It's time for yet another staff bike check! This time we're looking at Brek's Salsa Cutthroat build. This build is a bit of a special one because Brek has been slowly putting it together over the last year for a 3 month bikepacking trip in New Zealand that he's embarking on in January 2023.
This is Brek's first big trip in quite some time and his first vacation in a number of years, so he decided to go big and explore somewhere he'd never been before. Having spent a lot of time bikepacking over the course of his cycling career, he knew pretty well what he wanted the bike to do and how he wanted it to ride, it was just a matter of selecting the right parts and components and getting the build dialled.
The frame is the foundation of any build, and one of the most important considerations, if not the most important. The Cutthroat is Salsa's bike designed specifically for bikepacking, and built with the ultimate bikepacking route/race in mind - the Tour Divide. Somewhere between a mountain bike and a gravel bike, the Cutthroat is built from Salsa's lightweight carbon and designed for strength. Boost hub spacing allows for mountain bike hubs and wheels - the frame is compatible with up to 29 x 2.4" tires, for big bump-eating rubber. Geometry-wise the Cutthroat is also somewhere between mountain and gravel - with a reach designed for drop bars, a 69º head tube angle and 445mm chainstays, the Cutthroat is faster than a mountain bike and more stable than a gravel bike. Perfect for loading up and covering lots of ground quickly.
For groupset and drivetrain, Brek is running a Sram 12 speed mullet setup. In reference to drivetrain rather than wheelsize mullet means road shifters/levers combined with a mountain derailleur and cassette. This gives the benefit of being able to run a wide-range 1x drivetrain on a road/gravel drop-bar type setup, something that electronic shifting has made possible by eliminating cable-pull ratio issues and enabling road and mountain components to be able to talk to each other. This is also technically possible on Shimano 11sp di2 but doesn't unlock a full wide-range cassette like Sram can with Eagle.
Brek has chosen only high end components for this build for a truly high-performance bike. For shifters and brakes Brek is running the top tier Sram Red eTap AXS components, paired with XX1 Eagle cranks, derailleur, cassette and chain with the blingy oil-slick coating with a 10-52t out back and 36t Wolftooth chainring up front. Sram Red brakes offer great lever feel and thanks to being a DOT system rather than mineral oil, are relatively low maintenance and should be pretty damn reliable for a big trip like this.
For wheels, Brek chose to go down the custom-built route for a couple of reasons. First off, Brek is pretty hard on his wheels and finds himself breaking spokes pretty frequently, so opted to build himself the strongest wheels he could - that means Reserve DH rims - the toughest rims the carbon wheel brand offers, laced up with Sapim Race double butted spokes. Keeping the theme of reliability, those sweet Reserve hoops are laced to a Chris King Mountain hub on the rear. Chris King hubs are notoriously reliable with the best bearings in the industry and an incredibly robust ratchet system - because losing drive in the middle of nowhere would at best spoil a great trip, and at worst means getting stranded somewhere quite remote. Up front Brek is running a Schmidt Son28 dynamo hub so that he can power lights, charge his phone etc.
For handlebars, Brek has gone for a set of Salsa Woodchipper carbon bars. With a crazy 25 degree flare and a shallow drop they provide excellent control off road without being too aggressive, and with plenty of hand positions with the ability to get a little low and aero. The carbon construction gives enough compliance to take the sting out of the trails, making a nicely comfortable ride.
As mentioned, Brek is using the Son dynamo hub for power. Mounted on the handlebar he's permanently wired in a Sinewave Beacon light. Putting out 750 lumens, that's plenty of light for most situations without being overkill. The Beacon's party trick however is that it has a USB port for either charging or for a battery pack. This means that while riding, the light passes power through from the hub and can charge any USB-charging devices ie phone, battery pack etc., and inversely the battery pack can also power the light to the full 750 lumens while travelling too slow for the dynamo to fully power the light. Pretty smart!
Since Brek built this bike for long distance self-supported bike-packing and touring, there are of course many many storage options. In fact Brek has pretty much maxed out the storage capacity on this bike. Starting with the frame, there are a couple of Apidura top tube bags including the Racing bolt-on top tube bag that has a really neat magnetic closure and an Apidura Racing rear top tube bag. Either side of the stem he's got the Brooks Scape Feed Pouch, perfect for stashing quick food or water in an easy to reach spot without opening bags up.
On either side of the fork is a King Cage Manything Cage. Made from titanium they're lightweight yet strong, and perfect for strapping smaller bags to. Under the downtube are a couple of King Cage Iris cages - one of which is currently housing a Specialized KEG Storage Vessel for carrying tools and spares etc. Inside the front triangle is a Rogue Panda custom frame bag, made to fit perfectly and to carry a ton of gear. On the back is a Tumbleweed Mini Rack for carrying panniers and whatever else he can fit on there. Overall, this rig is pretty dialled - Brek clearly has put a lot of thought into this build and we hope it serves him well on his trip!