To put it another way, the bike industry has situated itself where there is a class of bikes in the ~120mm travel area (e.g., Devinci Atlas, GT Helion), a separate class of bikes in the ~140mm travel area (e.g., Devinci Troy, Santa Cruz Bronson), and yet another class of bikes in the ~160mm travel area (Giant Reign, Devinci Spartan, etc.).
There are some bikes that blur the lines between these classes, but not many that can truly and effectively skips a class—i.e. where a long travel bike is so efficient that it renders unnecessary the shorter travel bikes in the class below it, or a shorter travel bike that’s so aggressive that it can replace the longer travel bikes above it.
More than any other ~120mm travel bike I’ve ridden, the Horesthief Carbon could be a replacement for bikes in the 140mm-travel class. Is it as cushy and plush? No. But it’ll go fast if you want to, and anything I’d be comfortable riding on one of those mid-travel bikes, I’d also be comfortable riding on the Horsethief.
To get a bit more specific, the Horsethief makes good use of its relatively small amount of travel. While I definitely used all of it, I never felt a harsh bottom out, nor did I feel like I was blowing through the travel.
The rear suspension was very supportive, which is why I think the bike worked so well pumping through terrain features. This is a similar feeling that I got out of the longer-travel Devinci Spartan, which uses a similar Split Pivot design.
My one complaint about the Horsethief’s suspension is that it’s a bit lacking on small-bump compliance. Considering this wasn’t an issue on other Split Pivot bikes I’ve ridden, my hunch is that this is probably something that could be addressed by fiddling with the shock settings.
The Horsethief Carbon was a fairly efficient pedaler. I wouldn’t say it was best in class, but it was by no means a dog on the climbs. Under hard braking, the suspension seemed to stay fairly active, but most of the trails I was riding weren’t really the best test for the bike’s braking characteristics.
Salsa’s Horsethief Carbon is one of those rare bikes that can be ridden harder than one might expect, and still handle itself gracefully. Without compromising its basic goal of being a fairly efficient, shorter-travel trail bike (or a longer-travel XC bike, depending on how you look at it), the Horsethief is nevertheless right at home rallying through rocky trails at high speeds.
The suspension doesn’t get overwhelmed as easily as some other similar bikes, and the geometry allows for an aggressive riding position and stability at speed. More remarkably, all of this comes without making the bike cumbersome or floppy on climbs, or at moderate speeds.
If you’re looking for a shorter-travel trail bike that gets along well when the going gets steeper, rougher, or faster, the Horesthief Carbon 1 is a fantastic option.
And this is precisely why the Horsethief Carbon is one of the better options out there if you’re looking for a quiver of one.