Shakedown Ride #1 – Salsa Cutthroat Tour Divide 2018 Rig


Lucy approved! My freshly built rear wheel


Alright.  It’s been super hectic with family, holidays, the bike shop, and all that jazz.  That’s a good thing.  I’ve been riding a decent amount – splitting time between my gravel bike and fat bike, getting some base miles in and trying slowly gain my fitness back.  Crazy that when I left Seal Team just before Christmas I weighed 167lbs.  Now I’m back to a respectable 157lbs.  The difference between eating at home vs. catering and craft services, and getting some exercise.   I’ve pretty much cut out processed sugar, and back to healthy eating habits and an active outdoor lifestyle.


At work.


All put together, perfect and new. Time to get her dirty like my teeth!!

So, yesterday – I finally had time to put on the bar tape, slap on some eggbeater pedals, give the bike a once over, and head down to Lower Rock Creek to do some laps and start seeing what this bike is all about!!


Possibly my favorite part of the bike. Yoda vibes from Visibilia headset caps

I know I’m gonna try a bunch of stuff and probably tweak on every little thing for the next 5+ months before leaving on the Tour Divide, but I’m very happy after the first ride.  I know this bike is going to be fun and comfy, and a fantastic partner to ride down the spine of North America with.


I won’t get into specifics too much here, as I’ll make a detailed “specs” post once the rig is completely dialed for how I’ll take it to Banff.  Once I’m set on the final components/gear/pack list, I’ll also include naked weight, loaded weight without food/water, and simulated weight filled with the max amount of water and food I’ll likely ever have on the bike.  But for now, here’s how I set her up on the Maiden Voyage:

  • 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 Build – Silver Fade – stock build except for:
  • Nox Composites Teocalli Carbon Rims (26mm ID) laced to Industry Nine Rear Hub and SP Dynamo Front Hub
  • Continental Race King 2.2 Tires / tubeless – 25psi (but will play with pressure more as I get the bike loaded with weight)
  • Sram XX1 Eagle Cranks (170mm arms) with an Absolute Black 36T oval chainring
  • Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog mated to an X01 11-42t Cassette (it replaces the 42 with a 46 granny gear)
  • Easton EC70 AX Handlebars (44cm)
  • Syntace C3 Aerobars (MD)
  •  Fizik Gobi Saddle mated to a Syntace P6 Hi Flex Carbon Seatpost
  • I used some Lizard Skins DSP 2.5 bar tape over Fizik Gel Inserts
  • Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedals
  • Salsa Nickless stainless steel bottle cage on bottom of downtube.
  • * No electronics hooked up yet – Shey / KLite has my Revolution USB charger and is wiring it for a a top cap switch / the USB charger / and an Exposure Revo light
  • **For now, I only have the Salsa EXP frame bag and top tube bag mounted to the bike – will get into more packing options as I continue to shakedown the bike.  I use Lizard Skins silicone tape at all contact points to keep my frame from getting marred and bags from slipping around.



I took the bike to Lower Rock Creek.  It’s a trail I know very well, and it’s clear of snow right now.  I’ve ridden it zillions of times, so I can really “feel” out a bike here.  Fast flowing singletrack and I can either ride back up on the dirt or on the paved road to make a few laps.  I also spent some time on the fire roads above LRC just to get some more miles in.  I rode about 20 miles with 2,500′ of mixed terrain climbing.


My wife loves purple. It makes me think of her.

  • The bike is light and nimble.  I haven’t weighed it, but with the carbon wheelset and handlebars, it’s probably coming in just under 20lbs naked.  I’ll weight it for fun, soon. Sure it’ll get loaded down a bunch, but the bones are light and solid.  The wheelset, cranks, and rigid fork make pedaling super responsive and efficient.
  • For now, I have plenty of granny gear with the 36T oval ring up front and -46T WolfTooth GCX in the rear.  Top end wasn’t bad either.  We’ll learn more as I load the bike up and take bigger rides – but happy with gearing for now.
  • Sram hydro disc brakes, stellar – powerful with great modulation.
  • Digging the Lizard Skin dsp bar tape (I’ve used this many times) and Fizik gel.  It’s my first time using the gel inserts, but I like the squishy feel, and my hands were very comfy with zero numbness or tingling – I need to try out some gel gloves too, once I get to doing longer rides and overnight shakedown rides – I’ve always had hand problems, so wanna sort that out.
  • 170mm crank arms felt great on the knees – I decided to go a little shorter than what I normally ride (175mm) so my pedal stroke is shorter / knees don’t go up as high – to alleviate some strain on the knees over long rides.  I’ve never had knee problems, even with all my singlespeeding, but I dont’ wanna start either!!
  • One bummer, which I kinda already knew about – I could not fit a normal 24oz water bottle in the low cage, and barely got a 20oz to fit (it was hitting the “hairs” on my brand new tire, which is way too close for comfort).  I remember Josh Kato saying he had to modify the lower cage to get a bottle to fit.  I’m thinking about using the Wolftooth B-Rad system , but for now, I’ve got a Specialized KEG loaded down there… filled with tools, spares, etc that weight a bunch, but I hopefully wont need to get to often.  Depending on how my packing works out, this might be better than a bottle covered in cow crap anyway.  If I do wind up using a bottle down there, I’ll surly have to cover it with a ziploc and a rubberband to keep it from getting grotty to the max.
  • I like the Salsa EXP top tube bag.  It’s huge!!  Much bigger than the Revelate Gas Tank and Mag Tank I currently use.  I still like the ease of the Mag Tank, but for this adventure, I like the extra volume and the zipper down the middle is pretty sweet too.  Also nice how it bolts on to the Cutthroat – steezy.
  • I love the zippers on the Salsa EXP frame bag.  Silky smooth.  But not super stoked on the volume of the bag itself.  It’s very “skinny” and doesn’t seem to lend itself to “shoving a ton of crap in it” like I’m used to with more the Porcelain Rocket and Revelate Frame Bags I have on other bikes.  Either way, I’m gonna stick with it for now, and see how it goes when I start to load it up.


