Salsa Vaya 1000 Mile Review (or our thoughts on Salsa Vaya vs. Surly LHT)
We’ve been riding our Salsa Vayas for a little over two months and have managed to put over 1000 miles on them. In that time, we’ve ridden them around town, on the 25th Anniversary Cycle Oregon ride, on our first randonneur event (the Verboort Populaire), up Larch Mountain, on a few overnight bike tours and miles and miles of hills and gravel on road rides around Portland. The good folks at VeloCult built up our frames with components that we picked out that are a little different from the off the shelf Vayas and we had the bikes fitted at Crank PDX. We’ve ridden them enough to get a good sense of how they handle and the ride qualities and what the best uses would be. So what’s the verdict? How do they compare to the venerable Surly LHT?
Perhaps the biggest difference of our builds compared to the pre-built models are our choice of drivetrain. I’m using Apex brifters (which come stock on the Vaya 2) and Laura is using Shimano bar end shifters on some Paul Thumbies. Both work as advertised. The Apex brifters take a little more oomph to shift than Shimano counterparts, but I appreciate the cleaner cable routing and smaller hoods. Check out the video tour below to take a closer look at our handlebar controls.
In the beginning of our builds, we considered compact road doubles, but for us they seemed a little too highly geared for touring, so we decided to go with mountain doubles. Both of us are running identical drivetrains with SRAM X5 mountain double cranks with 42/28 chainrings, X7 front derailleurs, X9 rear derailleurs and 12-36 10speed cassettes. They work pretty seamlessly with both the Paul Thumbies and Apex brifters. Most people will ask, why a mountain double and not a touring triple? We rode with a touring triple on our LHTs for years and they worked fine. However, interestingly enough, after touring with the Bromptons (which only had 6 speeds), we knew we wanted to simplify our drivetrains from 27 speeds with lots of redundancy to just 20. Although we have a third fewer gears than a touring triple, our range is pretty similar. We’ve got a high gear of about 95 gear inches and a low of 21 gear inches. On a flat road we can spin up the pedals to about 25 mph (anything faster than that is beyond our ken of riding for this bike since we’ll most likely be loaded). The low of 21 gear inches has been low enough to get us up and over hills and mountains, even when carrying touring loads. If we were to go to truly mountainous terrain with an expedition load, we’d probably swap the small chainring for a 24t to drop us down to 18 gear inches.
The Vaya has eyelets everywhere you would need them for touring. You get three bottle mounts in the inner triangle. The fork has mid-fork eyelets and two sets of eyelets at the dropout for a rack and fenders. Likewise, on the rear of the bike you have two sets of eyelets at the rear dropout for a rack and fender and eyelets at the seat stay for a rack. Our Vayas have the standard vertical dropouts and not the Alternator dropouts, so we were able to use rear racks off our previous bikes.
Perhaps the most noticeable frame difference is the sloping top tube on the Vaya compared to the LHT. There are lots of schools of thought about what is better. Some say bikes with sloping top tubes are lighter because of less material, stiffer because the triangle is smaller, etc., Being somewhat of a retro-grouch on occasion, it took me a little while to warm up to the looks of the sloping top tube. I’m not going to pretend to have Princess and the Pea heightened sensitivity for all frame nuances, but I will say that I have appreciated the extra clearance especially going on mixed terrain rides with steep slippy climbs. The sloping top tube gave a little more…em..fudge room when having to do a hasty footdown.
Disc Brake Converts
If you asked us a few years ago about what we thought of disc brakes, we would have told you “why bother when rim brakes are perfectly fine.” Having ridden the Vaya for the last few months, we’ve really come around to some of the advantages of disc brakes. We really appreciate the all-weather stopping capabilities (a must in Portland), not having to worry about overheating rims and blowing out tires on long descents and the dirt from brake pads getting everywhere. Of course, it’s not all roses. Disc brakes are a little less transparent than rim brakes, they squeal, and parts are varied and non-standardized. We feel that if you’re touring in super remote places or developing countries, rim brakes may still have an advantage. But, if you are touring in the US or a place where decent bike parts or the internet aren’t that hard to come by, then discs are perfectly fine.
