When I started riding gravel I picked up a used Felt F1X. It has been a great bike for me, but it is getting a bit tired. I also have never been able to get the fit quite right on it, so it was not the most comfortable ride. I have put several thousand miles of gravel on it over the last almost 5 years.
I started to look for new for a new ride and I was down to 3. The Niner RLT 9 Steel, Salsa Vaya GX and the Salsa Warbird 105. So, I headed down to Angry Catfish. Parker was able to get me all 3 bikes to try back to back. I was really leaning toward the Vaya from the start, but I ended up with the Warbird. Here are my thoughts on the bikes.
Niner RLT 9 Steel- Rode well. I like the 853 steel frame and all the mounting locations for racks, bottle and etc. I was a little disappointed in how harsh the fork was, the bike was spec'd with 35c tires so that could have changed. I also had an Apex 1x11 drive train. I found that I was hunting for a gear just to cruse in, I like the thought of a 1x11 for mountain, but I'm not sure I want a gravel bike with it. The RLT9 Steel was the highest priced of the 3 at $2500.
Salsa Vaya GX- I really liked this bike and I think that I would have purchased it if I had plans of bikepacking or touring with it. The was very smooth riding and the weight of the steel frame disappeared under you. The Vaya had the most upright position of all of the bikes I rode. I liked the spec of Vaya, 2x10 Apex/GX drivetrain, tubeless ready WTB wheels and WTB Nano 40 TCS tires. This was the lowest price point of the 3 at $1799.00.
Salsa Warbird 105- I went into my test ride with the thought of just getting this bike out of the way. I never thought that an aluminum bike would ride smooth enough for what I wanted. When I rode the Warbird I noticed right away how smooth it was, almost as good as the Vaya. Salsa redesigned the Warbird in 2016 and it was a huge improvement from the old version. The bike was spec'd with a full 105 group, carbon fork, thru axles front and rear, tubeless DT Swiss/Salsa wheels and WTB TCS Riddler 37c tires. The price was in between the other 2 at $2299. I was really impressed with the bike. It was a hard choice between this and the Vaya, but the Warbird won.
I have a few hundred miles on it so far and I'm still happy with it.