Salsa Vaya // 101

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The quality of road surfaces in San Francisco is embarrassing at best.  It ranges from nice, fast, and smooth to the decaying rubble of humanity, and I want my bike to comfortably and confidently party on through all of it.  The steel-frame bike has made a huge comeback making it easier to enjoy plush rides with fatter tires and an overbuilt relaxed position without having to ride your knobby-tire hard tail or the twitchy skinny-tire road bike to get around the city.  Salsa came out with an overbuilt do-it-all bike that is at home vacuuming up urban miles day in and day out, but that is only the tip of the iceberg for this baby.  The Vaya is a full-fledged touring bike that can be fitted with a number of rack/pannier options and loaded down with the weight of the world.

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There are three Salsa Vayas: the Vaya Travel, the Vaya 2, and the Vaya 3.  Let me break it down.  At $1400, the Vaya 3 is the tried and true quality machine put out for the masses.  It’s got quality components in all the right places to keep the cost down and is ready to get into trouble right outta the box.  I personally like this one best simply because of the stock Shimano bar end shifters.  At $1899, the Vaya 2 is an upgraded version of the 3 boasting top-shelf components and modern integrated levers.  This thing is hot.  And at $3950, the Vaya Travel is the beautiful boutique touring bike with S&S couplers allowing the frame to pull apart and pack into a smaller box for airplane checking, trunk stuffing, train-hopping fun.  It of course reps top of line everything.  Do not be fooled, all versions of this bike work like a farm truck while riding like a Caddy. Ballin’ ain’t easy.

$140 Giro New Road Merino Crew

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Labeling a bike a "touring bike" is a tricky thing.  On the one hand, it presupposes that the owner of the bike is a bike tourist or is going to bike tour.  On the other hand, it is a re-popularized genre of bicycle that inevitably gets lumped into “touring bike."  Make no mistake; you do not have to tour on a touring bicycle.  It is simply a way to let folks know that the bike has a stretched out geometry to carry stuff and built with components to handle anything you throw at it.  Salsa nailed all of these with a few bells and whistles to boot.

First off, the Vaya can accommodate nice thick tires in order to negotiate variable terrain.  If you want to get a little further out there on gravel this beast will do so with championship flare since they sport Continental Tour Rides right off the floor (bangin’ tires).  Second, when a front basket or panniers are weighing your rig down the stretched out geometry will actually serve to stabilize the whole situation.  Whether I’m on a fun overnighter up north with a bottle of whiskey or slamming the streets with groceries bobbling out of the basket the Vaya had me feeling in control.  And third, there is way more space for fenders to keep the slimy street grit off the khakis with a crease.

Vaya 3

There is a bit of a debate about the use of disc brakes on an adventure-style touring bike (small parts, difficult to field repair, etc…), but it falls in line with the vibe of the Vaya 2 since Salsa uses a more contemporary upgraded version with integrated shifters.  Another big plus to disc brakes is increased braking power on such steep grades in the city.  Frame eyelets allow for secure rack and basket attachment and with two eyelets for a third bottle cage water shouldn’t be an issue on bigger rides or longer days way out there.

vaya travel

Unfortunately, the converted mountain bike or the converted road bike will pale in comparison to the fairyland fantasy ride of a Salsa Vaya tweaked exactly to your fit.  Throw some sweptback bars, a big front basket, and a Brooks saddle on it and call it a day.  Or keep the road drops and rack it up front to back for streamlined commuting with panniers and more efficient power for the climbs.  I would probably dress this baby up in shellacked cotton and a pretty little canvas handlebar bag.  Salsa has a flagship product here that’s screaming to get test-ridden.  So come on down to Huckleberry town and check one out!