As we mentioned last month, Fusion bikes are available in a choice of standard fixed-spec builds (Promo line), custom builds (Custom line, pictured below) or as frames only. Compared to the other bikes here there’s very little frame manipulation on the Freak. Fusion still uses round tubes and joins the top and down tubes with two simple brackets, bracing the underside with an open gusset. A zero-stack headset is dropped into the head tube and, while it’s a brand we’re not familiar with (Acris A1-03), it’s proved trouble free so far.
Stainless steel needle bearings are featured in the rocker and Horst link; the rest get cartridge bearings. Two bolts on the rocker unscrewed after one ride and continued to do so, but we’re assured this can be sorted with a dab of threadlock.
The Fusion comes with continuous rear derailleur outer, but when riding it slides through the plastic guides and ends up spooled at the mech. Dedicated 4mm clips instead of the 5mm fitted would stop this from happening.
All Fusion frames feature the company’s patented Float Link. Unlike most four-bar systems where the shock is fixed at one end to the frame or a mount, the shock on the Freak is bolted to a chainstay yoke. According to Fusion this means the shock is compressed at both ends; 35 per cent by the yoke, 65 per cent by the rocker. The idea is to create an active and supple suspension but also to eliminate pedal-induced bob, and in this respect the Float R rear shock doesn’t have any ProPedal, even though it says it has (that’s just a decal). The obvious downside of the design is it places the shock in the firing line of mud off the rear wheel.
To keep the price reasonable the Freak comes with a Marzocchi All Mountain 2SL. This is an OEM fork with a two-position TST compression lockout, handy QR thru-axle and travel adjust feature: a dial on the left leg allows you to drop the fork anywhere from 160mm-120mm. It’s a reasonable weight but no stiffer than the Fox 32 Float on the Giant.
There’s a real mishmash of parts starting with the Selle Italia NT 1 saddle. We thought this triathlon perch would be great for biking three years ago because of the soft front section, but having tested it we found it’s not. The 25in Maniac Freeride riser bar is too deep and narrow and the stem and seatpost look like they’re off a bike costing a third of the price.
Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.4in tyres are worse than the Panaracer Razors elsewhere because the tread tricked us into believing we could stuff them into loose turns — the knobs fold under so suddenly that we had more than one scary moment.
Up front Fusion is running a Stealth Disc hub with a thru-axle but with spacers that are not fixed, so they fall off as soon as you take the wheel out.
The head angle is a little steep on the Freak but the mid-length wheelbase, stays and top tube all put you in a good position to attack the downhills and technical sections. The problem we have is coming back-up — the 65deg seat tube angle meant raising the saddle actually moved our weight too far back, and this overloads the rear end and causes the front to lift.
We expected the suspension to be nice and compliant on our test bike, especially since it has done the rounds (Fusion says the thrust seals on the pivots should bed in after 300km) but there’s still a noticeable amount of stiction in the system. Setting the sag is difficult on this bike — the suspension is slow to move initially but then blows through the mid-stroke too quickly — so you end up running less air. This makes it feel choppy when pedalling, but if we reduced the sag it only really moved on the bigger hits. Not that we could lean forward and rely on the fork to do the work — it felt pretty harsh and basic, and quite flexible.
Obviously there’s a price discrepancy between the Fusion and a couple of the other bikes on test, but someone has made some pretty odd choices in the Freak’s specification. True, you can put these right relatively easily and probably quite cheaply, but we’d expect things to be near perfect on a £2,500 bike. They were last year. Compared to the Whyte and Giant the Fusion is overpriced. Add in the sluggish suspension and uninspiring ride and it’s half the bike it was and is marked down accordingly.
MBR RATING: 6/10