When it comes to gravel bikes, Salsa is one of the leading brands and has been for several years now. They have developed some of the best bikes capable of serious touring mileage while having the poise and grip to handle rough terrain and remote tracks. While there have been several great gravel bikes designed by various other brands, the Salsa Warbird is one of the most iconic and has helped lead the surge in the popularity of gravel biking, touring, and bikepacking.
Why is the warbird so popular, you may immediately be wondering.
Quite simply, Salsa’s design is focused specifically on gravel touring performance, which means that almost every aspect of this bike is tuned specifically to give grip, pedaling efficiency, and comfort in a lightweight and maneuverable package. Every aspect of the design from the placement of mounts to the geometry and materials has been thoughtfully combined to give a perfect blend of ride greater ride characteristics and utility.
In a hurry? Here are the main features of the Salsa Warbird.
- Excellent geometry with a focus on pace and efficiency
- Versatile wheel choices
- Ample tire clearance
- Huge cargo capacity and versatility thanks to well-positioned mounts
- Superb component choices including Shimano’s gravel focussed GRX groupset
- Internal cable routing
- Dropper Post Compatibility
- Comfortable drop bar configuration
- Comfortable Cockpit
If you want a little more information about the features and performance of this bike feel free to keep on reading for a more in-depth review of the Salsa Warbird.
The Salsa Warbird’s frame is made of carbon in most of its iterations, which immediately gives away this bike’s intentions. It’s a bike that loves speed and is designed to deliver plenty of it in various situations. The benefit of a carbon frame is its low weight and rigidity, which is perfect for power transfer pedaling efficiency even while carrying significant weight in added equipment.
The geometry has a surprisingly aggressive profile, with a slack 70.75-degree head angle which allows for excellent maneuvering and control, while the 430mm chainstays provide superb stability and poise on the rough stuff.
The bike’s overall design is very much inspired by the gravel racing and cyclocross roots that inspired Salsa when they started out. This makes the warbird extremely fast on flat terrain and roads, however, the angles also inspire confidence offroad, especially when coupled with larger 29” wheels, which we’ll talk about more later.
Despite its light weight, the warbird’s frame is a capable workhorse for long-distance tourers and bikepackers who want to carry enough supplies and equipment for multi-day or overnight trips. There are several well-positioned bottle mounts all over the frame, particularly on the larger-sized options. These give a lot of flexibility and choice over potential mounting setups, with mounts located on the forks, the main downtube, and the seat tube.
The internal cable routing is a nice touch that will help keep your cables well protected from the elements and will also prevent noisy rattling while riding off-road, allowing you to better enjoy the peace and tranquility that this bike is capable of carrying you into.
This makes the frame alone the perfect all-rounder and a great foundation for the rest of the included components.
The group set included on this bike is the versatile and gravel-focused Shimano GRX. Although fairly simple, the GRX is exactly what you would want for a gravel bike of this sort, with ergonomic and well-designed brake levers which provide a comfortable grip, rugged cranks, and a wide range of gears.
These are all extremely important for long-distance rides where strength, reliability, and comfort are most important. The brakes are comfortably positioned on the handlebars to make for comfortable and accessible control even on rough ground, helping to relieve pressure and aching in the wrists that are a common problem when using flat handlebars over long distances. The brakes themselves provide responsive control and excellent stopping power in all conditions thanks to quality calipers and large 140mm disc rotors.
The front and rear mechs are versatile and rugged, providing good clearance and plenty of space to find a comfortable gear towards the end of a long and arduous day in the saddle. While not as flashy or eye-catching as other cranks, they are reliable and can be configured as a 1x or 2x setup depending on the type of journeys you plan to take or rider preference.
The warbird’s ability to accommodate both of the most popular wheel sizes is really a massive positive for riders who have multiple wheelsets or who aren’t sure exactly what size wheel they prefer.
For excellent top speeds and stability off-road, a set of 29” wheels will allow maximum confidence, especially when paired with 51mm tires which will add further traction for muddy, wet conditions and singletrack ripping.
If however, you prefer a more maneuverable feel from your bike, a pair of 650b or 27.5” wheels can be easily swapped in which pair superbly with the racing geometry and slack head angle of the warbirds frame. All of this, coupled with a low standover height and good wheel clearance make the warbird capable of adapting to very different conditions as well as different riders. This is one of the key reasons why the warbird is such a popular choice, it has the ability to adapt extremely well which is exactly what a great gravel bike needs to be able to do.
In terms of comfort, Salsa has done everything it can to make your life easier whether you’re commuting to work or heading out on a long-distance excursion. The cockpit of the warbird is incredibly comfortable thanks to the lowered top tube, which permits a much less awkward standover height than some other gravel bike designs. This makes it much easier for riders to touch a foot to the ground when stopping at traffic lights or needing a little more stability on difficult terrain.
The saddle is well-positioned and very comfortable, mostly due to the nicely positioned seat post and tilted head angle. The ability to add a dropper post to this setup only adds to the potential comfort for riders who want to be more aggressive when heading downhill also.
The drop bars offer a nice sweep to give riders plenty of opportunities to change their grip depending on conditions and terrain.
The cranks are also well positioned and despite using a press-fit bottom bracket the power transfer was responsive and sturdy which allows for confidence when really putting the power down.
The forks on the warbird are rigid and made of carbon to keep things light and responsive. They are also designed to be aerodynamic, allowing the bike to slice through the air when gliding downhills or along long stretches of flat road or firebreak. This is where the warbird feels most comfortable, and the forks provide excellent control and maneuverability to give confidence and speed when the speed really starts to pick up.
Despite being carbon, the forks are also covered in bottle mounts which allow tourers to set them up to give a surprising amount of storage, particularly when using Salsa’s very popular Anything Cages. This allows your forks to accommodate two fairly large dry sacks or added water storage depending on the type of ride you’re heading on.
If rigid forks aren’t for you, however, the warbird is compatible with some suspension forks, to allow gravel-enduro riders or cross country riders to customize the warbird even further.
This is another example of the warbird’s consistent flexibility and echoes our earlier point about this bike being a really solid foundation for many different types of riding.
Despite its jack of all trades nature, the warbird may actually have a more serious claim to being a master of all trades thanks to its ultra-versatile capabilities.
The offroad ride characteristics are stable and comfortable which inspires confidence, especially in slushy terrain where gravel bikes are often exposed and undone. This is due in large part to the relaxed geometry and excellent tire clearance, as well as the 430mm chainstays.
On roads and firebreaks, this bike provides a comfortable ride and efficient power transfer which allows you to cover serious ground. The handlebars are comfortable and the groupset does its job with the confidence Shimano’s GRX option has become well known for.
An array of bottle bosses and mounting points allow for impressive storage capabilities and the lightweight carbon forks and frame mean you don’t need to count every gram you decide to carry along with you.
This all adds up to a gravel bike that deserves its position at the very top of the pile and justifies the class-leading reputation of both Salsa and the Warbird.
Its availability in up to 7 different sizes indicates that Salsa has really put the focus on making riders as comfortable as possible, while the variety of color options allow riders to inject a little bit of extra personality into a bike that will undoubtedly serve them well for many memorable miles.