When Cotic launched their steel drop bar Gravel/MTB bike I just knew I had to get my hands on one. they stated it was an MTB designed for drop bars and that’s something I’ve been trying to create for years using my old MTB hardtails but with limited success. The top tube on those hardtails, quite rightly was designed with flat or riser bars in mind. This makes the fitting of drop bars awkward. usually the bars end up too far away making you adopt a “superman” position leading to poor steering control and fatigue on the neck and shoulders. it also makes the bike look awful as to try to counteract this you need to run a short upright stem. Even then it was always a compromise.
So I sent an email to Cy at Cotic to see if there was any way to get a ride on one. Cy very helpfully arranged for a bike to be sent out. I was away doing a Devon Coast to coast ride when it arrived so when I got home I was straight out on it to see if it was all I had dreamed of!
I’m not going to comment too much on the kit that this bike comes with as it was built slightly differently to the complete bikes that Cotic sell and is a mix of parts, almost 100% because of the current shortages of components I guess. The shifters are Sram Force, the rear mech is Sram Rival, the cassette (11-51) is Shimano Deore and it all runs with a Shimano chain very smoothly. I’m not the biggest fan of Sram shifting so would this detract from the ride? There’s a dropper post fitted and this is activated by a drop bar mounted lever. It’s the first time I’ve tried one of these, my bike’s dropper is brake lever mounted (GRX) and it took a few miles of trying to drop the post with the brake lever before I adjusted to it.
The main triangle of the frame is made from 853 steel, a great compromise of weight and ride feel and the rear stays are made of good old 4130 steel. The rear stays are super skinny in that lovely way only steel can be. There’s nothing weird or unique about how this frame is constructed, no Cotic exlusive standards that you get on a lot of other frames. This means apart from the very last run to the dropper post all the cables and hoses are external, thank you Cotic!, the headset isn’t semi integrated or anything hard to get or work out, it’s also external cups and the best thing of all, the bottom bracket is also a threaded external unit. The frame will accommodate 29×2.4 or 27.5×2.8″ tyres. Unusually the bolt through axles take a 5mm Hex key, something that has been 6mm on all the other bikes I’ve owned. The frame has boost spacing (110/148mm hubs) and flat mount brake mounts.
Mounts, to be honest I lost count of the number of either bottle cage mounts or rack mounts but they can be found under the down tube, on the inside of the down tube, under the top tube, on top of the top tube on the seat tube and you can run a rack and full mud guards. There’s a little tab of the left hand side of the chainstay to attach one end of a full mudguard, a great little touch.
The Alpaca fork this bike came with also has rack and guard mounts and triple bosses on each leg. It will take a 29×2.6 or 27.5×3.0″ tyre and has flat mount brake mounts. Cotic can also supply a Salsa carbon fork for the bike.
The Ride, well, what can I say other than this bike is an absolute beast. The geometry is spot on, you can ride on the drops or the hoods all day without issue and without a ridiculously short stem. Anyone who has ridden a drop bar bike off road will know that the maximum control when going downhill is with your hands on the hook of the drops. On a converted MTB this is always an issue as you’re fully stretched out at that point and reaching the brakes can be difficult. No such issues here. grab the drops, drop the dropper and point the front wheel down hill and this thing feels like it will go wherever you point it. it is riotous fun drifting the rear wheel in the mud. Any technical trail can be finessed as the bike’s wheel base isn’t too long to be ponderous and it’ll turn in when needed. I don’t have the skills but i reckon you could whip the rear end of this bike over jumps if you wanted to. If you do find yourself out of your depth though the bike will just roll over stuff with the big tyres fitted. it is very confidence inspiring. However, don’t though let the liveliness of the ride put you off if you intend to load up with bags and disappear into the wilderness. I’m not sure how Cotic have managed it but as well as this liveliness when loaded up it feels stable and forgiving, it feels almost like its on a team building course and you have to close your eyes and trust that it’ll catch you when you fall backwards. It feels like It’ll look after you in all situations. very handy after a long day in the saddle when fatigue is affecting your concentration.
So who is this bike for? Firstly anyone who wants to put a massive grin on their face, the bike is so much fun. If you have never ridden a drop bar bike and are coming from an MTB back round you will feel right at home, If you have never ridden off road and want to leave the tarmac to dabble in the dirtside then this bike will flatter and cosset you while you hone your new found skills riding the trails.
