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Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve’s Salsa Ala Carte

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

The Ala Carte was the name given to Salsa’s production offering back in 1984 alongside the custom bikes and stems. Atlantan jeweller and photographer Steve West nabbed one in 1999 and it was recently reborn as a single speed hot rodder.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

Salsa Cycles’ founder, Ross Shafer, built his first road frame in California in 1976 using a Proteus frame building kit and a subsequent sixty frames under the ‘Red Bush’ brand. They raised enough interest to encourage him to pursue the craft as a career path.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

Several European builders told him his frames were as good as any available from them so he headed back to the US to look for production work. 1980 was spent building lugless frames at Santana Cycles and, in 1981, built his first mountain bike frame.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

After being hassled by some mates to build them some MTBs, he relents and builds “the only five mountain bikes that I will ever build”. He made one for himself to see what all the fuss was about, took it riding and decided then to focus on the dirt scene instead.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

The business name was changed to the more commercially-viable Salsa Cycles, after Ross’ love for Picante salsa, in 1982, just in time for the mountain bike boom. Only Ritchey, Mountain Goat and Mantis building at that stage, so demand was hot.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

By 1991, the year Ross was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame, the Ala Carte had evolved into a high-quality TIG-welded, Columbus-tubed frame, assembled with a Bontrager composite fork and Salsa’s famous Pro Moto stem.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

Steve bought his Ala Carte frame from Chatanooga’s Suck Creek Cycle in 1999, built up with Shimano XT parts he had on an old bike. In 2001 Steve was working for Litespeed, went to that year’s Interbike show and met Carl Schlemowitz of Vicious Cycles.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

In 2002 he sent the Ala Carte to Carl to be converted into a single speed with horizontal dropouts. Carl collaborated with Pfaltzgraphic to restore the paint, even using the original stickers under the clear coat.

Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte

It was then built up with Chris King bearings, Race Face cranks, Easton bars, XTR M951 brakes and Cane Creek levers — not to mention a wicked pair of FuseTek rims. Steve’s photos show that even after twenty-odd years, his Salsa Ala Carte can still bring the heat.

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Hot Rod Chili Pepper: Steve's Salsa Ala Carte