What's Cool In Road Cycling

Salsa Casseroll: Let The Good Times Roll!

Just because we get to ride the latest and lightest bikes, doesn’t mean we’ve lost sight of how to kick back and have fun on two wheels. But it took a call from Salsa Cycles to test their all ‘steel’ Casseroll to really remind me why I love cycling…

I’m willing to bet that most of you started your cycling careers on that old-skool material called ‘steel’. For me it was mountain bikes in 1982… when my motocross daze crashed to a halt after 3 broken arms in 10 months. I lost interest in things two-wheeled for several years, until the first mountain bikes arrived in my town in 1982.

For me it was a two-wheeled ticket back to the dirt, but without the expense, time commitment, and apparent danger. I layed out $500 big ones for a Nishiki Bushwhacker, complete with SunTour thumb shifters, Dia-comp brakes, and – oh yeah… knobby tires. My first rides were awesome – for the first two blocks or until the road turned even slightly uphill. I was outta shape and this ‘pedalling’ was hard… Good thing that riding was so much fun. After my second summer I climbed my first big hill and discovered the endorphine-fueled joy of puttin’ on a good hurt.

Click the tumbnail at top for the BIG view.

I discovered the road scene in 1986 when I saw LeMond win in Paris, and not long after bought my first road bike – an Italian steel framed racer that carried me far and wide on many epic rides. I’m embarrassed to say it’s been 6 years since I last road a steel framed road bike. I blame it on PezCycling, and the luxurious access it’s provided to so many nice bikes made of carbon and titanium.

Enjoy The Ride
So when Salsa Cycles marketing man Mike Riemer called to suggest I try their newly configured all steel Casseroll Triple, I saw the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with my roots, and possibly see how far steel has come. But instead of this cro-moly frame being some ultra-modern verison of what steel can be, I rediscovered that steel hasn’t come or gone anywhere – it never actually stopped being an awesome frame material.

As an added twist, this is not even a road racer, the likes of which PEZ-Readers have come to expect on these pages. In fact, this ain’t no racer at all – this bike is strictly about enjoying the ride – whether it’s to work, running errands, or just plain toolin’ around your local town, bike path, or even hard pack trails.

It didn’t take long to sink my teeth the Casseroll, I picked it up from LSB MightyRiders for an urban pedal back to PEZ HQ, taking in some of Vancouver’s most scenic commuting pathways.

Ooh The RIDE
The most noticeable feature on this bike is not it’s 100% cro-moly frame and fork (doesn’t get much old-skooler than that), but the wide 1 inch tires. Can you say ‘com-for-table’ …? After years of riding 23c road racing rubber, I’d almost forgotten how much of an impact tires really have on ride quality. We’re talking straight over railway tracks, big cracks and bumps – and barely feeling it…at least not like you do on skinny tires.

Funny thing – the more comfortable I feel – the faster I feel as well. In spite of the extra weight on this package, rolling along at speed seems to be almost no more effort than I’m used to on a 16lb racer, and it glides over road junk with the greatest of ease.

No fancy tube shapes here: why mess with good ol’ cro-mo steel when it already works? The straight forward double-butted design inspires straight-forward riding – less to think about leaves more time to enjoy the ride.

The rear tri matches the front with its straight lines and almost alarmingly thin tubes. The fenders are standard issue – nice wide bolt-ons that keep the road grime where it belongs… off you!

You gotta love the guys a Salsa – they’re as a much a philosophy as they are builders of some top notch bikes and clothing, that are laid back and cool. The Casseroll has road bike geometry, but is loaded with some sensible extras that make it ideal for commuting, errands, or just plain having fun on your bike.

The beauty is in the details – fender mounts, rack mounts, straight pull stainless steel rear dropouts so you can run a fixey… it’s like the Swiss Army knife of commuter bikes. In fact, the Casseroll is also offered as a single speed speedster for riders inclined to such things.

I swapped in FSA’s new white painted OS115 stem and compact Wing Pro alloy bar. The ovalized top section, shorter reach and drop of the bar is perfectly suited to any bike where you don’t want to over stretch, and prefer a more comfortable position so you can concentrate on things like pedaling, and the scenery. And I take full responsibility (blame?) for the wrap job here – in my haste to go riding I left out a little tape.

The Shimano 105 shifters and brakes, complete with triple chain ring, seemed the perfect combo of precision componentry and value for this bike. This stuff works great – both shifting and braking. Kinda makes you realize how powerful ego can be when selecting new gear for a bike.

We pride ourselves at PEZ on presenting tech reviews that go beyond a one page spread and a few bullet points, or a simple regurgitation of the manufacturer’s marketing mantra. It’s not uncommon for us to visit the factory, tune the tubes or tweak the design on a test bike, and we make a real effort to offer readers a clear understanding of what makes a piece of gear different, better, or sometimes worse.

In this day and age of fancy carbon bikes, it’s been easy to bury ourselves in the ‘technology’ a builder uses to deliver certain ride qualities. But with a bike made simply from steel – this ‘tech’ angle is shall I say ‘blunted’. Sure, they’ve carefully selected the proper tubes for stiffness and comfort, but they aren’t talking nanotechnology. At first I was stumped as to what I’d say that makes this bike cool, when in fact it was right between my legs the whole time…

This bike is just darn fun to ride. The geometry let me set it up like my regular road rig, but almost everything else about it freed me from the minutea of attempting to interpret how stiff this joint or that felt while climbing, braking, turning, sprinting, etc.

This Casseroll is a perfect extension of Salsa’s philosophy on riding – it’s gotta be fun. I didn’t even bother mounting a computer because I didn’t want the ‘quantification’ of my rides to interfere with the sensations, emotions, and pure pleasure I felt zooming around.

I’d truly forgotten how much a wide set of tires could influence the ride quality – and especially comfort of a bike… sometimes you gotta go to extremes to reset a standard. I reacquainted myself with the idea that speed and ride enjoyment can actually be mutually exclusive… what a concept.

But this bike ain’t slow either – its classic road geometry allows for a variety of saddle and bar positions, so you can set up as aggressively (ie: fast), or relaxed (ie:slow) as you want.

And the really cool thing was that no matter how ‘comfortable’ I got on the bike – I was still doing all the pedaling and all the work – even more considering the added weight of the frame, wheels, and fenders.

Bottom line for me is that this is a great bike to have for both winter training or as an excuse to ride something else around your neighborhood (like the crazy concept of running errands or shopping!)

But perhaps most astounding – was how much ride experience Salsa offers for just US $1540.00 (Damn – that’s less than the last set of wheels I reviewed!) The frameset can be yours for just US$550.00. Wow – that is some value.

• See ‘em online at: SalsaCycles.com

• And special thanks to: MightyRiders.com for the build up!

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