Building a Salsa Fargo: Starting from Scratch
Right after I came back from a biking trip across Spain, I started to dream about other biking adventures. Soon, I found myself building a Salsa Fargo. How did I land on this frame choice? Read on!
A lot of the research I did about bike touring led me to information on a “new” breed of bikes. These bikes are comfortable, able to perform well even when loaded with cargo, and are fun to ride. Some people call them “adventure bikes”. I was skeptical of the gimmicky title.
Friend from work:
“What kind of bike do you ride?”
“An ADVENTURE bike”.
I first heard about Salsa bikes a few years ago when perusing around the internet searching for endurance race videos. In particular, I was inspired by this one video about a public school employee who works with behaviorally and emotionally challenged kids training to finish the Dirty Kanza race. I could relate to this guy in the sense that I also have a demanding day job, and I use biking as therapy. But that was it at the time, I didn’t think of anything else about the Salsa brand.
I found out that one of the local shops was a Salsa dealer and had a couple of their bikes in stock. Luckily, I got to take the bike for a spin on a warm -4C (25F) winter day. The biggest size they had in stock was a large and that’s the one I rode. I’m a tall guy and the large frame size wasn’t a great fit, but I could see how that bike would be fun on a dirt trail or fire road. After the test ride (on pavement) I was kinda sold on the whole drop bar mountain bike idea, but not completely convinced.
I wanted to build the bike myself just to see what it is like to build a bike from scratch. I knew I could perform some basic bike maintenance, like swapping out dirty bar tape and fine tuning twitchy gears on my bikes, but would I be able to build a complete bike from scratch? The idea of customizing the components to my specific needs was alluring. Picking a bike off the rack is boring, building one sounds a lot more romantic.
Sourcing the Parts
Buying the frame/fork/handlebar went like this:
“Hey Jon (bike shop guy), I wanna put in an order for a Fargo frameset”
“Cool. Let’s take a look here…. What size?”
“I think the XL. The L seemed smallish”
“OK. Yeah, they have it in stock. It will be here in less than a week”
Wow. That was easy.
Next step was to put together a list of components and start sourcing the parts. That wasn’t as easy. Ordering all the parts from a local shop is probably the most convenient way, but sadly, the most expensive method also. “We don’t have it in stock, but we can order it for you” was a common answer to my questions. “It’s OK. I’ll keep looking” was my default rebuttal.
It turns out that prices can vary greatly between retailers, it also turns out most retailers don’t keep a large number of options in stock and parts can sell out quickly. This means that I had to check availability and prices pretty much on a daily basis.
I took advantage of the long Midwestern winter to take my sweet time to buy the parts. Figuring out if a component will fit in your bike wasn’t as hard as many people claim it to be. The internet has all the answers. It took me a good 3 months to source all the parts, I was making sure all the parts would fit together and waiting for sales.
I ended up buying parts from several online and physical retailers and was even lucky enough to find a great mountain bike store while visiting Germany. I noticed some bike parts in Europe are cheaper than in the United States, specially when you can take advantage of getting sales taxes refunded.
Here’s the build list, including where I bought the parts.
