You learn something new every day. Some days, you learn the kind of thing that it's your job to know already. I had one of those days at this past Sea Otter Classic. A fellow Bike staffer suggested I pay a visit to the Fezzari Bicycles booth. While I was there, I learned that, for a few years now, the Utah-based brand has been producing actual, real, totally rideable bicycles. This came as a surprise because I’ve worked on Fezzari bikes back in my shop days. Although they never featured anything truly sub-standard, there was always something a little off about them. The Fezzari bikes of old looked like the kind of full-suspension mountain bike you'd order off of Sky Mall.
That has changed. During my intensive reorientation with Fezzari, I learned of its broad customization options, I saw one of the full-scale 3D-printed frame prototypes used to check design and fitment, and I realized how deeply in touch Fezzari is with what riders want and what the industry needs.
But I didn’t check out the La Sal Peak. Fezzari’s new long-travel 29er didn’t get unboxed until I arrived at this year’s Crankworx, and I broke it in on a helicopter-assisted backcountry romp down Mount Barbour above Pemberton, British Columbia. It’s the kind of descent that’s punishing enough that, once you’re finished, you don’t feel like you’ve gotten any assistance at all, let alone from a helicopter. The trail is a mix of barren alpine moonscape, knife-edge traverses and your garden-variety rock gardens. To spice things up, you’re quite likely to encounter these features--or any combination of them--on a sudden, steep uphill. It demands a lot from a bike, and I dropped in with the La Sal Peak before I’d even bedded in the brake pads. But a look at the bike’s numbers gave me all the confidence I needed.
The La Sal Peak is a 150-rear, 160-front beast of a bike that has features straight from the future. The 340-millimeter bottom bracket, 435-millimeter chainstays, 65-degree head angle and reduced-offset fork aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re definitely modern. There’s also the fact that the La Sal Peak features not one but two bottle-cage mounts. Within the front triangle. So enduro. On small and medium-sized frames, it gets too tight to actually fit both bottles, but if you want to get creative, you can use one of the mounts for some low-profile gear stowage. Large and XL frames will fit a 22-ounce bottle on the seat tube and a full-sized bottle on the downtube. But most impressive is its 78-degree seat angle. It was just a year ago when the benchmark for a cutting-edge seat angle became 76 degrees, and plenty of brands are still behind even that. The fact that Fezzari made the leap to such a steep seat angle is evidence that it’s able to act quickly, and proof that it’s here to make some waves.
Some of those waves crested when Fezzari developed its unique approach to consumer-direct sales. On top of their appropriately head-turning value, Fezzari’s bikes offer varying levels of customization. On the entry-level models, you can opt for simple touches like out-of-the-box tubeless setup or frame protection. Higher-end models offer suspension, wheel and cockpit upgrades. Every model invites you to enter several body metrics during the checkout process, which helps Fezzari determine frame size, shock setup and cockpit specifics. Of course, if you’ve already got that part figured out, Fezzari will build it how you like it. But for riders who aren’t already experts, it’s a vital service for a direct-to-consumer sale.
I came up with my spec over the phone. We started with the $6,600 La Sal Peak Pro, and I stuck with the RockShox option. I also stuck with the Reynolds wheels, which is actually the basic build at that pricepoint. An Enve upgrade is available for an extra $1,300, but I put myself in the shoes of a buyer, and there’s not enough to complain about out of the box, so I left it as-is. I did opt for a 40-millimeter stem to match the short offset fork and 800-millimeter bars to match the bike’s potential. All that was left to see if I could match its potential.
The seated position on the La Sal Peak takes some getting used to. Compared to frames with more traditional seat angles, this bike feels short at first. Fezzari didn’t opt to stretch the toptube into the next zip code, which I’m actually pretty thankful for. The XL frame has a comfortably modern 495-millimeter reach, going down to 470 on a large. Initially, I was pitching my body forward on climbs because I’m used to my back and neck feeling a certain way while pedaling uphill. But I eventually relaxed, and I found I was more powerful and more comfortable even than 76-degree seat angles make me. Flatter climbs not requiring much grunting were no more challenging just because I sat upright, and bending my elbows a bit more on steeper climbs was a small price to pay for the vastly improved ride height and power transfer.
