Coming in to Saddle Drive this year I knew that I wanted to throw a leg over the Ponyrustler and compare it to the Horsethief. These two bikes share the same frame and have very unique ride qualities that set each other apart. I would like to thank Salsa Cycles for setting their bikes up perfectly for the riders, specifically Pete Koski for taking extra time on the Ponyrustler demo. Lets start off with the suspension design, the Split Pivot pedals really well, for almost all of the time I rode both bikes without any assistance of their Rock Shox Monarch's compression adjustment ( a real testament to the design). I was able to climb and descend the loops that were setup and have a blast while doing so.
Horsethief Carbon XO1-
Climbed great, was nimble and turned like a champ. I have ridden a previous spec of this Horsethief and I must say that the Pike and Reverb dropper post really do add to the capability of this bike. The front end felt really stiff to me (which is a good thing) while the little "boost" in the rear made me feel more planted when I was out of the saddle. This rolled over everything just like a long travel 29er. The whole bike felt nice and stiff.
Ponyrustler Carbon X01-
Just like the Horsethief, it pedaled really well. From here, things get interesting. The most noticeable thing for me was the grip, grip on climbing rutted out switchbacks, grip in berms, grip over rocks, just so much grip. I really loved this setup. The bike handled speed pretty well, and to me the only drawback I really felt was the RS-1 fork (this is not stock on the bike, the stock build comes with a Pike). The Ponyrustler reminded me of a Conejo Rabbit, circa 99-00 or close to it. I remember feeling the grip from what then was a monster. The ability to really go anywhere. That feeling was replicated in this bike and albeit over a decade ago I still remember being able to cruise through the now flattened rock garden at Laurel MTN, and the joy that it brought to me.
The packaging of the Ponyrustler is a much more acceptable and lighter rolling bike than the 3.0 Nokian Gazzaloddi of yesteryear. Take from these comments what you want, its a local thing, but maybe Western Pennsylvania was ahead of its time 15 years ago. There might be a handful of people that get the similitude of these two bikes and thats ok by me.
The bike for the rest of the world:
A quicker accelerating, nimble and agile climbing bike especially compared to a fatbike. The ponyrustler was happy when I got rowdy on the trails, and climbed like a goat. I liked this much more than the typical 29er, it just felt more fun.
The moral of the story, this bike rocked so much I ordered one for myself!