Cascade fully loaded


What became the Cascade started development an awful long time ago! Back in early 2019 we were pulling the Roadrat out of production after 15 years due to low sales. It's sister frame - the Escapade - had overtaken it as the “not MTB” product of choice for Cotic customers. However, we still felt there was room in the range for another “not MTB”, especially as over the years the space between our drop bar and MTB products had grown.

Back in 2006 when the Roadrat was first introduced, it brought mountain bike handling sensibilities and disc brake safety and performance to road riding. Back then the actual difference in off road capability between a Roadrat with some small knobbly tyres and the Soul hardtail (our original mountain bike frame) was definitely there, but it wasn't huge. They complimented eachother very nicely.

the original 2006 Cotic Roadrat, Cotic Roadrat, flat bar road bike

These days, despite steps in gravel technology that make the Escapade more capable than ever on lanes and unsurfaced roads, Longshot geometry, suspension and tyre tech means that even our SolarisMAX hardtail is lightyears better offroad. So, in that large space between the capabilities of the bikes in our range, we began to explore what bike might fit. At first almost anything was fair game. We tried “Roadratting” a Longshot geometry SolarisMAX, but big sweep bars and a 67 deg head angle really didn't play well together! At the other end of the scale, I had Cane Creek build me a custom length shock and we build a 100mm travel drop bar bike out of the pre-production 2015 Rocket frame we still have. It used 650b wheels and 47c WTB Senduro tyres. It lasted two rides before that idea was cast aside too. Still, if you don't try, you don't know.

Longshot SolarisMAX Longshot SolarisMAX
Longshot geometry SolarisMAX given the Roadrat treatment

The infamous Cotic droplink full suspension gravel bike prototype
The infamous Droplink gravel bike hack. It wasn't great!

Rich -

From my point of view, the Cascade was borne out of wanting to go a bit further. Then further still.

Any bike is an adventure / touring / gravel / bike packing bike if you make some compromises [this from a man who rode the Peak200 on his Rocket!]. We wanted the Cascade to have the fewest compromises to go the furthest. It combines the sprightly, quick and engaging ride of our Escapade gravel bike, and the MTB handling & performance of our SolarisMAX. If you’ve ridden, pushed, carried your bike to the top of a mountain, you’re going to want to be able to ride down the other side.

We started on this project back in 2019 after watching our friend Duncan Philpott take on the Dales Divide - a 600km long-weekend intro to adventure racing. He loaded up his SolarisMAX with jubilee clips on the forks to carry more bags and with skinny tyres on light wheels, the bike looked properly suited to the task at hand. Now if we could make a frame that purposeful but with drop bars, a shorter travel fork and more luggage options, we’d be onto something. Routes like the Dales Divide are ideal for this kind of bike - long road stints and lots of pretty spicy off-road & bridal way sections.

Whilst Cy played around with big sweep bars on a current long-shot SolarisMAX (too floppy) and gravel bike tyres on a modified 1st gen Rocket 27.5 (too weird), I dug out an old pre-longshot Solaris and set to making a frankenbike. Before I even rode it I knew what I’d built - it was comfy, smooth and made me feel like I could ride it for days on end. Yes, you can (and do) ride any bike for days on end, but this had the potential for all the other things we talked about - custom forks, luggage, mtb wheels. The Solaris hack was built on a frame that was over 6 years old and tech has come on a long way since then - bolt through axles, boost spacing, 1x only and larger volume 29er tyres. That’s not to say I had a bad time whilst testing - far from it, just that we could all see what needed to change.

Solaris / Cascade hack Solaris / Cascade hack

Cy -

Rich was clearly was loving his drop bar mongrel, and telling all of us that we should try it. Having had the two failures above, despite trying numerous bars and tyre options, I decided to have a go on Rich's idea too. I borrowed back a large pre-longshot Solaris from Duncan and put something together. Some old mismatched ex-demo wheels, some spare cranks, my old 105 10spd road Sti shifters, an old M772 XT rear mech, some mechanical brakes left over from Escapade builds. An odd stem and lots of spacers, and a 465mm steel fork.

Cotic Cascade / Solaris hack prototypeSolaris / Cascade hack

Rich and I rode these bikes through the summer and autumn of 2019, growing more and more fond of the combination of relatively decent offroad manners, combined with pretty zippy on road performance. They're no tour de france bike, but when your main ride is a 15kg RocketMAX with 2.5” sticky tyres, these things on WTB Rangers felt pretty spry on the road. They seemed to drop perfectly into that big space that had opened up between our mountain bikes and gravel products.

