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