- The Salsa Rangefinder Advent X is a solid entry-level bike with reliable components.
- With mounting points galore, this is a great mountain bike for getting into bikepacking.
- There are other affordable hardtails that deliver better performance and value for trail riding.
It’s hard to sort through the crowd of budget hardtails. This review digs into details on the Salsa Rangefinder to help you choose if this is the bike for you.
The Salsa Rangefinder is a solid aluminum hardtail for someone getting into mountain biking and looking for a ride that will let them progress their skills or delve into bikepacking. This mountain bike offers a capable ride, but there are other options out there that deliver more for less.
I love riding hardtails, from long-distance bikepacking rigs to rowder trail slayers. For this review I dug in deep to the details on the Salsa Rangefinder and looked at how it compared to other bikes on the market.
Salsa Rangefinder Lineup
There are seven models to choose from in the range of Salsa Rangefinder models. All the bikes share the same frame and basic design; the differences are in the drivetrain, suspension fork, and wheel size.
Pick Your Wheel Size
Salsa gives you the option between 27.5 inch and 29 inch wheels and tires across the entire range of bikes. There is no price difference between the wheel options, so you’re free to pick entirely based on your preferences.
Choose 27.5” wheels for a more playful ride to toss around on the trail and hit jumps, or opt for 29ers for speed on the singletrack and the a smoother ride.
Pick Your Drivetrain
The different Salsa Rangefinder models are named for the drivetrain each uses. You have the option to pick 10, 11, or 12-speed setups from either Microshift or Shimano. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect from each model.
Salsa Rangefinder Advent X - $1,199
The first bike in the lineup comes with the Microshift Advent X 10-speed drivetrain. Microshift isn’t as well known as Shimano, but their Advent X is solid, lightweight and offers great gearing.
At this price you also get a Suntour XCM32 Coil Fork with 120mm travel. This fork is basic and a bit heavy, but functional for what it is. I’d love to see an air fork at this price, but Salsa had to compromise a bit here.
Salsa Rangefinder Deore 10 - $1,199
At the same price as the Advent X, you can also opt for Shimano Deore 10-speed Deore drivetrain. If you prefer having Shimano-branded components, this is a great option, but the Deore 10 drivetrain has a bit less range than the Advent X and is slightly heavier.
The rest of the build is identical to the Advent X model.
Salsa Rangefinder Deore 11 - $1,549
Bumping up in price lets you upgrade to an 11-speed drivetrain from Shimano for a bit better range and smaller jumps between gears.
You also get a significant fork upgrade to the Suntour XCR 32 air spring fork. This fork is lighter weight, more adjustable, and a bit more progressive than the coil-spring version.
Salsa Rangefinder Deore 12 - $1,699
At the top of the line is the Salsa Rangefinder Deore 12. The shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain is the same as you’ll find on many bikes well above this pricepoint. The 10-51 cassette gives massive range.
The fork is the same Suntour air fork as the Deore 11 model.
Which Salsa Rangefinder to Pick?
Given the fact that the Rangefinder is meant to be an entry-level mountain bike for progressing riders, I think the Advent X model offers the best bang for your buck. The Advent X drivetrain has better gear range than the Shimano Deore 10, and I think it’s a better choice overall.
For the type of trails you’ll ride on this bike, you probably won’t notice a huge performance difference with the upgraded drivetrain and fork of the higher-end models. Definitely enough to justify spending an extra $350 or more.
In my opinion, when you bump up to the $1,500+ range of the Deore 11 and 12 models, there are better bikes to pick from. The $1,200 price of the Advent X model puts it in the sweet spot for a good entry level hardtail.
This review will focus on the Advent X Salsa Rangefinder. If you’re interested in one of the other models, most of the performance will be very similar.
Salsa Rangefinder Performance
The Rangefinder puts you in a good position for speeding down moderate trails, but on steep descents you’ll definitely be wishing for a slacker headtube and more suspension travel.
If you want to ride fast down rough, technical trails, you’ll probably be happier with a more aggressive hardtail like the Marin San Quentin 3.
The Advent X drivetrain gives you an 11-48 gear range, which, while not the biggest available, still gives you plenty of low gears for steep climbs.
This bike weights in at around 32 pounds, so while it’s no featherweight, it fits right in the general weight range for aluminum hardtails in this price range. You won’t feel held back by the bike weight going up climbs.
