2016 Marrakesh with drop bars (top) and flat bars (bottom). Courtesy: Salsa’s Culture Blog

New for 2016, Salsa Cycles is offering Marrakesh for around $1,600.

The Marrakesh looks like a really nice touring bike, at least the version with the Salsa Cowchipper bars (I can’t imagine touring with flat bars, even if they do have a slight bend – you need multiple hand positions).  I like touring bikes (my main ride is a Miyata 1000 LT) because their ability to haul a heavy load over long miles necessarily makes them useful and versatile bikes.  It’s why I’m a fan of Surly’s LHT/Disc Trucker.

The LHT now has some serious competition.  The interesting thing is that both Surly and Salsa (as well as Civia, All-City and others) are owned by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).  I can just imagine how that QBP board meeting went down:

QBP Head Honcho: OK, let’s talk 2016 products.  Surly, go ahead.

Surly: Fat, fat, fat, fat. As you know, we’re all about the fat bikes.  And we just keep getting fatter.  Like land-on-the-moon fat.

QBP Head Honcho: Fantastic. People love those fat bikes. OK, how about you Salsa?

Salsa: As you know, our slogan is “Adventure by Bike.” So, new for 2016, we’re putting out a touring bike called the Marrakesh.

Surly: Wait… what?

Salsa: It comes with disc brakes, room for wide tires (700 x 40 mm) and fenders, and includes a rear rack.

Surly: We already produce a touring bike with disc brakes. The Disc Trucker.

Salsa: We know!!! Where do you think we stole the idea from?  Anyway, we’re “Adventure by Bike.” That certainly includes touring bikes.  And you’re… you know, fat.  Like, Ice Cream Truck fat.

Surly: This is starting to get insulting.  

QBP Head Honcho: Salsa has a point. Adventure by Bike is not just about riding trails.  It’s also the open road.  OK, anything else?

Salsa: Yes, we also have this whole fat bike line-up we call Bear Grease. Because nothing says “Adventure by Bike” like fat bikes! Fat, fat, fat, fat.

Surly: *face palm*

End scene.

Of course, I’m not sure if that’s how it really went down. Maybe QBP Head Honcho can provide us with some clarification.

Here are the specs on the 2016 Marrakesh:

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  1. Evan Baird


    I'm pretty sure it went more like, "Oh shit, Soma is selling hella Wolverines. Why don't people like the Surly Straggler?" "Because it's heavy, doesn't fit big tires and the dropouts are retarded." "Oh, right".

  2. Joe


    I disagree regarding drop bars being the choice for touring due to "needing multiple hand positions". This is a tradition in English speaking countries (70s British touring bikes had all drop bars) rather than a meditated choice.

    I changed the handlebar of my touring bike from flat to drop, following "online wisdom", and after 8 years, I only keep it because I'm too lazy to change back.

    My points:

    -Flat handlebars with long bar ends provide 3 positions. Although drop bars in theory offer 4, my experience is that unless the user comes from a road bike(he/she is used to drop bars), they spend 80% of the time on the top of the bar because it's higher and more comfy, and just 20% on the other positions. And if you go for the butterfly bars, as practical as they are ugly, positions are endless!
    -Ergonomic grips for flat bars (like the Ergon GP1) are much more comfortable on long distances than any drop bar with just a couple mm of bar tape for cushioning. This allows for less need to continuously change hand position.
    -No matter what setup you go with, shifters & brake levers on drop bars are like 3 times more expensive than the same thing on flat bars.
    -Touring "experts" do huge research when choosing their bike in order to ensure reliability and ease of repair/replacement. However, STI levers (or brifters) are expensive, fragile, very exposed, and impossible to repair/find spares as soon as you are outside a city smaller than 15000 people.
    -If you go the bar-end shifter choice (like I did and Salsa is doing), they are either hard to find, crazy expensive for just a piece of metal that moves a cable, and today's models mostly only work on "syncro", not the best in case of shifting issues
    -Drop bar brake levers require brake cables with a specific head. Don't count on using the spare from your touring partner or finding one in the small village shop.
    -Drop bar brake levers (except 2/3 specific and expensive models) only work with cantilevers or just one (1) model of disc brakes. I use cantilever in my old mtb, but it's not something I want to use on a fully loaded bike that costed 2000 EUR when vbrakes or mechanical disks are so easy to set up and so much more powerful
    -In drop bars, especially if you have the oversize (31.8") type, there is just half the capacity on the top bar to install all the gadgets we cycle tourers like to fill our cockpit with (speedometer, GPS, handlebar bag, bell, battery light, smartphone, etc.)
    -Most manufacturers unfortunatly limit the height of the handlebar (by cutting the steering tube too short, racing geometry, etc.) which makes long distance cycling uncomfortable. At equal geometry, a flat bar will always be higher (and therefore more comfortable) than a drop bar (the pictures in this article already show that the drops are a good 10cm below saddle height while flat bars are nearly level). Even if the handlebar is too low, you can always get a riser bar. No chance with a drop bar
    -Most touring bikes, are also used as commuter/urban bikes. If using the top part of the bar, the brake levers are too far away in case of sudden need, something often required in urban environments. In a flat bar, brake levers are at your finger tips. The workaround, cross levers, are an increased cost and do not work with v-brakes.
    -When you spend a lot of money in a good touring bike, you want it to last. Good quality flat bar grips last for nearly ever. A drop bar tape needs to be changed every 2 years (if lucky). Cost and maintenance.

