The Salsa Journeyer GRX 600 is the company's gravel-cum-adventure tourer whose laid-back front end makes for a good companion on jaunts that take you away from the road. It's easy to live with, with a comfortable ride that takes the sting out of the terrain while letting you enjoy the scenery. It's fun too, with only its weight and price just taking the edge off the shine.
Salsa describes the Journeyer as a workhorse all-road adventure machine, which builds on the success of the Journeyman model, reviewed on our sister site off.road.cc in 2019, with added performance and functionality.
> Buy now: Salsa Journeyer GRX 600 from Firetrail for £2,350
Its geometry is much slacker at the front end than many gravel bikes, which means it lacks a bit of speed from a handling point of view, but you only really notice that on technical descents, especially those away from the trails where speeds are likely to be higher. Salsa's choice of a short stem does keep a touch of quickness to the steering.
Everywhere else, it feels a confident-handling machine. Even on the lightly treaded tyres in the middle of a UK winter I found the Salsa very easy to control – even sliding about on wet mud or chalk – helped by its lengthy wheelbase, and its 10.47kg weight also making it feel planted in such situations.
That overall weight does detract a little on the climbs or when sprinting out of the saddle, but the wide spread of the gravel-specific groupset takes the edge off, and with the bike unladen I was able to tackle the local steep climbs in the saddle without too much huffing and puffing. We all have differing levels of fitness and power, admittedly.
This is a great bike for getting out there and enjoying yourself. Within a couple of miles of my front door I have access to hundreds of kilometres of gravel trails, much of it I haven't even set tyre on yet, so sometimes I just like to head off with the bags packed full of supplies and disappear for hours.
The terrain changes hugely, from hardpack to grass, and the Journeyer is just the type of bike to get out there and explore it. It cruises well, rolling along on the flat or steady inclines, and I found the geometry to give a relaxed riding position while still allowing you to get down in the drops should you fancy cheating the wind for a bit.
Comfort levels are good too. The Journeyer uses a short seat tube considering the frame size, which lets you run a lot of post for a bit of added flex.
The frame is impressive as well. Even with the 38mm tyres pumped up hard for a road ride, the aluminium alloy frame feels supple enough to take the sting out of the ride, and that's the same off-road too.
I never got bored of riding the Journeyer, even on long routes. It does enough to keep you involved, especially if you fancy a little blast down that wooded trail you spot out of the corner of your eye, but never becomes too much of a handful that it becomes hard work when you're tired and irritable.
For the wet conditions I was riding in at the end of the test period, I fitted some wider tyres with deeper tread, and this made the Salsa a lot of fun in the soft mud. Slides were predictable and controllable, which gave me the confidence to not need to scrub off too much speed when conditions beneath the tyres became slippery.
Summing up the ride overall, I'd say it favours distance over speed, but you have to push hard to find out that answer.
Frame and fork
The Journeyer's frame is made from 6061-T6 aluminium alloy, with a real mix of tube profiles and diameters, their dimensions a little muted by the pearlescent white paintjob, which seems to soften all of the edges, making the oversizing look less aggressive.
I like the colour a lot, I must say, and it does a good job of disguising the, shall we say, 'chunky' welds; they're more functional than cosmetic, when it comes to appearance.
As you can see from the pictures, the Journeyer uses a very compact frame, resulting in two small triangles which helps in terms of stiffness. It looks like a much smaller bike than it really is.
In fact, that's worth bearing in mind.
This is a 55cm model with an effective top tube length of exactly that, my ideal size. Salsa specifies a much shorter stem than found on many gravel bikes, though, which when paired with the 401.9mm fork length and 150mm head tube, makes the distance from saddle to handlebar feel shorter than you'd expect.
I'd probably be slightly better off on the next size up, even though on paper it looks too big for me, if I don't take into account the stem length.
Anyway, I put a slightly longer stem on and everything felt great with no noticeable difference to the handling.
As regards the geometry elsewhere, stack and reach for this size are 570mm and 376mm respectively; the seat tube is 450mm long with an angle of 73 degrees, while the head angle is just 69.5 degrees.
The wheelbase is a confidence-inspiring 1,051mm thanks to chainstays of 440mm, and the bottom bracket drop is 70mm.
Fork offset is 50mm, and the fork itself is Salsa's Waxwing which has a full carbon fibre construction and the now pretty much standard tapered steerer. Like the frame it offers a good ride quality while being stiff enough to not suffer any chatter under heavy braking.
