Bicycle Review: Fezzari Timp Peak 2015

UPDATE: I rode Kokopelli's Trail on this bike and it was flawless. Given the varied rugged terrain and conditions, that's about the best review I can give a bike.

Last Thanksgiving while meeting old friends, Stefan (the same guy who got me to ride La Ruta) got me to ride Bikerpelli with him. At that point I was going to need a new bike. I rode La Ruta on a cheap old bike. To its credit, that bike got me through the ride but I vowed never to repeat the experience. If I'm putting out the effort to train and complete a big ride, the least I can do is treat myself to a bike worthy of the event that will make it a little more comfortable and enjoyable.

So I shopped around for MTBs and learned a lot has improved in the 15 years or so since I last bought one. I knew I needed an excellent climber with dual suspension. That means as light as possible with remote adjustable suspension. That means carbon frame and wheels. 15 years ago I wouldn't buy carbon wheels - they were too new and fragile or unreliable. Yet now it seems carbon MTB wheels are at least as strong as aluminum wheels, and a little lighter.

It also means top grade components from Shimano or SRAM with an 11x1 drivetrain.

From any normal manufacturer: Giant, Cannondale, Trek, etc. bikes meeting these specs were priced around $9k, and some of those didn't even have carbon wheels. Then I found a review that road tested several bikes: MTBR 2014 Compar-O. Among them was one I had never heard of: Fezzari.

The Fezzari Timp Peak - on paper - had everything I needed and comparable to the $9k and up factory bikes.

  • Carbon fiber frame
  • Reynolds 27.5 AM carbon fiber wheels
  • Tubeless tires
  • Rockshox Pike 150mm fork
  • Rockshox Reverb dropper seat post
  • Raceface Carbon fiber 35mm handlebar
  • SRAM X01 1x11 drivetrain
  • SRAM Guide RSC hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors
  • Yet it cost $6,200. With that value proposition I can live with the dorky name. I had to give it a try!

    I visited their web site, took a few body measurements, then called them up and ordered the bike in early Dec 2014. They made a few changes for me:

  • Remote adjustable CTD rear shock
  • Cut the (carbon!) handlebar to 750mm
  • Add a spare derailleur hangar

  • They told me it would be delayed - probably until late Jan, due to supplier backlogs and the ongoing longshoremen union work slowdown. I paid a partial deposit and waited. Meanwhile I continued training on my old trusty rusty MTB.

    In late Jan Fezzari called me, said it was ready to ship. I paid the remainder and the bike arrived a few days later. As I was assembling it, I noticed the frame was damaged. One of the bolts that secure the water bottle (it would be a braze-on if this weren't a carbon frame) was unsecured. It is unrepairable - the bike needed a new frame. I contacted Fezzari and sent the bike back. They paid shipping both ways. It took longer than expected since the bike got holed up in a warehouse for a few days, but a phone call or two cleared that up. In early Feb - about 2 weeks later - I received the replacement bike. It was perfect!

    The first thing I noticed about this bike is it was LIGHT - 26.5# on my scale. That's with pedals ready to ride, in the 18.5" size frame. That's amazingly light for a dual full suspension MTB. The tires were HUGE - 27.5" x 2.4" Maxxis Ardent tires, which the Bikerpelli folks recommended.

    On my first ride up and down Tiger Mtn I knew this was a fantastic bike. Before sharing my notes right after doing that first ride, let me share my notes from

    The last ride I did on old trusty rusty:
    During the ride I blew the rear tire AND lost a brake pad (without crashing!), both on the "Bail Out" trail which is technically brutal. The front forks are sprung but underdamped, so every bump tries to twist the front wheel and endo the bike. It bounces over obstacles instead of rolling, so as you lean back to avoid endos, the front wheel bounces up over the bump losing control on the other side. Bouncing without damping fatigues the arms, made worse by maintaining directional control with the narrow bars, especially as the wheel is constantly trying to twist around or suck down and endo you. This control difficulty is further exacerbated by the steep fork angle. The brakes require a strong pull requiring 2-fingers not just 1. And the grip twist shifters require pointer finger & thumb, requiring you to slide hands inward, losing leverage and leaving only 2 fingers of the hand to control the bars. All of which leads to tired stiff shaking hands at the bottom of the hill. Neither the suspension nor the seat is adjustable while riding, so it's all a compromise. The frame & suspension flexes & squishes on the climbs and bounces on the descents - worst of both worlds. It doesn't have much bottom bracket clearance, so you have to stop & walk over many of the tree root & rock obstacles. Getting the seat low enough to have control on the downhills is too low for efficient climbing. And of course it weighs about 35 pounds. About all I can say is it runs fine on smooth trails and doesn't actually break while riding. I'm looking forward to a new bike.

    Now, the first ride I did on the Timp Peak (same trail):
    The new bike is great. Climbs well, the bigger wheels roll over nicely yet are still light and agile, the tubeless tires have great traction (ran them at 30 PSI ) suspension is well tuned and remote adjustable from the bars, the 1x11 gears have a 4:1 range which is limited compared to a 3x9 yet still sufficient, the remote adjustable seat post is surprisingly useful. The geometry makes it easier to ride the technical stuff. I rode the entire way, including Bail-Out - didn't walk any of the sections I had to walk with my other bike. Overall a blast to ride!

    At first I thought the 1x11 gearing was limited. The overall ratio is only 4.2:1 (rear cog is 10-42). Classic triples usually have around 5:1. With the 30t front and 27.5x2.4 wheels, the lowest gear is about 19.5 gear inches, which is extremely low. At first I thought I needed a 32t front. Then I climbed Rattlesnake Mtn, the toughest MTB climb within 100 miles of where I live. After climbing those 23% grades of loose mid-size gravel, I realized that 19.5 gear inches was perfect.

    In summary, now I've put about 200 miles on this bike under a variety of trails and conditions. It is a fantastic bike at a great price. I'm confident it will serve me well on Bikerpelli.

    When I'm ready for a new road bike I'll be checking out what Fezzari has to offer. Their CR3 looks great.