Tuesday, January 8, 2019

200 Miles On The J-man


With the warmer weather that we have been having lately, I have managed to get in a little over 200 miles on the Journeyman so I thought I would share my experience so far with the J-man and the changes I've made to the bike.


The more I ride the Journeyman, the more I'm impressed with how it handles gravel and minimum maintenance roads like a champ. I used to ride my Redline Conquest Disc on gravel before I got my first Fat Bike and I wasn't a huge fan to be honest. For me, and likely most gravel noobs, a 38 mm cross bike is going to put the fear of Jesus in you at least a few times while soaking up the learning curve that is riding gravel. This would probably be enough to turn most traditional roadies off from ever riding gravel again, with the Journeyman I have yet to have one of those experiences. Some of it is the wider tires for sure, some of it is probably also the fact that I now have 4 years and thousands of miles of gravel riding experience under my bibs but a lot of it is also the geometry on the Journeyman. With a pretty healthy bottom bracket drop, the Journeyman has been stable in every gravel/dirt condition I've put it into; if I didn't look down and see those svelte 2" tires I'd almost swear the tires were twice that wide at times, it is just that stable; even in the loose stuff.


One of the things Salsa also did to improve the bike, IMO, was to put a legit drive train on the bike with the Apex 1. Sure the Sora and the Claris are both serviceable groupsets but the Apex gives the Journeyman that extra step up in shifting performance and also gets you into double digit gears. Even though the Apex 1 on the Journeyman is setup as a 1X, I am not wanting more gears like I do on the Fargo; while they share identical 11-42 gearing on the rear, the Journeyman gives you a 40 tooth chain ring vs. Fargo's 32 tooth ring. Those extra teeth equate to more speed on the downs and the flats but I haven't yet found a hill I didn't feel like the Journeyman had a low enough gear to get up and over. It might happen once the gravel season starts and I venture outside of Nebraska but you can find that hill with any bike, regardless of what gearing your are running. I think a 1X makes a lot more sense on a bike like the Journeyman than it does on the Fargo in my experience, Salsa did good on this one.


Photo Dec 01, 3 57 29 PM

One of my big complaints about the Journeyman were those awful (for gravel) Cowbell handlebars, so the first thing I did was pick up a set of Cowchippers to mount in place of the stock bars. Being of wider shoulders, I also opted to go up to the 44 cm bars vs. the stock 42 cm bars. As you can see from the pictures the chippers also give  you a bit more flare in the drops, which for me is much more comfortable than a traditional drop. Those two extra centimeters also put my shoulders more in line with the hoods instead of making me feel like I was reaching in all the time, something you might notice on a longer gravel ride as your shoulders start to fatigue.


Photo Jan 04, 1 03 20 PM

Once mounted I wrapped them in super cushy Lizard Skin bar tape in water tower blue (Sky Blue according to LS) and then added a pair of Lezyne Flow SL cages in Enhanced Blue to add a little accent color to that sexy pink colorway and both of the lighter blue colors almost perfectly match the light blue stripe on the bike.


Photo Jan 04, 2 13 11 PM

Even though it didn't add any performance improvements at all, gone was the black Salsa cap. I miss the days (only a few years ago) when Salsa and other bicycle companies were adding a touch of color to bikes by adding colored anodized stem caps, spacers, cranks and hubs to bicycles in the stock option. I think the down turn in the business has caused those type things to go away as it's cheaper to mass produce everything in black versus running several different color runs. Anyway, I replaced the stock cap with a cycling skull from Kustomcaps to add a bit more personalization to a bicycle that I am sure Salsa is going to sell by the hundreds if not thousands if you count all levels and colors. So if you don't want your ride to look just like the other 5-10 in your hood these little accents will help to have your bike stand out from the crowd a bit. Plus it's always fun to make the bike your own and add a little bit of you here and there, if you take to serious gravel riding or racing, you're going to be on the bike for hours so you might at well give yourself inspirational or fun things to look at.


Photo Jan 04, 6 17 04 PM

One hit, if you call it that, so far has been the paint. I noticed a few of these chip/flake/missing paint spots on the bike when I was cleaning it up and have sense shared thoughts with other Jman owners and it seems that the paint on all of the Journeyman might be susceptible to gravel strikes. Paint is paint and all paint will see some wear while riding on gravel or worse, it's an easy fix by applying some paint/frame protection. They are either sold precut or if you're a DIY'er you can get a roll of it from 3M and go to town cutting it to fit every nook and cranny. I would advise at least hitting the bottom of the down tube, the bottom bracket and the chain stays if the sight of scratches in your paint makes your stomach turn. If you're a believer that every mar is a battle scar than ride it as it is but over all it's not an uncommon issue and it's a pretty simple fix if you're into that sort of thing but do it quick if you're going to do it.

Personally I wouldn't let the paint deter me for getting this bike if  I was looking for a gravel capable all day rig that is near the bottom of the affordable gravel bike genre. As popular as the Journeyman seems to be, I think it's only a model year or two away from being priced out of the "affordable" range as improvements are made to the bike, things like thru axles and higher end groupsets. The bike in it's current iteration isn't for everybody for sure but for the gravel curious it is a really good jumping off spot and a bike that would serve you well for years down the road even after moving on from beginner to gravel veteran. Not sure if I'll do another follow up on the bike barring any major events happening, I think I've covered everything I would cover unless, like I said, there is something that warrants a new post. I'll likely post up photos as things change but those would be in a "normal" Blog post and not one specifically for that but there will probably be a wrap up post at the end of the demo period.

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