One of the early adopters of the whole gravel/adventure/do-it-all bikes, the Cotic Escapade has had a few upgrades since its inception a good five or six years ago. Larger tyre clearances, a new carbon fork and a tapered head tube have now upped the performance and dropped the weight, making the new model an absolute joy to ride whether on or off road.
Looking back to 2014 when I first rode the Cotic Escapade, I think it was a bit ahead of its time, and that kind of went against it. Reading back through that early review, a lot of things I like about this new model were already there: the nippy, responsive, very comfortable steel frame and the direct handling.
Now, with the explosion of the whole gravel/adventure market, components have caught up and things like quality 1x groupsets, brilliant hydraulic disc brakes and 650B wheels mean the Escapade can really strut its stuff, especially if you like to chop and change your choice of terrain.
At its heart is still that quality chromoly steel frame that just wafts along, taking the vibration and bumps out of all but the roughest of road surfaces, helped by the fact that it can now accommodate those larger volume tyres. The heavily sloped top tube also means no matter how tall you are you are going to be running a lot of exposed seatpost, bringing a little more flex and comfort to the ride.
Even with the new beefed-up tapered head tube, the front end doesn't rattle your wrists about when you're blasting on the gravel tracks. The whole bike just feels great. Not having to watch out for every road imperfection means you can exploit the long and low geometry of the Cotic. This medium model has an effective top tube length of 560mm with a short 150mm head tube. It's quite an aggressive riding position, but it means the ride is loads of fun.
With a 72-degree head angle, the steering feels direct and lively off-road, the saddle-to-bar drop and slightly stretched position giving an excellent distribution of bodyweight over the bike.
I spent so much time on the gravel with the Cotic because it was just... infectious. The wide tyres floating around on the smaller aggregate were easy to control thanks to that quick steering, backed up by the lengthy 425mm chainstays which brought a feeling of stability to the whole thing.
You can have as much fun as you want, and if it all goes a little bit wrong the Escapade is really easy to bring back under control.
The forest trails have been pretty dry around here recently and the Cotic was very adept at carving through the trees on the local singletrack, even on the standard slick tyres fitted. Its performance belies its 10.07kg (22.2lb) weight, too, as you can bunnyhop large tree roots like it's an old school rigid mountain bike.
On the road it doesn't let itself down either. The steering feels a little more relaxed as you are now on a surface that isn't shifting beneath you, but if you fancy tackling descents at speed the Cotic doesn't flounder.
The new full carbon fibre fork is stiff and keeps the steering tight, and has little issue dealing with the forces from heavy braking. Comfort, again, is impressive, and you can just cruise along for miles and miles in total bliss.
The Escapade really is a very good all-rounder, offering so much versatility that it can tackle everything from a commute in all weathers to a bit of light touring or a blast off-road in equal measure.
The steel frame is handbuilt in Taiwan using custom butted tubing for Cotic. It has a quality finish, especially around the weld areas.
Once made, the frames are dip-coated inside and out with zinc phosphate before painting to increase their resistance to corrosion, something that's good to see on a bike likely to be used in all weathers.
The paint jobs look decent too. I especially like this Gloss Mercury/Black version – other variants are Gloss Blue or Gloss Purple with black details.
Steel frames don't tend to use the large tube profiles of aluminium alloy options, but you can still see how the Cotic employs the overbuilt template on the lower half of the frame while making things much more slender up top to promote comfort.
The top tube is ovalised, promoting stiffness in its wider side-to-side profile, with the narrower shape top to bottom providing a bit of flex.
You can also see that the seatstays are pretty slender too, to offer extra plushness.
One of the biggest changes to the Escapade for me is the adoption of that tapered head tube. It has brought a lot of extra stiffness to the front end for both steering and braking, and it looks great.
There are two versions of the new tapered fork. We have the full-carbon RB5 model, which Cotic reckons shaves 200g off the RB4 that has carbon legs but an aluminium alloy steerer.
Hose/cable routing for the front brake is internal for a neat look, and even though the early Escapade came with a thru-axle setup it now has the industry road standard (well, as close as standards ever get) of 12mm diameter over the original 9mm. This is echoed at the rear wheel, along with the flat mount calliper mounts.
As you'd expect, the Escapade comes with a full complement of mounts for pretty much all of your needs: twin bottle cage bosses, full mudguard eyelets and rear rack mounts.
