BIKE TEST: FANTIC XF1 CASA

From Italy, with love

 

Fantic is a little-known brand in the U.S.—for now. They started as a motorcycle company in Italy in 1968 and gained success with small-engine motorcycles targeted at the urban youth, and winning trial and enduro FIM World Championships in the ’80s and ’90s. A group of Italian investors purchased Fantic in 2015 and decided to bring it back to its original glory. A new motorcycle line with four-stroke motors was created, and an electric bicycle division was also born.

“You could climb trees with this thing!”

Fantic is a company that now pays lots of attention to the needs of the commuters and the riders in general, so venturing into the electric bike market was just a logical choice. In August of 2016 Fantic USA was created, and they are now ready to bring their high-end pedal-assist bicycle line people.

THE BIKE

For the start of an electric mountain bike company, their XF1 Casa bike is impressive. It’s a plus-sized bike with Vittoria Bomboloni tires. Bomboloni is the Italian word for “donut,” which is fitting, as these are knobby tires with a very round profile.

Fantic’s knowledge of suspension and geometry from their motorcycling division looks like it’s paid off here. The rear shock is nestled into frame gussets between the seat tube and bottom bracket to protect it but also leave it accessible enough for actuation and adjustment.

The paint and graphics on the bike seem a little dated, but at the same time there are red-anodized components that create a cool, technical highlight. Most of Fantic’s bikes come in one solid color with really simple graphics for a clean look.

WHO IT’S MADE FOR?

The XF1 Casa is great for midrange riders who want a good overall bike for the trails. There’s plenty of suspension to take out decent-sized rocks and bumps, and it can fit a wide variety of sizes and weights. The plus-sized tires can handle almost any type of terrain, including soft, dry sand and loose dirt.

 

THE RIDE

We rode the hardtail XF2 at Interbike last year and really liked it. That bike was very capable on the trails there. The XF1 Casa is virtually the same bike, but with added rear suspension via a Rockshox Deluxe RL shock. The rear shock is nestled into the frame gussets between the seat tube and bottom bracket to protect it, but also leaves it accessible enough for actuation and adjustment.

There’s a reasonable amount of travel, though we had some trouble getting the Rockshox Reba fork adjusted at first. Perhaps that was the most Italian thing on the bike. If you compare it to owning other Italian vehicles, sometimes they just decide they don’t want to work that day, but they will likely be fine tomorrow—or in an hour. Ours was fortunately the latter. Once adjusted, though, the 120mm of travel was more than enough for most trail rides.

 

The long Miranda cranks provide great leverage for the rider’s own power. The small front sprocket stays out of the way of any hazard.

 

We were able to go faster over some of the more technical areas of the trail. Because of the combination of the 3-inch Bomboloni tires and good suspension, the bike just floats over bumps and rocks. We could even preload the suspension and bunnyhop over puddles and other obstacles!

Speaking of puddles, we rode this bike during the crazy rainstorms in Southern California this winter. It was a true test of the water-resistance of the bike, as sometimes we powered through water almost up to the axles. Having a sealed electric motor was a treat. There was also some pretty thick mud in places, and the bike didn’t hesitate to plow right through. At first we worried about slipping or falling into the mud, but after the first couple of minutes we realized that wasn’t going to happen.

The plus-sized tires are the sweet spot between traditional 2-inch tires that can knife through anything and fat tires that can roll over anything. They’re able to adapt to multiple surfaces easily and can run lower pressures than traditional-sized tires to provide significantly more grip. The tires on this bike are no exception. The knobs aren’t particularly large nor aggressive, so on fire roads they’re quiet and smooth. There’s enough grip to climb up slick rocks; though, they actually never felt like they were going to slip on climbs. Cornering was good, even confidence-inspiring on off-camber turns with the knobs that wrapped all the way around to the sidewall.

 

Fantic knows suspension. The detailing here is nice too. The anodized linkage is a really nice touch, and the frame gussets not only protect the shock, but it adds stiffness where all the power from the Brose motor is delivered. Pressure is everything in plus-sized tires.

 

The SRAM GX group in a 1×11 setup was fantastic. We never wanted for higher or lower gears, and shifting was smooth as silk, with no hard changes even under serious loads. We scrambled up steep side trails we’d normally ignore with aplomb! The combination of the Brose motor and the large granny gear on the bike made it easy, and the rear end is long enough to help avoid looping out on nearly any grade. You could climb trees with this thing!

It helps to have good rider power input as well, and the combination of the great grip from the NVL platform pedals and 170mm Miranda cranks lets us put our own power in with comfort and ease.

Brose motors generally have great range, and most OEMs use the stock Brose battery setup in the downtube. Brose is unique among motor manufacturers in that they allow for bike manufacturers to use batteries other than their own. Fantic has opted for a 417-watt-hour battery as stock, with a 630 watt-hour as an option (like the one we tested) mounted on the bottle-cage bosses on the top of the downtube. The motor whine was noticeable, but mostly when it was otherwise quiet around.

 

The SRAM 11-volt components are outstanding. We never wanted for more gears, and shifting is buttery smooth. There’s no cutoff during shifts, so care has to be taken to not overtax the chain.

 

On one ride we put in 21 miles with some seriously steep climbs. We know how much more fun it is to ride with power, so we weren’t shy about setting the controller to higher power settings. After all, why have an efficient motor with a big battery if you aren’t going to use it?

To our amazement, we only used half the battery during that ride. The range is absolutely phenomenal. The idea that we could count on going 40 miles or more with half of it climbing puts many longer trails within reach of this bike.

The SRAM Level brakes with a 200mm disc up front and a 180mm disc in the rear provided solid and ample stopping power. We were never hesitant to dive down new trails on the bike knowing the binders could keep us from harm’s way!

 

You can’t get much simpler than this controller. It’s clean and very easy to use on the trail. We moved it closer into the grip after we shot the studio shots as a personal preference.

 

The San Marco Dirty Fantic saddle, seemingly standard equipment across the entire Fantic line, is barely padded, but we barely noticed. It’s very comfortable, even on long rides, and one way they kept weight off the bike.

Our bike came with a manual dropper post. The bike will definitely come with a dropper post, but final spec hasn’t, at this writing, been decided. There’s a good chance the dropper will be a wired version with a handlebar-mounted remote switch. The manual one is a bit scary to actuate while riding, requiring you to take a hand off the bars. You can always stop to do this, as it’s quick, but if you’re used to a remote dropper, you may not remember to stop for it, and that can be sketchy to say the least!

THE VERDICT

This is a very capable, all-around mountain bike. The head angle may be a bit steep if you plan on a lot of fast, technical descents. Moderate travel works well with a comfortable plus-sized bike you can throw around on the trails with ease. If you have steep trails to ride, this bike will make you love them. Battery range is superb, even in higher power levels on the very capable Brose motor.

SPECS

Fantic XF1 Casa

MSRP: $5890 (as tested)

Motor: Brose 36V, 250W

Battery: BMZ, lithium-ion, 36V, 417Wh (optional 630Wh battery, as tested)

Charge time: 4.5 hours

Top speed: 20 mph (with assist)

Range: 40–80 miles (tested)

Drive: SRAM 11V

Brakes: SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes 200/180mm

Controls: Brose

Fork: RockShox Reba Boost, 120mm

Rear shock: RockShox Deluxe RL

Frame: Aluminum

Weight: 54.6 lb.

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Color choices: White

www.fantic-bikes.it/en