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Salsa Vaya



Lovely touring bike that's perfectly set up for comfortable and enjoyable riding

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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A few months ago I tested the Salsa Fargo, and had a jolly good time doing so. It's the most versatile bike I've ever tested and a real hoot to ride. In the cold hard light of day though, when you're about to put your money on the counter, you might question whether you're actually going to ride an MTB enduro on it, or tackle the Karakoram Highway. Enter the Salsa Vaya – a more mainstream do-it-all option. It's not quite got the range of the Fargo but it's still a massively enjoyable and capable bike, that'll be a better option for many. It's a bit cheaper too.

First off we'll deal with what the Vaya isn't. It isn't a chuckable city iron with discs and drops like the Kona Dew Drop, or one of the growing band of disc-clad 'crossers. It's a touring bike. With discs. That might not make it trendy, and Salsa opt for 'Road Adventure' as a less beardy way of describing it, but essentially it's a big, comfy, rangy, stable touring platform. The frame uses Salsa's Classico Cromoly and the same disc-specific dropouts as the Fargo, so the same proviso about the fiddly access to one of the mount bolts applies, but other than that it's very well put together and well adorned with braze-ons: front and rear racks and 'guards, three water bottles and a pump peg. The 58cm frame (with a 58.5cm effective top tube) was perfect for my 1.90m frame and there's a good sizing chart on the Salsa website that shows what frame fits who.

Transmission is a mix of Shimano's MTB and road gear, with Tiagra STI levers shifting on a 54/30 compact chainset and 11-32 rear cassette, with an LX rear mech to handle the big range of gears. SRAM's BB5 road discs do the stopping, and wheels are DT Swiss X470 rims (26" X430s on the two smallest sizes) on Formula hubs, running Conti's chunky Tour Ride rubber. Finishing kit is mostly Salsa's own, and again it's tailored to the bike size so the biggest frames get the whopping 46cm incarnation of Salsa's excellent Bell Lap bar.

First impressions of the Vaya are of a bike that's easy to get on with. The position is neutral, the steering a touch on the slow side but perfect for cruising along. Everything falls to hand easily and the Bell Lap bars offer a useful and not-too-racy second position that drops you out of the wind a bit but won't stretch your back. The wheels and tyres are built for comfort rather than speed but the bike as a whole is more sprightly than the heavier Fargo, and lighter road-specific rubber (we tried some 28mm tyres for comparison) speeds up progress no end. Even with the thinner tyres pumped up hard the frame and contact points do a great job of smoothing out the ride. If you're just going to ride on the road and the odd gravel track, the tyres are the first thing we'd change.

The Vaya is more than capable of handling a bit of proper off road too. Okay the tyres won't give you much grip over wet roots but it's a stable bike, sturdily built with lots of standover height and some low gears. I took it on a loop of the White Peak up in Derbyshire and it was well behaved even on the rougher sections. It feels big and a bit slow in the singletrack but that's not really what it was designed for. The all-round capability of the bike means you do find yourself darting off down lanes and tracks for a poke about, even when you're meant to be on a road ride. It's a very liberating experience.

The bike gets better the longer you ride it. When you set off you're maybe thinking of how much faster you'd be on that racier steed you've got stabled in the shed, but a few hours in and you realise you're looking around at stuff, you're comfortable and you're enjoying yourself. You might not have gone quite as far, but you'll have seen much more. Touring's great like that. Sorry, Adventure Road riding. Having said all that, there's no reason why you can't also go day-to-day on the Vaya for your commute and shopping trips. After all, it's easy to ride and built to last. It's not the fastest skipping through traffic but it's perfectly rideable in town. Similarly there's no reason why it couldn't handle a faster pace on an Audax, say, especially with a change of tyres. The 11.7kg weight will drop a bit with skinny rubber and the position is great for eating up the miles.