Tyre clearances have been increased over the earlier model, with the rear of the frame able to swallow 700C x 42mm or 650B x 47mm tyres, while the fork can go slightly larger, 700C x 47mm and 650B x 50mm.
On the frame, the cable/hose routing has been kept external which I have no issue with. It adds to the rugged look of the frame and, to be honest, it's simple to refit when the time comes.
The only thing I would highlight is that if you use a 1x groupset there will be a redundant guide on the head tube, a little pet hate of mine. Picky, I know.
Cotic offers the Escapade in four sizes, with the geometry tweaked on the XS and S sizes to keep them in proportion, with steeper seat angles to suit shorter legs and a slacker head angle to reduce toe overlap.
Each frame comes with a two-year warranty backed up by a 50 per cent replacement price should there be any issues with material or workmanship within the first three to four years.
Cotic offers plenty of build options for the Escapade by way of its framebuilder page on the website, or you can go for the frame only if you like to tinker yourself.
On top of the standard builds there are also plenty of upgrades on offer.
We have the Gold 1x on test, which as standard comes with a full SRAM Apex 1x groupset, Cotic finishing kit and 700C wheels for £1,649, including delivery. Ours has the Road Plus 650B wheel and tyre upgrade, which comprises Cotic hubs laced to WTB KOM i23 rims that are then wrapped in WTB's 47mm Horizon tyres. It costs an extra £200 but it's money well spent, especially if you are planning on spending a lot of time off-road as the extra tyre width makes for a better ride.
The wheels are solid, remained true throughout testing, and aren't that weighty either.
I've found that, when new, the Horizon tyres' sidewalls leak when first set up tubeless, but after a few rides the sealant deals with the porousness.
They are pretty robust tyres and grip is okay on the roads, plus rolling resistance doesn't feel at all hampered. In this width they are fat enough to not sink when riding over small grade, deep gravel, and you are only really begging for tread when the tracks and trails are wet.
SRAM's Apex 1x groupset is a quality piece of kit and is seen on a growing number of gravel and adventure bikes. The shifting has a very definite clunk to it, sitting somewhere between the light action of Shimano and the heavier feel of Campagnolo.
Apex is 11-speed and Cotic has fitted a 42t single chainring with an 11-42t cassette. It's a set of gear ratios that work well, especially off-road, giving you plenty of climbing gears for the steep bits and a decent enough top end for the downhills. If I was riding primarily on the road I'd probably go for the Gold build, which gives you Shimano 105 with a double 50/34t chainset and 11-28t cassette.
The Apex hydraulic brakes work really well straight out of the box, offering loads of power with Cotic's choice of 160mm rotors front and rear. For me, 140mm is normally enough on the road, but letting everything hang out on some technical gravel descents it was nice to have the extra material there to bring things back under control if needed.
For this build Cotic has supplied its own finishing kit: the alloy handlebar, stem and seatpost, plus the saddle. It's all decent stuff and I wouldn't feel in any real need to change a thing, although off-road I have been getting on very well with handlebars with a decent flare, such as the Easton EA70 AX.
I found the saddle comfortable and I liked the slim shape; it really doesn't need to be massively padded when the frame and tyres are doing such an excellent job.
Taking a look back through some of the bikes of this ilk that we've tested over the last few months on road.cc and our sister site off.road.cc, I came across the review of the Salsa Journeyman Apex 1 650.
I saw the bike in the office and it looked stunning in the flesh. It uses an aluminium alloy frame and carbon fork and costs £1,650, even though it comes with the same wheels as standard that are an upgrade on the Cotic.
It also gets an Apex groupset, though it's mechanical, which means cable-operated disc brakes, and it weighs 11.6kg – over 1.5kg more than the Escapade. I'd say the extra £200 quid for the Cotic we have is well worth the extra money.
If steel is the way you want to go, then there is the Sonder Santiago for £1,799. That's a very good bike and like the Cotic has that beautiful steel ride.
The model I rode came equipped with a SRAM Rival 2x groupset and hydraulic brakes, which sits slightly higher than Apex. It does have a steel fork, though, which really pushes the weight up, to 11.79kg.
The Cotic Escapade is a brilliant bike. I haven't had so much fun in ages off the beaten track, and that all comes down to the way it handles and how it feels underneath you.
