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Salsa Stormchaser frameset review: a single-speed gravel bike ideal for tough conditions

Salsa’s Stormchaser delights in dirty weather as much as it sounds it should, but wet and wild features mean versatility in other ways too

A gravel bike built around the Salsa Stormchaser frameset
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Expensive for an alloy frame and tough rather than light and floaty. That said, acres of mudroom, tons of fixtures and drivetrain versatility make it a tenacious drop-bar warrior whatever the weather and wherever you want

Pros

  • +

    Tough, powerful frame feel

  • +

    Confident, stable handling

  • +

    Masses of mudroom

  • +

    Full bikepacking fixtures

  • +

    Can be set up geared

Cons

  • -

    High price

  • -

    Firm feel

  • -

    Open chainstay scoop

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    Open cable ports

Salsa does a whole range of all-road, gravel, adventure, monstercross and almost XC bikes. If that isn’t niche enough, the Stormchaser is Salsa's dedicated maximum mudroom, single-speed ready filth fighting bike. 

Except that masses of built-in versatility brings out in line with the best gravel bikes, that means it’s not actually that niche at all and I've had a blast bombing around on it in all conditions.

Design and geometry

Chunky alloy tubes squared off towards the head end mean the Stormchaser is clearly intended to plow a solid furrow, not bend in the wind like a willow. Everything tapers down towards the slim 27.2mm seatpost sized seat tube though, which is topped with Salsa’s iconic ‘Lip Lock’ bolted clamp. The seat stays are unbraced and splayed out from the side, rather than back, of the seat tube for tons of clearance even with 50mm tires fitted. 

Interestingly, Salsa use vertically deep but horizontally narrow seat stays to promote outward splay and flex to absorb bumps (they call it Class 5 VRS) rather than the normal flat spring format. The chainstays taper dramatically from a very deep start to a flat section just behind the external cable/hose exits for a more conventional leaf spring effect. Both stays join at the Salsa’s famous (well, if you’re into single gear bikes anyway) Alternator dropouts which use a double-bolt and tensioning screw system to give 15mm of fore-aft movement for tweaking geometry or tightening a single-speed chain. They also carry the flat-mounted brake mount, and if one cog love isn’t for you, there’s an optional gear hanger dropout.

Even by bikepacking frame standards, the Stormchaser plays a good game of ‘spot the mount’. The downtube and seat tube bottle mounts are three-hole for 'everything mounts' or to stop twin-bottle set-ups fighting. There’s another bottle mount under the downtube and double-bolt accessory/bag mounts behind the head tube on the top tube and on the downtube. On 57.5cm frames, there's enough space to be able to get an extra bottle on the downtube one too. 

The fork legs get three-hole ‘everything mounts’ as well as dynamo wire routing and internal brake hose routing. There are hidden fender mounts on the fork and frame and the back end gets rack mounts too, but you’ll need to add Salsa’s Post Lock seat collar for the upper mount. The inside of the fork crown is protected from wear by stainless steel patches, the seat slot is forward-facing to keep rear wheel-spray out and brake, gear and dropper post routing are internal.

There are no switchable blanking plates like other top-end frames use though, so that leaves empty sockets when running a single speed set-up. The chainstays are also open-ended and drop well below the threaded BB shell which means mud from the front wheel flies straight up into them unless you cap them off. At 1780g, it’s closer to a lightweight alloy MTB than an alloy road frame, but at three years, the warranty is shorter than that on Salsa’s carbon, steel or titanium bikes.

Salsa Stormchaser frame chainstay holes by the bottom bracket shell

You will want to seal the chainstay holes under the bottom bracket to stop them collecting mud (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

The weight gives a better clue to the overall feel of the bike than the warranty length though, as the Stormchaser feels seriously confident and stout straight away. That’s helped by a slack 70-degree head angle and 55mm offset on the fork that prioritises straight ahead stability over than twitchy agility. This tendency to plough backs up it’s mud/sand/snow plugging mission statement and it’s more relaxing when you’re loaded too, particularly with top heavy bikepacking bags on treacherous surfaces. 

If you want to speed things up, the relatively long reach means it’s not cramped if you add a shorter stem and I switched between 90 and 70 or even 50mm stems depending on what riding I had in mind. Even with a short stem the low BB and generous reach give it a surefooted and authoritative vibe that makes it a proper bomber on technical descents and ridden well it can give cross-country mountain bikes a nasty surprise.

With squared off tubes up front, seriously chunky chainstay heads set wide on the BB shell and a tall rather than dramatically sloped top tube the Stormchaser is a seriously solid workout bench too. That’s great for churning a single cog round when surface or gradient would normally have you walking and I was consistently startled at what I could get the Salsa up in a 34x16 tooth gear. It kicks just as hard away from the traffic lights in an urban context too, and wherever you’re riding a single-speed transmission means a lot less maintenance and worries about dangling mechs getting walloped or cables stretching.

The Alternator dropouts never shifted or slipped, however hard I braced against them, and there’s none of the creak, squeak or worries about seizing that you’ll get with an eccentric bottom bracket set-up. It’s worth noting that the closed frame ends mean you can only use a belt drive that can be joined after fitting though, not the pre-closed type.

I also felt the Class 5 Vibration Reduction System was more of a Rule 5 Velominati Rule Statement (Google it, but not at work) as the feel through the ‘splaying stays’ is significantly stiffer than Salsa’s Cutthroat gravel bike and the most compliant alloy frames I’ve used from other brands. The stout-legged, alloy steerer fork is relatively rigid on baked or frozen stutter bump surfaces – so keep an eye out for any serious slams and soften them yourself.

The inherently stiff feel means you need to pay attention to the comfort levels of the kit you’re fitting when building up the bike from the frameset. While being able to run high volume 50mm 700c tires (or bigger in 650B) is a potential comfort-boosting bonus, remember that big rubber needs significantly lower inflation pressures than smaller tires for a similar ride feel.

I initially used Thomson’s very stiff bar, stem and kinked seat post on the bike, which was great for grunting gears round but less forgiving for spinning around on. Perhaps unsurprisingly switching to a Salsa stem, Cowchipper carbon bars and Titanium Regulator seat post smoothed things out noticeably and that’s the set-up I’ll be sticking with going forwards. If you want to save yourself some money and a hunt of parts, it’s also worth noting that the complete bike option with Tektro cable disc brakes, Race Face cranks a 16 and 18T cog on the WTB tubeless wheels and premium quality Teravail Rutland ‘Durable’ tires for just $500 / £450 more than the frameset.

Verdict

Salsa’s Stormchaser frame is double the price of a complete basic single-speed bike and literally has some holes in it’s detailing. It’s a gorgeous looking machine though and fully loaded with all the fixtures you need for long haul/leave home bikepacking, daily commuting, stripped down gravel racing or almost MTB level rallying. 

The punchy, powerful ride character suits those who want to crush the climbs with a single cog too, but forgiving comfort is going to come from your component choices not the chassis itself.

For more details, check out the Stormchaser on Salsacycles.com (opens in new tab).

Tech Specs: Salsa Stormchaser

  • Price: $1200 / £1200
  • Model: Salsa Stormchaser
  • Discipline: Gravel
  • Head angle: 70-degrees
  • Seat angle: 73-degrees
  • Effective top tube: 545mm on 54.5cm frame.
  • Chainstay: 435-450mm
  • Frame material: Hydroformed 6066 T6
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: 1780g (frame and fixtures)
  • Wheel size: 700 x 50mm 
  • Fork: Custom alloy steerer carbon blades 

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg