Test: The Salsa Journeyman 650b Sora is a cheap gravel bike that bikepackers should like with its diverse mounting options and comfortable geometry. However, you have to make compromises when it comes to acceleration and liveliness.
Salsa Journeyman Sora 650b: The Facts
Frame material: Aluminium
Wheel size(s): 650b (700cc Compatible)
Maximum tire clearance: 57mm / 2,2″ (650b) | 51mm / 2,0″ (700c)
Axle dimensions (v/h): Quick release
Mudguard Eyelets: Ja
Luggage carrier eyelets (v/h): Yes / Yes
bottle holder: Down tube up, down tube down, seat tube
Other: Eyelets on the top tube
Weight wheels v/h/total (with tires and brake discs): 1.946g / 2.060g / 4.006g
Weight complete bike without pedals (size M): 11,68kg
Price: € 1.349
Inexpensive, convincing bikepacking companion
Salsa is undoubtedly one of the manufacturers that served the bikepacking and gravel markets with appropriate bikes and accessories very early on. In this respect, it is not surprising that the comparatively small US manufacturer now has six or seven bikes in its portfolio, which can be roughly assigned to the Gravel segment. With the Journeyman presented in 2018, we tested a comparatively inexpensive aluminum bike that, with its various mounting points and comfortable geometry, should appeal more to bikepackers than to gravel racers. Our test bike came in a really nice shade of purple, which makes the bike stand out from the crowd at first glance.
The comparatively low price of 1.349 euros for our model (the Claris version is also available for less than 1.000 euros) is only partially visible on the frame. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the workmanship and it would not be noticed negatively even with much more expensive bikes. The completely internally routed cables are also nice - especially with such a bike, which is probably also moved regularly in wind and weather, they are well protected from moisture or other adverse influences. The quick-release axles at the front and rear are probably a small compromise in favor of the price - this makes it difficult to install the wheels without grinding.
The Salsa Journeyman gets full marks in terms of mounting points: There is space for three bottle holders directly on the frame, and two more can be mounted on the aluminum fork as an option, since there are also three eyelets on each side. Alternatively, a luggage rack can of course also be attached here - just like at the back. Of course there is also space for fenders on the frame and you don't have to do without eyelets on the top tube. The Salsa Gravelbike is no less universal when it comes to the choice of tires. The Journeyman is available with both classic 700c wheels and – like ours – with small 650b wheels. Salsa specifies a generous 51mm for the 700c and even 57mm for the 650b as the maximum tire clearance. So nothing stands in the way of using classic MTB tires.
During the development process, the minds behind the Journeyman were influenced by the two existing Salsa Gravel bikes, Warbird and Vaya. The result is an overall more touring-oriented geometry that is optimized for smooth running: This is shown by the fairly long chainstays of 440mm as well as the very slack steering angle. The main frame itself is rather short in order to achieve a sitting position that is not too stretched.
Geometry Salsa Journeyman 650b
|seat tube (in mm)
|Top tube horizontal (in mm)
|head tube (in mm)
|Wheelbase (in mm)
|chainstay (in mm)
|Steering angle (in °)
|Seat angle (in °)
|Stacks (in mm)
Inexpensive, but solid equipment - with one exception
With the Salsa Journeyman Sora 650b, we tested the second cheapest version of the bike. At 1.349 euros, it is one of the cheaper entry-level models in our test field, and yes – the features and weight also show that. But right at the beginning: The salsa bike impressively shows that the individual components or the weight only play a secondary role if the overall concept of the bike works.
