Salsa Horsethief Review

Our Verdict

The Deore is the entry-level model in Salsa’s Horsethief mid-travel trail bike lineup. This 29er has 120mm of rear suspension and a 140mm fork, making it ideal for a wide range of riders and terrain. This bike thrives on more mild rolling terrain thanks to the Split Pivot suspension system, which delivers a supple trail-smoothing rear end. Although its shape is conservative by today’s standards, it stays stable at high speeds and has predictable handling. This mild-mannered trail bike didn’t strike out as the best on either the hills or the descents, but it was rarely overwhelmed. This is a great alternative for less aggressive riders and terrain, in our opinion. Here is our Salsa Horsethief Review.

Should I Buy This Bike (Salsa Horsethief)?

The Horsethief Deore might be exactly up your alley if you’re the type of rider who prefers a more relaxed and laid-back approach to riding. This bike works better at slower speeds and in less demanding terrain with a more conservative shape. It isn’t raunchy, it isn’t particularly playful, and it isn’t a downhill killer. This suggests that the Horsethief can’t get after it; it can; it simply prefers a mellower pilot and terrain. It sits in a nice midway ground that we think many riders would appreciate. When ridden within its speed and terrain constraints, it’s versatile and well-rounded, and we believe it’s a good entry-level and economical option for less aggressive riders.

Fun Factor

Our testers all ride for the sheer enjoyment, and the overall impression was that riding the Horsethief was a blast. The most enjoyable aspect of this bike, according to our testers, was its predictable, mild-mannered, and even demeanor. If the Horsethief were a guest at your party, he wouldn’t get too drunk and start jumping over the flames or punching holes in your drywall for no apparent reason. On the other hand, this bike is like a friend who tells nice stories around the campfire and maybe performs a few good melodies on the guitar but doesn’t mind if they aren’t the focus of attention.

The Horsethief’s middle-of-the-road-ness is one of its biggest assets, depending on how you define “fun” on a bike. It isn’t the best or worst at anything; rather, it performs admirably in all areas. Although it wasn’t the most fun or the most difficult charging bike we’ve tested in this price range, it was dependably reliable when ridden in its intended moderate terrain and aggressiveness range. This bike is a delight to ride on mellower trails, and it holds up admirably on tougher, steeper terrain. This bike, we believe, will be the most enjoyable for folks who aren’t attempting to beat their buddies up or down the hill but rather are riding “simply for the enjoyment of it.”

Downhill Performance

The Horsethief is an example of a mild-mannered and user-friendly short travel model from Salsa, which isn’t known for creating hard-charging trail bikes. By today’s standards, it has conservative geometry, and while it doesn’t strike us as an aggressive shred sled, it rarely felt overwhelmed when kept within its limitations. When not pushing the limits of speed or terrain, testers found this bike easy to ride, comfortable, and capable of moderate trail riding. This is a versatile alternative for riders who don’t want to exceed their boundaries on descents and want to have a good time.

The Horsethief has 120mm of rear-wheel travel and a 140mm fork, a good combination for a wide range of riders and terrain. The Split Pivot suspension works well, and this bike has excellent small bump compliance and a good gradual ramp-up towards the end of its journey. Even though the suspension has only 120mm of travel, testers did not report any unpleasant bottom outs until they specifically requested it. It’s supportive enough in the mid-stroke to give you a platform to push off when you want a bit extra pop or want to speed out of corners. The Recon fork performs admirably, and it’s simple to get the front and rear suspensions to feel reasonably balanced. It might feel fragile and harsh on bigger hits or difficult terrain at speed, just like any other Recon fork.

In today’s world, the Horsethief’s geometry would not be considered progressive, and it feels conservative compared to some of the other bikes in this study. One of the reasons this bike prefers a mellower approach and more gentle terrain is this. It has an 1190mm wheelbase and feels stable at high speeds while still very agile. The 67-degree head tube angle also aids in rapid and slightly sharper front-end handling. However, it does seem a little steep when rolling into steeper terrain, especially when compared to slacker bikes. The reach measurement of 453mm is similarly moderate, resulting in a more neutral and less forceful body position. This bike can handle just about anything, but testers noticed that they had to dial it back a touch in steep and difficult terrain compared to competitors with longer and slacker geometry. The cornering handling was relatively strong because of the high tire specification and the wide handlebar for muscling this bike around.

The Horsethief Deore is built on a budget. Therefore it’s comparable to most other bikes in this price range. The wheels and tires are better features of the build since they considerably improve the bike’s performance on the descents. The wide WTB rims work well with the Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II mix to provide this bike with predictable and confident braking and cornering traction. While most of our testers thought the 800mm handlebar was a little too wide, it does provide a wide stance and plenty of leverage for steering and leaning this bike into corners; additionally, it can easily be shortened to your requirements. The inclusion of a dropper post is wonderful; however, it would be incredible if it had more than 130mm of travel on a big frame. Although they’re a tad weak, the Shimano MT200 brakes do the job, and the long-throw levers feel cheap.

Climbing Performance

The Horsethief isn’t particularly impressive on the climbs, but its performance is acceptable and reasonable. It likes a gentle approach, much like its downhill performance, and gets the job done without anything to complain about. It’s not particularly sporty or quick, but it’s comfy, agile, and enjoyable to ride uphill.