Late in the autumn of 2019 I sat down with Rich and we started mapping out what a dedicated version of this frame might look like. We figured out the sizing and geometry from what we did and didn't like about the Solaris hacks. We decided this was going to be an adventure bike, so it had to have all the fitting options. And given how much I'd enjoyed riding steady trails on mine, I build the front end around a 483mm fork so the option of a 100mm suspension fork was there, and there would be dropper post routing too. Once we had got to a point with this, we took advantage of our UK production at Five Land Bikes and they built us the first three dedicated Cascade prototypes in small, medium and large. They were delivered just before Christmas 2019.

I didn't get my prototype together until late February, due to working on other projects, but I really liked it straight away. There were definitely still things that needed improving on the sizing, but broadly it was a big step more comfortable and capable than the hacks. I fitted mine with a 125mm drop X Fusion Manic dropper post for the first time and really enjoyed how much more comfortable it was descending in the drops offroad without having to crick my neck to see a long way down the trail. I also tried suspension forks which was a hoot, but not really necessary.

Cotic Cascade prototype May 2020, cotic cascade, gravel bike, adventure bike, steel gravel bike, drop bar mountain bike

Cy's Cotic Cascade prototype with dropper post and 100mm sus forks

Then lockdown happened........

We all know what a weird time it was, how uncertain, but the little chink of light in the UK at least, was that we could exercise outdoors up to an hour per day and that exercise could be cycling. The weather was amazing and the trails were dry, and I took riding in my civvies straight out the door. Helmet, gloves, GO!

It was so liberating on so many levels. I was riding local trails and lanes I'd written off as boring on a big droplink bike years ago, but they were fun again. I zipped along (relatively speaking) on the quiet lanes. I didn't have to spend half an hour finding all my gear before going out. It was so lovely. I rode my Cascade prototype a lot. And then Rich mentioned doing the Peak200 again.

Rich -

Five Land built us a small fleet of production prototypes with lots of mounting points for bottles and cages. We built these up in January 2020 and spent a year and a half putting as many miles as possible into them.

Cascade proto

Richard's Cascade Prototype

Lockdown brought us back to tamer, older trails that on a regular ride we’d skip out but on the Cascade , we relished. None of the boneshaking terror you might get on skinny 700c wheels was there; just solid, grippy, fast & flowy riding that we were unknowingly missing from a lot of our regular rides. These bikes carried us round the Peak 200 (a brutal mix of gravel & gritstone) and out to multiple bivvy / bothy runs, telling us only that we needed a couple of tiny geo tweaks, a couple more mounting points and that we’re on to a winner.

Peak 200 2020Peak 200 2020Peak 200 2020Peak 200 2020Peak 200 2020Peak 200 2020

Cy -

When we were allowed to do a tiny bit more than an hour a day, on a glorious summer day Rich and his adventure buddy Hannah Saville set out to do the Peak200. About halfway around at Furness Vale, I joined them. We rode bits of the Peak we'd not been in before. Big views, tired legs, tanned arms. I eventually got my hydration very wrong and had to bail and be collected in Baslow. One bottle of electrolytes and I was right as rain, so it was a little frustrating. So much so that the day after my birthday a couple of weeks later, I went back and did it on my own. 89Km, 8 hours or so. It was brilliant, and the Cascade just felt like the perfect bike for it. The start of my section is Proper Mountain Biking (tm) on Mount Famine and Roych Clough. Whilst I won't have set any records, with the saddle down and hands firmly in the drops the off road descents were enjoyable rather than death defying. After that, the route combines quiet roads with old railways and bits of bridleway. It's really very tame from a pure mountain bike point of view, but the Cascade was just lovely. Floating along comfortably on big tyres, framebag full of food, confident handling so that when it did get a little spicy it was fun rather than fright. It properly won me over.

After that I spent a lot of time on the bike, and for the first time since I can remember there were a few rides where I’d be a couple of hours in and just think “I’m just going to keep riding”, and go and go. Proper I’ve-run-out-of-water-and-got-no-food-left rides. It was so good. It’s become my “other” bike along side my RocketMAX, and it fits into my life and my riding preferences so well.

Harry's story

We've also been working with an athlete out in Innsbruck - Harry Sparling - who has used one of the Cascade prototypes to carry his skis, boots and a paraglider to the mountains, where he's spent almost a year putting the bike through its paces in a variety of extraordinary situations. He has a huge adventure planned for 2022 so now we can share his efforts properly, you'll be seeing a lot more from him.

Bikes are far too fun to only ride one type and these ticked a new & exciting box. Ultimately, we’re coming at “gravel" from the MTB side so when we get to a downhill, we want the option to drop the seat, drop our heels, and crack on. This bike has allowed us to do that.

Final cascade prototypeFinal cascade prototype

Our friends at Restrap have been invaluable support when it comes to speccing kit for the Cascade, and Hunt have very kindly provided wheels so we can use dynamo lights. These haven’t been created in a vacuum - we’ve had help at every step of the way from people much more knowledgable than ourselves. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this project and we can’t wait to see what adventures these bikes take you on.

Click here for more Cascade info