But first the hard facts: At a sporty 11,68kg, the Salsa Journeyman Sora 650b is one of the heaviest gravel bikes in our test field. However, the “culprits” are quickly identified; when we weigh the wheel system, we are amazed - over 4kg come together here including the tires and brake discs! However, this is not due to the wheels themselves, which with Novatec hubs and WTB i23 ST rims should not break any weight records, but are not overly heavy either. The situation is different with the tires installed here. The Teravail Sparwood with a width of 2,1″ and the wire version weigh over 800g each. With a high-quality folding tire in similar dimensions, 500g could be saved here for a manageable financial effort. The fact that the Sparwood cannot be ridden tubeless could be another reason for one or the other to switch.
|Journeyman Drop Bar
|Fantail Deluxe Carbon
|Novatec / WTB ST i23 TCS 2.0
|Terravail Sparwood 2,1"
|Shimano Sora GS 9-speed
|FSA Vero Pro Adventure 46/30
|Promax DSK-330R flat mount
|Salsa Guide 27,2
The eponymous groupset on our Journeyman is the Shimano Sora. The 9-speed group is designed for the entry-level segment, but has been able to close the gap to the Tiagra in recent years and is a very good alternative for price-conscious buyers. The selected gear ratio with 46/30 FSA chainrings at the front and the 11-34 cassette is very good for the area of application of the salsa bike. It has a range of almost 500% and the lightest gear is also suitable for longer off-road climbs, possibly with luggage.
Since the Sora group is only available with cable brakes to date, mechanical disc brakes are logically installed on the Salsa. The Promax Render brakes are still quite new on the market and are attached using the modern Flatmount standard. Nice: When it comes to the brake pads, you can use the widespread Avid BB5 pads.
The other add-on parts on the Journeyman come from our own company and all make a very good impression - the cowbell handlebars in particular are ergonomically extremely successful.
More tests, products and background information about the Velomotion Gravel Month:
- Storck Grix Platinum Ultegra Di2 gravel bike in test: Race tourer for gravel and off-road
- GT Grade Carbon Pro in the gravel bike test: Comfortable triangle for lots of driving fun?!
- Orbea Terra M30-D in the gravel bike test: Lively bike for training and gravel tours
- NS Bikes Rag+ 2 in the gravel bike test: Convincing aluminum all-rounder
- Rondo Ruut CF 2 in the gravel bike test: Fast gravel bike with a striking look
Let's Gravel: The Salsa Journeyman Sora 650b
The Salsa Journeyman comes with a daring look and not only stands out from the crowd because of its paintwork. In line with the high-quality workmanship, this ensures a self-confident appearance. With an impressive accessory compatibility, the bike should become the best companion on long day trips and bikepacking adventures. Among other things, the wide 650b tires ensure the necessary versatility, which not only ensures good grip, but also good driving comfort in combination with the successful rear end of the Journeyman.
In this way, even rough passages become a fun experience on every exploration tour - if the air pressure in the tires is adjusted accordingly. In addition, thanks to the balanced geometry of the Salsa Journeyman, you are sufficiently sporty and yet comfortable on the go. However, it is less pleasant on asphalt sections, since the tires are clearly designed for off-road use and therefore do not have the best rolling properties on the road.
Even if the bike is very comfortable to ride over long distances, the Salsa Journeyman struggles a bit when accelerating due to its robust construction and balanced geometry and it takes a while to get out of the bend. This is certainly also due to the not exactly negligible weight of a proud 11,68 kilograms or, more precisely, to the heavy wheels and tires. Despite the low liveliness, the Jouneyman is surprisingly agile and can be maneuvered quickly over the trails – despite the long wheelbase and slack steering angle. Nevertheless, the riding experience of the salsa bike is noticeably closer to a mountain bike than other gravel bikes.
However, due to the setup with the Promax cable pull disc brakes, we kept struggling here and there and had to brake much earlier than we wanted. It's actually a pity, because with the usual hydraulic discs we would have had much more fun on technical passages and could have played the good trail abilities of the Salsa Journeyman better. We liked the Sora shifter surprisingly well, even if the STIs can't quite keep up with higher quality groupsets in terms of ergonomics. However, the bandwidth of the drive is excellent and the gear changes were always quick. Off-road, however, the lack of rear derailleur damping made itself felt in the form of audible chain slapping.
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