Bikes designed and built in Germany all seem to share top quality engineering and straightforward thinking in their designs - two things we really like in bikes. The Freak is no different and is one of those bikes that would be at home being punished on a day ride, or quite happy slammed down through the woods and trails for shorter and much harder blasts.
The rear shock is mounted to the swingarm section just behind the bottom bracket, where it's compressed upwards when you hit a bump. It's also compressed downwards by the rocker link mounted to the seat tube that's worked by the seatstays of the rear triangle. There are Horst Links in the chainstays too, which claim to increase small bump sensitivity at the rear wheel. Frame alignment is impressive - just half a millimetre out from head tube to the rear dropouts - and easily replaceable quality bearings continue the fine attention to detail.
In standard form with the Fox Float R shock, we measured the rear wheel travel to be 158mm, 7mm short of Fusion's claimed 165mm if the shock were to ever reach its full compression state.
Our test rig came specced with a 2006 Shimano XT drivetrain. The wheels were a nice highlight of the build - Sun Ringle SOS rims (tough and only 520g each) laced up with black DT hubs. Up front, the Marzocchi All Mountain SL 2 fork does a reasonable job of steering and bump handling. Our one leaked air and then started to misbehave on the high-speed compression damping circuit though. We've prodded around, and we can't find many instances of this fork leaking, so we're putting it down to a bad Friday afternoon fork.
Before the fork started leaking it was clearly outshining the rear end though. The bike felt dead over tree root stuff at a rear shock pressure that offered just enough sag, and then it felt wallowy and mushy with a lower pressure to try and get some movement out of the thing. Switching the shock for a coil unit with no threshold or ProPedal nonsense - because we blew the standard shock - was the answer though.
This revealed a bike that was willing to get up and go; a bike that really urged you on to go faster and hit things harder. It tracked wonderfully through big stuff, and was generally a joy to throw around on any kind of terrain. Even with a standard coil shock fitted it climbed very well, again showing the lack of a need for a threshold damping system rear shock. Putting the standard shock (repaired) back on the bike turned it into its previous state as a lifeless lump, so change it if you've got your heart set on buying this bike.
We'd like to see the threshold/ ProPedal gubbins banished from the Freak, and we're glad to hear that a mudguard/splashguard to stop the rear shock from getting plastered from the back wheel is on the way. Other than that, it's a thoroughly good bike that deserves to be taken outside and given a damn good thrashing.