The Horst-linked La Sal Peak feels like it aims for supportive-over-supple suspension when you put the power down. That’s not to say I was getting hung up over rough stuff, though. Instead, the combination of its steep seat angle and progressive leverage curve meant that the bike rose above instead of floating mid-stroke over the chop. It’s focused mostly on business, but because you naturally sit high in the travel already, the supple early stroke is ready to take the edge off the bumps, independent of pedaling forces.
But really, I could have summed all that up just by saying that, after encountering each of the worst-case climbing scenarios I outlined earlier, not once was I even tempted to use the Super Deluxe’s climbing switch. In true backcountry form, the La Sal Peak is designed to get you where you want to go comfortably and efficiently.
And speaking of backcountry, there are several different ways that long-travel 29ers can choose to cope with the burly dirt they’ve come to call home. Bikes like the Pivot Firebird or Evil Wreckoning use ample travel and ground-hugging goodness to make the trail disappear beneath you. Bikes like the YT Capra 29 or Yeti SB 5.5 use progressive suspension and a stout, responsive ride to beat the trail into submission. The La Sal Peak is somewhere near the latter end of that spectrum. It’s not the kind of big-travel big bike that you feel like you’ll get lost in. It’s ready to get slid, jumped, and generally pushed around to suit your will. That’s thanks in part to its moderate-for-an-enduro-29er travel, but also to its well-balanced geometry. The La Sal Peak doesn’t ride like it’s forcing you to live up to something. It’s not a mini-DH bike like some of its classmates strive to be, instead it’s a pragmatic mix of all the benefits offered by big wheels, purpose-tuned suspension, versatile geometry, and something I haven’t mentioned yet: big tires.
The La Sal Peak comes spec’d with 2.5 WT Maxxis tires, and it’s got room for 2.6. That’s the perfect match to a bike that rides like this. It doesn’t have the ultra gushy, ultra slack feel that other bikes would rely on as speeds reach the redline. Instead, the tires made it nearly impossible to loose traction, no matter how recklessly I charged. Even if I got bounced offline, I regained control the moment rubber hit rock. They’re a big part of the versatility this bike offers. I happened to spend most of my time in high alpine no-flow rock puzzles, but when it dialed back to loamy high-speed traverses peppered with root-to-high-side gaps, there was no compromise. No vagueness or slowness to put up with. It’s further proof that the long-travel 29er category is slowly taking over the world.
I’d have to stretch a bit to find nitpicks on the La Sal Peak, but I’ll give it a go. The frames don’t have the low and stretched silhouette of meaner-looking big bikes. Part of that is thanks to the odd-looking dog’s leg just behind where the toptube meets the headtube. The rest of it is the slightly long seat tube. I’d normally be able to fit a 200-millimeter dropper in most frames that fit me, given they have the insertion depth, but I barely fit a 170 on my test bike. That said, there is plenty of insertion depth, so whatever length you’ve got the inseam for, the La Sal Peak can probably take it.
Another nitpick actually turned into praise after I thought about it. The replaceable derailleur hangers Fezzari uses are not like what we’ve become used to. Hangers in the post-through-axle era are strong. Stronger than derailleurs. That didn’t used to be the case. Bashing your derailleur nearly always meant bending or severing the hanger, and we all learned to bring an extra one with because of it. But now, you’ll kill your mech before your hanger. Not so with a Fezzari. I had a relatively violent derailleur strike, and quickly found my chain in my spokes. To my surprise, I was able to bend it back straight and finish my ride, though it was a bit nerve-racking because I didn’t have a spare. I found it oddly comforting to go back to a breakaway hanger. It’s a smartly chosen piece of retro tech on a bike that’s so forward-thinking.
After just a couple days on the first Fezzari I’ve ever ridden in the dirt, I’m ready to call the brand a force to be reckoned with in the fast-moving world of consumer-direct bikes. And the La Sal Peak is simply a force to be reckoned with.