- Tested: Cotic Escapade
- From: Cotic
- Price: £1199 + £200 Road Plus upgrade
- Tested for: 6 months
I had been admiring the Cotic Escapade from afar for quite some time. How can you not admire steel tubing teamed up with skinny tyres? Even better then, steel tubing with not so skinny tyres, a slightly angled top tube and disc brakes. Yummy. The Escapade is no classic road bike, but instead is what Cotic calls a ‘Life Bike’.
A what? Well, in my case a life bike might have meant a bike that took a lifetime to arrive. The release of the new model was delayed as the new carbon fork options were awaited – presumably on a very slow boat from somewhere. My test bike came with the carbon fork with alloy steerer, though you can shave a little more off the weight and your bank account by upgrading to a full carbon option. Also new for the 2018 model is a tapered headtube with integral headset, flat mount brakes, and both forks come with a 12×100 thru-axle.
With the frames in stock, delivery takes little more than a week, depending on the day you order (all bikes are shipped out on Thursdays). Or, you could arrange to go and collect it yourself from the Cotic base in the Peak District and take advantage of the opportunity to make sure you get just the fit you need. They’ll even put your pedals on for you. Or you can do the build work yourself and just buy a frameset for £599.
‘Life Bike’ then has nothing to do with delivery time, and everything to do with the here and now. The Escapade is your flexible friend, and you can set it up in a variety of guises to suit whatever your life might choose to throw at it. Want a more traditional 700C set up? The frame allows for up to 700×42 tyres while either fork will take a 700x47C. If you fancy being on trend – or maybe have some old mountain bike skinnies sitting around – you can opt for the 650b ‘road plus’ set up, where you’ll fit 650×47 at the rear and 650×50 up front.
Our Test Bike
There was a fair amount of toing and froing about which size frame to get in on test. I’m 5 foot 9.5, and generally choose to ride a 54cm or medium gravel bike, depending on the sizing convention. This put me on the cusp between the small and medium frames, however, Cy – and he did design it so he ought to know –suggested that the small would be the bike to go for. Disbelieving, I took delivery of the small and while it did seem comfortable, I couldn’t quite dispel the thought that maybe I should be riding the medium – until I borrowed a medium too and found it too long. Sure, I could have added a shorter stem, but why make things more twitchy when the small actually felt really comfortable and nimble?
My test bike came equipped with the road plus upgrade, 650B wheels shod with 47C WTB Horizon slick tyres. I’d ridden these before on a Kona Rove NRB, but only in the dry dust of Spain, so I was curious to see how they’d fare in British climes. However, just when I could have done with some rain, I was delivered the longest hottest and driest summer in my lifetime. I’m not complaining though. For completeness, when I borrowed the medium frame, I had it equipped with the base model 700C wheels so I could experience the skinnier side of the Escapade’s personality, and tried them out on the small frame too.
Away from the wheels, the bike came with a Shimano Sora drivetrain – not something I would have chosen, but which in practice has performed well. (Cotic offers other Shimano build options, up to 105). Sure, it’s a fairly clunky shift, but it does shift – and has continued to do so despite months of pedalling with minimal cleaning. The cables have – as would be expected –stretched, meaning a bit of re-tuning has been needed on occasion to stop the chain shipping. Slightly annoyingly, the stretch seemed to happen all at once – on my first proper off road ride – resulting in a fairly long and technical ride with only a big ring up front. I’d recommend getting a couple of decent climbs and descents in on short forays before heading off with your mates for a long rides, just to make sure your cables have properly settled – I’d done hundreds of kilometres of relatively flat commutes, but it took some stiff climbs to get things properly bedded in.
The Shimano cable operated disc brakes are functional, but I’d look to swap them out if this was my bike. They do work, they do make you stop, but living somewhere with long descents, the lack of auto-adjust on the pads as they wear did give me the heebie jeebies. If you don’t find yourself doing those kinds of descents this will be less of an issue, however you should choose your multi-tool carefully as you’ll need to be able to get your 3mm Allen key in between the spokes of your wheel to push the pads in as they wear. I found that some of the chunkier and stubbier multi-tools made reaching through and turning rather difficult and frustrating.