For a 10kg bike it is so agile and it's fast. The geometry gives it a racy ride similar to that I found on the excellent Canyon Grail, yet it also works on the road too. It's a little more expensive than some near-rivals, but I'd say it's worth the extra.
An agile, sweet-handling, comfortable bike on multiple terrains
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cotic Escapade
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Cotic lists this spec for the £1,649 build, our test bike had the £200 upgrade option with WTB Horizon tyres:
BUILD SPECIFICATION - GOLD - 1X
SRAM Apex1 Hydraulic 1x Drivetrain
SRAM 1x 42t X Sync chainset Chainset
SRAM Apex1 Flat Mount Hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors
Cotic Components Finishing kit, including:
440mm wide handlebar
100mm x 10 deg stem
Layback 330mm seatpost
CC Cromo Rail Saddle
Cane Creek 40 Series Integral Headset
Deep Section Disc only rims on Cartridge bearing CC disc hubs
Continental Sport Contact2 700x37c tyres
(Upgrade Option - Hope 20FIVE wheels +£250)
(Upgrade Option - Road Plus wheels & WTB Horizon or Senduro Tyres +£200)
Pedals Not Included
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Cotic says, "The Escapade fits into your life, for work and fun. It will take you to the office, to the shops, on holiday, to the hills, on adventures, or just to that quiet place where you get some headspace.
"Super versatile, the Escapade is a road bike without limitations. Disc brakes all round. Drop bars. Tyres big and floaty, or small and fast. Mudguards, panniers, bottle cages.
"All Cotic Life Bikes have big clearances for big tyres. Sure you can speed it up on something like a 700x28c, but we supply the bikes with big volume 37c slicks. They roll really fast, but float over the potholes in the road and bumps in the trail.
"Alongside this we have introduced the WTB Road Plus concept, using their fantastic 650b KOM i23 rims, and the WTB 650 x 47 tubeless tyres. There's the Horizon slick for smiles and miles, or the radical new Senduro ramped knob tyre, which blurs the lines between road and MTB. Smaller rims with big volume tyres give a similar overall diameter to the more usual 700c road wheels, but comfort and grip are massively improved. The larger 47mm wide tyres running tubeless as low as 35 psi float over road imperfections and rough tracks with no weight penalty over the larger 700c wheels and smaller tyres."
The Cotic is a proper all-rounder for someone who wants to ride fast on and especially off road.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This one sits near the top end being the Gold 1x at £1,649 (without upgrades). There is a Gold option which comes with Shimano 105 (£1,799) or a Gold Carbon (£1,929) which upgrades the handlebar and stem to carbon fibre.
Silver (£1,449) gets you Shimano Tiagra, and a Shimano Sora-equipped model is the Bronze at £1,199.
A frame is available for £599.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very high quality indeed including the welds and paintjob.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Custom butted chromoly steel is used for the frame, with this model getting a full carbon fibre fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Long and low for this style of bike.
Full details here.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The reach is slightly longer than many bikes of this type and the stack a little lower.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, the frame has a beautiful ride quality.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiff enough for the kind of riding you are likely to be using it for. Really hammer it on the road climbs and there is the slightest whiff of flex at the bottom bracket.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Pretty good. That new carbon fibre fork has really dropped the weight over the original steel version which makes the Cotic much more agile.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? A touch lively off road and a little more neutral on the tarmac.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It has a nice balance to make it ride well on all sorts of terrain.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wide 47mm tyres help cushion the ride if you want to run them at low pressures.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Apex chainset is plenty stiff enough for powering up hills.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The gear ratios chosen worked really well for all but the steepest of road descents when you might spin out.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
SRAM's Apex is a solid, dependable groupset with decent shifting and braking. The gear choice is spot on too.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Solid and dependable build for various terrains.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Quick on the road and handle pretty well on hardpacked gravel as well. No issues with reliability.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Pretty basic own brand components that do the job. I'd like a slightly flared handlebar though.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Against something like the Sonder Santiago or the Salsa I've compared it to in the review, the Cotic may look a little more expensive on paper but it's lighter and more fun to ride than those and others like it.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Escapade offers a great frameset with plenty of stiffness but also comfort. It's a well-finished package too, and just so much fun to ride.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!