Test Ride – Salsa Vaya

I made arrangements with the owner of Endless Cycles in Castro Valley, CA. to test ride the Salsa Vaya 2 on my way home from the Sea Otter Classic a few weeks ago. Since we were already near the Bay Area it made sense to make a stop and test the Vaya. Though Endless Cycles is nearly 100 miles away from my home, they are the closest Salsa dealer to me. I have to admit, a 90 minute drive to a Salsa dealer for parts and service does curb my enthusiasm a bit.

I realize that I can and probably will perform many repairs myself. I also know that a LBS closer to home would be able to work on the Vaya. However, I still think it would be nice to buy a bike from a dealer that’s closer to home. Bike shops often extended discounts to clients that have previously purchased bikes. Setting aside the distance aspect, Endless Cycles is a nice shop and they had a lot of Salsa bikes on the showroom floor. If your living in or around the Bay Area and you’re shopping for a Salsa, I recommend you give Endless Cycles a try.

Salsa Vaya

The Salsa Vaya features a double-butted  CroMoly Steel frame and fork. Salsa designed the Vaya as a drop bar touring bike capable of handling any road, paved or not. Whether your looking to do a hundred miles or getting ready to set out for a month or two of riding, the Vaya is well equipped to handle the task. With rack, fender mounts and clever design elements the Vaya is also a very capable commuter.

I test rode a 54 cm frame Vaya 2 but a 56 cm would probably be the correct size for my height and build. Endless Cycles didn’t have a 56 cm Vaya built up but the test ride on the 54 cm was just fine to get a feel for the bike.

I live near Sacramento, CA and the landscape around here is fairly flat. Castro Valley on the other hand is moderately hilly. I took the suggested test ride route which was a basic one mile loop but it started out with a short climb up a hill. I’m not in horrible shape and I made it up the hill without walking but it was certainly a workout. The trip up the hill and then back down gave me an opportunity to test the full range of gears on the SRAM Apex 2 x 10 setup. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if the Vaya had an extra gear up front when I was climbing that hill. More time in the saddle will help remedy that problem.

My test ride of Specialized Crux led me to start looking at more cyclocross style bikes. Specifically, I was looking for something a little less race bike and a little more practical as an all-rounder than the Crux. The Vaya fits that bill very well. I get the feeling the Vaya can take just about anything you can throw at it. The real beauty of the Vaya is in the details. Rack and fender mounts are only the beginning. For example, the rear disc brake mount is found on the chainstay rather than the seatstay making it easier to mount those racks and fenders. With it’s focus on touring, the Vaya is equipped with three water bottle cage mounts. These functional design elements are no doubt appreciated by touring riders.

Salsa Vaya Dropouts

I find all of these little details quite appealing. Here you can see the replaceable derailleur hanger and one of my favorite little features of the frame, the Salsa logo integrated into the seatstays. Though the Vaya is a mass produced frame it feels a lot more like a custom bike than anything I’ve tested before.

The Vaya is available as a frame only or in one of two different complete build configurations. The Vaya 3 is the base model where the Vaya 2 that I rode is an upgraded model with higher spec components. The Vaya is also available as a Titanium frame or complete bike. I’m quite satisfied with the steel framed Vaya 2 and I appreciated the SRAM Apex group and Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes on the Vaya 2.

After test riding the Vaya and then spending some time to think about the results, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Vaya is the most practical bike I’ve tested. The Vaya would suit my current needs very well and offers plenty of room to grow. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to an all round, do everything bike. This is the bike I should buy and start riding. Still, the Vaya lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, I found in the Specialized Crux. Salsa describes the Vaya as having, “stable geometry” that,¬† “keeps the bike from being twitchy, and makes the bike a pleasure to ride while loaded.” Those are the exact qualities which, I believe, takes just a bit of the fun out of riding the Vaya or bikes like it.

To draw analogies to the automotive world, I would call the Vaya an SUV. The Specialized Crux on the other hand is more akin to a rally car.

Ford RS

You won’t find any cupholders or utility items in cars equipped for WRC. In racing it’s all about performance and weight reduction whether car or bike. Of course after a long trip in an SUV you’ll arrive at your destination fairly comfortable and with no concern you’ve ruptured your spleen.

So the contenders at least at the moment are the Specialized Crux Comp Disc Apex and the Salsa Vaya. While both bikes share a few similarities for the most part they are different bikes. I’m really no closer to making a final decision but I still have a bit more time to decide. Unexpected expenses and my desire to pay cash for this purchase have cause a bit of a delay.

So what do you think? Should I go for the practical Salsa Vaya or the performance oriented Specialized Crux?