The Cotic Cascade is a genre-defying bike that takes ‘gravel’ to the next level. Whether this is the modern incarnation of a rigid mountain bike, or the latest take on gravel, the Cascade offers near-unrivalled drop-bar capability, though it’s not without its quirks.
Boost spacing and a 1x-only design gives huge tyre clearances, with 2.4in rubber fitted as standard, plus room for more. The sloping top tube yields plentiful space for a long-travel dropper post, even on the small size.
The Reynolds 853 steel frame and chromoly forks are laden with mounts for racks, luggage and mudguards, ready for adventure.
While many features point to the latest developments in mountain bike design, the wide, flared drop bars and rigid fork steer closer to modern gravel standards. Whatever you want to call it, this is a limit-busting drop-bar dirt ride.
I’ve been testing this ‘Gold’ build on local tracks, the wilds of Dartmoor’s chunky granite byways and steep valleys, and even some mountain bike flow trails, to find where the limits of a drop-bar bike lie.
Cotic Cascade frame and Gold build
The Cotic Cascade joins the existing Escapade model in Cotic’s drop-bar line-up.
While the Cascade is Cotic’s more road-centric gravel bike, if your off-road rides stray into more technical, XC-style mountain biking territory, then the burlier Cascade might be for you (I know, there are cross-country mountain bikes for that, too).
This Gold build features a mix of reliable Shimano GRX braking and shifting, combined with a Race Face chainring and alloy Easton EA90 cranks. Chunky, winter-ready 2.4in WTB Ranger tyres are fitted to Hunt’s Trailwide 29 wheelset, which has a 30mm internal rim width that suits this tyre width perfectly.
The frame itself is brazed from Reynolds 853 tubing, dipped in zinc phosphate internally and externally to prevent corrosion, and then painted in Taiwan before being assembled at Cotic HQ in the Peak District. You can choose from one of the build kits offered, a rolling chassis or spec your own.
Dropper posts are included in the builds, with routing for internal cabling from the bottom bracket area.
The Bike Yoke dropper on this pre-production build will be replaced by an X-Fusion Manic, with the dropper lever integrated into the left-hand Shimano GRX lever.
The Cascade’s flat-mount brake mounts offer compatibility for larger 180mm rotors, which may come in handy if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight in bikepacking bags or enjoying long descents.
Bigger rotors will give you more powerful braking, and reduce overheating and brake fade, if you choose to run them, but 160mm is ample for most gravel riding.
On the theme of bikepacking, copious mounts give plentiful setup options, from racks to cargo cages, bolt-on top tube bags, extra bottle storage and mudguards. Cotic is also empathetic towards home mechanics, with external cable and hose routing.
Cotic Cascade geometry and sizing
The Cascade geometry is certainly more analogous to MTB than endurance road, with a 68-degree head angle on this size small. This is accentuated by Cotic’s ‘Sureshot’ geometry, which uses a longer wheelbase (1,092mm) twinned with a shorter 60mm stem and wide drops.
The sizing feels limited at the smaller end of the spectrum, with this size small (54) offered to riders over 165cm. For context, at 165cm I am just less than half a centimetre above the average height for a British female, yet at the bottom of this range.
Cotic is getting some narrower 42cm flared drop bars made for shorter riders, which will be available in the spring, and suggests pairing these with a 50mm stem, which the brand says will also be available after launch. To go further, I’d really like to see an XS frame size introduced (perhaps with 650b wheels), so that shorter riders can fully enjoy this ride, too.
The one element of the geometry I struggled with was the reach. With my hands on the hoods, my arms were straighter than I’d like, and this is a consistent issue I’ve found with gravel bikes built up with the long Shimano GRX shifters. Switching to shorter-reach bars and the aforementioned 50mm stem should help alleviate this for riders around my height.
The test bike was built up with a thumb dropper lever but I had to move my hand from the bar to push down hard on the lever to activate it, and couldn’t reach from the drops. The move to a dropper lever integrated with the Shimano GRX shifter, stock permitting, should also help solve this.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||74||74||74|
|Head angle (degrees)||68||69||69||69|
|Seat tube (mm)||435||470||505||540|
|Top tube (mm)||561||588||613||639|
|Head tube (mm)||100||113||126||139|
|Fork offset (mm)||44||44||44||44|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||70||70|
|Stem length (mm)||50-70||60-70||60-70||60-70|
|Rigid fork length (mm)||483||483||483||483|
|Typical height range (cm)||165-172||170-180||178-188||186-195|
Weighing it up
My Cascade test bike weighs in at 12.2kg without pedals, a little more than some gravel bikes. The wider, knobbly tyres will be responsible for a considerable chunk of this, while the frame itself comes in at a claimed 2.63kg for a size large with axles.
