We were impressed with the bike’s suspension right away as we felt the Delano Peak offered a more ground-tracing and sensitive suspension feel compared to other Fezzari bikes we’d ridden. After a few early rides we sat down for a Q&A session with Tyler Cloward, who’s not only the brand manager but also a total bike geek with some serious knowledge when it comes to suspension.
TLW: Being that you’re a Utah brand, your terrain and trails are very specific and present unique tuning and suspension preferences. Do you regularly travel to other regions or have test riders help you develop and fine-tune products outside of the Utah desert?
Tyler Cloward: We are really lucky to have the trails and access we do here in Utah. We have everything from the desert slick rock riding that is most commonly associated with Utah, but we also have miles of high alpine single track with loamy sections in the pines about 20 minutes from the office.
That being said, we do realize different areas have different styles of trails. We often have test bikes with us at events we attend and have test riders in different locations across the country. Luckily for Delano Peak, we had the suspension tuning dialed long before the current travel restrictions and closures were enforced. This allowed us to do some test riding at all the major events we attended across the country in early 2019.
TLW: How many revisions did it take before you settled on the current Delano Peak’s suspension tune?
TC: We have a company culture of constant improvement, always looking to get better. We have a great thing going with our La Sal Peak enduro bike, so it could have made logical sense to take that suspension design and just shorten the travel to create the Delano Peak, however we wanted to adjust the frame tubing and stand over heights on each frame size.
This required us to move the shock position. Any time a pivot location is moved, in this case the shock eyelets, adjustments have to be made to all pivot locations of the suspension design to achieve the suspension feel we are going for on a specific frame. It took several revisions of our suspension layout drawing to move the shock, but maintain a progressive suspension curve for good small bump compliance, mid-stroke you can push off of in the rollers, but still offer a pillowy landing on that bigger jump or drop.
We also had to be sure the suspension design pedaled well as most riders on the Delano are expected to do a good amount of pedaling. I think I have 9 or 10 versions of the Delano Peak suspension drawings saved on my computer, all with minor tweaks to get the leverage ratio, anti-squat, axle path, and anti-rise ratios just how we want them, while still optimizing shock compatibility and the ever elusive two bottle capacity.
We have to balance the suspension design with the industrial design and frame use. Luckily we have a fantastic industrial designer in house. Once we nailed the suspension design, we test ride every shock we can get our hands on. We work close with the suspension suppliers to adjust tuning on the shocks. We send these out with different test riders of different sizes and weights to get their feedback. If we do our job on the suspension design, the shock tunes go fairly quicker with 2-3 tunes on each shock tested.
TLW: How does it differ from other bikes you’ve made in neighboring travel ranges?
TC: As you change the suspension travel and geometry you are going to have some tuning and suspension design changes. We do try and keep a progressive design across our line, but every model we make is distinctively its own. The Signal Peak is our 120-120mm ‘Fun-country’ bike. This bike focuses on the pedaling characteristics first and then downhill play as a close second. On the other end, our La Sal Peak Enduro bike focuses on downhill capabilities, braking performance, and then pedaling. We can also manipulate climbing and descending characteristics with frame geometry changes, so on these two bikes that are on the edges of travel and use case, we change the geo to help climbing on the bike optimized to go downhill and vice-versa. With the Delano Peak we had to balance suspension, climbing performance, small bump chatter, mid stroke support and bottom out control for bigger hits. We also added the geometry secret sauce tricks to compliment the suspension design.
TLW: Speaking of geometry. We found the 65-degree head tube angle to offer a nice blend of snappiness and quick handling yet remained stable at speeds up to 40mph. How many revisions to geometry did you make and did you go too far before bringing it back?
TC: When we did the first drawings about 1.5 years ago, we had the head tube a bit steeper. Before we prototyped in alloy, we slackened it a bit more. After a good amount of test riding, it was a general agreement by all of our testers to go with the 65-degree angle. Like you mentioned, we felt the same way about the blend of snappy and responsive performance at slower speeds but offering good stability in extremely fast sections.
TLW: In a time when so many message-board engineers have something to say when it comes to “2017 geometry,” how does a brand balance creating a bike they know will be more versatile and well-rounded for the majority of riders versus “giving the people what they want?”
