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Salsa Moraine Electric Mountain Bike Review

Rarely have I had as much fun testing a bike as I have with the Salsa Moraine. This electric mountain bike opened up possibilities I didn’t even know I was missing until I tried it out.

As the name “moraine” might suggest, this long travel trail bike is well suited for alpine riding and big mountain epics. While I’m a fan of doing such rides under my own power, those rides are usually reserved for weekend days when I have plenty of spare time. Unfortunately, as a busy, working mom, plenty of spare time isn’t something I have a lot of. With the Moraine, I could get in some of those higher elevation rides in a fraction of the time it would normally take me.

I’ve really been appreciating this now that the weather has been heating up. Boise’s trails are notoriously hot and treeless, but 8 miles up the Boise ridge, there’s shade. Getting there on the Moraine is a mostly sweat-free affair.

In addition to the higher elevation riding, I’ve also had a hoot doing laps at the bike park and towing my kiddo. The bike doesn’t just climb well, it’s also a rowdy, capable descender.


Review In A Nutshell

Pros:

  • Smooth power engagement, long range assistance
  • Sleek and stealthy design
  • Modern trail geometry, long travel, and beefy tires make for a fun descender
  • High quality drivetrain and brakes

Cons:

  • Bike fits large, will be too big for smaller riders
  • Lighter than many e-bikes…but still heavy
  • Limited color options

Price: $5,999 (Moraine Deore 12)


Stealthy Appearance

Out of the box, the first thing I noticed about the Salsa Moraine was its appearance. It’s sleek and stealthy. You’d have to look at the bike pretty closely in passing to notice that it’s an e-bike. The battery is hidden inside the frame, and the smaller motor is not obvious at the bottom bracket.

salsa moraine leaned against a white garage door

Aside from the power controller on the top tube, the bike looks like a normal mountain bike. This could be a selling point if you’re riding in areas that aren’t very e-bike-friendly. It’s also important to note that the bike isn’t that awful to ride with the e-assist turned off. I did this a few times when I included trails that are closed to e-bikes in a longer, otherwise e-bike-friendly ride.

I never had anybody comment on the fact that I was on an e-bike, and once when my husband pointed it out to a couple that I had passed, they acted surprised. “I just thought she was fast,” the man commented.

Sizing and Fit

The next thing I noticed about the Moraine was its size. It runs quite large.

At 5′ 5.5″, I typically ride a size small frame. That’s the size I chose for the Moraine as well. The bike was so large, however, I kept checking the sticker on the frame to make sure it was actually a small (it was). I couldn’t find a size chart on the Salsa website, but the sticker on the bike says the small should fit riders between 5’2″ and 5’7″. I have a very hard time believing a 5’2″ rider could get a comfortable fit.

To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I compared the frame measurements to other size small mountain bikes. Indeed, the stand over and reach are significantly larger on the Moraine than on any of my other bikes (including the size small Salsa Cutthroat).

This will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to many women since a size small frame is the smallest offering. This bike isn’t going to work for a lot of shorter women. We can hope it’s offered in an x-small in the future.

On the flip side, if you’re tall, you will certainly find a frame size to fit. They go up to an XL.

The only difference between frame sizes in terms of components is the length of the dropper post (150mm travel on the S/M, and 170mm travel on the L/XL) and the rise of the handlebar (20mm rise on S/M, and 35mm rise on L/XL). The length of the bar (780mm), stem (40mm), and cranks (170mm) are the same across frame sizes. As always, I wish more brands would offer greater component customization across sizes. But alas, you may have to swap parts later on yourself to get the best bike fit.

Power and Range

The Moraine offers three different power settings, and you can easily switch between them by pushing a lever on the handlebar. The power setting you are in is indicated with a unique light color. Green, for example, is the lowest power assist setting. The battery level is indicated by the number of lights that are lit up. Once you play with it for a few minutes, this design is highly intuitive and I prefer this display to a bulky computer on the handlebar.

power display on the moraine

I spent the majority of my time riding in the lowest power setting. On long, steady climbs, this still provided me with a good workout. I just traveled further in a given amount of time. On really steep hike-a-bike sections where I’d normally spike my heart rate or even have to get off to walk, I would turn the power assist higher.

As for range, I never ran the battery to empty. My longest ride on the bike was 35 miles, and I did most of it on the lowest power assist setting. When I finished, I still had two battery bars left, so I could have gone quite a bit further.

Keep in mind though that I’m a pretty light and strong rider so you might get less (or more) range. The battery is not easily accessible or removable, so you can’t carry an extra battery and swap it like you can on some electric mountain bikes.

Drive System

The Fazua Ride drive system is my favorite that I’ve tested. My son has this same system on his e-bike, and it has performed flawlessly over the long term.

One cool thing about it is that you’re able to change the software settings so that the three power settings are customized to kick in at your preferred power output and provide your defined maximum power assistance. I did not bother playing with this on the Moraine, but I have on my son’s bike, and it’s fun to be able to tweak the bike to your style of riding and preferred levels of assist.

Something I haven’t been crazy about on electric bikes in the past is the dramatic on-off feeling of the power assist. On the Moraine, in the lowest “green” power setting in particular, it’s hard to even tell you’re riding an e-bike. It seems like you’re riding a regular mountain bike but how you dream you’d feel if you were extra fit and fast.

The motor is also quiet. There is a noise, it’s not silent, but it quickly fades into background noise. Again, the lower you keep the power assist, the quieter the hum is.

towing the kiddo behind the moraine

The max torque is 60nm, which is quite a bit less than the 90nm of torque on the Specialized Turbo Levo, for example, but personally, I can’t imagine needing more than 60nm. I was able to climb powering not only myself but towing my 90 lb kiddo as well.

