bit of a niche bicycle. It is hard to recommend it to average trail riders. No, this bike won't blow you out of the water on a trail ride. Even so, climbing is predictable and comfortable while downhill performance is reasonably confident. Even if it isn't the best choice for a daily driver, it is still a fantastic option for bikepacking missions and multi-day, self-supported, rides.


Pat Donahue, Kyle Smaine