When it comes to cargo capacity, as Salsa calls it, the frame and fork are both adorned with mounting points. To be precise, you can fit three bottles inside the triangle of the 57cm and 60cm frames, two on most smaller bikes, and one on the 49cm frame.
You also get:
- A Three-Pack mount on top of the down tube
- Bottle or accessory mount on the underside of the down tube
- A top tube bag mount for direct-mount bags
- A Three-Pack mount on each fork leg
- Rear rack mounts and low-rider front rack mounts
It's good to see that the mudguard mounts are in the traditional position on the frame, so there shouldn't be any need for drilling or fettling of stays. Up front, the mounting for the stays is on the inside of the fork leg, so they will need a little bit of tweakage.
You'll also find 12mm thru-axles front and rear, with flat mounts for the brake callipers.
Tyre clearance is a generous 50mm for 700C tyres, and 55mm if you go down the 650B route.
This Journeyer is based around a Shimano GRX 600 groupset, with the front and rear mechs from the RX810 line-up and GRX RX400 brake callipers.
If you haven't already, you can read Mike's full review of the GRX 600 groupset here.
It's an 11-speed system, with quick and relatively precise shifting, if not quite as slick as the higher level GRX 810 groupset.
The thing I like best about Shimano's various GRX shifters is the flat section on the front of the brake lever compared with the road setups. This gives a more secure platform for your hands when braking hard over rough terrain; your fingers feel a lot more secure and don't tend to slip, especially important in the wet.
As for the gear ratios, Salsa has paired a 46/30-tooth chainset with an 11-34T cassette. I find that's a good spread of gears at both ends. The 30x34 lowest gear option worked well enough for me on all but the steepest of climbs when loaded up with some kit. And if I was riding with the bike empty, it was more than adequate.
The gaps between the bigger sprockets aren't that big so won't affect your cadence much – one of the benefits of the 2x system over 1x in my opinion.
Stopping power from the hydraulic brake setup is great, with the usual balance of power and modulation using 160mm rotors front and rear mated with GRX RX400 callipers.
The majority of the finishing kit is from Salsa's own catalogue. The Cowbell handlebar has a shallow drop and a slight flare, which brings more stability when riding in the drops at speed. It's alloy, as is the stem, and while they might not exactly flick the excitement switch, they do a decent job. The same can be said for the alloy seatpost.
The WTB Volt Medium saddle is okay, the shape being pretty generic and unobtrusive, but I found the padding a bit too soft, which caused me a bit of numbness on longer rides.
The bar tape is also Salsa branded, and I found it thick enough for riding off road.
Wheels and tyres
For the wheels Salsa has gone for Shimano Tiagra RS470 hubs mated to WTB ST i23 rims, which are tubeless ready, with an inner rim width of 23mm, 28mm outer.
They're shallow at 17mm deep – not that aero is that important on gravel – but with a 28-spoke build front and rear they seem to be plenty tough enough. They aren't light, though, at around the 2kg mark.
As for tyres, you get a set of 38mm Teravail Washburn Durable tyres which are also tubeless ready; in fact our wheel and tyre combo arrived set up tubeless, with sealant installed.
The tyres themselves don't offer a huge amount of grip away from firm surfaces, but they aren't as bad as you might expect. Their width, while not massive in this day and age, helps them not sink into soft surfaces too readily. On hardpacked gravel they roll well, and grip is reasonably okay.
On the road they scoot along at a decent pace, and you can corner relatively hard without a huge amount of understeer. The test period was a real mixed bag of weather conditions, but I didn't have any issues with punctures or damage to the rubber or carcass.
Value is the one main hurdle for the Journeyer when you compare it with other gravel bikes in the marketplace.
Merida's Silex, for example, is similar in its design, with a relatively long top tube, tallish front end and a short stem. We tested the £1,000 Silex 200 last year, but there are two models currently available for £2,150, the Silex 700 and Silex 4000. The Silex 700 also has an alloy frame but gets a GRX 810 groupset, which is a higher spec than the GRX 600 here, while the Silex 4000 comes with a carbon frame, but the finishing kit is downgraded to 10-speed GRX 400.
I tested Dolan's titanium gravel bike, the GXT, earlier this year, but there's also an aluminium version, the GXA, which has a GRX 600 groupset and Mavic Allroad wheels. It costs £1,899.97, which includes an upgrade to a fork that has the same mounting points as the one found on the Salsa.
