Salsa Vaya Claris Adventure Touring Bike

2017 Salsa Vaya Claris with Tubus Cosmo rear rack and Ortlieb Backpacker plus
2017 Salsa Vaya Claris with Tubus Cosmo rear rack and Ortlieb Backpacker plus

The 2017 Salsa Vaya has some updates over previous model years, and one of those is the introduction of a Claris 8 speed build. The bike is being sold as a “road adventure and light touring bike.” I started looking to build up my own touring bike out or Eloise – my vintage Motobecane. As the price point for the SRAM build I was looking at crossed $1000 I started to recall my long unfulfilled desire to own a Surly Long Haul Trucker. That lead me to my favorite local independent bike shop Huckleberry Bicycles. The staff there, continuing their long run of really good service and sound advise, turned me on to the Salsa Vaya.

2017 Salsa Vaya ClarisThe cyclocross and gravel scene is influencing all aspects of the cycling world, and the Salsa Vaya Claris is no exception. Stopping power is provided by Hayes CX mechanical disc brakes front and rear. These required a bit more force on the brake levers than I expected to stop the bike, making me wonder how well they will perform in a fully loaded descent. For commuting around town, however, I was able to quickly adapt.

The ample frame and fork clearances provide more than enough room for even the knobby 700x40C WTB Nano tires my build came with. And as a touring bike it is adequately equipped with the appropriate number of eyelets and braze-ons. There are midpoint braze-ons on both the inside and outside of the forks, and a mount point on the bottom of the down tube.

All Vayas have front and rear clearance for 700c x 50mm tires, or 700c x 45mm with fenders. Dress up your Vaya with some knobby treads or take comfort to the next level with the current crop of high-volume road tires on the market.

salsa vaya claris with Tubus rack
Tight clearance between the seat stay and the Tubus rear rack

One of the first things I did was mount my trusty Tubus Cosmo rear rack. This stainless steel rack will probably outlive me, and serves me well both for carrying camping gear and the daily commute. Fitting the Tubus on was a little tight, with the forward tube of the rack hitting against the bottom of the seat stay. While Tubus has a solution to this in the form of a bolt-on extension, I opted to keep my rack as low on the bike as possible. There is absolutely no issue with the disc brake clearance however.

2017 Salsa Vaya Claris
2017 Salsa Vaya Claris with Ortlieb Backroller Plus on Tubus Cosmo rack

The Tubus Nova lowrider rack for the front is still on order so I’ve yet to see how that will fit on. I’m not really expecting any problems though.

The first word that came to mind when I started riding the bike was comfortable. The compliant steel frame and relaxed geometry, coupled with the high volume 700x40C tires made for an incredibly smooth ride. Even the pothole laden San Francisco streets felt smooth. The fairly upright frame geometry puts you in a riding position that is relaxed. I feel like I could sit and pedal this bike all day – exactly what you need in a touring bike.

2017 Salsa Vaya ClarisThe other surprising first impression I had was that the bike felt fast. I have a general expectation that a touring bike will be… sluggish. That was not at all the feeling I had on the first couple of rides. Once I mounted my Garmin it became apparent that the bike is not truly that fast. But the overall sensation was of a bike that is just plain fun to ride. I’ve also got a pair of Continental Touring Plus tires on order to use for the daily commute and paved road touring that will undoubtedly speed things up a bit.

I would very much caution against ordering one online without riding it first though. The geometry and riding position make this difficult to size by the numbers. I normally ride a 52cm road bike, but it took a 54 or 55 to feel comfortable on the Salsa Vaya.

This is quickly turning into one of my favorite all-around bikes. It is a solid ride that manages to feel both comfortable and sporty. I can’t wait to get this thing loaded up with camping gear and head out on some gravel mountain roads.