Vassago cycles Fisticuff Monster CrossNo need to let things go to Fisticuffs, unless of course, you’re looking for a tough, versatile, and affordable jack-of-all trades drop bar bike. Previewed back in June, the latest Vassago is ready to rumble on just about any trail or road you see fit. Vassago calls it a cross style bike that handles like mountain bike when the trail gets technical which would make a great gravel bike, drop bar trail bike, monster crosser, etc.

One thing’s for sure, the price certainly won’t hold you back…

white-frame Vassago Fisticuff

Offered as a frame and fork, the frame and straight blade fork use Vassago’s R-Tech size specific steel tubing for a burly and fairly simple design.

graphite-fullgraphite-seattube Vassago Fisticuff


No tapered head tubes or press fit bottom brackets – just a 1 1/8″ head tube and 68mm threaded BB shell along with 28.6mm clamp on front derailleur compatibility. Frame and fork clearance will allow most 1.8″ (48mm) 29er tires with the rear dropouts set to middle. Purists, retro-grouches, and the budget conscious will all appreciate the ability to run cantis, linear pull, or discs – take your pick. However, if you want a single speed bike that is still capable of running something like TRP’s Hylex single speed hydraulic disc brakes, you’ll be happy to know that the full length housing guides on the Fisticuff are hydraulic compatible.

Component wise, you can build up the Fisticuff with whatever components you want including standard road cranks thanks to the scalloped chainstay. The frame uses a standard 27.2 seat post and the included fork has a 415mm axle to crown with a 45mm rake.

graphite-dropouts Vassago FisticuffSingle speed, fixed gear, geared, it can all be accomplished with horizontal cast dropouts with built in forward facing chain tensioners. Rear dropout spacing is set at 132.5 meaning you can stretch it for MTB wheels or clamp it for road wheels. The frame also features full rack and fender mounts (front fender but not front rack mounts) and two bottle cage mounts to take it with you.

Framesets are currently available on Vassago’s site for a competitive $589 in graphite or pearl white, which includes the front fork, cable guides, seat post clamp, and canti studs.frame-geo-new vassago Fisticuff geometry


  1. @Matt -As -S- said, it works just fine. The Jabberwocky’s dropouts are the same design, I’ve been using mine for almost 4yrs now. With an XT skewer, or any internal cam skewer really, it’s rock solid.

  2. frameset price is in line with a surly, thats fine. the dropouts and brake mounts are fine too. this bike is fine. just fine. not special, pretty boring. fine.

  3. Please please please stop coming up with new names for the same thing. A new name a new genre does not make.
    It is a monster crosser.
    Not a dropped bar trail bike, gravel grinder, ultra cyclocross, extreme tourer or whatever nonsense phrase comes into your head.
    Monster cross I’ll give you. Invention of 29er tyres, plus widespread use of disc brakes on crossers lead to opportunity too good to miss. Salsa Fargo. Can be used for loads of different things. Does not make it loads of different genres. Stop before my head hurts.

  4. @Kevin

    Actually the Brits had a term for this decades ago: rough stuff. Pre-dates gravel, monster cross and mountain bikes by several decades. The Rough Stuff Fellowship in the UK was founded in the 50s and is the oldest off-road cycling organization on the planet.

    As with so many other things (650b, compact gearing, etc.) all that’s old is new again. 😉

  5. They could have done away with canti studs: certainly no fans left in the monster cross crowd. Clean lines are cool, no braze-ons in the middle of fork legs and seatstays.

  6. To be exact; the Surly Karate Monkey MSRP is $475(USD). When you consider that the Karate Monkey comes sans chain tensioners and current versions omit the canti studs and appropriate cable hanger accouterment, the $589 seems fairly reasonable.

    Personally I like the idea of canti studs being part of the frame. I could see riders picking up a frame like this to build up with minimal investment up front and get the majority of their parts out of their respect spare parts bins.

    I suppose the trade off is how “monster” you want to be. The Fisticuffs max’s out tire clearance at 1.8 but the Karate Monkey is 2.5. However, the Fisticuff’s does bring a slightly tighter rear triangle to the game by 6mm. On a related note the Karate Monkey allows for a 200mm rotor. Again how “monster” to you want to go?

    What makes this such an interesting frame at this price point is the use of size specific tubing, something that can greatly improve ride quality and creates a frame that rides the same whether your 5’7″ on a medium or 6’5 on an XL.

    I suppose the final question is the following: how big a deal it is for the consumer to buy a USA made frameset or an Asian import?

    I think the only thing missing would possibly be that rather than simple cable stops on the down tube I’d like to see down tube shifter bosses. but that me being more than slightly… ahem… super-turbo-anal-retentive. But hey, I like barrel adjusters and the idea of running either of the frames as 1×10’s (11’s… whatever) with a down tube shifter because I’m classy / weird like that.

