Salsa El Mariachi 2
Price: $2,000

Weight: 28.2 pounds

By Travis Engel
Excerpted from the 2013 Bike Magazine Bible of Bike Tests, available in print now and digitally on Apple Newsstand)

Our cross-country test course possessed its share of technical climbs and descents that kept our testers on their toes. Despite that fact, each rider found there was something about the Salsa El Mariachi 2 that made it feel right at home among all the fancier, newfangled rigs.

The El Mariachi is equipped for versatility. The straight 44-millimeter headtube—rare on steel bikes—accommodates the RockShox Reba's tapered steerer tube. The couch-width WTB Pure V saddle was also a welcome sight to a couple hardtail-phobic testers. A favorite tire among the testers, Continental's Trail King tires weren't the fastest-rolling treads, but could fit in among the all-mountain category, as could the frame's potential to convert to a rear through-axle.

Salsa has taken cross-country literally, offering a ride that most of us could live with all day. The frame is built to survive a lot of those long days, which is a nice way of saying it's a bit heavy. More than one tester thought it lacked steel's traditional supple springiness. It may have been subtle, but the lively ride and forgiving tires inspired confidence hard to come by on a hardtail.

All testers agreed on this point: This bike lives up to Salsa's 'Adventure By Bike' slogan. The El Mariachi, in fact, can be many things to many different riders, which one tester found ironic. Among all these full-suspension options, a hardtail might seem to be a limiting choice, but this particular hardtail can be your XC race bike, singlespeed pain machine or overland beast of burden.

Salsa's Alternator dropouts enable you to convert the bike to a singlespeed or even Rolhoff-specific setup with ease. Don't just think about what the El Mariachi is—think about what it could be.

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