DirtBlog Review: 2012 Salsa Mukluk 3
I bought my first fatbike back in mid-December, a 2012 Salsa Mukluk 3, and now with more than six weeks of riding and nearly a thousand miles accumulated under its tires, I've formed some very strong opinions about the performance and value the Mukluk brings to the table. As you'd expect for a bike retailing for well under $2,000, I've swapped out a fair number of parts, but surprisingly (to me at least), not as many as I thought I would, and I think that's quite simply because the folks at Salsa did a great job of spending the dollars they had at their disposal.
The Mukluk 3 is based around a 7005 series aluminum frame that Salsa designed to be able to accommodate the widest tire/rim combinations currently available on the market -- the 100mm Clown Shoe rim and 4.7-inch Big Fat Larry tire. Both are products by Salsa Cycles' QBP stablemate, Surly, and while the combination reportedly doesn't leave the bike with a ton of extra clearance at the seatstays and chainstays, it's cool Salsa designed the frame to be future proof, even though the bike is specced off the floor with narrower 82mm Rolling Darryl rims and 3.8-inch Larrry/Endomorph tires.
That said, running tire/rim combinations that wide will absolutely require a Mukluk 3 user to make drivetrain modifications, which Salsa outlines online in a blog post that you can check out here. The mods aren't hard to make, and will increase the user's enjoyment significantly. Even with the stock tire/rim setup, I ended up truncating my cassette into an 8-speed, which consisted of removing the smallest 12t cog and spacing the remaining eight cogs over as far to the drive side as possible. This eliminated the tire rubbing the chain experienced in the 24/36 combination, which on a fatbike is a more commonly-used gear combination than the 36/12 being lost. In practice, this has proven true as well, for while I often use the 14t cog, I have yet to want for the missing 12t.
|Count the cogs... If you look closely, you can see that I've removed the 12t cog, making the 14t my new "high gear". No, I don't miss the 12t. Also shown here is the SRAM X7 rear derailleur, KMC Z99 zinc-plated "rust buster" chain and Salsa 170mm rear hub.|
|I've found the SKS GrandM.O.M rear mud guard to be a great addition to my Mukluk 3 on days that might get a little sloppy. It's got enough width to completely cover my rear Endomorph, keeping my back side clean. Photo: N. Swanson|
|The current control center. Shimano BL-M950 levers from the mid-90s sit aside modern SRAM X7 shifters and WTB Original Tral grips. Bars are OEM-only Salsa Bend 3 models with 17-degrees of sweep. While I like the stock bar, I'd like to try the company's Bend 2 model in the offered 23-degree bend.|
In addition to the levers, I also replaced the stock Avid BB5 brakes with a set of older BB7s I had in the parts bin. This gained me increased adjustability, as well as modulation and power courtesy of stiffer, one-piece calipers. The difference the braking system changes have made is dramatic. If I were going to recommend one change to the bike for every owner, I'd recommend replacing at the very least the brake levers, and then the calipers second.
|The Moots Cinch seatpost added significant quality to the ride. Upgraded Avid BB7 brake calipers provided a similar increase in braking quality, especially when paired with XTR M950 levers.|
Two other modifications I made were fit and comfort related. I swapped the stock 110mm Salsa stem out for a 100mm Salsa ProMoto Ti stem, and the stock Kalloy seatpost and WTB Pure V Sport saddle for a Moots Cinch seatpost, and have been swapping between two WTB saddles -- the SST and Silverado Team. Currently I'm riding the Silverado, and it's working well.
|The Salsa Minimalist rack, WTB Silverado Team saddle and XTR M950 brake levers are the three most recent component changes to my Mukluk 3, all of which are clearly visible in this image.|
I am also now running Salsa's Minamalist rack on the front of my Mukluk, simply because I can. The bike includes mid-blade rack mounts, which allow a multitude of options, including the Minimalist. It's proven sturdy, durable and good looking -- a great addition to the bike.
|The Minimalist rack integrates cleanly with the Mukluk's mid-blade rack mounts, as well as my Gino light mounts from Paul Component Engineering.|
|Photo: Jen Deep|