This week on Reader’s Rig, landscape photographer and outdoor educator Bryan Hansel gives us the low down on his 2017 Salsa Fargo, built to explore the endless gravel roads of northern Minnesota. Find more details, a selection of photos, and a kit list below…

I’m Bryan Hansel and I live in Grand Marais, Minnesota, which is nearly to Canada on the shores of Lake Superior. I’m a professional landscape photographer and outdoor educator. To make a living, I sell my prints to hospitals, hospitality, and offices, as well as teach photography workshops at national parks all across the country. I’m also a magazine columnist for Ocean Paddler Magazine and I sell images to magazines.

Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel

I’ve loved biking since I was a little kid. I still vividly remember my first big wipe out when I was in grade school, although I recall it took me awhile to learn to ride without training wheels. I currently try to ride year around. In the winter, I ride a Surly Wednesday on the groomed fat bike trails near my house, and in the summer I ride either the Salsa Fargo or a Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5+. My wife also loves to cycle and we have a son who started riding a Strider Balance Bike just at about the same time he could walk. He’s four now and rides a pedal bike. Biking is the one activity that we all enjoy. While I don’t get to bike camp often as I’d like due to my crazy travel schedule (about 100 days a year on the road), it’s one of my favorite free-time activities.

Cook County, Minnesota, the county where I live, is over 90% public land. It’s mostly national forest, but also designated wilderness. There are approximately 2,000 miles of roads in the county and most of them are gravel or forest service roads. The county is dotted with many lakes and there’s almost always a place to camp at a lake, so it makes it an easy part of the country to ride gravel and bikepack. There’s so much gravel in the county and the adjoining counties that you could easily put together a several hundred mile route that went from Duluth to Ely to Grand Marais and then back to Duluth. And, the vast majority of the ride would be on gravel or forest service roads. It’s a bikepacker’s paradise.

  • Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel
  • Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel

I’m a hard fit on a bike. I’m 5’10” with long legs and a short torso. I spent two years shopping for bikes, trying to find the perfect fit for something I could use on the gravel and forest service roads and some ATV trails around my house. I had a early 2000s Trek 520 that I used to tour on, but it couldn’t fit big enough tires. I had ridden a Salsa Fargo briefly at the beginning of my search, but thought it felt too big. I was ready to buy a Salsa Vaya when I decided to ride the Fargo again.

  • Frame 2017 Salsa Fargo (large)
  • Fork Salsa Firestarter, steel
  • Rims WTB STP i23 TCS 29″
  • Hubs Salsa
  • Tires Schwalbe Rocket Ron
  • Handlebar Salsa Woodchipper 2
  • Crankset SRAM S1000 38/24T
  • Cassette SRAM PG 1020 11-36T
  • Derailleur(s) SRAM GX
  • Brakes Avid BB7
  • Shifter(s) SRAM Apex
  • Saddle WTB Volt Sport
  • Front Bag(s) Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar bag w/ camera padding and Outer Shell Stuff Sack Harness
  • Fork Bag(s) Salsa Anything Cage HD and Salsa dry bags
  • Frame Bag(s) Rogue Panda custom rolltop w/ map pocket
  • Rear Bag(s) Arkel Seatpacker 15
  • Accessory Bag(s) Rogue Panda Rincon, Bedrock Dakota, Road Runner Point and Shooter
  • Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel
  • Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel
  • Salsa Fargo, Bryan Hansel

After riding at least a dozen different gravel bikes, the Fargo felt the best, and I’m glad I rode it again. I liked the build kit so I’ve kept everything the way it is, except I put a shorter stem on. I really like how the high stack on the stem is able to get the handlebars close to my seat height. That’s hard for me to find on bikes. I set the tires up tubeless and the only thing I’m considering changing this year are my pedals and tires. I’ll switch to the Kona Wah Wah 2s, which I have on my mountain bike and love.

You can keep up with Bryan on Instagram @bryanhansel.

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