I did load the bike up in various ways: with panniers, with a child seat and with a trailer (not all at once) and it was perfectly happy pootling around weighed down with whatever I could throw at it. I didn't take it on an epic tour to the Pyrenees, but I'd certainly like to. However, I'd question whether it'd be better with a road triple or even an MTB triple rather than a compact. It is a tourer after all, and 34/32 sounds like an impossibly low gear until you're trying to haul 20kg of luggage up the Tourmalet, at which point you'd probably be pretty grateful for another few ratios. Having said that the Vaya is a very happy climber and easy to spin up the hills. Point it down and the combination of the easy steering and powerful brakes make descending pretty stress-free.

Whilst we're on the subject of the brakes, though they're good – plenty of power and easy enough to adjust – I did find myself pining for the BB7 Mountain stoppers of the Fargo, which are a class above but not an option here because the STI levers don't pull enough cable. BB7 road units would have been nice though, and can be found on bikes costing a lot less than this. The transmission worked its faultless magic throughout. Tiagra levers are the lowest level at which I find I can shift without thinking, and the MTB bits worked perfectly with them, no issues there.

Overall I found the Vaya a really enjoyable ride. It's perfectly set up for comfortable and enjoyable riding, the spec is well thought out and functionally excellent. You could throw most tasks that come under the umbrella of road cycling at it and have a good time, and what it lacks in ultimate versatility it makes up in lower weight. Given that it's a pure-and-simple touring bike, though, it's easier to compare with other touring bikes in terms of value. Salsas aren't cheap: the Fargo, at £1600, is a fair whack but there's nothing really to compare it to, except the Singular Peregrine and a few other very niche bikes. There's a raft of tourers out there though, and the Vaya is competing with them on price as well as performance. Take for example the Kona Sutra we currently have in on test: it's £350 cheaper for a bike that not only comes complete with racks and guards but also scores BB7 discs and an XT mech. Okay it doesn't have STI levers, but it's a lot of bike for the money. It'll be interesting to see how it scores on the ride.

Suffice to say that the Salsa will appeal most to people who want something a different and are prepared to fork out a bit extra, but still want a bike that performs. It'll be money well spent with the Vaya: it's a lovely bike, comfortable and versatile. Me? I think I still want a Fargo. But I'm odd like that.


Lovely touring bike that's perfectly set up for comfortable and enjoyable riding test report

Make and model: Salsa Vaya

Size tested: L

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame Vaya, Road Adventure, Salsa Classico CroMoly

Fork Vaya, Salsa Classico CroMoly, 1-1/8", Disc Only

Color Upside Brown

Weight 11.7kg

Crankset Shimano FC-4550-S, 50cm=165mm, 52,54,55,56cm=170mm, 57,58,60cm= 175mm, Silver

Chainring Shimano 34/50T, Compact Double, Silver

Bottom Bracket Shimano Tiagra Hollowtech II BB

Chain Shimano HG-53

Cassette Shimano CS-HG61, 9-Speed, 11-32T

Front Derailleur Shimano Tiagra, Silver

Rear Derailleur Shimano LX, Long Cage, Silver

Headset FSA Orbit DL Alloy, 1-1/8", Silver

Handlebar Salsa Moto Ace Bell Lap, 26.0mm, Silver, 50/52cm=42cm, 54/55/56/57cm=44cm, 58/60cm=46cm

Stem Kalloy AS-009, 26.0mm, 50/52/54cm=80mm, 55/56cm=90mm, 57/58cm=100mm, 60cm=110mm

Handlebar Tape Salsa Gel Cork, Dark Brown

Front Brake SRAM BB5 Road, 160mm Rotor, 6-Bolt

Rear Brake SRAM BB5 Road, 160mm Rotor, 6-Bolt

Brake Levers Shimano Tiagra STI

Tires 50/52cm=Continental Town Ride, 26x1.75" Wire Bead, Black. 54/55/56/57/58/60cm=Continental Tour Ride, 700c x1.6" Wire Bead, Black