Taking just the ride quality and geometry into account, I reckon the Journeyer is a belter. I love the way it behaves on those longer rides – it's just so easy to live with, while still having a fun edge to it. It's only when you look at the spec you get for the money that it tends to struggle against the opposition. It's a great bike, but others are better value.
A bit pricey for the spec, but fun to ride and highly capable
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Make and model: Salsa Journeyer GRX 600
List the components used to build up the bike.
Front derailleur: Shimano RX810
Rear derailleur: Shimano RX810
Cassette: Shimano HG700-11, 11-34t
Chain: Shimano HG601-11
Crankset: Shimano RX600-11, 46/30t
Shifter: Shimano RX600
Brakes & Rotors: Shimano GRX RX400, Shimano RT10 Centre Lock Rotors 160mm
Headset: FSA NO.42 ACB IS-2
Stem: Salsa Guide 31.8mm 6 Degree
Handlebar: Salsa Cowbell 31.8
Grips: Salsa Black Cork
Seatpost: Salsa Guide 27.2 x 350mm
Saddle: WTB Volt Medium, Steel, 142 x 265mm
Front Wheel: Shimano Tiagra RS470 Center Lock 12 x 100mm hub, WTB ST i23 28h 700c rim
Rear Wheel: Shimano Tiagra RS470 Center Lock 12 x 142mm hub, WTB ST i23 28h 700c rim
Tyres: Teravail Washburn 700c x 38mm Durable, Tubeless-Ready
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 says, "Journeyer is Salsa's workhorse all-road adventure machine. The all-new Journeyer builds on the success of Journeyman with added performance, functionality, and a name that welcomes everyone to the gravel world. This platform is a gateway to allroad riding; the confidence of its redesigned frame and fork attracts gravel riders while its cargo capacity and versatility appeal to bikepackers and riders seeking a do-it-all bike. Choose your journey."
I'd agree that it is a dependable workhorse that is also a fun and confidence-instilling bike to ride.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Salsa says the Journeyer is its 'entry point for a versatile all-road bike'.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The pearlescent white paint gives the Journeyer a quality look and finish and does a decent job of masking the slightly agricultural looking welds. The fork is also a quality unit and it's good to see it painted to match the frame.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: 6061-T6 Aluminium Alloy
Fork: Waxwing, Full Carbon Aibre
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Journeyer's geometry means it's suited to gravel riding, but the front end is more relaxed than most, making it especially suited for those longer, slower adventure treks when fully loaded up. Salsa specs quite a short stem so you need to take that into account for the overall distance between saddle and handlebar, meaning you might need to go up a size.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Compared with other more race-orientated gravel bikes, I'd say both the stack and reach figures for the Journeyer are in the right ballpark.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The ride quality is good. The aluminium alloy frame doesn't feel harsh even with the tyres pumped up for road use and the carbon fork offers decent shock absorbance on rough terrain.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Overall stiffness is pretty good, certainly for the style of riding the Salsa is aimed at.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It's a bit on the weighty side to feel hugely efficient, but a decent spread of gears helps overcome that.
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? Neutral at its fastest.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
On all but the fastest of technical terrain, the Salsa is very capable. It feels planted beneath you, providing a good level of confidence on loose terrain.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I found the saddle a bit too squidgy for me, resulting in some numbness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The handlebar showed little flex, which is great for out of the saddle efforts.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels blunt acceleration and climbing a bit because of their weight, but I found the lower gears helped me tackle most climbs in the saddle.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Shimano GRX 600 groupset is dependable, easy to use and here comes with a good spread of gears.
Rate the wheels for performance:
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Decent enough wheels, hardwearing through the test period, but not the lightest by any stretch of the imagination.
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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Their meagre tread makes them more suited to dry and firm conditions, but they still managed to do okay in soft mud up to a point. Roll well on the road.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I got on well with the shape of the handlebar, but found the saddle a bit too soft.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? It's quite a lot of cash for the spec list... it's a maybe.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Merida has two Silex models that are both slightly cheaper than the Journeyer, one with an alloy frame but higher end finishing kit, the other with a carbon frame and fork. Dolan's GXA aluminium gravel bike has a similar number of mounts as the Salsa, making it highly versatile; with a GRX 600 groupset and a fork upgrade to give extra eyelets it costs £1,899.97.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
The Journeyer is definitely a fun bike to ride and comfortable too – in fact, take price out of the equation and there isn't much to fault it. For the spec level and weight it is on the pricier side, though. It's very good in some respects, but taking the price and weight into account, it's a good/7 overall.
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
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