This bike isn’t a short course racer, you can ride you local CX race on it and you’ll overtake lots of riders downhill but it’s a steel bike, it isn’t as light as an aluminium or carbon bike and the long distance comfort that comes from a steel frame won’t shine through on 45 minutes of effort. Where this bike will win though is long distance mixed and heavy terrain riding, think loaded up with your possessions on the trans cambian or HT500 or bag free just messing about in your local woods. Don’t be put off with the “drop bar MTB” label either, this bike is too versatile to be labelled. You could put gravel wheels and tyres in it and it would fly but personally I’d leave the fat tyres on for comfort and the way you can drift it into loamy corners while giggling to yourself.
For the price (£895 for frameset with steel fork at time of publishing) I can’t fault it, the £ to fun ratio is high.
So, Cotic Cascade, Drop bar MTB or gravel bike? Who cares, throw your leg over one and pedal off with the biggest grin you’ve had on your face for a long time!
you can find more info on the Cotic Cascade website here
There’s also a video review of the bike so you can get a closer look, just click below and please take the time to subscribe to my youtube channel to see more reviews on bikes and parts
12 thoughts on “Cotic Cascade Review”
I bought a Cascade last week and my thoughts are just the same as yours. I love it. It’s not the fastest bike in the world but possibly the greatest fun, for a gravel bike. The word I would use is relentless. Just point it where you want to go and it keeps going, over hill and down dale and through mud and along cobbly drove roads and down rooty, woody singletrack. Nothing stops it until your legs give out. Because you just don’t want to stop riding.
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Yes, 100% they are so much fun. What colour/build did you go for?
The grey, Gold build, it’s what colour they had in stock and I did not want to wait. GRX, 36t front 11-51 back-which seems about perfect. One question please. What mudguards are they on your review bike, and what size, as I certainly need some, that work with a dropper
They are std mudhugger 29er rear and FR front. If you get those make sure you tape the frame underneath as they will wear through the paint over time
Great review, both in press and as a video. I’ve been riding a Genesis Vagabond for the past year. It’s very similar to the Cascade, with slack seat and head angles (a bit steeper at the head) and loads of mounts.
I agree entirely about many gravel bikes having very steep seat angles. To my mind 73 or 74 degrees is too steep, pushing the weight very forward.
Like the Cascade, the Vagabond gives you a total bulldozer feel. So many times I’ve ridden into something blind (erosion gulleys filled with leaves, ditches, rocks) which by all rights should have resulted in a painful off, but instead was ridden through with barely any hesitation.
This type of riding takes me back to my childhood riding through the woods on bikes just having fun and that’s exactly what I want from my bike right now.
That childhood feeling is exactly right and what I want everytime I get on a bike! Yes these bikes do encourage you to throw them down stuff to see what happens! 😄
Love it. I nickname my bikes, and yesterday I was thinking of calling my Cascade “Arnie”, as in the Terminator, because it just keeps going and nothing stops it!
When you say “standard” rear mudhugger, is that the medium size? recommended for 27.5, or 29″ hardtails? Thanks.
29″ if you are using 29″ wheels 👍
Any chance of a separate review of the tyres?
Is be interested in how they performed as it looks like you’re riding in the same conditions as me.
I’m currently riding WTB Nanos and was looking at Continental’s Race King or Cross King as alternatives to gain some volume.
I can tell you I was surprised how good they were. The first week things were pretty wind blown and dry and they roll really well. The second week after lots of rain I was expecting to be all over the place but they were pretty capable. It was thick clay like mud and no tyre is really good there but with some body weight distribution they got me up off camber stuff. There was some wheel spin but if you keep pedalling they eventually found grip. Downhill sharp turns did have the front slide out a couple of times but it was VERY greasy. I’d be happy to stick with them especially as hopefully it’s going to get drier as the weeks go on
The review I’ve read (and there seems to be only one in English) suggests that the Wolfgpack Race is a good rear tyre, but not as well-suited as a front tyre in wet conditions. They suggested a Trail upfront and Race in the rear was the way to go. You’re running two Race tyres aren’t you?
Yep both race, perhaps that’s the issue with front grip then