Our builds on the Vaya and LHT are different, so we can’t make an EXACT apples to apples comparison, but they are close enough to make some reasonable observations about ride quality. No doubt the LHTs are solid, stout and reliable touring bikes. Some could argue that it is because of the LHT that bicycle touring has made somewhat of a come back, with Surly bringing a great TRUE touring bike to market (not half ass attempts like the modern Trek 520). That said, after having ridden both frames for some time, we prefer the Vayas for the type of touring and riding we do now.
The Vaya is a fair bit more zippy and responsive than the LHT. It’s not roadie fast, but if you put the pedal to the metal, the Vaya will move without too much negotiation. Riding the first few weeks with the Vaya, Laura was constantly commenting how she felt like she could actually accelerate. The LHT, on the other hand, feels to have far more inertia to overcome. It will hold speed, but you have to work to get it up there.
One of our most memorable days riding the Vaya was on the final day of Cycle Oregon. It was 60 miles back to the town of Bly and we were both feeling pretty good. The last half of the ride was fairly flat so I tucked in and spun it up to about 25mph (loaded with camera gear, mind you) and was able to maintain that fairly well, even with the mountain double. Some roadies came up to us and said we were putting them to shame with our bikes with fat tires. 🙂 The Vaya is fun to ride both loaded and UNloaded. The riding is predictable, but it isn’t an utter snoozefest either. The LHT, on the otherhand, sometimes feels loaded even when it isn’t.
If it sounds like we are putting down the LHT, we’re not. We still believe they are the most bang for your buck touring bike on the market. If you’re planning to ride fully loaded, you won’t be disappointed. However, for us, we are starting to explore other types of riding. Longer randonneur events, mixed terrain riding, maybe even some gravel grinders are in our future and, for this style riding, with a much lighter load, the Vaya is a better fit. I feel that, of all the bikes on the market that I have had a chance to throw a leg over, the Vaya probably comes closest to being the perfect all-rounder bicycle – you can commute on the Vaya, tour with it, take it on gravel roads, long day rides and mult-day event rides and still have a smile on your face at the end of the day.
(UPDATED: I felt that I should address a comment to this post from Doug. We wholeheartedly agree that the LHT comes to its own under load. When we first toured, we had over 100lbs of gear on our LHTs and it faithfully portaged us around the country. There is no doubt that the LHT is capable of some heavy expedition style touring. Most of the touring we’ve done with the Vayas so far have been fairly short, so we haven’t quite put the same amount of stress on it as the LHT. Our feeling, however, is the Vaya is more suitable for light to mid weight type of touring. We would probably feel a little uneasy at loading the Vayas up with the same weight as we did with the LHTs. Thirty to forty pounds on the rear seems to be the sweet spot and it is nice to have some weight on the front for balance. We’re planning to do a few weeks of touring in January in California with the Vayas, which will have give a better sense of their handling for longer tours.)
Our Surly LHT’s were definitely solid bikes and we built them up in a very traditional touring style. Bar-ends, friction shifters, touring triples, etc., But, we’ve changed from those early years of heavily-laden touring, and our view of cycling has expanded quite a bit as well. I still believe in the reliability of friction shifting, but I also know that having brifters on your bike won’t tear open a hole in the Space-Time continuum. I also know that although touring triples are sort of the de facto drivetrain choice according to Ye Old Touring Canon, it’s okay to explore different options that work for you (and do something crazy like put a mountain double on a road touring bike…or ride a 6spd folding bike). We’ve learned that, although you may have space for four panniers, two is often times enough and will allow you to more easily follow your curiosity without being burdened down by too much weight.
The Vaya is a fun bike. It’s fun with a load and without. It’s fun on the road and on mixed terrain. It’s fun to ride leisurely and to hammer. It is one of the most versatile bikes on the marketplace right now. If you want a bike that is capable of loaded touring, but also doesn’t feel like you’re dragging an anchor around when you’re not on tour, then the Vaya is for you.
-best bang for your buck out of all touring bikes on the market
-handles HEAVY loads extremely well
-true expedition style tourist
-great at light/mid-weight touring
-FUN to ride unloaded
-great multi-use bike for commuting/event ride/touring
-more spendy than LHT
-a little flexier at heavier loads
-disc brakes can squeal like crazy
Which one is for you?
If you tour with heavy loads – LHT.
If you tour with light to mid-weight loads – Vaya.
If your primary use is a fully loaded touring bike – LHT.
If you want a bike that can be also used for a variety of different styles of riding (commute, event rides, rando rides) – Vaya.