TC: I remember when the first iPhone came out thinking it was really dumb. I didn’t need this huge block-looking thing that used ‘apps’. I was happy playing Snake on my tiny Nokia cell phone. Fast forward 13 years and I was wrong about the iPhone. The same thing has happened to bike geometry.
When we released our La Sal Peak Enduro bike in the summer of 2018 with the 78-degree seat tube angle, that was really scary. It was so far out there for mass-produced carbon suspension bike. We had never been asked for that steep of a seat tube angle before. If you go back and look at some of the comments still out there on the “First Look” articles, there is a good amount of criticism about the steep seat tube angle, no one asked for it, no one would buy it, etc.
Looking at the trends now, steeper seat tube angles are all the rage and there is customer feedback that the bikes pedal better and are more comfortable. We have to listen to customer feedback, customers are the most important thing to any business. However, we do have the unique advantage of being able to test, tweak geometry, and test again. Sometimes when you know something is right, you have to put your head down, get to work, and do your best to tune out the message-board engineers that may not agree with what you doing. So far, I think we have had good luck with this approach.
TLW: It seems that Fezzari as a whole is “The people’s brand.” Your marketing or branding isn’t crazy or obnoxious, you don’t have wild graphics or colors, it seems like you just fly under the radar but deliver quality bikes that are enjoyable for a large audience of riders. Can you touch a bit on Fezzari and your brand’s mission?
TC: Thank you. This is a serious compliment. To me, this is a reflection of the people and culture we have here at Fezzari. We have worked very hard to build a ‘We’ culture with customers first. We have a set of Ten Values here at Fezzari, and #1 is the Golden Rule, treat others how you want to be treated. We truly believe this. We want to build products, offer customer service and an experience that we ourselves would want. It blows my mind sometimes how much our team cares about our customers.
The behind the scenes internal discussions that are had about how to resolve customer concerns and issues, the after-hour text messages from co-workers trying to resolve issues, or follow-up on customer questions is really amazing. It’s not uncommon to see our production team discussing a specific customer’s build to be sure they have the sizing perfect or a brake or derailleur tuned perfect before going out the door. It really shows how much our employees care and is amazing to be a part of it.
This ‘We’ mentality all starts with our CEO. He is a behind the scenes type of guy, but he is in the office every single day, works harder and more than most anyone I have ever met. He rides his bike 5-6 days a week, is friendly, kind, and just an all-around good guy.
When he and his wife started Fezzari they wanted to create a company and products that make the world better, not something useless or something headed to a landfill. We have seen so many first-hand accounts how the bikes we are producing have helped people with their physical health or mental health. We are not interested in a flash-in-the-pan popularity contest. We are in it for the people, building the very best products possible, and making our customers, employees, and our families happy along the way.
TLW: What do you see as the biggest challenge in getting people to try a bike from a brand they’ve maybe never heard of, or never seen in person?
TC: Buying a bike online or sight unseen can be scary. We are doing everything we can to make buying a bike from Fezzari a win for the rider. We have two demo vans that travel across the country to demo events to allow riders to test our bikes as we understand a bike purchase can be a touchy-feely endeavor. We also offer our 23-point custom setup, our 30-day Love it or Return it guarantee. Buy a bike from Fezzari, ride it on your own trails that you know and are familiar with for 30 days, and if you don’t love it, return it for a refund.
TLW: We imagine that most people are probably pretty stoked once they unpackage their new Fezzari. How often do you have people take you up on your 30-day Love it or Return It policy?
TC: Returns are next to zero. We take so many steps all the way from product design, production quality control, our fitting system, assembly, and packaging to be sure riders have the very best experience on their new bike.
TLW: Who do you think is going to like this bike most? What’s the ideal rider?
TC: The range of riders who will enjoy this bike is huge. From those that love to pedal but want the right amount of travel and geometry to have confidence on most any descent, to riders looking for a light, capable trail bike that they can still shuttle or hop on the occasional chairlift. We’ve worked extremely hard to offer this bike at a price point that anyone from the weekend enthusiast all the way to the aspiring racer would be proud to own. The lower standover height has really appealed to our female testers as well. We’ve joked internally that the Delano Peak is the Goldilocks bike, it’s just right.