Front Shifter Shimano Tiagra Double STI

Rear Shifter Shimano Tiagra 9-Speed STI

Seatpost Kalloy Radiused Top, 27.2 x 350mm, Silver

Seatpost Clamp Salsa Lip-Lock, 30.0mm, Silver

Saddle Velo w/ Salsa Embroidery, Brown

Chainstay Protector Salsa Leather

Hub Formula, 32H, 6-Bolt, Silver

Spokes DT Swiss Competition, Double-Butted, 2.0/1.8mm, Silver

Rims 50/52cm=DT Swiss X430, 26", 32H, Black. 54,55,56,57,58,60cm=DT Swiss X470, 700c, 32H, Black

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Salsa say:

The Vaya is our road adventure bike, designed to take on any surface that someone might consider a ‘road’.

Crafted of Salsa Classico CroMoly, the Vaya is loaded with braze-on’s for fenders, racks, and lowriders. This makes everything from wet weather commutes to full-on touring a breeze.

Stable geometry keeps the bike from being twitchy, and makes the bike a pleasure to ride while loaded. Our two smallest Vaya sizes use 26” wheels to provide better fit, improved standover clearance, and to eliminate toe overlap. The larger Vaya sizes use 700c wheels.

Enjoy a long day in the saddle. Link up pavement and gravel. Hit that limestone rails-to-trails route you’ve always wanted to do. Do a light tour. Or load your panniers to the hilt for a month of two-wheeled exploring. The Vaya will get you there. And bring you back.

Vaya. A true do-it-all road-riding bike.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Lovely build and finish, the lustre on the paint is especially nice in the flesh

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Salsa Classico Cromoly

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

see for all sizes. The 58cm is a 72°/72.5° with a 58.5cm effective top tube

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?


Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It's a lovely bike to ride, a happy balance of upright position and speed

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

It's not overbuilt and you can feel some spring from side to side when loaded, but it never felt flexy

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

It's mostly a sitting down bike, power transfer is very good

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?


How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Slow but not unresponsive

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Touring handling: stable, not twitchy, great for cruising

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

Everything comes together well. Bell Lap bars get another mention, they're my favourite

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:

Very good transmission

Rate the bike for acceleration:

Doesn't burst from the lights

Rate the bike for sprinting:

Not exactly a major concern

Rate the bike for high speed stability:

great descending at speed

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:

What it's built for

Rate the bike for low speed stability:

easy to muscle about even with slowish steering

Rate the bike for flat cornering:
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
Rate the bike for climbing:

Sit and spin

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
Rate the drivetrain for value:

You can get more for the same money elsewhere

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:


Rate the controls for performance:

Salsa's own brand kit is some of the best around

Rate the controls for durability:
Rate the controls for weight:
Rate the controls for comfort:
Rate the controls for value:

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, although I still really want a Fargo

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 190cm  Weight: 96kg

I usually ride: whatever I\\\'m testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with Ultegra 6700

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

Add new comment


defjams | 10 years ago

Poor build quality and customer service. The rear derailleur on my Vaya got caught in my spokes and the derailleur hanger cracked rather than bending. Salsa told me they used a non-replaceable derailleur hanger because it's easier to mold back into shape on a steel bike. Well if it's cracked an only handing on by a thread, that's not much help now is it. Salsa was not able to give me any help with providing replacement parts or referring to a frame builder who can do the repair siting that there's too much liability. Don't expect any customer service from Salsa. It appears that they do some simple modifications to know designs and then send all the real work to Taiwan. I suspect they are purely a marketing company. My whole problem could have been solved with a $5 replaceable derailleur hanger if they had built it that way. What are they doing building with technology from 1975 anyway?

BigDummy | 13 years ago

I've been running a Vaya for a little while now, and am a great fan. I bought the frame only, and am running it with SRAM Apex (same gear range as the bike tested) and Avid BB7 discs.

I've settled into a rather lower position than the bike tested. Bars are standard drops rather than the Bell Laps, and the stem is slammed to the headset and flipped downwards. The resulting position is considerably lower but still high compared to a race bike and very comfortable.

