SALSA BLACKTHORN CARBON
Mountain Bike Rider|February 2022
Salsa’s Blackthorn is a hot proposition: a trail bike that you can dress up or down
Mick Kirkman

£3,200 (frame only) / 29in / lyon.co.uk

NEED TO KNOW

Salsa’s do-it-all 140mm-travel carbon trail bike rolls on 29in wheels and is designed around a 160mmtravel fork

Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension design helps separate acceleration and braking forces

Aftermarket link (and shock) can transform the Blackthorn into the longer-travel Cassidy model but you’ll also need a 180mm-travel fork.

Super Boost 157mm rear hub standard to accommodate tyres up to 3.0in wide in 27.5in size

Best known for its gravel and adventure bikes, Salsa has also spent years blending secret sauces for top-tier mountain bikes. The stealthy Blackthorn is its current 140mm-travel rig that’s designed around a 160mm-travel fork, modern angles, and a go-anywhere, ride-anything philosophy. The Split Pivot suspension and ability to transform the chassis into a longer-travel rig also gives it something of a dual personality.

How so? Well, while it looks clinically clean, Salsa says the frame construction is burly enough to handle a 180mmtravel 29er fork, and, by swapping links and the shock stroke, the Blackthorn can be transformed into a completely different model called the Cassidy with 160mm of rear travel.

This Jekyll and Hyde trick saves on production costs as it allows a single base frame to morph into two very different platforms. And while this approach is not unique to Salsa, most other brands aren’t so upfront about it. The aftermarket link kit needed to perform such a character switch will only set you back £155, but you do need to factor in the cost of swapping the shock and fork travel to match, so it’s not something I see many riders doing.

Talking of shocks, the Blackthorn gets a Factory-level Fox DPX2 with its three-position compression adjuster. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the leverage rate on both frame configurations is optimised for the extra progressivity inherent in air-sprung shocks, so there’s not enough ramp-up to run a coil spring. For the rear suspension, Salsa enlists the help of Dave Weagle and his Split Pivot design, where the rear-most pivot is concentric with the rear axle. It’s very similar to Trek’s ABP design and because the brake caliper is mounted on the seat stay rather than the chainstay, it offers the design engineer more freedom to fine-tune braking forces. The concentric pivot also allows for a very clean frame layout, although its 157mm wide Super Boost hub spacing may raise a few eyebrows; especially for riders weighing up a frame upgrade but wanting to use their existing wheels and drivetrain.

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