On the climbs, the Horsethief’s fairly conservative geometry comes into play once more. The rider’s body is non-aggressive and relatively upright due to the significantly shorter reach measurement. By today’s standards, the 73.4-degree seat tube angle is loose, but it undoubtedly adds to the comfortable vibe with the rider’s weight a little further back. It doesn’t feel excessively loose, but it positions the rider for the most effective power transmission or for attacking tricky trail sections. Because of the moderate length wheelbase and steeper head tube angle, this bike feels best when seated and climbing while remaining moderately maneuverable.

When climbing, the Split Pivot suspension design excels, providing a somewhat supportive seated pedaling base as well as outstanding traction. Out of the saddle, efforts cause a lot of pedal bob, so this bike is best when you’re sitting and grinding away at the vertical. Our testers appreciated the compression damping switch for long paved or fire road climbs, which is almost a lockout on this shock. The component spec works well on the hills, particularly the Maxxis Minion DHR II tire, which hooks up nicely and delivers strong climbing traction in most situations. The Shimano Deore 10-speed transmission performs admirably on long or steep climbs, although the limited range compared to 12-speed choices is obvious.


The Horsethief Deore has a 6066-T6 aluminum frame with 120mm of rear suspension. This bike is made for speed. To control the 120mm of rear-wheel travel, Salsa has used their Split Pivot rear suspension. Both Trek’s ABP suspension system and Salsa’s Split Pivot design have a pivot around the rear axle. This pivot is supposed to allow the suspension to move freely, no matter how hard you brake. You can fit two full-size water bottles inside the front triangle of the Horsethief. It comes with a 140mm travel fork, flip-chip adjustable geometry, and the ability to fit two full-size water bottles. Super Boost 157 rear axle spacing has been used on this frame.

For bikes in this price range, the suspension on the Deore build we tried is average for this kind of thing. It’s not great, but it’s a lot better than bikes in this price range have done for us in the past. The 140mm RockShox Recon RL fork worked well. It has an adjustable air spring, a lockout and can be adjusted for rebound and lockout. Low-end: This fork can be overwhelmed when things get rough or when high-frequency sounds come through. It can also feel a little flimsy when the going gets rough or when the sound is very loud. When climbing, the RockShox Deluxe RT rear shock worked well. It has a rebound adjustment and a compression damping switch that you can use when you want to keep your bike stable.

This is how it worked: Salsa didn’t play any games when choosing the wheels and tires for the Horsethief. In this case, the WTB ST i29 TCS wheels have a 29mm internal width. They can be used with tubes. Front: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5″ EXO. Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4″ Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4″ There are a lot of tires in this set-up that is strong and ready to take on anything. They also give you predictable and confident cornering, braking, and climbing traction.

The Horsethief’s cockpit set-up isn’t bad, but it could have been better. In the front, Salsa has a short Salsa Guide stem and an 800mm wide Salsa Rustler bar. Most of our testers didn’t like how wide the 800mm bar was, but it can be cut down to your liking. At the bike’s back, Salsa put a WTB Volt Sport saddle on top of a dropper seat post called TranzX. This saddle is very comfortable. If you’re 6 feet tall and ride a large size frame on this bike, the dropper might be too short for you.

The Shimano Deore drivetrain comes with the Deore build that we tried. Even though this drivetrain is very reliable and shifts very well, it only has a 10-speed option, and we’ve grown used to having 11 and 12-speed options by now. With the 32-tooth chainring, you get a cassette with 11 to 42 teeth. This cassette is good for most situations, but it made our testers wish there were a few more low gears for them on long, steep climbs. In this review, Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes will slow down and stop the Horsethief. These brakes are used on most of the other bikes in this review. This set of brakes isn’t bad, but they feel a little weak and have cheap long-throw levers.


When the Horsethief Deore costs $2,399 to buy, it is next to the more expensive models in this under $2500 review. This means that the price is in line with what other models cost. A good value would be hard to say about this bike since our testers were mostly happy with its performance on more level ground.


The Horsethief Deore is easy to get along with, but it can still do many things. As long as it isn’t the best at either going up or down, it’s pretty good at just about everything. Our testers found this bike to be the most fun to ride when the terrain was rolling, and there were only a few small amounts of rock and steeps. It’s a good value, and it’s a good choice for people who don’t need to be very good at riding their horses.

Other Versions

When Salsa makes the Horsethief, it comes in aluminum and carbon fiber in five different ways. There are three aluminum-framed bikes that we tried out. The Deore build is the least expensive of them all.

The Horsethief SX Eagle costs $2,699 and comes with the same SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain as the tested model. It also has an almost identical build to the one we tested. The Horsethief SLX costs $2,999 and comes with a Shimano SLX drivetrain, but you can get it without the drivetrain for free.

There are two carbon-framed models that you can choose from, like this one. The Horsethief Carbon NX Eagle costs $4,199. It comes with a RockShox Revelation fork, an SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, and SRAM Guide T brakes, which are all made by SRAM. For $5,199, you can get the Horsethief GX Eagle, which has a RockShox Pike fork, an SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, Guide R brakes, and more.

Leave a Comment