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Cut apexes, not corners

Maybe you're an established rider that can spot a gimmick from a mile away. On the other hand, you could be a greenhorn climbing the mountain ranks. And if you're the later, purchasing a new bike can be daunting with the variety of components available today. Add on top of that a finely tuned, hook-line-and-sinker marketing world, and you find yourself struggling to tread water in the choice pool. However, one way to quickly cut through the fog is to comb over a manufacturer's specs, and not surprisingly, the Salsa El Mariachi 2 Complete Bike is a case study on how to do it right.

Parts kits tell plenty about dedication to either the rider or the bottom line. Reflecting the ideal balance of frugality and quality, the Mariachi flirts with the $2k price point, but its numbers rival rigs that'd demand an additional Grover Cleveland to play. Do your homework and try to find another 29er at this price that comes with Stan's NoTube rims, triple-butted, size-specific tubing, and a tapered thru axle fork with rebound and lockout.

But, if you do find something else with that criteria, there's still the drivetrain and cockpit where bean counters cut corners and hide cost-cutting measures. A notorious spot is opting for a triple crankset. They're readily available, but those are the same cranksets that you'll find on 26ers. Bigger wheels don’t need the 42t outer ring -- it's redundant with the large wheel's roll-out.

You'll find the correct tool for the job on the El Mariachi 2, though -- even if it meant cutting into Salsa's beer fund. Compared to a triple, the double SRAM S1000 crank with a 26/39t gearing gives you a reduced weight, a reduced complexity, a better chain line, and better ground clearance. This superior 29er crankset is connected via a KMC X10 chain to a SRAM PG-1050 11-36t cassette -- another spot where penny pinchers like to boost bottom lines.

Instead of a cheap, full-steel cassette, the PG-1050 sports an aluminum carrier. Like the crankset, this provides a major weight savings in the all-mighty 'rotational weight' department that often gets over looked. With 29ers, dropping rotational weight is paramount to extracting as much speed as possible, and these two components play a huge roll in how the complete package rides.

Another key player are the rims. If you attend any XC race, you're bound to see 29ers equipped with Stan's NoTubes Rims. However, those race bikes didn't come with those rims -- that's something they upgraded to. Surprisingly, the El Mariachi 2 comes equipped with Stan's NoTubes ZTR Rapid rims. These rims offer excellent trail-smoothing tire volume at a lower terrain-grabbing pressure.

They're laced to Salsa branded Formula hubs with double-butted DT Swiss Competition spokes -- again no corners cut. Light, wide, and knobby Continental 29 x 2.2in Trail King tires connect you to singletrack with tenacious, yet fast rolling, traction. For gear selecting, Salsa equipped the Mariachi 2 with SRAM X7 shifters, and there's also a front derailleur with an X9 hanging off the forged aluminum Alternator swing plates.

The swing plates let you forgo gears if a singlespeed itch happens to develop during your dance with the Mariachi. The plates bolt up to custom-designed, investment-cast dropout plates. As mentioned before, Salsa uses Triple-butted tubing, while most steel hardtails settle for double- or single-wall tubing. Yes, this helps reduce weight, but more importantly, triple-butting gives the El Mariachi a distinctive, lively ride that carbon engineers exhaust themselves to achieve, but will always be out of range for aluminum.

That tubing is also size-specific. The small gets butting dialed for the shorter tubes -- not just the large tubing cut down. That'd result in inconsistent shapes with compromised ride quality and strength. Again, no corners cut. The head tube is tapered for strength and houses a Cane Creek 40 headset that a Rock Shox Reba RL spins on.

The fork sports a lockout with rebound and preload adjustments, and a 15mm through axle for steering precision. Stopping this steely is a set of Avid Elixir 5s with a 160 rear and 170mm front rotor. Finishing off the El Mariachi 2 Complete Bike is a Cockpit adorned with Salsa Pro Moto 2 bar, stem, and seatpost.

El Mariachi 2 Complete is available in four sizes from Small to X-Large and in the color Black/lime.

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