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One Shop Guy’s Bike:The New Salsa El Mariachi Ti

April 27, 2010

Greetings cycling universe! I’m making my Bicycle Sport Shop blog-o-sphere debut with this here entry. My name is Scott and I’ve been working in some capacity here at the shop for about 10 years – the last 7 of which I’ve had the pleasure of working behind the scenes in the buying office. What this means is that I generally get to spend a good portion of my job looking at the latest and greatest cycling products from all over the industry. I’m hope to start sharing my take on the coolest of those products here on our Bicycle Sport Shop blog from time to time.

For starters I’ve decided to  show off something of great personal interest since I caught the first sneak peek of it at the  Interbike Trade show last fall.  Salsa Cycle’s new El Mariachi Ti 29er hardtail.  At a glance it appears to be the perfect trail bike for myself and a good deal of other folks who value the following attributes in a mountain bike: simplicity, durability, quality construction (handmade if possible), good value for what you pay, and attractive aesthetics. I’ve always gravitated toward the simplest, lowest maintenance bike that works well for local Austin trail riding. Since 2003 my definition of these requirements has been a 29″ wheel hardtail often configured with a rigid fork. In that time frame I’ve owned a handful and ridden a dozen different high end full suspension offerings but for my personal bike I always end up selling those and coming back to my favorite (up to now) 29er hardtail of all time – the now iconic Surly Karate Monkey. On paper Salsa’s El Mariachi Ti provides everything I like about my Karate Monkey with some notable improvements, not the least of which are the widely touted benefits that come along with using titanium as a frame material.

You can get all the details on the Salsa El Mariachi Ti here. I just want to run through my personal requirements and share why I’m excited about it.
Simplicity: Rear suspension is arguably a very good thing – especially when tackling the unforgiving limestone based trail system in Austin. That said, to make a good suspension bike one has to add at least some complexity and moving parts to the design of the frame. And even if you pull this off perfectly with zero negative design characteristicts it still wont look as classic as a beautifully made hardtail mountain bike frame.

Low Maintenance: Time is a premium in my life. I’ve never enjoyed the regular “overhauling” of any form of cycling equipent. Enter a young family in the past three years and an extremely irregular riding schedule and I value greatly the ability to just pull a bike down from the wall, check the tire pressure and go. Steel or titanium hardtails are perfect for this. Go with a quality front suspension fork that requires little regular maintenance and enjoy a squeak and creak free ride.

Value: I’ve always considered my Karate Monkey to be a screaming deal for what it’s price tag is. I’ve beat on mine regularly for 8 years. That said, at a premium product level Salsa has entered the market with an extremely good value of a “hand made in the US” Titanium frame for $1800. Consider that this bike can easily serve you for a decade or more and the dollar per ride is hard to beat.

Nice aesthetics: I have lusted over titanium frames for my entire cycling career. Like I said before classic appeal matters to me and the El Mariachi Ti has got “it.” It’s easy to see beautiful handmade weld quality that gives titanium such a legendary bicycle frame material and the geometry of a modern hardtail. The logo’s are chemically etched to the brushed finish which means there is no paint or decals to chip. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that every color of aftermarket anodized part looks great with a brushed Ti frame!

Our first frames arrived early in March and I’ve build mine up in such a way that it suits my needs. I’m a fan of an understated look so my parts are all some shade of black, trey, or silver. I also pick parts that I feel are the best parts for the money. I tend to not get too caught up in the latest and greatest parts unless there are real functional improvements for the price.

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Here’s the highlights:

Frame: El Mariachi Ti 20″ size. about 3.5lbs.

Fork: RockShox Reba SL 80mm

Drivetrain: XT/XTR with my trusty 6 year old set of Race Face Deus Crank arms.

Brakes: Shimano XT hydraulic

Wheels: Shimano XTR Centerlock hubs built to Stans Arch tubeless rims.

Other parts of note: King headset – 3rd frame can’t wear it out, WTB PureV Saddle – a personal favorite for years, and Groovy Cycles Luv Handles cro-mo handlebars. I’ve been a fan of big sweep bars and these are the best I’ve found after trying just about every popular design out there.

Salsa has introduced this frame as one of three models that are defining what will be a new premium product line of bicycles for Salsa in the future. They also have a 26″ Ala Carte hardtail and a very cool La Cruz Ti cyclocross all-rounder type frame.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Dunlap permalink
    April 28, 2010 12:33 pm

    Nice build up using both new and proven (old) parts. Used to live in Austin until a year and a half ago to go to Bike Wrench school at UBI. Congrats!! Mark Dunlap (somewhere on the road)

  2. JG n SLO permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:27 am

    So…hows the ride of the El Mariachi Ti ? I agree with your comments about a nice hardtail. Been riding my Polished 1999 Santa Cruz Chameleon with 5in travel Bomber fork since new but looking for something…smoother.

    • slinville permalink
      July 2, 2010 8:44 pm


      The ride is excellent. I’ve been on steel bikes exclusively up until this point and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to tell the difference. I’ts noticeably smooth in the rear end compared to my previous steel El Mariachi and Karate Monkey bikes. I don’t have any issues with stiffness. The downtube seems plenty beefy at the BB for stiffness. I think the ovalization helps. I think compared with a Chameleon you’d notice a much smoother ride. Chameleons are definitely built to be burly and not flex.

      5″ of fork may be kind of weird on the El Mariachi but I think 4″ of travel for trail riding would be fine.

  3. Mike Henson permalink
    January 2, 2011 4:01 am

    I love mine, but I considering changing out the Reba SL for a Lefty to lighten up the front.
    I know I’m I’m messing with the simpliicity. Any comments?

  4. slinville permalink
    January 3, 2011 3:27 pm

    I think the lefty would work fine. I’ve got no experience with it but reports are they work well and I’m not sure you can get a lighter suspension fork.

    You can see a Ti El Mar with a lefty here on this MTBR thread. I’m sure you could message the guy for his input, he actually purchased the frame from us remotely when they were hard to come by in his local area.

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