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new Brompton Touring Book, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
Acupunk62 February 5, 2013 at 7:13 am
I had the squealing disc brake issue on my C-Dale Prophet mountain bike. I was running Avid Juicy 7 hydraulic discs and the sound every time I hit the brakes was unnerving! I swapped out the Avid pads for EBC green pads and problem solved. They have proven pretty durable for mountain biking but not sure how they would stand up to touring.
Ford February 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm
Nice review, thanks. I consider buying a Vaya as well but I am really not sure what size to get. There are controversial opinions on the size and in particular on the Salsa size chart. What size are you guys riding? Did you choose a smaller size than recommended by Salsa?
Spencer Stromberg March 14, 2013 at 8:58 am
I have a Vaya which I use for an all-around bike – although I don’t tour, I’ve used it for commuting, gravel grinding, road riding, etc. I agree that it is a fun to ride bike that is capable of just about anything.
I wanted to reply to Ford’s comment inquiring about sizing. I am 6’2″ and I’m riding a 57cm. The Salsa size chart would have had me on a larger frame, but the owner of my bike store knew that I don’t like to be too stretched out and recommended the 57. Take your personal needs/tastes into account when picking a size. Also keep in mind that the difference from one size to the next is pretty minimal, and can be more than made up with stem and seat post choices. I think I would have easily fit on a 58 (which is actually 58.5) with a 90mm stem instead of the 100mm I have. I like the smaller frame size for maneuverability and clearance when I have to bail out on a steep gravel road.
Steve Jones February 19, 2013 at 6:48 am
Two good options for conventional touring but you know,the next frontier will be fat bike touring. don’t laugh now,slower pace for sure but able to ride anywhere.
tarmac, sand,snow, river crossing..you name it.
I’m already dreaming of riding the coastlines on the beaches rather than following long stretches of road all day.
Ian July 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm
Imagine towing my SUP along the beach and surfing where ever? 🙂 Heaven.
Tee-El-Ar January 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm
I agree with Steve’s February 2013 post about touring on a fat bike as the next frontier. Yes, a bit slower most of the time but ready for anything you can toss at it. I rode a Pug with a full load up the Great Divide and it was my best tour ever. Comfort, control, unlimited traction and with tire pressures maxed out, quite a good ride even on pavement.
Journal at: http://crazyguyonabike.com/doc/sunsandsnowsky
Videos (not all up yet) at: http://vimeo.com/album/2667532
But I love my Trucker too!
Steve Jones February 19, 2013 at 6:52 am
Two good options for conventional touring but you know,the next frontier will be fat bike touring. don’t laugh now! slower pace for sure but able to ride anywhere.
tarmac, sand,snow, river crossing..you name it.
I’m already dreaming of riding the coastlines on the beaches rather than following long stretches of road all day.
By the way I’d choose a Surly Troll over a LHT, and I did.
WAY more versatile.
iLynne May 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm
Hmmm… I have a Retrovelo and I’ve thought of short bike camping trips on it. And what better reason to try to get my mitts on an Anna for my husband. Yeah, for my husband, that’s right. Totally not for me…
aikibike February 26, 2013 at 11:16 am
I just found you guys via a late night w a couple of nice beers n some YouTube , LOVE it! I also agree w Steve. I love my Troll ! This is probably a better comparison. I traded in my LHT for a Troll for off road action and have been converted. Like the Vaya it has a sloping top tube for those oh sh!! moments and is more responsive than the LHT. I’m also running mt double but will be building a Trollhoff soon. Thanks for all the inspiration and keep all that great stuff coming ,peace.
My New Bike | Bike306 March 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm
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Andy March 24, 2013 at 4:36 am
Great review folks and I couldn’t agree more.
I don’t know if any of the other comments got round to it but I used my Vaya for a weeks camping tour round Scotland last year with the wife (though we only ended up camping one night @ Fort William).
I was the pack horse for the trip so had front and rear panniers, a handle-bar bag and a Carradice Camper long-flap saddle bag.
I have to say the bike rode brilliantly, we did a lot of the cycle paths that have been marked out up there as well a quite a bit of gravel roads too.
On one particularly rough track out of Fort William, I even had my wifes panniers hanging from my handlebars, though I’ll admit that did compromise the handling a little, we were at least about to cover the rough ground a bit quicker.
