2013 Salsa Vaya 3 – 5000 Mile Review

Vaya in Montecito Heights

2013 Salsa Vaya 3 – 5000 Mile Review

Vaya in Montecito Heights

Chances are you are reading this post because you are looking for a product review for a Salsa Vaya 3 and came across my 1000 mile review last year. In that post, I promised to write about my 5000 mile review once I hit that milestone. Well, here I am! 4000 glorious miles later, I pass the 5000 mile threshold. And with that accomplishment, I have several insights and revelations I’d like to share with you.


Fully Loaded

Salsa Vaya fully loaded at the campsite.


Since the 1,000 mile review was first published, I did a bit of traveling not only from work and back, but have taken several trips on it…most of which are documented here on this blog. In case you missed it, here is the extensive list of places I’ve traveled to.

The weather conditions were usually dry and sunny with the exception of the trip in Canada and the one day from Worchester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island, where I was riding in the rain pretty much the entire day.

I ride almost exclusively on paved roads with the exception of my offroad excursions in the Verdugo mountains and during the Joshua Tree trip.



Upgrades & Additions

With that many miles, there were many things that needed to be upgraded and replaced. Many of the things were for the Vancouver to San Francisco trip. Here is the list of things I swapped out and added since the 1,000 mile review.

Everything else not mentioned remained the same from the first day I brought her home. You’ll notice that the entire drive train was replaced recently. More on that later.


Touring Bike

Me & My Vaya

Still Loving It

At the 1,000 mile mark, I had mentioned 3 favorite things I liked about this bike: the saddle, the handlebar, and the color scheme. I am happy to report that I am still in love with those 3 things. The stock saddle has served me very well. Well, enough where I don’t think I will ever replace it. I’ve lusted over a nice tanned Brooks saddle, but that’s not high on the priority list to swap out.

The handlebar- Cowbell 3 – is amazing! I love that it flares out a bit, and the curves make for a variety of really good hand positions. Because I had to unpack and reassemble the bike when I traveled to Vancouver as well as to Boston, I experimented with the angle of the bar. I rotated the bars up more to give me a better upright position when I am resting on the hood. That slight adjustment made the ride even better than before. Only thing I would change is the bar tape. The new tape did not last very long on my trip down the coast. It started to peel off after 1 week of riding in cold damp weather in Canada. Looking into real leather from Brooks next.

I am still very happy with the red and gold color scheme. I have yet to see another one like this. In fact, I have yet to run into someone on the road with the same Vaya. I’ve seen a few online, but I can’t wait for the day that I run into my bike’s doppelganger.


Johnny checking out the scenery

Johnny checking out the scenery

Riding Personality

Now that I’ve ridden more extensively on it, I can confidently say that this bike was built to haul. I mean throw on 40 lbs of bags at a 60% front and 40% rear weight distribution, and this thing rides very well. In fact, if you want to load up 2 panniers, just throw it on the front rack. It is so stable and fun to ride that I don’t really notice the additional weight.

Trailhead leading up to a fireroad? Not a problem. Just deflate your tires (be sure you bring a pump to inflate again) and off you go riding through packed dirt. We ran into situations, like on our way back from Joshua Tree, where the road became more sandy, like what you would find at a beach. We had to jump off and push, or even lift our bikes. Thinking of that gives me bad memories.


Goal Zero Mount on Front of Bike

Disc Brake Zen

In the 1,000 mile I described having a love and hate relationship with my first set of disc brakes. I have to say, nothing has changed. The brakes still squeal, especially under wet conditions. I actually don’t mind it as much now. In fact, I enjoy making them squeal when I roll up to cars. This way they know that I have arrived. It’s funny when my bike is louder than the cars out there.

I did buy extra brake pads, but have not changed them out yet. I had the pads adjusted prior to my ride down from Vancouver and by the time I made it back to Los Angeles, they were pretty worn down. I’m going to have to reassess and swap those out soon enough.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of changing to another brand as suggested by some folks who commented on my 1,000 mile review.


