The new Salsa Rangefinder is a bike that should sell well, whether purchased by those looking to try out mountain biking, or for those who might have a few other bikes already.
At $1099 MSRP for the Deore equipped models (one in the 27.5+ variant, the other being 29×2.6), these are a perfect bike for newcomers to the sport or those who want a dedicated bikepacking rig without breaking the bank for N+1.
The Shimano Deore drivetrain equipped models are set up with 1×10. A 30 tooth front chainring matched with 11-42 tooth cassette out back. The higher end models, come in at $1299 and are equipped with 12 speed, SRAM SX Eagle drivetrains (30 tooth chainring still, but a 11-50 tooth cassette for more range).
All four models have dropper posts included and Shimano disc brakes, which, in my experience, work very well. These are both welcome sights in the build list that I would not see any reason to upgrade until they become broken or worn out.
Another welcomed sight was all the cargo capacity! Three spots for waterbottles, the topside of the down tube having a three-pack mount for anything cages or strapless framebag mounting options! There is also a top tube mount for a strapless fuel tank bag! Tremendous.
The geometry is pretty good for newcomers or bikepackers. Longer wheelbase numbers as well as longer chainstays mean that the bike will be pretty stable. It might not corner as tight as some gravity-oriented trail bikes, but it is what you will want to stability, whether when riding unfamiliar trails, when super tired from spending the whole day out on your bike, or when your bike is weighed down with camping supplies.
I am not as much of a fan of the Suntour suspension fork up front, nor the WTB Ranger tires on the 27.5 x 2.8 models. I feel like another model with a rigid fork could have filled out this lineup nicely for those who are looking for more durability and less maintenance, but don’t want a gravel or touring bike for the trails or bikepacking route they plan to ride. The WTB Ranger tires are fine for gravelly trails and backroads, but for riding trails, they wash out way too much for people who are new to the sport and wear out too quickly for those who are thrifty and don’t want to drop cash so often on big tires. If it was me, I would upgrade the tires first. The WTB Trail Boss tire is a great width for the 29 x 2.6 models, but at 1300 grams per tire, it will be the first item riders should upgrade when buying this bike. Maxxis Ikon 2.6 tires for gravel-laden bikepacking trips (they roll fast and take a long time to wear out, yet grip better than the WTB Ranger tires), or Maxxis Rekon 27.5 x 2.8 tires for the new rider looking for confidence in turns, technical terrrain, and a tire that will last much longer. The fork could work well for many riders to be honest. It is an air fork and probably will suit many riders well while providing some comfort on the rough sections. It won’t last as long as other forks that cost a bit more, so if you are planning to ride this bike on trails where a suspension fork would be appreciated often, save your cash during the first year of ownership and buy something better next year.
Of all four models, which one would I be most interested in?
The Deore 29 model for $1099. For sure. The Shimano drivetrain has always outperformed the SRAM Eagle drivetrain in shifting performance and durability in my experience. I would replace the 11-42 tooth cassette, but only once it was too worn. The SunRace CSMX3 11-46 tooth 10 speed cassette would be my first choice. Why not get the Deore 27.5+ model? If you don’t mind less ability to roll over objects on the trail and less momentum maintained (to keep your speed up), but really like making tight turns easily and throwing around the bike a little easier, or if you want more float on sand, mud, snow, etc. then I would definitely suggest the 27.5+ version. If you are a shorter or taller rider, picking the shorter or taller wheel size will probably feel a little more natural as well.
The Rangefinder is a great bike for the money and one that should allow the newcomer plenty of room to grow skills for years to come. As a bikepacking rig for someone who plans to try out overnight camping with their bike, its a low-risk, small investment that can easily be resold to new and experienced cyclists alike.
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