One-Year Review: Salsa Vaya Frameset

Last spring, I was spreading my saddle-time among a couple of different bikes: a full-suspension MTB, and a loaded tourer doing double-duty as commuter and roadie.  The mountain bike, while fun on rough, technical terrain, was less-than-enjoyable on pavement.  The tourer worked well in its beast-of-burden role, but it didn’t really inspire me to ride longer than necessary.  I found myself wanting one bike that could handle commuting, un-loaded paved rides, and non-technical dirt and gravel.

A bit of research led me to the Salsa Vaya.  Billed as a “road adventure bike,” it sounded like a perfect match for my one-bike-fits-all quest.  I studied the geometry/fit chart on Salsa’s website, and decided on the 57cm size in the charcoal color.  A few days later, brown santa delivered my much-anticipated frameset.  Ample padding and sturdy packaging had kept the frame and fork free of scratches, dings, or dents.  Props to Salsa for doing the right thing to insure damage-free transit.

I built up the Vaya with a mix of my favorite road and MTB components.  My local shop installed the headset, but I completed the rest of the build myself.  Everything went together easily, and there were no unexpected surprises or gotchas.  A trouble-free build such as this tells me that the company put a lot of though into details such as braze-on placement and component compatibility (the frame utilizes a threaded, 68mm BB shell, 27.2mm seatpost, threadless 1-1/8″ steerer, and 135mm rear hub spacing).

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Seat cluster & Lip-Lock collar.

Writing an objective review of a bicycle–or in this case, a frameset–can be a real challenge.  Every rider has their own unique set of idiosyncrasies and preferences, and it’s often difficult to ignore those factors when evaluating a bike’s performance.  In the case of Salsa’s Vaya, however, it was my own fit requirements and preferences that drew me to this particular bike in the first place.

From the very first ride, I felt a “balance” that had eluded me on other bikes.  The frame’s geometry was spot-on, and I didn’t have to make any component changes to compensate for out-of-spec dimensions or angles.  The initial shakedown rides revealed a bike that was stable and predictable without being a total snooze-fest when you wanted–or needed to–put the hammer down.  On dirt and gravel, the Vaya really came into its element.  With the appropriate tires (there’s clearance for 700×43 rubber), the bike would float over ruts and rocks, but could still be pedaled efficiently on smoother terrain.  Interestingly enough, the more I rode the Salsa off-road, the more I found myself gravitating to a more aggressive climbing style, and within a couple of months, I switched from a triple- to a compact-double crankset.

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Ample clearance with 32mm (actual width) tire.

Salsa wisely spec’d the Vaya with braze-ons for front and rear racks, fenders, and three bottle cages.  Chances are, if you want to carry it, there’s a way to mount it to the frame.  The disc brakes are set up for full-length housing, which means less maintenance and compatibility with (future) drop-bar hydraulic setups.  In addition to threaded bosses on the seatstay and chainstay bridges, both dropouts feature two sets of (threaded) eyelets.  I would have preferred threaded cable adjusters over the downtube shifter bosses, but adapters are easily available for those using bar-end or integrated shifters (aka, brifters).

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Disc mount & custom dropout (replaceable hanger).

Over the past twelve months, I’ve logged many happy miles aboard the Vaya.  It’s been my go-to bike for commuting, off-road exploring, and unencumbered road riding.  The bike has performed so well, in fact, that it’s replaced the aforementioned MTB and tourer in my stable.  It’s taken everything I’ve dished out, and always left me with a smile on my face.  As a do-it-all adventure bike, the Vaya definitely delivers.  If you want one bike that can tackle a century, gravel grinder, off-road exploring, or commuting, look no further.  Salsa has come up with a bike that’ll inspire you to ditch the roof rack and start all your two-wheeled adventures from your own front door.

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In commuter mode with slicks & Carradice Nelson saddlebag.