Rather than a beefed-up touring bike like the Co-Motion Divide we reviewed last week, the Fargo 2 is actually a drop-bar mountain bike, with a lighter compact frame, 2×10 drivetrain, tubeless wheels, and slacker geometry than the Co-Motion. A tall, 44mm head tube means a higher handlebar for comfort off-road, and suspension-corrected geometry allows a suspension fork upgrade.
The Fargo 2 is king of the braze-ons: there are mounts for five bottles (three on the frame, two on the fork), fenders, rear rack, and front lowrider rack. The down tube and fork bottle mounts are compatible with Salsa’s Anything Cage, an oversized cage that can hold things like a Nalgene bottle, sleeping pad or dry bag.
Salsa also sent one of their branded frame bags, made by Revelate Designs, that fits perfectly into the front triangle of the Fargo. After years of using racks and panniers, I’ve transitioned to utilizing frame packs on almost all of my biking excursions; I find the bike feels more balanced, particularly on rough surfaces.
In addition to the frame pack, I used a Revelate Sweet Roll under the handlebars and a Viscacha seat pack for times when I needed to pack a little extra for an extended trip. The Fargo’s compact frame limits the space available for the frame pack—I’d be glad to loose some standover clearance for more pack space, although the small pack meant I had to be more selective with the things I carried, which could be a good thing.
Loaded or unloaded, this Fargo felt great on singletrack… at least for a drop-bar bike. A big reason for that are the stock Race King tires. They inspired confidence cornering and braking. The stock Salsa Woodchipper drop bar is designed specifically for off-road use while providing multiple hand positions for long days in the saddle. They felt good in the drops and on the hoods, but on long rides, I never found a position that allowed me to relax. Every rider is different, but I would swap the drops for Jones bars, no question, although the short top tube could make for some fit issues. The SRAM shifters didn’t help either; I’m not a fan of their shift action (and several other staffers agree).
I really dug the extra mounts on the fork, which freed up a lot of room in the bags for food and other trailside goodies. I also liked the Thudbuster post. It relieved just enough trail chatter to make the bumpy sections more pleasant on a long ride. Some folks are bothered by the “down and back” action that effectively changes your seat angle as the suspension compresses.
Let’s not forget about how nice this bike looks: brown with orange sparkling paint, orange hubs, a matching seat post clamp, and comfortable orange bar tape. This bike is pretty, and that’s important. This model is one of two different builds for the steel Fargo frame; the more budget-friendly Fargo 3 may be the wiser choice for touring, with a triple crank, nearly indestructible bar-end shifters, and non-tubeless wheels. The Fargo Ti is a titanium frame (surprise!) and has an upgraded component package and bigger price tag.
I used the Fargo 2 as a commuter, a mountain bike, and a bike- packing off-road tourer. It performed well in each environment. Sure, there are bikes that will do better with a single specific task, but the Fargo manages to span the whole range without major compromises anywhere. Even with the issues I found, I would recommend the Fargo for the adventure crowd.
Editor’s note: This review covers the 2013 Fargo. For 2014, Salsa has made some changes to the frame, most notably the inclusion of its Alternator Dropouts, which give you the ability to run a singlespeed or internally-geared drivetrain.
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $1,950
- Weight: 26.9 lbs. (w/o pedals)
- Sizes available: S, M, L (tested), XL