The rest of the bike’s build was comfortable and all perfectly adequate, with the exception of the bar ends – which I lost on the first two rides. I nearly lost them off the medium test bike too, so if you value bar ends (and you should, because they stop you coring your body – and even more importantly, help stop your bar tape unravelling. Aesthetics matter, kids), keep a close check on these, or consider swapping them out for something with a firmer attachment than the simple plug-and-push ones provided. Our Cotic bars came with a misprinted graphic, meaning that what ought to help you centre things up nicely, didn’t. Once I’d worked out which side was wonky this was of no significance whatsoever, but for those of you who simply must have all your decals, valves, logos etc aligned and colour coordinated, it might annoy.
In the beginning I rode this bike to work and back, mostly along the canal, in gorgeous summer heat. Cruising back and forth, speeding back and forth, nipping off into woods and then back onto the tow path. In keeping with my previous experience of the WTB Horizons, they took a bit of playing with the pressures to get things right, and benefit from being tweaked to suit conditions. Combined with the steel frame, it’s possible to get a seriously nice plush ride, however go too low and things can feel a bit too spongey – and cornering at speed gets pretty scary. On the dry canal path, with relatively few bumps, a nice firm tyre pressure kept the bike skipping along, although that turned to some harshness and lack of grip when diving off onto rougher terrain for added fun. In all, I think there are better multi-purpose tyres, and if you’re in the habit of being distracted and heading off to see ‘what’s up here…?’ I’d recommend looking at another tyre. For the city or tow path commute however, these are a comfortable option – and they do look rather ‘right’ on the bike.
I did eventually get over enthusiastic on one commute home, and a bit of a jump on some rocky ground combined with a too-low tyre pressure had me tearing a small hole in the tyre. Not in itself a major issue – Cotic sends its tubeless ready set ups already tubelessed, so a quick tyre noodle and a bit of air and I was rolling again. However, I did lose a bit of sealant in the process and decided I’d best top things up – at this point I discovered that the valve core had been clogged by the sealant (Cotic says they’ve now swapped to another brand) so I had no choice but to pop the bead in order to add some fresh gloop. Except I simply physically couldn’t do it. A competition of thumb strength, mechanic-ing prowess and secret knacks ensued. Two highly experienced strong men later, and the tyre was finally off the bead and off the rim on one side. There’s simply no way I could have got the two to part trailside – making the addition of an emergency tube impossible. I’ve experienced the exceptionally tight pairing of WTB tyres and rims before, and it might be that this was the issue again. For a city or short commute, it’s a risk I could cope with, but for more adventurous riding I’d need to know I could get the tyre off myself if needed – sounding the death knell for the Horizons (at least with these rims) for me.
Taking the skinnier (and still slick) 700C tyre option out for a spin, I was really surprised just how off road ready the bike still felt, and I found myself hurtling down some surprising trails in a manner which surely deserved a puncture. In fact, I was so impressed at the handling that for this bike I think I would choose to have a 700C tubeless set up – while I didn’t in fact puncture, the base build wheels that aren’t tubeless ready did feel like they were compromising what the bike is capable of. When you’re having lots of fun, it’s a shame to feel like you’re having to hold back, and given what I found I could do on the 700C slicks, I imagine I could be pretty awesome on something with a little tread. As it was, I found myself effectively riding a road bike across the moors ahead of a bunch of guys on XC mountain bikes. That’s a thrill that’s hard to beat.
The one place I did feel the bike was reaching its limits was on rockier trails – when things made the step up from stoney to rocky, and the fork started to take repeated bigger hits. Not the sort of thing it’s really designed for, but something that I do encounter on some of my gravel forays, since local packhorse trails are just a series of big rocks inset into the boggy moorland. On these, the fork did feel a bit on the flexy side, arms became rather tired, and sweaty fingers clung to brake levers. So, this ‘Life Bike’ will perform many functions, but I wouldn’t quite put it into the category of replacing your XC mountain bike.
What it might just replace is your road bike, your pub bike, your nipping to the shops bike, your commuter, your BMX…well, OK, maybe not your BMX…but this is a very versatile bike that will make you smile whether you’re clipped in, head down and pedalling, or you’re pootling along in your flip flops while licking an icecream. I’ve done both. It might have been the ice cream licking flip flop riding playsuit wearing ride during which I realised that I really like this bike. It’s functional, it’s fun to ride, and the versatility means that it really does fit into your life – so you end up riding it a lot. You can dress it up as bling as you like, or keep things simple. What’s not to like?