I also believe that rack choice can have a big affect on how a loaded bike handles, as such I used Tubus racks front and back (already had them in the garage).
We didn’t do big miles, 50-60 miles a day but this was a holiday for us, not a test of how far we could push ourselves and that mileage also allowed us to ride from town to town without having to worry about supplies or accommodation.
Obviously being in the UK, our bikes have full mudguards (my wife’s rides a Tricross Comp but is lusting after something with discs now), I have kept the original 700x42c Continental tyres and there’s plenty on clearance all round.
I also dropped the big rig from a 48t to a 44t as even on my commute to work, I still had a couple of cogs left at 30+mph!
Gears are now 11-32 back and 34/44 front and work beautifully with the Sram brifters.
I recently did a rim swap as the original DT470 rims are only rated to a pressure of 4 bar (just under 60psi) and even the original continentals are rated to 65psi, at some point I may fit something smaller (like a 35c 🙂 ) which will require higher pressures.
I was able to pick up a new pair of Delgardo rims of eBay and although not well reviewed, they’ve built up to a nice pair of wheels, plus the extra width has given the tyres a rounder profile.
And my latest upgrade has been to BB7 callipers, a nice simple mod that makes a noticeable difference to the bike (if only because they’re easier to align than the BB5s).
Anyway, I think a 2013 Vaya 2 is on the cards for the wife anytime now…
Perhaps I should have written all this in my own article – lol
Safe Riding everyone
Ethan Curren April 4, 2013 at 11:04 am
I would add my praise for the Vaya as an all around wonder. I have a stock Vaya 2, which I chose initially as I wanted the disc brakes for towing — two kids in a trailer, my daughter on a burley piccolo trailer bike. The brakes are great for stopping the extra weight. It’s also terrific for my commute, round trip of about 20 miles into Boston. The roads are frequently poorly patched and potholed, with lots of sand and debris, and the Vaya is a great balance of capable yet ridable. It handles great with or without the 20 pounds or so I lug to work.
I have even taken to riding it at times over my specialized Allez for training rides this spring when snow melt, road sand and ice etc are still an issue, sure it’s heavier, not a pure road bike, but it feels nice to ride and sure handles the surprises of New England in early spring.
If I had to choose just one bike this’d be the one.
Ted May 7, 2013 at 8:07 am
I wondering what kind of trailer you were pulling??? Did you have any issue mounting the trailer with the disk brakes? I am looking at trailer mounting options for my Vaya, but the disk brakes seem to get in the way? Yes/no? Looking for input.
aidee August 27, 2013 at 5:17 am
Currently using a rear pannier rack from Old Man Mountain, as they offer solutions to mount on frames running disc brakes i.e a Salsa Ala Carte frame.
If getting such a rack, i’d also order a spare skewer for travels – it is quite long and not a typical length.
Ethan Curren September 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm
I run both a Burley Piccolo tag-a-long and a Chariot CTS Cougar 2 trailer on the Vaya 2. Neither has a problem mounting with the disk brakes, and in fact both hitches are currently mounted on mine.
Of course the Burley comes with a proprietary rack, but it’s an extra sturdy one that works fine.
JD October 10, 2014 at 10:23 pm
Ethan (and others) –
This is the research I am looking for.
I am trying to figure out which touring / commuter bike to use with my kids. The four-year old child will be in an attached trailer bike (with coupler), and the two-year old child will be in a chariot trailer behind that (via skewer hub).
Does anyone else have input on preferred bikes / systems for long rides with two kids? Preferably sub-$2K, with disc brakes.
I own a specialized tarmac for zipping around, and a santa cruz mountain bike for the trails.
However now I have two-year old & four-year old boys, plus we live in major mountains. I want to do LONG rides, plus quick commutes around town (paved / gravel mixed).
Salsa Vaya? Surly LHT or Cross Check? Trek 520?
Big thanks all!
Milano April 4, 2013 at 11:43 am
Do you think the extra money for the vaya is really worth it? People seem to say the LHT is sluggish, in compared to what? a racing bike? I am in trying to decide between the Vaya 2( nearly sold out everywhere) and the Disc Trucker, with some touring in mind(weekend stuff most likely), but mostly just riding/commuting. The Vaya 2 will cost me nearly an extra $1000, so I ask Russ, do you think it is that much better????
Thanks for all your great shots and stories!