  7. Matt / anyone:

    Please clarify the problem with combining track style dropouts with disc brakes. I’m not calling you out, I’m just unaware as to the problems this creates and any liabilities I should be aware of / things I should be looking for while riding, e.g. the axle sliding in the drops due to braking forces.


  8. The problem is mostly that the rotor is fixed to and moving with the hub (horizontally, depending on chain wear, chosen chainring and cog sizes, etc.) whereas the calliper is fixed to the frame, which can create fore/aft alignment issues. An alternative design would be something like the sliding dropouts from Paragon (

  9. EvanT– there isn’t a discernible problem with track drops and a disc brake. This frame has open caliper mounts to match the rotor position and to swing away from the rotor when you remove the rear wheel. Redline’s monocog has had a similar set up for years, with no issue. I flatted mine enough times to find it a bit awkward, but otherwise trouble free. When it comes to keeping costs down, a fancy sliding dropout isn’t the best choice. Those chain tensioners on the front of the dropout would make axle alignment relatively simple, and caliper alignment is easy from there. As far as having a quick release skewer in a track drop goes, this is another non-issue. As someone mentioned above, having an internal cam skewer (Shimano’s are the best, but the fancy Mavic ones are also passable.) is all you need. Road frames with front-entry semi-horizontal drops have been set up this way since tulio invented the quick release, to no ill end.
    Also, I agree on the downtube shifter mounts. Gives you another option for the build. I just finished a Double Cross, thanks entirely to the downtube shifter mount giving me the ability to use what parts I had in my attic. I could not justify the cost of STI levers, and had that been my only option, the frame would still be hanging sadly unbuilt.

  10. @EvanT – As far as I know, every Karate Monkey ships with the tensioners. They’re just not advertised on the website. And no one wants cantis anymore. It’s over.

  11. Really, wouldn’t a carbon hardtail 29er with cross tires (and perhaps a rigid fork/lauf fork) be just as light, twice as nimble, and 3 times as flexible?

  12. @EvanT – first of all, Karate Monkey frame is far too long to accept drop bars for most users. Different frame, different application, only similar construction of the rear triangle (still fun though!).

    @Gravity – you don’t even realize how wrong you are. As good as hydraulic brakes are, I’d NEVER take them to a multi-day trip into the unknown. Sometimes simplicity is far more than performance (and in many cases cantis are more than powerful enough if only they are set up properly).

  13. “Handles like an MTB when things get technical”?

    With a 72-72.5 HA and your hands so close to being over the front axle?
    Handles like a CX or touring bike with bigger tyres would be a bit more realistic. That’s fine, I like bikes like that, but to say you can descend or ride tech on a bike like this in the way you’d ride an MTB is a bit far-fetched.

  14. Compare Surly Straggler frameset or disc Trucker for a comparable price-but neither can do canti’s. I like my Paul’s….and neither can do a 52t road crank and big tires….

  15. @filibuster cash- I believe Problemsolvers makes a rather nice clamp on downtube shifter boss mount. Hate to imagine sad, unused frames. Nothing like the direct, visceral feel of a downtube shifter and a nicely worn-in Record derailleur.

  16. Looks like a sweet do-it-all frame.
    I have been wanting a Cross bike I can shred trails on, but I also am kicking around a cross USA bike ride. A bike like this can do both well.

  17. @EvanT
    The problems are several:
    1. The axle can rather easily slip around in the drops unless you have an internal cam shimano skewer that’s got pretty good teeth on it. Even then you have to make sure it’s clamped pretty tight, if it’s not 100% tight it can angle the wheel just enough to require trailside correction because the brakes will rub too strongly. This can also happen rather easily if you brake yourself while rolling backward or on a reverse incline.

    I believe Trek fixed this issue with having two screws (one fore, one aft) to give sliding ability by adjusting the fore screw, but then to maintain position with an aft screw.

    2. As @FourthandVine mentioned, having the brake mount fixed and the wheels sliding can mean even more alignment issues.

    The best solution isn’t really common yet, but I think Paragon came close with these dropouts:

    As with many things bike-related though lots of things work just fine for years, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things (e.g. canti-brakes vs. discs, QR vs Thru-axle, downtube vs. STI, etc.). Ultimately what they do here is choose the cheapest solution that works a lot of the time, but it’s not really a great idea unless your top needs are cheap and easy.

  18. Wojtek G – you can get a carbon mtb 29er frame direct from china for about $475, around $550 with shipping. So your point about price was…?

  19. I’ve got this frame. Rides great. I run Avid BB7s.

    So the horizontal dropout and disc mount situation is pretty f*cked.

    Yeah. You have to remove the caliper to get the wheel out if you get a flat.

    I love everything about the frame except that. Why. WHY. Anyone, even a non-cyclist could point that out as an issue.

What do you think?