Clearly, that all adds up, however, weight is less important for a bike of this ilk than a racing-orientated gravel bike. The design is more focused on where it can take you rather than how fast.
If weight is a particular concern, you can upgrade to the Salsa Firestarter 110 carbon fork for an extra £510, saving 730g on the chromoly fork, without losing any of the fork mounting points.
Cotic Cascade ride impressions
From the very first ride around my local riding spot, I could tell this was no ordinary gravel bike. I impressed myself by riding rocky features that I’d only cleared before on a mountain bike, even in the wet.
As a steed for a multi-terrain ride across Dartmoor, the Cascade really shone, from speeding along the light gravel of the Wray Valley Trail to the larger boulder-like descent in Lustleigh Cleave.
The surprisingly technical Hisley Bridge crossing took three run-ups to build up the courage to ride, but thanks to the 29er wheels and wide, confidence-boosting tyres, I made it over the janky stones no problem. On a traditional gravel bike, that would definitely be a hike-a-bike moment.
I’ve ridden MTB-centric gravel bikes before, including the Fairlight Faran and the Riverside 920, but the Cascade is a real step change beyond. For example, the sloping top tube allows for a 125mm-travel dropper post on a size small, which is even more than I can fit on my 2016 mountain bike. Not to mention the same tyre clearance as modern XC bikes.
With the 31.6mm seatpost diameter specced on the Cascade, you also get a much greater choice of dropper posts than the slim pickings and short-travel options for 27.2mm posts, which is the standard for most gravel bikes.
I was a little under-geared on steeper climbs, for a bike that places you firmly into MTB territory or is likely to be laden down with bags during bikepacking season. However, the production Gold build will come with an 11-51t cassette, rather than the 11-46t on this test bike, so that will help add some extra gearing range.
From riding around the city of Bristol in the south-west of England, it’s clear that any ride involving significant chunks of tarmac will feel more tedious than a more road-like gravel bike such as the Escapade, mostly due to the super-wide and knobbled Ranger tyres – they’re not getting you anywhere quickly on the road.
Yet hailing from the Peak District, with its vast network of rocky, steep and fabulous bridleways, I can really see the logic behind the Cascade.
Cotic Cascade bottom line
The Cotic Cascade sits in the grey area between gravel and mountain biking, and has few competitors as a super-capable drop-bar bike. It can also be dressed up in many different guises, from a long-haul trucker of the bikepacking world to a rigid XC-style machine.
At £2,699, the Gold build is, in the context of today’s market, modestly priced compared to other similarly specced bikes, with options for budget and premium builds also on offer.
The Cascade’s monster-truck capability over technical terrain won’t be for everyone, as this comes at the cost of speed and efficiency on the road or over tamer terrain, and a mix of off-road versatility and a turn of speed is what draws many riders to more conventional gravel bikes.
However, as a British response to ‘gravel’, the design is well-suited to the UK’s rugged, dishevelled patchwork of trails. For riders who like it rough, and who want the addition of drop bars, bikepacking mounts and so on, the Cotic Cascade is a real enabler.
|Weight||12.2kg (S) – including bottle cages|
|Features||Hubs: Hunt 5° RapidEngage, double sealed cartridge bearings, Boost148 12mm (rear), Boost110 15mm (front)
Spokes: Hunt triple butted, PSR reinforced pillar spokes, 28
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Bottom bracket||Race Face Conventional English/BSA 73mm|
|Brakes||Shimano GRX 600|
|Cassette||Shimano M5100 11-51|
|Cranks||Race Face chainring and Easton EA90 alloy cranks|
|Fork||Alpaca steel fork 1.38kg (uncut without axle), (Salsa Firestarter carbon fork or 100mm travel Rockshox SID SL Ultimate fork also available)|
|Frame||Reynolds 853 steel, Ovalform top tube, wishbone stay rear end, 2.63kg (size L with axle)|
|Handlebar||Cotic 46cm flared bars|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano GRX 812 (11 speed) / Hanger - Cotic Escapade/Cascade|
|Saddle||Cotic, alloy rails|
|Seatpost||Bike Yoke125mm 31.6mm internally routed dropper (Gold build will feature X-Fusion Manic)|
|Shifter||Shimano GRX 600|
|Stem||Race Face 60mm|
|Tyres||2.4” x 29” WTB Ranger Light, tan sidewall|
|Wheels||Hunt Trailwide V2 29|