Kids, make sure you clean and lube your chain often. $300 mistake after only 5000 miles. #newcomponents #biketouring

Lessons Learned

About a month ago, this little bike was riding like a champ, but I noticed that my crank was loose. I went to my local bike shop to see if I can have that swapped out. The mechanic looked it over and said I had to get all my components changed. The chain was stretched “beyond belief” (his words not mine) where he wanted to keep the chain to tell people what not to do. Apparently you’re not suppose to oil a chain and go out on a tour the same morning. You have to clean, then oil, and let the oil sit overnight on the chain. I did that a few times, including when I took my tour out to San Diego. A $300 lesson learned where I will need to be diligent about cleaning and lubing my chain. Luckily, I didn’t have to change my rear derailleurs (yet).


Johnny Golden Gate Bridge

Final Thoughts

It has been pure joy to ride this bike for the past year and half. I love this bike so much that I’m selling my other bike, a Surly Cross Check, which I had built it up to be an upright city bike with all the bells and whistles, including a dynamo hub, internal gear shift, and other specific things picked out from the QBP catalog. The Salsa Vaya is just the best touring bicycle I’ve ever ridden, and the best all-around performer for those long rides across cities and states or even the short jaunts up and down the local mountains in Los Angeles. I can’t wait for my 10,000-mile review. If you follow this blog, you’ll get to see my adventures with “Rosa”. I think she deserves a name after 5,000 miles, don’t you?

Haven’t read my 1000 mile review? Click here to read.

Edit 11/17/2016: 2013 Salsa Vaya 3 10,000 Mile Review

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

  • Rick Greenwood
    Posted at 09:39h, 22 December

    Johnny. Keep the updates coming. Love to read about touring. Hoping to be joining the touring ranks soon enough.

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 08:58h, 23 December

      @Rick – Thanks for your feedback! Any questions you have about touring just let me know. Would love to get you on your own journey.

  • Jude
    Posted at 13:24h, 22 December

    Loving mine too Johnny!!!

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 08:59h, 23 December

      @Jude – So glad to hear! Do you have photos to share? I’d like to see your setup as well.

      • Jude
        Posted at 12:34h, 25 December

        Hey Johnny. I had bar ends installed. Upgraded the disc brakes to Spyre. Crank is 22/32/44 and is great gearing on our local hills! Marathon 1.5 tires. Shop did not have the Salsa cowbells but those will come as I just loved them when trying the other bike. Had my initial plans for an LHT switched once they measured me on the bike and determined that the Vaya or the Soma Saga actually fit me and the LHT did not. I had already fallen in love with the green Vaya 2 frame. So I was back to what I knew intuitively was right. Love the bike. It just hums! hoping that Saltspring weather tomorrow will allow me to get out on the lovely green “Toad” for a good ride. Our rain has been torrential of late and the darkness….well…

        • Johnny Lam
          Posted at 11:25h, 26 December

          @Jude – “Toad” sounds like no other Salsa I’ve seen on the road yet. Again, if you have photos of it, I would love to see your setup with bar ends and all. The cowbells handle bar may have been discontinued but I am not sure. They are fantastic handlebars. I certainly the weather improve for your sake.

  • brigadierfrog
    Posted at 19:55h, 05 March

    Hey Johnny, I recently picked up this beauty used (salsa vaya 2013, ruby red) and gotta say, I love it as well. The brake squeal thing drove me crazy as well. I picked up a set of the organic bb7 pads off of chainreaction for like $12 a pop, lightly sanded and cleaned the rotors with alcohol. Viola, no more slaughter house sounds coming from my bike.


    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 19:27h, 06 March

      @brigadierfrog It’s still a great bike. Thanks for brakes tip. It doesn’t really bother me as much but this tip should be useful for others reading this! Enjoy the ride.

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  • Fred
    Posted at 21:41h, 07 June

    Thanks for the pics and commentary. It too enjoy my Vaya. Just finished a great ride from Boise to Eugene. When touring, the bike is of course important. So too is the route taken. My recent route was remarkable. Please consider if looking for a 500 mile ride.

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 06:42h, 08 June

      Hi Fred,

      Glad to hear that your Vaya is treating you right. Your timing is impeccable as I am getting ready for a local adventure with my Vaya converted to gravel grinder mode. I will definitely look into Boise to Eugene (I’m assuming Oregon) in the near future. Thank you again for sharing your story.