Bike Review: Salsa Vaya

I posted a long rambling blog about how I came to make my decision to purchase a Salsa Vaya gravel bike, but I also promised a review at a later date. I’ve now got nearly 200 miles on the bike, and it’s about time to put pen to paper and talk about how the Salsa Vaya has been treating me.

Over the past month and 200 miles I’ve had the opportunity to ride the Vaya on city streets during my commute, as well as a couple of gravel-ish rides. I even recently did a short bikepacking trip with a friend and learned a lot about how to best pack this bike. My main takeaway from my experiences so far is that this bike is perfect for the way that I ride, and it feels and moves better than anything I’ve ever owned. I’ve been able to transition over any surface with ease, and the component upgrade from my previous ride has improved my skill noticeably.

What do I like?

There’s a few key things that really make this bike amazing for me.

  • Shimano 105 groupset. This was the groupset I was looking for when shopping for a bike, and the fact that I was able to find it in a 2×11 configuration is perfect. The shifting is smooth between all 22 cogs, with only one configuration (little front -> little back) causing any rubbing. It’s not a gear that I would every really use anyway. Add to this, the smooth shifters and I couldn’t be happier. dsc01587
  • Steel frame. This was a complete surprise to me, but I love the feel of steel. I had never looked at steel bikes before, but when I test rode the Vaya next to a carbon bike, I was able to tell a huge difference. The steel just felt smooth and buttery, and I love how it responds to rough terrain.
  • Geometry. The more relaxed geometry of the Vaya works great for me, and even on a 50 mile ride I never felt like I was uncomfortable. In combination with comfortable dropbars, I can always find a position that works for me. It’s not the most responsive bike out there, but it’s quick enough from the start-line for what I need.

Is there anything I don’t like?

Overall, there’s really nothing I’ve found that I truly dislike about this bike. If I had to nit-pick a couple of things I would say I would have liked a set of top tube bag mounts. My wife’s Journeyman came with those, and that is an awesome perk to just screw your bag in, instead of straps.

The only other thing that I had to give up with the steel frame was internal cable routing. Because the cables route down along the bottom of the down tube, it’s not feasible to mount anything there. When I was bike packing this past weekend, I needed a good spot for my tent poles, and the down tube is probably a good option. However, I need to strap them to the top of the down tube, which means moving my water bottle cage. This isn’t a big deal, but I need to think a little harder about where things go, compared with an aluminium, internal routed, frame.

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Am I happy?

In a word… yes. I love this bike. As I talked about in my previous blog, I spend a lot of time figuring out what to buy. I test rode plenty of bikes before deciding the Vaya was mine. Despite a couple of nit picks, it’s exactly what I was looking for. I love riding it, even if it’s just to the train station 1.8 miles away.

I feel that this bike will be a solid investment for many years to come, and I can’t wait to rack up the miles in the saddle.

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