Product Review: 2020 Salsa Fargo Apex 1

After months of contemplation and a lot of consultation and research, I finally took the leap and purchased an adventure bike. I had my eye on a Bombtrack Beyond at one of my local bike shops (King Street Cycles), but by the time I was ready to buy, it had sold. So I was back to the research. This summer, with quarantine and nice weather, bike shops haven’t been able to keep a lot of bikes in stock; it seems everyone is buying bikes, and this is a good thing! My local Salsa dealer (also King Street Cycles) didn’t have any bikes in my size, so I started to look elsewhere.

I ended up buying from Freewheel Cycle in Dundas. They had one Salsa Fargo in my size and it was the Apex 1 model. I made a deposit on the phone and picked it up the next day. I’ve since been on a few rides on this bike and I’ve tried it out on pavement, gravel, dirt, singletrack and even an outdoor velodrome!

Before I get to my thoughts on the ride, I’ll cover the details.

The 2020 Salsa Fargo has a steel frame and carbon fork and Salsa lists the bike as a “bikepacking/off-road touring/singletrack” bike. Equipped with 29″ wheels and 2.2″ wide tires, it’s built to handle just about any type of terrain or surface. Here are some details:

  • 1×11 SRAM Apex drivetrain and shifter
  • TRP Spyre-C mechanical disk brakes, 160mm rotors
  • Stylo 6K Crankset, 32 teeth
  • SRAM 11-42t cassette
  • Salsa stem, handlebar (Woodchipper), grips, seatpost
  • WTB Volt Comp saddle
  • WTB Serra hubs, i25
  • Teravail Sparwood 29×2.2″ tires, tubeless ready
  • Weight (as listed) 24 lbs, 8oz
  • Bottle mounts: 3 on the frame, 2 on each side of the fork.
  • Frame and fork also have mounts for fenders and racks.
Fargo in the city.

A few other details, the frame can take tires up to 3.0″ wide, but the rims are recommended for only 2.6″. The frame is also compatible with 27.5″ wheels with up to 3″ wide tires.

On my few rides, here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • SRAM 1×11 Apex drivetrain and shifter
    • This is the first bike I’ve owned that is a 1x setup (unless you count my banana-seat 3-speed from the 1970s). When I started to research these bikes, my preference was the Tiagra 2x option for the Fargo because I’d assumed that it would give me an easier climbing gear. On the Apex 1, however, the giant 11×42 cassette combined with the 32-tooth chain ring yields the same gear ratio for climbing as the 2x Tiagra set up.
    • The first thing I noticed with SRAM is the doubletap control lever system. This is my first bike with SRAM on any bike. On bikes with drop bars, I’ve used Shimano and Campagnolo but never SRAM. The doubletap allows single-lever shifting in both directions – a small tap shifts the chain to a smaller cog, and a harder push shifts the chain to a larger cog. This allows shifting that is independent of braking. It’s very intuitive and hardly took any time to learn.
    • The shifting on this bike is very smooth and I haven’t felt like I’m missing anything with the 1x setup. The rear derailleur is very snappy and responsive and I have all the gears I need (so far!)
  • 29×2.2 Teravail Sparwood tires
    • I’d never heard of Teravail tires until I started researching this bike. The tubeless ready Sparwood model is listed by Teravail as a Gravel tire. I’ve tested it on asphalt, crushed-gravel paths, grass, hard-packed dirt roads, loose gravel and dry, hard-packed, twisty, rooty singletrack. The Sparwood handled all of these very well. The tires don’t seem to lose a lot of speed on pavement, while on the dry dirt, the grip is very good. I haven’t experimented with tire pressure yet.
Fargo on forest trails
  • Woodchipper handlebar
    • Upon first glance, the flare on these bars is immediately noticeable. However, once riding, the hoods were immediately comfortable for me. The hand position felt very natural. I don’t typically ride in the drops on my other bikes, but with the flare, it seemed more natural. This could also be due to the more upright position of the Fargo, but the ergonomics of the handlebar and SRAM shifter/brake system is very comfortable for me.
Woodchipper handlebars and a riverside trail!

I’ve been on a few different trails already. The Fargo isn’t as smooth on rooty singletrack as my dual-suspension mountain bike, so I’m out of the saddle over some of the bumpier stuff. But on dry dirt, it’s nice and smooth, with good traction. And on a steep (>15%) dirt climb, the gearing got me to the top without issue (other than fitness level). I wouldn’t be able to do that on the gearing on my CX bike.

What can I say? I like this bike. You might be wondering why I bought a new gravel adventure bike when I already have a Cannondale CAADX. Well, this bike has advantages over the Cannondale in a couple of respects. First, the wider tires provide more stability and handling on singletrack dirt, and second – the additional mounts provide more options for carrying gear and water. For the kind of riding that I do, I think the 1×11 drivetrain will be enough gearing for me. This means there’s a slight weight savings, with no front derailleur and just one chain ring. I won’t be selling the Cannondale anytime soon, but if I find I’m not riding it, I may end up putting it up for sale.

I’ll probably swap out the saddle on the Fargo at some point, but I haven’t had any issues with the WTB yet. And I may tweak the stem and saddle height to be more in line with my other bikes (I haven’t done a thorough comparison yet).

I put on some Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals. All of my bikes (except my road bike) are compatible with the Egg Beater cleats, and I’ve never had any issues with them.

Oh and one more thing, the colour is metallic red!

2020 Salsa Fargo on singletrack!

6 thoughts on “Product Review: 2020 Salsa Fargo Apex 1

  1. Thanks for putting your thoughts together for us Steve – much appreciated. I’ve started doing more gravel riding lately on an entry-level gravel bike, and may consider something like this down the road. Thanks again 🙂

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  2. I always like Salsa cycles. Last year I was looking for a new ride and ended up buying a Felt Broam 30. After a BTxl this year, I am ready for a few modification like Cowchipper handlebars and 700 x 47mm tires. I may also try some 650B x 2.2 for more cushioning. They can do so much small changes on geometry and give you a total different feel while riding. Thanks for the review. This is a awesome bike. I like the color also.

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  3. Awesome write up Schick. I love the salsa bikes and the Apex looks like a great steel grinder.
    On my steel gravel bike, i used the surly moloko for more positions but find I am sitting up almost too high and maybe too wide. The cowchippers should you the width but also provide the drop.
    Tell me how the Senna hubs last over time.
    My only change would be a leather saddle. I now ride Selle anatomica and will never ride anything else for my old man butt.

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  4. Thanks for the write-up. I’m considering a gravel, bikepacking, bike myself. What are your thoughts on going with smaller tires, versus the larger tires that this has, on total speed?

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    1. I’ve got a Cannondale CX bike with 37mm and I like that on most surfaces, but I don’t like it on the bits of singletrack. I’ve also got a 29+ wheelset for my fatbike, but the bigger knobs on those tires really lose a lot on the asphalt. The Teravails on my Fargo seem like an ideal blend – they’re great on hard packed dirt and singletrack and they don’t seem to lose a lot of energy on asphalt, so in my mind, they’re ideal for bikepacking. I imagine they wouldn’t be great in really muddy terrain though.

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