Russ April 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm
Hey there Milano,
If money/availability is going to prevent you from riding, then definitely go with the Trucker. It’s a solid bike that won’t let you down. That said, I’d say the LHT is sluggish even compared to a Cross Check or an All-City Space Horse Horse, not a race bike by any means but zippier than the LHT. We’re not racers, but we do like to go on a long day ride now and again. Totally doable on the LHT, but if you’ve thrown your leg over other bikes you’ll notice the difference.
Is the Vaya $1000 better than the LHT? That’s hard to quantify. It has some nicer bits and I prefer it for longer/spirited riding. But if budget/availability is an issue go with the LHT or even a Cross Check. The Cross Check makes a great day rider/commuter and will do light touring duty (bummer there’s no disc brakes). If you want/need disc brakes and are on a budget, the Raleigh Roper is pretty awesome as well.
Michael October 13, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Milano – Compared to the LHT the Vaya is much livelier, but $1000 more for the Vaya doesn’t seem right. When I got my Vaya they were going for $1300 and the LHT was $1100 (if I remember correctly). I know prices have changed, but $1000? If it were that much difference I’d have given the LHT much more consideration (not sure I would have gone with it in the end though).
Rich April 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm
Hi, I know Vaya size has already been mentioned but I had another question. I am 6’1.5″ and I sat on a 157cm today and the person said I really need a larger size, especially since the seat post was all the way up. They have an unassembled 160 in stock that I put a deposit on. I trust these guys but how can I really tell the bike is too small or big for me? I’m new to this type of bike. Thank you.
Russ April 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm
Rich…do you have another bike that you like the fit of? You could bring one of your bikes and have them match the cockpit dimensions.
For us, we did a bike fit to get it dialed in. Makes a big difference in comfort. You could have the right sized bike but it may feel uncomfortable until dialed in for your body.
Kristin Dahl April 28, 2013 at 8:49 am
Wow – great review guys, thanks! Inching closer to making a purchase…
michael berger May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm
I absolutely love my vaya. It is a pleasure and privilege to ride it each time I get in the saddle. Rides incredible loaded up, and is very enjoyable and comfortable to ride naked. Only thing I would change about my set up is the integrated shifting for long term touring. I was between this bike and the LHT for about a year, and finally went with the vaya. It’s great looking and has character that only gets better with time.
Dave June 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm
I bought a 2013 Salsa Vaya 2 this January. I love the bike, it is super comfortable. The miles just evaporate before me when I am riding it. I have only one issue. I have adjusted my Avid BB7 brakes twice and they stop great. However, there is a high pitched squeak/chirp that I and bike shops have not seemed to have been able to get rid of. I don’t think it is my drive train. I think it is the rotor passing through the disc brake caliper, but I am not sure. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated? The noise seems to be near the rear disc and the rear hub. I have a hard time isolating it.
Mark Gardner July 25, 2013 at 10:33 am
I built my Vaya up as a triple with 13-34 8-speed rear and 24/36/46 front. One of the under-appreciated Vaya frame features is the ability to use downtube shifters. They are lighter, cheaper, and simpler than anything else, and are unlikely to break if you crash. And, there is no problem with indexed front shifting. The Vaya handles great, fits V-O 52mm wide fenders with 37mm Paselas, and I agree it’s not a dog unloaded. I tour with 4 panniers, but tent and fly fit inside one and only my sleeping bag is atop the rear rack. BTW, the V-O fender struts do not interefere with the disc brake calipers.
Michael Mann July 25, 2013 at 8:23 pm
In the video you hint at having soured on touring with Brooks saddles. Care to elaborate? I love the several I have, but also findbhenmuchmless expensive WTB Rocket fits me well too. What are you discovering?
Russ August 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Finding that the recent B-17s don’t last as long. They sag a lot quicker and the tensioning bolt doesn’t really do much but create a more pronounced ridge line. Also tired of worrying about the rain in the PNW so switched to the Charge Saddles and call it good. The WTBs are also great.
gregory November 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm
Hey guys fantastic review.
Found this site by accident while researching the Vaya 2 and looking for a new commuter. After almost 6 years of commuting in TX on a road bike I was considering a Cross Bike for 2014.Now,it looks like the Vaya is my top choice.
Will check out the blog this weekend over some coffee and support the site soon when $ flow in some more.Thanks so much for the inspiration.
