The Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 immediately stands out from all the other bikes in the thousand-dollar mountain bike niche. A reputable yet discrete brand, a frame with a discreetly different shape from other hardtails and a stark bright blue paint job all set the Timberjack apart from the pack.
The standout features don’t end with just the looks of the bike, on the contrary, the bikes substance: specifications and geometry, are an even greater highlight than what can be seen at face value. An almost flawless build with many standout components and modern geometry make this bike a contender for one of the best thousand-dollar bikes out there, in form and substance.
The Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 component spec is a unique contender at this price point. The highlight of the specs, which you often only start to find at price points a little higher, is SRAM’s new entry-level drivetrain groupset, the NX. This is the result of building the well-received X01 and GX drive trains even cheaper into the NX package. This is the result of much more aggressive product development than what you usually see from Shimano and it shows in the excellent value you get for NX – especially the rear derailleur. The thought that went into the build is evident in the one part of the NX drivetrain that wasn’t included in the build, the boat anchor cog set. Salsa, instead specs the lighter Sunrace cog set in its place.
Manitou handles the front suspension duties with their 4.7″ Markhor air sprung fork. The extra 0.7″ of travel is also a nice bonus, especially for a bike-oriented towards trail riding. Unfortunately, the long 29’er fork and longer travel, combined with the 30mm stanchion tubes make this fork flexy. A 15mm thru-axle instead of a 9mm quick release could have done a lot to make this bike stiffer.
The wheelset is built from Formula sealed bearing hubs laced to WTB i23 rims. These rims have a 23mm internal diameter which makes it a great match for thinner mountain bike tires. Although the rims are tubeless ready, the bike will come with tubes brand new. I suggest setting these aside and converting the wheels to tubeless to get the great benefits of weight loss, puncture resistance and a little bit of extra traction.
The brakes are one of the weakest components on the specification list. Although they work fine, the Tektro Brakes come in second place to Shimano’s offerings in almost all metrics in the entry-level category. They are significantly cheaper than Shimano brakes though, which is probably how they were able to squeeze in the NX drivetrain on a bike of this price point.
|Fork||Manitou Markhor 120mm, 9×100 QR||Good|
|Rear Derailleur||SRAM NX1 Long Cage||Excellent|
|Crank||SRAM NX1 – 30t||Good|
|Brakes||Tektro HD-M290 Hydro, 7” Front and 6” Rear Rotor||Ok|
|Rims||WTB STX TCS i23 29” – Tubeless Ready||Good|
|Hubs||Formula Quick Release||Good|
|Tires||WTB Ranger Comp 29×2.25″ \||Good|
Frame Build Quality and Geometry
The Salsa Timberjack is a frame that stands out amongst similar hardtails. The sleek hydroformed downtube, and beefy replaceable dropouts and the bold sky-blue paint job set it apart quite easily. The geometry point to the true intended purpose of this bike despite some other features that may say otherwise. The 68° head angle, 73.6° seat tube angle and long reach measurements suggest that the Timberjack is an exceptional all mountain hardtail. The frame also comes with some features that are rare on bikes of this price point. It has a large rear drop out that can be adjusted to support different hub types, even exotic ones, and also be set to change the chainstay length of the bike to a longer or shorter setting. Another rare feature of the frame is its built-in compatibility with bike rack mounts for travel bags. If you are ever convinced to go on a multi-day camping ride, your Timberjack will be ready to carry your tent, sleeping back and more on an easily mountable rack.
The Timberjack NX1 29 is one of those bikes that just feels right the first time you sit on it. The sizing, the geometry and the components all come together cohesively to form a bike that was built to get you off the fire roads and the white trails and into the mountains. It isn’t surprising then that the bike rides especially well.
Climbing is a non-issue on this bike despite the slacker headtube angle. The new geometry is evident here, especially when you feel hints of the feelings you get on much more expensive bikes. The longer reach, slacker head angle and steeper seat tube angle all work together to push your weight forward to be squarely in the middle of the front and rear tire. It is very easy to shift weight forward to keep that front wheel disciplined and then sit back up to keep the rear wheel from spinning over any loose surfaces.
Rolling trails and descents are where this bike shines to the rest of the bikes in the thousand-dollar range. It has one of the slackest headtube angles out there and it is certainly starting to feel like it has the same prowess as pioneer “all mountain hardtails.” The progressive geometry, 29-inch wheels, and stiff frame make the bike very easy to convince when it comes to charging trails. The wheel size and the slack front end also make it carry speed through rough chatter exceedingly well. I am especially thankful for the slack headtube angle on steeper trails, where other bikes in this range would gladly remind you that they are often the worst offenders when it comes to throwing new riders over the handlebars.
Although we didn’t end up going on that long multi-day ride, I felt like the mounts didn’t take anything away from the bike’s already stellar attributes. It wasn’t the result of a compromise. The replaceable dropouts may have added a few grams to the frame’s weight but it is a little detail that makes this bike an excellent option for riders who already have rare and quirky hubs or if you’re planning on partaking less common wheel setups.
|Overall Value for Money||Good|
The Salsa Timberjack NX1 29’s Competition
The Timberjack NX1 29 occupies a sub-niche that many other manufacturers of bikes at this price point will follow in the future. Its characteristics may be rare at the moment, but in more expensive segments, it is becoming the norm which this segment will likely follow. It is safe to say that the Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 is a pioneer of making entry-level hardtails more technically capable, but it’s not the only one.
Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 vs Cannondale Trail 5
The Trail 5 is one of the few bikes that is in direct competition with Salsa Timberjeck NX1 29. They both have slack 68° head angles and longer, modern sizing but the Timberjack comes in with significantly shorter chainstays, which are also adjustable. There is little reason to choose the Trail 5 over the Timberjack, and the only thing that might tip the scales towards the Trail is if a potential owner preferred Shimano componentry.
Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 vs Giant Fathom 2
The one bike that comes in better than the Timberjack NX1 29 is the Giant Fathom 2. Although it uses smaller 27.5″ wheels, the refinement of the frame construction and frame’s looks, even slacker geometry and a dropper post make the Fathom 2 hard competition. The only thing that sets the Salsa and the Giant apart, which most riders will consider the most important is the price. While the Fathom 2 has a few especially outstanding specified components, the price is equally outstanding at about $200 more expensive than the Salsa.
Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 vs Kona Blast
The Kona Blast rounds up an exact opposite comparison between the Timberjack NX1 with the Fathom 2. While the Blast has fewer luxury component features, it certainly doesn’t lack in the looks, geometry and general modernity of the frame. The kicker of this deal is that it comes in at almost $200 cheaper than other thousand-dollar niched bikes. I’ve placed it in this price bracket because, despite its cheapness, it has stock componentry to match the Salsa and all its other competitors.
The Salsa Timberjack NX1 29 is one of the best 29’er entry-level mountain bikes to hit the shelves. It has an extensive list of features that truly set it apart from other hardtails to draw attention. The geometry, component spec, as well as the aforementioned features, all make the Timberjack NX1 29 uniquely versatile. It has the capability to be anyone’s first real mountain bike without having to worry about changing out weak components or being limited by your bike while trying out different types of riding. These characteristics make it extremely valuable for a new mountain biker because it allows the bike to be prepared for whichever aspect of mountain biking a prospective buyer may choose. All these factors make it easily one of the best bikes in the thousand-dollar price bracket.
Pros vs Cons of the Merida Timberjack NX1 29
|· One of the first applications NX drivetrains for entry level hardtails|
· Unique looking and feature filled frame
|· Brakes could be better|
· Only one color option