My Covid Bike Journey
First Attempt: Salsa Cutthroat
Like seemingly everyone else, I decided to finally buckle down and buy a bike during Covid times. I had been meaning to get involved in the triathlon scene for a while and I had been watching a lot of Ryan Van Duzer videos on Youtube (great channel btw). I started looking at bikes late, probably around August or September 2020. I wanted my first bike to be something versatile, preferably a touring or adventure bike as I had gotten really into the bikepacking craze and wanted something that I could ride equally well on the road or on trails. I had been fantasizing about training for The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and I eventually found that the Salsa Cutthroat bike had been designed specifically for this route. I was sold. Only problem - it’s a $3000+ bike, and due to Covid supply chain issues, they seemed to all be sold out.
Well, I gave up on the idea of getting a bike for a while after seeing all the supply shortages, until one fateful day in 2020 I stumbled upon a used 2019 Salsa Cutthroat at a local bike shop. The great thing is it was priced at a steep discount ($1000 off), and it didn’t seem to be selling. I took it out for a few test rides and I fell in love. For those who are unaware, the Cutthroat is Salsa’s carbon version of a dropbar mountain bike. It’s basically a Carbon Salsa Fargo designed for adventure racing.
I did notice an issue with this particular bike that made me pause. It was a size “Medium” which apparently corresponded to a 56cm top tube. Based on my height and dimensions, I should normally ride a 54cm top tube. I did feel a bit stretched out when test riding it, but I brushed away my concerns. I figured that 2cm was not a huge difference, and since I was new to biking I figured that I didn’t really know what size I was anyway. Surely I could make a 56cm work for me. Plus I knew there was a supply shortage and the chances of me finding a 54 were slim to none. I bought the bike and brought it home.
Big mistake. If you’re ever in the bike market, don’t let a great deal sway you into buying a bike that isn’t the right fit for you. I rode the bike a few times but it always felt a bit off to me. I felt somewhat stretched out and I had basically zero standover (bad news if you ever need to jump or fall off your bike). There were also some flaws to my idea that I could buy “one bike to rule them all”. Since I don’t have a lot of rideable mountain biking near me, I was riding mostly on roads. However, I could never get a good workout due to the 1x system on the Cutthroat. I think it sort of makes sense to have a 1x on a racing mountain bike, but personally I prefer 2x systems every time. I don’t mind a bit of extra weight if it means I get more useable gears. Especially if I’m going to be riding at all on the roads. If you’re reading this, Salsa, you should make a Cutthroat with a 2x drivetrain! Eventually I ended up returning the bike and resigning myself to a life of wheelessness. However, once the supply chain gets back to normal, I’d love to search around for another Cutthroat or Fargo which fits me properly.
Other Adventure Bikes I Tried
I tried quite a few Kona bikes, such as the Rove, the Libre, and the Sutra (my favorite). However, they didn’t seem to quite fit me as well as the salsa bike did (even though it didn’t fit). The Kona bikes had weird sizing I thought and I always felt really stretched out on them, to the point where it seemed like I’d be uncomfortable on a longer ride. However, they still seemed like great bikes and they were likely just not a good fit for my body dimensions.
A New Hope: My Road Bike
Well, eventually my itch to bike grew too strong and I expanded my search outside of San Diego. Eventually I found a couple of bike shops in Orange County that had some road bikes I was interested in. I first went to look at the Specialized Allez which I had tried in San Diego but had hesitated too long on buying and missed out on. I think the Allez is a great entry level road bike - really solid components for the price point. However, I tried both 52cm and 54cm versions (their 54 is more like a 55), and neither felt quite right. I do have to compliment the team at Specialized Costa Mesa though - they were super great about helping me try out the bike (they built the 52cm after I put a deposit, specifically so I could try it), and they gave great fitting advice. I will definitely go back there the next time I’m in need of a Specialized product.
Ultimately though, I found a bike that was a better fit for me at a local Costa Mesa bike shop: the Scott Speedster 20 Disc. I purchased it, and it’s been great to me so far. There are some minor complaints, but it is an entry level bike after all (I believe I spent $1200), so it’s not going to have all the bells and whistles. But for the price, it’s a steal. The disc brakes are great, it has a carbon fork (although aluminum frame), and 20 gears (2x10) is more than enough for me at the moment. It’s billed as more of an endurance bike, so the gear ratio on the cassette is really wide and I don’t find myself using the lower gears for climbing very often. That is one thing I’m hoping to do; I want to swap out the cassette for one with narrower gaps between the gears. All in all it’s been great to me though, and the color scheme is absolutely sick! I think Scott bikes are super underrated, and when I do eventually upgrade I’d love to get the Scott Addict.