Put down the guitar and get on the bike. The 2011 Salsa El mariachi frame has arrived, and it's ready to dance. Salsa's all-new, proprietary KungFu Tubing adds strength without tacking on a weight penalty, and the Alternator dropouts let you decide whether to run it single or geared. Match all that hot-and-fresh up with the Mariachi's time-tested geometry, and you get a cross-country master blaster that's ready for just about any kind of dirty fun you can find in the woods.
I have had this frame built up since Dec. 2010. This review will be based mostly on how it performs as a singlespeed, as I have only run gears on it 2x.
Built up my El Mar weighs in at a portly 26-27 lbs depending on tire choice. A lot of that comes from the frame..Salsa claims 5.7 lbs for the 20".....and mine was right there.
At 6' w/ 32" inseam the 20" size fits pretty good with 90mm stem. Again I run it SS so i am standing a lot of the time.
I have run it with a 100mm and 120mm fork....currently 120mm. I like the HA a little bit more slack, plus I tend to run my fork kinda soft. Handling is pretty spot on. Transfers from left to right without much thought. Wheelbase is stable at speed. Don't feel that the chainstay length is too long....swimming dropouts help this out. The front end is easy to lift/manual when you need to.....and it actually has a nice balance point when a wheelie is called for. Handles the rough stuff well for a hardtail....120mm fork might be part of the reason.
Ride quality is good.....but wouldn't call it great. I expected a steel frame to blow me away. Instead, the frame rides pretty stiff. And with the weight penalty for te steel frame, it's a little disappointing. I often refer to it as riding like an Al frame with the weight of a steel frame. I could go to an Al frame, drop 1.5 lbs an have the same ride. Maybe I just had higher expectations.
The read and butter to this frme is the swinging dropouts. Gone are the days of creaky EBBs. Chain tensioning on SS is a snap. The design for compatibility with the disc adapter is great and doesn't require you to readjust the caliper anytime you move the wheel. However, in the last year I have lost the main bolt out of the dropout on each side. Goin you really gotta torque them down.
I have run it on 2 rides as a 1x9. Swapping from gears to SS was not a problem and again, the dropout make this a simple task.
Overall it's a great frame.....especially for the money. They are not a mainstream bike so you are not gonna see someone else riding one on every ride. Just wish it weighed a little less or rode a little more compliant.