    Taking a break during the maiden voyage.


  • The biggest change, that I kinda already I knew I’d need, is adding a Siren Bikes Fred Bar to the cockpit. I was waiting to see, but I just ordered it.  The aerobars take up too much valuable real estate over the handlebars including one of my favorite “upright” hand positions.  I know I’ll also need more cockpit room for mounting crap too (gpx, dynamo light, etc).  I think moving the aerobars up some will be more comfy and easier on my lower back as well.  Hey, at least that’s what the website says as well!  We’ll soon see.
  • As I mentioned, I wasn’t super stoked on aerobar placement.  However, I am stoked on the aerobars themselves.  I’ve used them plenty before, especially on my singlespeed for routes with a lot of flat sections.   The Syntace’s are very comfy for me.  I can’t wait to get them dialed in on the Fred Bar, put some bar tape on them (hmmm… what color?  I’m thinkin pink or blue??  Yeah, blue!!) and start dialing in the rest of the cockpit (gps and light placement, and handlebar bag/sleep kit placement)
  • My seatpost was a tad to high, will drop 1/4″ and see if that feels better.
  • My saddle also needs some tweaking, will move forward and mess with angle slightly.  I’ve done well with Fizik Gobi’s over the years, but I measured my sit bones, and I’ll try a narrower saddle and see if it’s more comfy – we’ll see.
  • My stem height might need some tweaking as well, and I might have to go with a different length, but ok for now.  Will wait until Fred Bar arrives and top cap electronics switch to mess with that, as they both take up stack height on the steerer tube.
  • I need to tilt the handlebars down slightly as my wrists were slightly too bent in the drops when braking/shifting – but the angle of the hoods was nice on the bars.  IMG_8750


I’ll address the small tweaks mentioned above.  Keep putting in “shakedown” miles.  Add the seatbag (most likely gonna go with my Revelate Vischacha (the roomier the better is my motto for the Tour Divide – never know how many Subway sandwiches you’re gonna have to cram in there).  Try some different mounting options for sleep setup in the cockpit area.  I’m really leaning towards the Salsa EXP after messing with Hunter’s a little.  My electronics (usb charger, dynamo light and charging harness/switch will be in soon) – looking forward to getting that dialed along with the Fred Bar and the rest of the cockpit…

Lots to do… get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
This entry was posted in Gear Reviews, MTB Racing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Shakedown Ride #1 – Salsa Cutthroat Tour Divide 2018 Rig

  1. Richard Wilson says:

    Hi, interesting t osee we seem to have a ton of the same stuff! How you getting on with the cockpit set up? I’m struggling to fit it all in and keep room for my knees when standing up out the saddle.
    Got any pics of where you’re at right now?


    • ss29er says:

      Hi Richard – are you gonna be at the grand depart? if so, it’ll be nice to meet you. i did a couple multi-day events on that bike, and didn’t have problems with knees rubbing. yes, they still rub slightly once in a while , but i kinda just got used to it… i think there are some pics on more recent blog posts… like the stagecoach 400 that might have some pics with the setup pretty dialed. unfortunately, that bike, along with my entire bikepacking kit was stolen off the back of my car right after the tour de los padres… so no more photos. i’m almost done building the replacement that i’ll be taking to banff… hopefully some pics shortly… thanks!!


  2. Darryl says:

    How did you find the AB chainring for shiftin?. I have the 2019 Cutthroat Rival version with DuB cranks and have been looking for an oval 36t in a 6mm offset. Seems that AB only makes the CX ring in that size with a 4.5mm offset. By using the 4.5mm ring do you think you can fit a 38t oval in there with the extra 1.5mm of clearance?


    • ss29er says:

      I believe wolftooth makes a 36 and 38t oval in sram dm 6mm/non-boost offset last time I checked… they are just as good as absolute black… but if you are intent on AB id check with them about the cx ring clearance, etc … I’d assume you’ll be fine, but I can’t give you confirmation… your shifting on a 1x drivetrain shouldn’t be affected by your front chainring- unless you make a change in size that could make your current chain either too short or long/ which has to be addressed – hope that helps!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s