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Field Test: Fezzari Cascade Peak

The classic trail bike

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Basics

  • Travel: 130mm rear, 140mm front
  • 29″ wheels
  • 66.4° head-tube angle
  • 75° seat-tube angle
  • Reach: 463mm (large)

Pros

  • Great components, DVO fork
  • Not a specialist, but decent at everything
  • Best suited to slow-speed trails

Cons

  • Doesn’t feel as modern as some other bikes
  • Decent but not great at everything
  • Not confidence inspiring at speed

Weight

32.9 lb / 14.92 kg

Price

$3,000

Brand

Fezzari


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The Cascade Peak is Fezzari’s aluminum trail bike that’s designed to do all the things, with the direct-to-consumer brand saying that their, ”mid-travel alloy line has been designed to be adaptable for a wide range of riders, budgets, and skills levels.” The 130mm-travel 29er gets a 140mm fork from DVO, adjustable geometry, compatibility with 27.5″ wheels, and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

The Cascade Peak’s frame is actually used across three different models: the 29er with 130mm of travel and a 140mm fork that’s reviewed here, a less-expensive version with a 130mm fork called the Wiki, and the Abajo that comes on 27.5″ wheels and tires. You’ll spot internal routing, chain guide tabs, and room for a single bottle inside the front triangle, but like many value-oriented machines, it’s lacking proper chainstay protection.

For the rear suspension, Fezzari went with a basic but proven Horst Link layout with a toptube-mounted rocker arm compressing a Fox Float DPS shock. A flip-chip at the seatstay / rocker arm junction lets riders adjust the geometry slightly and also compensate if they choose to run smaller wheels. As for the geometry, the Cascade Peak’s numbers aren’t out of date but they’re also not exactly up to date compared to some brands. Our size-large test bike sports a 463mm reach and 619mm toptube length, as well as a long-ish 457mm seat tube. The head and seat angles are at 66.4 and 75 degrees, respectively.

The big component standout has to be the Cascade’s 140mm-travel DVO Diamond fork, not something we see often and especially not on a value-priced trail bike. As long as the Diamond works well, Fezzari should get kudos for taking a different route and choosing a fork that stands out compared to what we’re used to seeing. Other bits include SRAM’s 12-speed GX doing drivetrain duties, an X-Fusion Manic dropper post, and a set of SRAM G2 R brakes to slow you down. All that adds up to 32.9 pounds of bike for $3,000.

Climbing

The Fezzari’s shorter reach, relatively relaxed seat angle, as well as the slightly longer stem, come together to make a bike that doesn’t feel nearly as modern as some others on the market. Seated, I was a bit farther behind the bottom bracket than I would have preferred, even with the saddle pushed all the way forward on its rails. This showed itself on tighter switchbacks or frumpy, slow-speed sections of trail when the Cascade Peak would sometimes act like it’s longer than it actually is; then again, I’ve cleaned some absolutely heinously tricky climbs on machines with far less contemporary numbers than the Fezzari, a reminder to think about performance rather than geo charts.

Besides, compared to how the Process 134 climbs, the Fez is practically the two-wheeled version of Reinhold Messner. It’s also relatively active, with the rear wheel doing a good job of sticking the ground and helping with traction. The flipside is, of course, that you’ll want to firm up the Fox shock for longer, smoother climbs, but that’s a fair strategy for a category of bike intended to be ridden nearly anywhere and everywhere by all sorts of people.

With middle-of-the-road climbing manners, the Cascade Peak probably isn’t your jam if you put more value on going up than descending or all-around performance, that latter being the bike’s main strength.

Descending

The Fezzari spent a lot of its time with us on chunky, rough trails that were often covered in either loose rock or loose rock on top of pointier rocks. It’s the kind of place where half the time I found myself wanting a long, stable bike with the front wheel way out in front of me, while the other times I was wishing I had a short, quick-handling bike for the tight stuff and awkward moves. The Cascade Peak is better matched to the latter, with its strengths shining through when faced with pokey sections of trail that are more of a mind game than eye-wateringly fast. Picture that stereotypical East Coast singletrack, the kind with not much elevation gain or loss but more roots and rocks than anyone knows what to do with—that’s exactly where the Fezzari is going to shine.

It’s those settings where the Fezzari does a good job of feeling easier to live with than a longer, slacker machine, happily getting around impossibly tight corners and picking its way through chunk that would slow other bikes more. Every bike has (or hopefully has) its own set of strengths, and while the Cascade is a hoot when the speeds are relatively slow, it definitely doesn’t suit the trail rider who likes to pretend to be an enduro racer.

When the trail starts coming at you quicker, or if it gets steep or rough, the Fezzari is going to give up some ground to other bikes. In those moments, it felt like my weight was being pushed too far forward, especially when I was on the brakes hard or just hoping to come out the other side still holding onto the handlebar. There are trail bikes that love that kind of riding, but they don’t have 60mm stems or 463mm reach numbers, even if there is mostly no “wrong” way to do geometry. On the trail and up to a good speed, the Fez feels closer to the edge, and when you do cross the line between fast fun and falling down, I didn’t have as much confidence that I could stop the latter from happening.

Onto the suspension, which did its job in a quiet, no-fuss kind of way that’s always good to see. For having 130mm of travel, the back of the Cascade Peak is well-balanced with loads of traction and an active feel; it was never too harsh, wallowy, or gave up a hard bottom-out.

fezzari cascade

Moving on from the riding, the frame doesn’t seem as nice compared to the more expensive Canyon Spectral, or the less expensive Specialized Stumpjumper, and I kinda get the impression that it’s already a few seasons old if I’m being blunt about it. The geometry numbers say the same thing, too, but Fezzari has chosen a bunch of solid components to hang off it that might make it one of the better spec’d bikes for the price.

Let’s start with the 140mm DVO Diamond fork that worked very well. It offers externally adjustable low-speed and high-speed compression, as well as the OTT adjuster to tweak the fork’s sensitivity, but does it ride better because of them? Maybe, depending on what you do with the dials, but it’s neat to see on the front of a $3,000 bike. The Fox shock did shock things, too, but for some reason, the pedal-assist switch was loose and rattly when set to open or closed, but not in the middle mode.

SRAM does the going and stopping duties on the Fezzari, and its 12-speed GX drivetrain shifts well and has far better ergonomics than their lower-priced offerings. Brake feel is always going to be a subjective thing, of course, but I seem to get on better with the four-piston G2s on this bike than I did with the Shimano brakes on some others; I like the initial bite, control, and lever feel, and it’s nice to see a dial instead of having to reach for a micro-sized hex key to adjust reach. Other standouts include the Maxxis DHF and Aggressor EXO+ tire combo (perfect for this bike), the X-Fusion dropper (proven reliability), and the always-easy-to-live-with Stan’s rims.

fezzari cascade

Photos by Tom Richards.