Review: Salsa Deadwood SUS XT 1 x 11

There is no getting around it, the Deadwood SUS is perhaps the weirdest full-suspension bike released by a major player in a long time, for a number of reasons. There is little that is normal about this bike. The name, geometry, suspension travel, wheel size, and even the backstory of this bike aren’t typical for the industry.

RockShox might be to thank for this bike, as Salsa product manager Joe Meiser explains: “When RockShox announced that they would be producing a 29+ chassis suspension fork I felt that we needed to prototype something, but had little expectation that it would become a production bike.” Those prototypes proved to be compelling enough to lead to the bike we see here.

A drop bar 29plus bikepacking rig already used the Deadwood name, but with an update to the Fargo to allow room for 3 inch tires, the Deadwood was dropped from the lineup. Knowing the name was too good to leave on the table, Salsa tacked SUS on to the end and ran with it. The name wasn’t the only thing pulled out of the parts bin.

Those with good eyes and a head full of too much bike geek knowledge might have noticed the similarities to Salsa’s Pony Rustler and Horsethief models. It isn’t just similar; all three bikes share the same carbon front triangles. This meant all the testing and design was done, so the Deadwood could get to market in a matter of months, versus a matter of years. The aluminum swingarm and linkage are specific to the Deadwood.

Most of the component choices are safe and reliable, although the WTB Asym i35 rims are narrow for 3 inch tires, and the rear DT 370 hub is pretty low engagement for a 46 tooth cog. But for the price tag, the rest of the bits are well sorted. Hard to complain about a Pike RC, Reverb dropper, XT drivetrain and XT brakes.

Cable routing is external, which I am always going to be happy to see, even if the execution isn’t the cleanest looking, as in this case. You get 110/148 Boost spacing and a PF92 bottom bracket. You can install a front derailleur if that is your thing.

Let me tell you this up front, I didn’t have high hopes for the Deadwood SUS. When I got the news about the new bike, I was expecting a full-suspension version of Salsa 29plus trail hardtail, the Woodsmoke. The Deadwood isn’t that. Salsa sticks it in the “backcountry singletrack/endurance racing/bikepacking “ category, while the Woodsmoke fits into the “backcountry singletrack/bikepacking/off-road exploration” niche. Clear as day, right?

The Deadwood is hard to pin down. The geo says “Welcome to 2008,” the suspension travel says “Lycra and shaved legs” but the weight asks “which way to the chairlift?” and the giant tires “next stop, Baja California.” See, clear as day! To sum it up, this is a bike with mostly cross-country geometry with similar weight to most 150 mm travel bikes in this price range, and has enough rubber to make some fat bikes feel a tinge of envy.