Fustle’s Causeway is one of the best aggressive gravel bikes available and was born when leading MTB design consultant, Alastair Beckett, started exploring forgotten local trails from his door during lockdown. The MTB influence is clear in the tall, slack head tube, steeply sloping top tube and generous tire clearance. This Control version comes with a brake lever controlled dropper as standard for extra jiving room on techy trails, but you still get a full set of bikepacking mounts too. It’s not the smoothest or calmest ride up front though and pricing is expensive compared to some similar direct sell options.
The super steep slope of the top tube and tall (185mm on the S/M size I tested) head tube of the Fustle give it a distinctive ‘MTB’ look right away. Reach is long at 400mm, the head angle is XC MTB territory at 69 degrees and the whole frame is tested to MTB strength standards. Both down tube and top tube taper and flatten dramatically towards the stout 31.6mm internal diameter seat tube and you get a press fit bottom bracket at the bottom corner. Flattened un-braced, oval seatstays curve down towards sculpted asymmetric dropouts with a flat mount for the rear brake. The curved and tapered stays are braced but still leave room for a 700C x 50mm tire or 2.1in (53mm) if you use 650C wheels.
You get semi-internal cable routing for a dropper post (and gear and brake cable) in the down tube. The evolved 1.1 frame tested here has foam cable liners to keep the control lines quiet too. The bikepacking fixture buffet includes three bottle cage mounts on the frame, a top tube bag mount and four point rack and mudguard mounts at the rear. The broad topped full carbon fork has three bolts down each leg for bottles or bags and a crown bolt for a mudguard but no corresponding mounts on the dropouts.
Bikes and frame/fork sets (£879.99) are available in four sizes and three different color fade designs.
Fustle Causeway complete bikes come in Core, Lite and Control versions – the latter I tested here. This uses a single chainring Shimano GRX 800 11-speed gravel groupset including RT70 alloy centre brake rotors and a Brand-X Descend dropper post connected to the left hand lever. Shimano house brand ‘Pro’ also provide the short 70mm stem (same across all sizes and the widely flared (440mm top, 550mm tip) shallow drop handlebar. The Control also gets Hunt’s 4 Season Gravel Wide wheels with a 25mm internal width fattening up the 44mm wide WTB Raddler tan wall tires.
Ride, handling and performance
Unsurprisingly, the geometry dominates first impressions of the Fustle, with the high head tube bringing the bars right up and back for a commanding but more compact feel than you might expect from the extended reach. While the base geometry is notably stable, the short stem creates a light rather than grounded feel which more traditional drop bar riders will need to adapt to.
However, if you’re coming from an MTB background or just want to take your gravel riding into that kind of territory then you’re going to love the way the Fustle feels. The big pommels of the Shimano shifters give excellent hand support if you want to stay high on stutter bump or steep sections, but the Causeway really comes alive when you drop into the flare of the bars and drop the seat as well. The fact you can drop the saddle using the left hand lever rather than some sort of awkward add on is also a big bonus in terms of ergonomics and aesthetics.
With seat slammed and grip splayed, the head angle and extra reach stability lets you attack descents far harder and faster than you’d expect from a gravel bike without feeling like you’re going to get trebucheted over the bars. When things get techy and twisty that short stem lets you chop and change lines with fast reacting fine control and makes it easy to grab the front tire back if it starts sliding. This happens easily – particularly in the wet – so I’d be tempted to fit a more aggressive front tire such as WTB’s Resolute to make the most of the geometry in slippery conditions. Or you could just do what the Fustle encourages and commit to getting the tires right over onto their side knobs by properly chucking the Causeway into corners and letting it’s enhanced control help you surf out the sideways moments with a dirty great grin on your face.
The stiffness of the fork and MTB strength frame keeps feedback very clear and precise too, but even with a 44mm tire running low pressures on a 25mm internal rim the front end can get rough once bumps get bigger. That means we’d be tempted to take Fustle up on their RockShox Rudy 30m travel suspension fork offer to really open up it’s off-piste potential. Especially as you’ll get it for £550 rather than the normal £779 RRP and there are no mudguard mounts on the standard fork to mourn anyway if you use it for commuting or rainy day road miles.
The front end stiffness is more noticeable as the back end delivers a really good blend of forgiveness on rougher trails while still pushing on well through the pedals. That becomes increasingly obvious the further you ride and while it can’t quite match the smoothness of steel, it definitely won’t make you regret choosing alloy. Just over 10kg with a dropper post is a decent weight and the Raddler tires also roll reasonably well while still finding driving grip in more filth than you’d expect. The tall ride position means you’ll need to hunker down into headwinds though and the default feel on the road is definitely ‘cruise control until something more interesting happens’ than ‘lets race the roadies’.
In terms of kit feedback Fustle aren’t big enough to offer SRAM equipped bikes yet, but Shimano’s top level GRX is super reliable and functional kit. Alastair (aka Mr Fustle) also told me they’d only had one installation related issue with the press fit bottom bracket needed to give the generous tire space without excess back end length or tube shaping and that chimes with feedback from other brands.
If you’re after a road bike to ride on the dirt the Fustle isn’t for you. However, if you’re a mountain biker or aggro gravelist who wants a drop bar option that still lets you play fast and loose on singletrack and intermediate grade trails, then the Causeway Control is up for a lot more mischief than most. Top quality Shimano and decent supporting kit adds durability to the bike packing fixture versatility too.
It’s decent value compared to shop sold bikes too, but not quite as smooth and significantly more expensive than the similar angled and also direct sell, Sonder Camino.
- Surface: Road, gravel, farm tracks, woodland singletrack, manmade MTB trails
- Trails: Road, gravel, rocky trails, rooty, woodsy singletrack and blue grade MTB trails
- Weather: Wet, snowy, dry and everything in between. 2 - 8 degrees C
Tech specs: Fustle Causeway Trail – Control
- Discipline: Gravel/XC
- Price: £2,599.99
- Head angle: 69 degrees
- Frame material: 6061 alloy
- Fork material: Carbon fibre monocoque
- Size: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Weight: 10.28kg
- Wheel size: 700c
- Gears: Shimano GRX810 11-speed rear mech and shifter, T chainset and T cassette.
- Brakes: Shimano GRX810 hydraulic disc with RT70 Centerlock 160mm rotors.
- Tires: WTB Raddler Skinwall SG2 700x44mm
- Wheels: HUNT 4 Season Gravel Disc X-wide
- Bar: PRO Discover 44cm
- Stem: PRO Discover 70mm
- Seatpost: Brand-X mm stroke dropper post
- Saddle: WTB Volt Narrow CroMo
- Available from: ridefustle.com