Salsa (Grav)El Mariachi

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Salsa El Mariachi gravel bike
Pretty bikes are pretty

The Salsa (Grav)El Mariachi.

This is the bike that pulled me through Gravel Camp earlier this year. It’s the frame from a Salsa El Mariachi I bought as a complete bike in 2014 while living in Texas. This steel frame was short-lived though; only a few months after the purchase Craigslist offered up a titanium frame — same model, same size — at a price I couldn’t pass up. Since then, the steel El Mar frame has been patiently waiting in the dark corners of the garage for a Frankenstein-ian rebirth.

So here we are :)

Built up as a gravel/bikepacking/touring bike, it passed its maiden off-road test at Gravel Camp with flying colours. Most notably the 1×11 drivetrain with 11–46T cassette was perfect for the epic 3 1/2 hour climb and I expect it to be well suited to more flat modest terrain while fully loaded with camping gear and food. The geometry will be well suited to long days in the saddle, particularly with an adjustable chain stay length via Salsa’s Alternator Dropouts, which change the handling from steady and graceful to somewhat more manoeuvrable depending on the terrain of future tours.

The Salsa Carbon Firestarter rigid fork feels great despite the original 2014 build sporting a suspension fork with 100mm travel.

The 2.25″ Victoria Mezcal tyres have worked very well as my sole rubber through a year of traveling around the USA 🇺🇸, and I suspect I’ll repurchase these when they die because 2.25″ is perfect for the frame (any wider and there’ll be frame rub), they come with sidewall protection for getting close and personal with rocks, and have a tight row of knobblies down the middle which essentially forms a solid tyre to provide optimised rolling resistance when riding in a straight line. And they’re tubeless. All good things to have in a bikepacking tyre.

I have a little more work to do to turn this into the bikepacking bike of my dreams but it’s 95% there.


  • Frame: Salsa El Mariachi 2014 (steel)
  • Fork: Salsa Firestarter Carbon
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT 1×11 (11–46T)
  • Chainring: Wolftooth 34T oval drop-stop
  • Chain: KMC X11SL TiNitrade
  • Pedals: DMR Vault Brian Fairclough signature model (because black black black)
  • Rims: Velocity Blunt 35 29″ (built by Bicycle Speed Shop in Houston, Texas
  • Hubs: White Industries CLD 32h/32h
  • tyres: Vittoria Mezcal G+ 2.25″
  • Sealant: Stan’s
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano Mountain
  • Stem: Thomson X4 90mm -10º
  • Handlebars: Thomson Trail Al 750mm
  • Brakes: Shimano XT
  • Rotors: Shimano Ice-Tech 180mm/180mm
  • Seat: Ergon SRX3
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite
  • Grips: Oury lock-on
  • Bell: Spurcycle
  • Stem cap: Niner YAWYD
  • Data: Wahoo Element Bolt + Topeak Panobike speed/cadence sensor