    Another advantage mentioned on drop bars is "aerodynamics" in windy days. However, on touring bikes where you have back panniers sticking 25 cm on both sides, plus probably front panniers, a boxy handlebar bag and as thick tyres as your frame can take, I think any pretension of maximizing aerodynamics is delusional.

    Drop bar? Flat bar? Whatever you fancy, but don’t believe the touring bikes = drop bars.

  3. S


    Joe… I'm just sitting here silently high-fiving you. Truth. All the way. I commute on flat bars for a lot of the reasons you mention and can imagine with touring I'd feel similarly. The drop bars look so pretty, but practically… Yep, you're 100% on this one.

  4. Anonymous


    Jones Loop Bars for multiple hand positions and plenty of room on the front loop to mount lights, GPS, etc.

  5. Anonymous


    My biased defense of drop bars against a biased prosecution.

    * Positions I use on my drop bars, from most often to least: Pistol gripping the hoods, palms rested on top of hoods, just behind the hoods, the main bend on the tops, the wide end of the tops, the center of the tops, deep in the drops, the very end of the drops. That's eight distinct positions to me

    * Thick bar tape does exist. Lizard Skins DSP comes in at 3.2mm. Fizik Performance is 3mm. Gel inserts can also increase grip cushioning all around your drop bars. The combination of inserts and Specialized's Phat Wrap is 4.5mm. Failing all else you can double-wrap your bars or perform some other small hack to give it the ergonomics you want.

    * As for pricing of STI levers, I imagine Shimano's new R3000 series Sora will be quite inexpensive. You don't have to buy Shimano 105 or even Tiagra.

    * I have never broken my STI levers and I have crashed / low-sided at speed. Yes, they have gotten very badly scuffed, but they continued to work. The levers are not immovable objects. In just about any collision they will simply rotate around the bars, leaving the brunt of the damage to your bar tape. Simply pull the levers back into place in that case.

    * Shimano road brake cables are very common. If you find yourself somewhere that doesn't have Shimano road cables, they probably don't have Shimano MTB cables either.

    * I count numerous rim and disc brake options for STI levers. TRP and Avid both have several models.

    * I have trouble believing you wouldn't be able to fit all your gadgets on a 44cm or 46cm wide drop bar. If you must, you can wrap the bar tape a little farther away from center.

    * My racey CX bike came with 3.5cm in spacers. Even if I cut the steerer, I'd be able to use a +17 degree riser stem to make up the difference.

    * As I said earlier, I spend the vast majority of my time on the hoods no matter what type of riding. The only time I ever put my hands on the tops is when I'm climbing and want to put less pressure on my soft tissues / genitals.

  6. Anonymous


    Joe – Youre so right with everything You say, its good to sometimes hear someone speak of own thinking instead of just repeating what everybody else says. The worlds most cycled man, Heinz Stucke, has biked around the world for 55 Years with a straight bar (and a 3-speed torpedo hub). Later he added one extra straight bar at a higher level, above the first one, the absolute opposite of a dropbar. I only believe in dropbars for thoose competing racercyclists. Im really impressed with Salsa for making the Marrakesh in two versions and the straight bar version will soon be living in my livingroom.

  7. Unknown


    I'm going with skinny tires on my vintage 1997 Fuji MX-200 atb/mtb. Rigid fork hardtail 21 speed, the gear inches and bike weight are nearly identical with the touring bikes of 2016. I have 26×2.10 Dura knobbies. I figure 1.5 or 1.75 will do nicely to emulate the Marrakesh. The Fuji I have weighs about the same as both the Vaya & Marrakesh, so it's a gravel bike too ? The Salsa Warbird gravel racer model, I can't stretch that out of the Fuji, the Warbird is closer to a heavy road bike weight that you'd get at Wal-Mart.

    Read a review on the 27 speed Marrakesh mpments ago and the reviewer indicated that fully loaded he could pedal it in the mid-gears anyway. I figure those are my higher gears on the Fuji that has a 48-38-28 triple crank & 14-28 7 speed rear cogs. Like the author, I have a 1986 Fuji Allegro 12 speed that was a touring bike concept for that era. I paid $ 159 for the MX-200 brand new and $ 357 for the Allegro. I couldn't begin to fathom replacing them today. I mean $ 1,600+ for a Marrakesh and either of my vintage bikes are equally functional. So that tells me my bikes are worth $ 3,200+. Most of what I see with thes specialty bikes are similar to what I already have with disc brakes and marginally better drivetrain setups. I don't need disc brakes, rim brakes are fine for me. I rarely replace pads because I don't use the brakes that much anyway.

    Like other's posted drop vs flat bars, I use both, that's rider preference for comfort. The MX-200 has flat bars, but they have bull horns on them, so I get different hand positions.

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