Salsa Rangefinder Frame and Geometry
All bikes in the Rangefinder lineup come in with the same basic but high-quality aluminum frame.
The Rangefinder frame comes well equipped with mounting points for bags and accessories. It has two bottle cage mounts inside the front triangle, mounting points underneath the down tube, a top tube bag mount, and rear rack mounts.
If you’re looking for a mountain bike to do some bikepacking, the Rangefinder is a great choice with plenty of capacity to carry your gear.
Specs and Components
The Salsa Rangefinder build kit is practical and fits in everything you’d expect at this price point. You get decent hydraulic brakes, basic tubeless compatible wheels, and a very functional coil-sprung fork.
Read on to learn about the key features of this build.
This review focuses on the Rangefinder model that comes equipped with the Microshift Advent X drivetrain.
Unless you’ve spent a lot of time researching mountain bike components, it’s likely you’ve never even heard of Microshift. The market is dominated by Shimano and Sram.
With the Advent X drivetrain though, this smaller, less-known company has really stepped up their game. I’ve been very impressed by every bike I’ve ridden with Advent X. This system is durable and lightweight and gives you crisp shifting at a lower price than higher end drivetrains.
On the Rangefinder you get an 11-48 tooth cassette and 30-tooth crank. This is plenty of range for most steep climbs.
I’d definitely recommend reading more about Advent X if you’re on the fence.
The Suntour XCM 32 coil-sprung fork is pretty basic, but it’s about what you’d expect for the price. It does a descent job smoothing out bumps in the trail, but it will definitely feel underspec’d if you’re riding a lot of rough terrain.
The base level Rangefinder comes equipped with Shimano MT200 hydraulic disk brakes. This brakes are pretty basic, but hydraulic brakes will be a huge upgrade if you haven’t had them before.
On the Rangefinder you get basic Shimano hubs tied to aluminum tubeless compatible rims. These aren’t lightweight high-performance wheels, but they do the job.
The Maxxis Rekon tires on this bike are big and offer tons of grip. The big-wheeled bike gives you 29 x 2.6” wide tires, while the 27.5” bike comes with burly 2.8” tires.
The bummer is that these wire bead tires are not tubeless compatible. If you wan’t to make the upgrade to tubeless, you’ll have to get new tires.
Competition for the Salsa Rangefinder
The Salsa Rangefinder is a great bike, but it has a hard time measuring up against the competition. There are other hardtails in this price range that offer better value, better performance, or both.
Where the Salsa Rangefinder shines is in it’s numerous mounting points for bags. This makes it a great beginner bikepacking bike. If mounting racks and bags to your bike isn’t a priority, one of these alternatives will probably be a better choice.
Salsa Rangefinder vs Canyon Grand Canyon 5
The Grand Canyon 5 is very similar to the Salsa Rangefinder. It has nearly identical geometry and the same 120 mm suspension fork. The Grand Canyon is a pound lighter than the Rangefinder and upgrades to the 12-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain. Amazingly, they pack this all in for $899!
Canyon sells all their bikes direct on their website, and so they can offer incredible prices. You pay $100 for shipping, but that’s still $200 less than the lowest end Rangefinder while providing better components.
For $1,299 you can get the Grand Canyon 7 which has an upgraded fork and comes with a dropper post!
Salsa Rangefinder vs Marin San Quentin 1
If you want a hardtail for more aggressive trail riding, the Marin San Quentin 1 is definitely a better option. This bike has the same 120mm fork and a slightly lower-grade drivetrain, but it has much more modern geometry for trail riding.
At $999, the San Quentin also offers better overall value mountain bike for your money.
Salsa Rangefinder vs Cannondale Trail SE 4
The Cannondale Trail SE 4 is another alternative to the Rangefinder. Cannondale aluminum frames are some of the best in the world, and the Trail SE 4 has some great design elements that make it a bit better than the Rangefinder.
Where to Buy the Salsa Rangefinder
About THE AUTHOR
I love mountain biking and live in Salt Lake City: a central hub for the MTB community. I started biking four years ago when a series of injuries put me out of commission for trail running. While biking started as cross-training, I fell in love with the sport. I mainly enjoy using my bike as a tool for exploration, I've done 50-mile all-day epic rides in the mountains and have been to some amazing places on my bike.Read More About Jakob Thygerson