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Debating over whether 1x or 2x gearing is best for gravel? How about just one gear? Salsa Cycles’ latest gravel bike, the Stormchaser, is a singlespeed gravel bike designed for those who like a challenge, but also the absolute simplicity, low-running-cost and direct-feeling efficiency that only a bike with a single gear can provide.
Much like many cross country mountain bike and cyclocross events, gravel events often offer singlespeed categories for those who can’t afford a derailleur (kidding!). Salsa’s Stormchaser has an origin story that includes one such event – the bike was born following the 2017 edition of the Land Run (now Mid South) gravel event, a slippery day in treacherous conditions which ruined many a bike.
Having witnessed the carnage, Salsa Cycles’ Mike “Kid” Riemer saw an opportunity. “That day convinced me that we had an opportunity to create a solution,” he said. “An inexpensive single speed gravel bike, made of metal, that could be used for events when conditions are truly horrible, or for wet weather training, so that riders don’t need to trash the bikes they’ve invested so much in. It would also serve dedicated single speeders.”
Fast forward to this past weekend. On its debut, in the race that gave birth to it, the new Stormchaser won the single speed category at another (horribly muddy) edition of Mid South.
The Stormchaser’s aluminium frame and carbon fork offer a number of premium features, with cues taken from the now discontinued Salsa Warbird aluminium race bike (the Warbird is currently only available in carbon). This includes widely bowed, bridge-less and flexible chainstays for added comfort, three mounts on each fork-leg, and various other bottle, accessory, fender and rack mounts.
Compared to the Warbird, the Stormchaser is a little slacker in the steering (70-degree head angle), longer in the rear end (435-450mm adjustable chainstay length) and offers a bunch more tyre clearance with room for 50 mm tyres in either 700C or 650B (maximum 47 mm with fenders). According to Salsa, the Stormchaser offers 40% more tyre clearance than a Warbird when fitted with 700 x 42 mm tyres. That additional width is possible through the use of mountain bike cranks, whereas most gravel bikes are designed to work with narrower road cranks.
The adjustable chainstay length allows chain tension to be tuned – a necessity on a singlespeed bike given there’s no sprung derailleur to keep the chain under tension. Salsa has created a new and clean-looking sliding flat-mount and thru-axle dropout for the purpose, and the company will offer a geared dropout plate in case you wish to turn the Stormchaser into a 1x ride.
Clearly intended for abusive conditions, the carbon fork features “abrasion-resistant plates” to fight off wear, while the cable routing is kept internal.
Priced at US$1,499 for the complete bike, Salsa equips the Stormchaser with a 38T Race Face Ride chainring, matched with a dual 17/18T cog combo that use spacers to fit a standard multi-speed hub at the rear wheel. Switching between the two rear cogs will require manual changing and adjustment of the chain tension. It’s worth noting that the threaded (yay!) bottom bracket shell is 73mm width rather than the road standard 68mm, which does limit availability of chainrings and cranksets to mountain bike versions. The frame is also limited to a maximum 40T chainring size.
Salsa equip its own flared Cowchipper handlebar, something that’s wider and with better leverage than what the American company typically equips on its gravel bikes.
The wheels are WTB Sera thru-axle hubs laced to WTB ST i23 rims, shod with Teravail Rutland 42 mm tyres. The disc brakes are provided by TRP, including the mechanical dual-piston Spyre calipers and RRL levers.
While competition is somewhat slim, Salsa isn’t alone in the singlespeed gravel market. Salsa’s sister company All-City has the steel-framed Nature Boy A.C.E, Bombtrack has its steel Arise, while both Van Dessel and Speedvagen offer premium options, just to name a few. And in years past the likes of Cannondale, Trek, Kona and many more offered singlespeed bikes aimed at the then-booming cyclocross race market.
The Stormchaser’s build kit is functional but doesn’t scream value for money, especially once you consider the claimed – and somewhat porky – 54.5 cm bike weight of 9.8kg (21 lb 9 oz) without pedals. However, the pricing makes more sense given the Stormchaser frameset will sell for US$1,099. Both the complete bikes and framesets are due April.