2013 Salsa Vaya 3 - 1000 Mile Review | Milestone Rides January 15, 2014 at 1:35 am
[…] from The Path Less Pedaled about how they love their Vayas and remembered their own favorable 1,000 mile review. I stood in the showroom for about 10 minutes debating the finer points of owning something I […]
Mark Jones May 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm
Hi, what’s your thoughts on the surly range now they have introduced the Straggler? BB7 disc brakes, great tyre clearance, wider drop bars which enables both comfortable road riding yet the ability to have greater control and manoeuvrability off-road. And the ability to run single speed, traditional gearing or alfine/rohloff hubs.
Russ May 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm
Hey there Mark,
I haven’t had a chance to throw a leg over a Straggler so can’t comment on the ride, but it definitely looks sweet! It looks like Surly’s equivalent of the Vaya with a few more drive train options. If I ever get a chance to ride one, I’ll post a little update.
David May 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm
I’ve got a carbon cannondale road bike , great for day rides,
A Yeti ASR5C carbon, fantastic all day mountain biking
Now want to do road touring, but expect to carry a fair weight as camping. 2-3 weeks
Vaya 2 versus LHT?
What to go for considering I have other bikes to cover other other options.
David May 29, 2014 at 2:21 am
Also think the 26″ wheels for me on the LHT will make the bike look odd??
Im not tall, 5’8, have been advised to look at the All City Bikes Space Horse, have you any experience of this under full load?
Nathaniel May 31, 2014 at 6:45 am
Russ, I’m wondering if you and Laura would still recommend a mountain double setup now that it has been a couple of years. It’s hard to find anyone else talking about this as an option for a touring setup but it’s a really appealing option for me (I’ve got a Vaya 3 with the stock road triple right now and I’m considering an upgrade to a Sram mountain double just like yours). My biggest concern is the large leap between front chainrings (28 to 42). Have you found that it complicates your shifting, for example making you shift down in the rear when shifting from 28 to 42 to make up for the gap?
Russ May 31, 2014 at 6:53 am
Still really liking the mountain double for touring! With a 12-36 in the back it’s a pretty much set it and forget it setup. In the 42t chainring about 90% of the time until we hit a lot of steep stuff, then we shift down to the 28. There isn’t too much back and forth and it’s a pretty manageable jump.
Hope that helps.
Nathaniel May 31, 2014 at 8:33 am
I’m also curious why you went with the 12-36 chainring instead of the 11-36. I’m thinking I might be able to get away with a 26-39T chainring with a 11-32 or 11-36. The 39/11 combo would actually give me a slightly higher gear inch number than your 42/12 and it might mean I could spend more time on the 39 ring without feeling the need to down shift to the lower chain ring. What do you think? Thanks for this post you guys are awesome!
Mark D. June 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm
Enjoyed your review and would be interested to know what your chief complaints may be with the newer Trek 520s. I’m thinking of purchasing a 2014 520 as a commute and light tourer — perhaps you feel that, as spec’d, it’s not up to the task of heavy loaded touring? Regards,
Stephen July 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm
I had a heck of a time finding a bike store near by that had any touring bikes on the floor. Luckily there was a store about 50 miles away that keeps Surlys and Vayas on the floor in almost all sizes. The shop owners had a real interest in getting me on the right bike, so I spent several hours trying the LHTs and Vayas on the same route, rough road, smooth road, steep hill, hairpin turn, several miles per test with lots of starts & stops. The thing that surprised me most was the Surly LHT had a very different feel (to me) between the 56 frame & the 54 frame. I suspect the difference is more than just wheel size. I was looking for the feel of the ride and a certain amount of nimbleness was important. I plan to ride most of the time with a light load (rack & bag). I liked the feel of the Vaya better than the Surly with the 54cm frame & 26 inch wheels, but I liked the Surly with the 56cm frame best of all. Although I am between sizes, I was also surprised the 56cm frame on the Surly didn’t feel big.
I guess my main point was I went into the shop thinking I was going to like the Vaya because of the feel, but because I was able to try a couple of different bikes I found one that seems to fit like a glove (and did better on the hairpin). I have a few hundred miles on my 56cm LHT, and haven’t had a moment’s regret about my choice. It could be there have been some small frame geometry changes since the original review as well.