|FRAME||2016 Salsa Fargo - XL||Motorless Motion (LBS)|
|FORK||Salsa Firestarter (carbon)||Motorless Motion (LBS)|
|HEADSET||Chris King Inset 7||Wiggle.com|
|STEM||Truvativ Stylo T30 - 90mm; 5 degree rise||Amazon|
|HANDLEBAR||Salsa Woodchipper 2 - 46cm wide||Motorless Motion (LBS)|
|BAR TAPE||Fi'Zi:k Performance||Amazon|
|BRAKE/SHIFTER LEVERS||SRAM Rival||Trail This (LBS)|
|BRAKES||Avid BB7 Road||Amazon|
|CABLES||Jagwire Road Pro Racer XL Kit||Trail This (LBS)|
|FRONT DERAILLEUR||SRAM X0 2x10 High Direct Mount||Ebay|
|REAR DERAILLEUR||SRAM GX 2x10||Hibike (LBS - Germany)|
|CRANKSET||SRAM GX 38-24T||Jenson.com|
|BOTTOM BRACKET||SRAM GXP||Jenson.com|
|CASSETTE||SRAM 1050 - 11-36T||Hibike (LBS - Germany)|
|CHAIN||KMC X10||Trail This (LBS)|
|SEATPOST||Truvativ Stylo T30||Ebay|
|SADDLE||Specialized Phenom Expert - Ti Rails||Erik's Bike Shop (Sorta LBS)|
|HUBS||SRAM X9 (wheelset)||Jenson.com|
|RIMS||WTB i23 Frequency (wheelset)||Jenson.com|
|RIM TAPE||Stan's Yellow Tape||Motorless Motion (LBS)|
|FRONT TIRE||Specialized S-Works Ground Control 2.3"||Hibike (LBS - Germany)|
|REAR TIRE||Specialized S-Works Fast Trak 2.2"||Hibike (LBS - Germany)|
|PEDALS||Still to decide|
I took the frame to a LBS to get the headset in place. The 2016 Salsa Fargo frameset comes in matte black with orange graphics. An orange Chris King headset seemed an obvious choice.
I didn’t really plan it this way, but most of the components are SRAM. It just happened that they matched the specs. SRAM makes it easier to match Road and MTB components though. Mixing Shimano and SRAM pats for gearing is not really possible without workarounds since Shimano and SRAM shifters pull different amounts of cable.
Laying out the components on the workbench made it easy to see what needed to be accomplished. Looks pretty simple from this angle.
I started the build on a Saturday morning. It was a very slow Saturday morning and It took me a while to get everything organized. By the time I actually started putting things together, it was time to crack a beer open. A nice quadruple ale just made the job even more fun.
The 29er hoops were ready. Tightening the rotor bolts (all 12 of them) is a bit of a tedious job.
How does this work anyway?
I learned a few things on my own that would have been nice to know before I put the frame up on the stand to start the build.
Installing a headset can be a bit of a pain. I built my own tool to press the cups into the frame but they were not going in straight no matter what I tried. I took the frame to my LBS and the mechanic installed the headset in 30 seconds… with a rubber mallet. I guess the 10 bucks I paid him was the price of experience.
You know what else can take some time? Getting your tubeless tires to seat appropriately. One rim I had to use 3 layers of Stan’s yellow tape, the other one only 2 layers. Go figure. At one point, I broke out a sweat while pushing the floor pump as fast as it is humanly possible. Some people use an air compressor…. slackers….
Road-style shifters (brifters) don’t have built in barrel adjusters, nor do mountain bike rear derailleurs. I had a real “oh crap” moment after I routed the cables and tried to fine tune the tension on them. I know I can install inline barrel adjusters but it would have been nice to do that before crimping the ferules to the end of the cables.
Tire clearance on the Firestarter carbon fork is pretty massive as you can see here. These are Specialized Ground Control 2.3″ tires and you can see there’s plenty of room to spare.
There’s room to grow in the rear triangle also. Specialized Fast Trak 2.2″ and plenty of clearance.
Woodchipper bar on top of the tall headtube. I still have to mess around with the break/shifter levers to get it to a nice angle. Some work to be done here.
My choice of using mechanical breaks is twofold: 1) Road hydraulic levers are very expensive; 2) Servicing mechanical breaks in the field is a lot easier than dealing with bleeding hydraulic fluids.
I find it nice to have a very low gear when touring on dirt roads. Fire roads, a lot of times, don’t follow a smooth grade like most paved roads; the 24T granny gear will help me on tougher short hills.
I can’t wait to take the Fargo places I have never been to before. All in all, building the Salsa Fargo from scratch wasn’t that hard. Yeah, sure.. there are a few things that I missed along the process (like installing barrel adjusters) but now I know these things. I’m sure this experience will come in handy in case I have to perform some maintenance while in the field.