The gravel and adventure bike category is rapidly evolving and maturing, with more people seeking out these bikes for their versatility and all-terrain capabilities and a growing choice from companies keen to market new bikes to this growing trend.
One of the original brands to really market a bike at this type of riding was Salsa with its original Warbird launched in 2012. It was a gravel race focused bike, with geometry intended to provide the ideal balance and stability needed when riding on rough surfaces. There was a choice of aluminium or titanium frames depending on budgets. Tyre clearance maxed out at 38mm and it was designed around disc brakes.
The Warbird evolved over the years. A carbon version came in 2015 and tyre clearance was increased to 44mm and it was given thru-axles. The definition of a gravel bike has been evolving over the years, and so it was clearly time for another update.
So for 2018, Salsa is releasing the fourth generation Warbird. It got its first public debut at the Dirty Kansas 200-mile gravel race last weekend, and while the company hasn’t properly released the new bike yet, it has provided some details about what we can expect. It should be available in the autumn so don't go rushing to buy it just yet...
The Warbird is still made from carbon fibre, but with a claimed 100g weight saving and updated chainstays, bottom bracket and downtube intended to improve stiffness for better power transfer. The frame incorporates “2nd Generation Class 5 Vibration Reduction System” providing improved vertical compliance tuned for each frame size, claims the company.
To ensure maximum tyre and crankset clearance, Salsa has adopted the dropped chainstay design popularised by the Open UP and being increasingly used by bike brands.
The Warbird is compatible with both 700 x 45mm and 650b x 2.1in wheels and tyres. We’re seeing most new gravel bikes supporting both wheel sizes for maximum choice to suit riding styles and terrain.
Geometry has been revised, with longer and lower top tubes to provide increased stability at higher speeds and improved standover height. There’s an increased size range, from 49 up to 61cm, with seven sizes in total.
Suspension forks are not yet a thing in gravel riding, though the likes of the Lauf and Fox AX suspension forks are being adopted by some riders wanting a smoother ride on rough trails. Salsa has designed the Warbird to be compatible with any currently available suspension fork.
Dropper posts are starting to appear on gravel bikes though, such as the Specialized S-Works Diverge road.cc tested a few months ago. The new Warbird uses a 27.2mm seat tube with internal routing for a dropper post.
Salsa has also added extra water bottle mounts, on sizes 56cm and above there are three mounts inside the front triangle and one on the underside of the downtube. There’s also a top tube mount for Salsa’s EXP Series Toptube Bag.
The all-new Waxwing carbon fork is feature-packed, with three pack mounts for extra bags and bottles, pannier rack and mudguard mounts, and dynamo hub cable routing.
There are also mudguard mounts and a rear rack can be fitted using Salsa’s Rack-Lock Seat Collar and Wanderlust Rear Rack, making it versatile for UK winter riding and commuting.
Other details included flat mount brakes, internal routing for hydraulic and mechanical setups, and it’s compatible with 1x and 2x drivetrains.
That’s all we know right now, which is quite a lot actually, but as for prices and UK availability, we’ll have to update you once we know.
More at https://salsacycles.com/
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.