If you’re in decent shape, still want to get in a workout, but just want to make the ride more fun, the Moraine is a great choice.

Suspension and Handling

The Moraine features 160 mm of RockShox suspension up front and 145mm in the rear (Rockshox Psylo Silver RC fork and
Rock Shox Deluxe Select shock). Combined with the beefy, tubeless-ready Teravail Kessel 29 x 2.6″ tires, the travel makes hard-charging descents a cakewalk.

I had a great time riding the Moraine on long trail descents as well as the technical and jump trails at the bike park. The bike’s suspension, modern trail geometry, and tire combination provide confidence and control. As someone who often forgoes travel due to climbing weight, it was a blast to have the longer travel and not have to worry about being slow on the climbs as a result.

It is worth noting that the wheelbase is long. (The rear wheel actually hangs off the end of my Kuat bike rack). This, along with the bike’s weight, made it feel extremely stable when descending, but less playful than my other mountain bikes.

Weight and Maneuverability

The Moraine is marketed as a “lightweight” electric mountain bike. Compared to many of the behemoths on the market, it is. As mentioned previously, I was able to ride the bike with the power assist turned off, and I even managed to jump and otherwise manhandle the bike with relative ease.

kristen descending a rocky trail on the salsa moraine

That said, at 48 pounds, it is still heavy compared to a traditional mountain bike and about 10 pounds heavier than the Orbea Rise. I could feel the additional weight when loading and unloading the bike from our Velocirax. And while I didn’t have to hike-a-bike it often, there was a time or two when I spun out and had to get off to push. Fortunately, the bike does have a walk assist for this scenario.

Still, as a woman with a smaller upper body, who already struggles to lift her bike over downed trees and the like, I can think of instances where that extra weight would be a struggle. Of course, this isn’t a complaint unique to the Moraine (I’d point this out on most electric mountain bikes), but it is something to be aware of, particularly for more petite riders.

Split Pivot Design

The bike uses a “split pivot” design that aims to accomplish two things. The first, according to Salsa, is that it “isolates pedaling forces and braking forces from each other, allowing us to tune and optimize the bike for both independently.”

The braking efficiency portion of that claim I fully agree with. The pedaling efficiency, while certainly nothing to sneeze at, was not on par in my opinion with my Ibis Mojo, for example. I definitely felt some pedal bob when climbing. That said, how much pedaling efficiency do you need when you have an electric assist? With the power assist setting at its lowest level, I’ve never felt speedier on the climbs.

The second purpose of the split pivot design is to allow for several potential travel setups. You could put a shock with anywhere between 125mm and 145mm of rear travel on the bike and a fork with between 140mm and 160mm of travel.

While it’s always nice to have options, and I can definitely see some folks wanting less travel for an even lighter more sporty trail bike, the fact that less travel doesn’t come as a build option, nor does the bike come in a frame-only option, the design loses some of its appeal. Most folks aren’t going to buy a complete bike and then pay extra to swap the fork and shock.

Geometry Adjustments

As is the current trend, the Moraine frame features a flip chip. This allows for adjustments to the bottom bracket height (5mm) and head and seat tube angles (0.3 degrees). You can play around with this to fit your riding preferences, but the most important use of the geometry adjustment would be to allow for 27.5” wheels rather than the 29” wheels that the bike comes with. This could be an option for folks who want to reduce the standover height a bit.

Build Levels and Pricing

The Moraine comes in two build levels: the Moraine Deore 12 ($5,999) and the Moraine Cues 10 ($4,999). I tested the Deore 12.

The only difference between the two is the drivetrain and brakes. While both are Shimano, the Moraine Deore 12 uses the Shimano 1×12 Deore drivetrain and Deore M6100 brakes. The Shimano Cues 10 uses the Shimano 1×10 Cues drivetrain and M4100 brakes.

The Deore build has a greater range of gears and is of slightly higher quality. That said, with an e-bike, you might be okay without that bigger cassette.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Deore drivetrain, and if you can afford the extra thousand bucks, go for it without hesitation. It’s what I run on my Ibis Mojo, and I greatly prefer it to the SRAM Eagle drivetrain on my Chumba Sendero. (Personal preference I know, but it’s mine).

I also run the Deore M6100 brakes. The four pistons offer great stopping power, and the Moraine even has huge 200mm rotors which is appreciated given the heavier weight of the bike compared to an analog bike.

Other Stuff Worth Mentioning

  • Storage. The frame has bolts for a water bottle cage and a pass-thru slot for a strap to hold a tube or small bag with tools. There is no internal storage compartments as has become quite trendy on other bikes lately. It would be nice if Salsa made a frame bag for the Moraine like they do for many of their other bikes.
  • Limited color options. The model I tested (the Moraine Deore 12) only comes in one color, orange. It’s definitely not my favorite. The other model of the Moraine (the Cues 10) comes in black. Better, but I would certainly love additional color options, particularly something more feminine.
  • Saddle. The WTB saddle is far from the worst stock saddle I’ve ridden, but you will most likely want to upgrade it to a women’s specific saddle.

There’s A Lot To Like Here

Sending the Moraine back to Salsa is going to be a painful experience. The Moraine is the first electric mountain bike that’s made me question if I’m missing out by not having one.

The Moraine doesn’t look like a dorky e-bike, it made otherwise hot and hard rides an enjoyable cruise, and it let me practice my downhill skills by doing repeat laps at the bike park. It’s quiet, stealthy, and *kinda* lightweight.

The biggest (only?) bummer here is that it won’t fit smaller riders. More inclusive sizing for women and junior riders would be appreciated. But for the vertically blessed, the Salsa Moraine might just be your ticket to bigger, longer, more fun-filled rides.

riding a wooden ramp on the moraine

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About The Reviewer

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @femme_cyclist

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