Steve Australia July 21, 2014 at 3:06 am
I bought a Vaya frame some years ago and transferred from another bike (an Azzuri) Ultegra 9 speed triple on to it with an XTR rear hub and dérailleur with a SRAM 11/36 cassette. Gearing that will do anything, complemented by self-built wheels with Velocity 36 spoke 700 rims, the front with a Shimano dynamo. I have been touring, commuting, randoneeing, and more. Does everything, man!
And the great bike hunt continues | Her Green Life September 30, 2014 at 8:21 am
[…] little piece of me leaning toward the Salsa Vaya (from non-preferred bike shop), in part because of this review over at The Path Less Pedaled, which talks about it being more responsive and less sluggish than […]
tristan March 1, 2015 at 9:47 pm
which fenders are on the 26″?
Russ March 2, 2015 at 10:01 am
Traipsing About | Salsa Fargo 4,000 Mile Review – Why You Should Buy a Fargo, Not a Vaya March 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm
[…] leaned heavily toward Salsa’s great touring bike, the Vaya, largely due to Path Less Pedaled and their satisfaction with the bike. However, I felt limited by the Vaya’s scope (road touring/commuting) and not being able to throw […]
Tristan March 17, 2015 at 11:12 am
Which SKS fenders in particular?
People complain about them not coming down far enough on the wheel – but in the pic of your Mrs they seem to nearly be on the road!
Russ March 17, 2015 at 12:34 pm
The SKS longboard fenders. P45s.
shawn April 19, 2015 at 11:27 am
Loved this write up, and it has encouraged my GF and I to purchase two Vayas for touring. I’ve swapped mine out for your exact drivetrain, 2×10 42-28, and have found the lowest gear to be just enough on some local off road climbs while riding unloaded. If I wanted to go to a 24 chainring, is that something that could just be swapped out? Or is a different crank arm needed? I assume a different length chain would be needed also. Thanks
Russ April 21, 2015 at 8:14 am
I believe you can put a 26t chainring on the x9/x7 crankset and yes a new/longer chain will be needed.
Van June 7, 2015 at 7:53 pm
Russ — did I read somewhere else that you are 5’8″ and the size of your Salsa Vaya 3 is a 54? I am also 5’8″ and I’m currently seriously considering a Vaya 3. I test rode both a size 54 and a 55 today. My impression is that for me the 54 was more nimble and easier to accelerate, while the 55 was slightly more stable. The LBS salesman and its professional fit guy said the 55 was a better size for me, but I really liked the feeling I could almost “sprint” on the 54.
The purpose for my purchase of a Vaya is because a friend invited me to accompany her on a cross-country tour. It will be fully supported, so I will not be carrying much weight. I think the 55 size might be better for a couple of months of long 8-hour days on the bike, but after the tour I think I might like the “spryness” of the smaller frame, to ride gravel roads and do some shorter tours. My current bike is an all-carbon Trek 5500 racing bike, which of course will not work for the cross-country tour or those other things.
I’m thinking I may be too “familiar” with my current bike and therefore on the test rides I feel more comfortable on the Vaya size 54, but that maybe should I remember the main reason I’m buying the Vaya to begin with and listen to the LBS salesman and go with the 55.
Since you are 5’8″ as well, I’d value your (or anyone’s) thoughts.
Rudy June 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm
I’m curious about why you write that the LHT is the most bang for your buck. Correct me if I’m wrong, but both the Surly Disk Trucker and the Vaya 3 seem to come in at the same price, but the Vaya includes Sora STI shifters, which I assume are better value than the LHT’s Microshift bar ends? Do the Disk Trucker components outperform the Vaya 3 in any other way?
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Interesting you found the lht to be dodgy unloaded. I founnd this as well. However i found with a handle bar change to a flat bar sorted this out. I tried butterfly bars as well as drop bars and didn’t like the feel of either of them.
Definattly agree with the thought of more weight adds stability. Espically with low rider bags. I LOVE the bb7 disks. Just travel with a spare set of rotors, not expensive on Ebay, and they really STOP under all conditions, rain, mud, dry, hills, everything.
Having said all of this, my wife rides a vivente world randonneur, with disk on the front and rim brakes on the rear, also with butterfly bars. She is VERY happy with this bike at all times…..
Our girls are riding on Giant Boulders. And they have rear panniers only. Funny thing is they all work.
Don’t get to caught up with what’s the best. Just get somthing that is strong and comfortable for YOU. Then DO IT.