I've used the bike so far (amongst other things):

- extensively for long days out, running schwalbe maraton 32mm tyres and mudguards;

- for the Las Vegas Institute of Sport 100km audax, running 25mm Conti Gatorskins;

- for the Hell of the North Cotswolds, running Maxxis Locust 35mm tyres; and

- for a brief credit-card tour of Wales using Schwalbe Kojak 35mm tyres and carrying my overnight gear in a Carradice Longflap Camper SQR.

Very much agree with Dave's review. This is a lovely bike to behold. Aesthetically, my groupset, wheels and finishing kit are black, which works fine with the brown (and would be borderline needed with this year's orange paint).

Steering is certainly leisurely. Riding fast in a group on the audax I had a couple of hairy moments before grasping just how hard it was necessary to steer to get round a tight bend at speed. It's fine, but it will not behave like a racer at speed.

By contrast, the steering and posture feels marvellously confident descending on the rough tracks of the HONC and some of the bad roads south of Bristol, and even more so descending on rough roads with a saddlebag on. Very, very confidence-inspiring.

Excellent brakes and some big tyres help with that of couse. My favourites on the road have been the Kojaks - a good compromise of comfy volume and fast rolling.

It's definitely possible to make it go quite fast. With road-going tyres on it will skip along, and the acceleration is far from dreadful. It will do for club runs and the odd bit of audax/sportive riding I think. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of flex, and the dead weight isn't horrendous on the flat. If one wanted to really get silly with it, I suppose the position could be altered by putting a stem with a lot of negative rise on it, but you're working against that enormous head-tube and it isn't really the point!

Weight is noticeable on the climbs, and I've a ptreference for climbing standing up, as this seems to minimise the feeling of dragging an anchor which I have felt at times. Echo Dave's comments about gearing - even with just a saddlebag of overmight things on, 34:32 is too high. I'd want a proper granny ring for camping loads or big hills. Interestingly, this year's full bike drops the big ring down from 50 to 48 but doesn't change the cassette ratios (although it's SRAM Apex this year).

A word on braking. I was sceptical of disc brakes on mountainbikes, and have since been fully converted. I was sceptical of the point of discs on a road-going bike, and am completely sold on it. The ease of single-finger, beautifully modulated braking particularly in the wet is certainly worth the weight penalty as far as I'm concerned. The confidence having the power available gives on bad surfaces or in bad weather is wonderful. You sometimes hear that it's too much power, and clearly it's perfectly possible to skid the bike if you must. However, it's more than possible to keep the braking power under control and use it properly. I certainly haven't been sliding it down the road because it brakes too well!

rainslicker | 13 years ago

I'm looking for a faster commuter/lt touring bike than my old Mtb that I converted in to a commuter. Both the Slasa Vaya and the Jamis Aurora Elite sound like good choices.

I live in a very wet climate so discs are great and mudguards are essential... The bike I choose would be for 70% commute/training rides 30% lt touring. Don't have ready access to test ride either bike. The three most important qualities I'm looking for are more speed, comfort and durability.

Your reviews of the Vaya and the Aurora Elite are very similar. Tough choice, any suggestions?

zdenekhonsa | 13 years ago

Does anyone know if the Vaya is Rohloff speedhub compactible?


BigDummy replied to zdenekhonsa | 13 years ago

"Does anyone know if the Vaya is Rohloff speedhub compatible?"

It's an absolutely standard vertical dropout. There aren't any mounts for torque arms or wotnot, and you'd need a tensioner. So no more so than any other bike that hasn't been designed with one in mind I think.

susan reid | 13 years ago

Hi do you know of any racks – front and back which will fit a salsa vaya? Just bought one without realising the racks do not appear ready to ship and we are going bike touring before the date??? It's a wonderful bike going to be disappointed if I cannot use it!

Many thanks

dave6779 | 14 years ago

Good review! Looks like a good bit of kit, not too flashy looking either so it wouldn't attract too much attention and hopefully wouldn't be nicked!

greennoodle | 14 years ago

Good review, thanks.

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