Cotic Soul £1740

Bizarre looks, but a great overall package

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Skinny tubes and a beefy fork make for odd looks but the combination is a terrific all-day hardtail that’s more fun than a very fun thing that’s been dipped in fun juice and anodized fun-coloured.

The first thing that strikes most people about the Cotic Soul is the way it looks. The skinny 853 steel tubes combined with the burly carbon of the Pace forks make an odd sight. But once you start riding you just don't care.

Every rider who jumped on it, even for a car park spin, said the same thing: "It feels great." The slack angled head tube, combined with huge bars, short stem and big forks, gives the front end a feeling of total control. In fact, if the front of this bike was a dog it would be a Rottweiler called Tyson - big, confident and ready to soak up any kind of aggressive behaviour you can throw at it.

But the back looks more like a greyhound and you'd be forgiven for wondering how it holds up. But therein lies the secret of this classy bike. The zip of Reynolds 853 steel is legendary. It gives great response and nippy handling on the twisty singletrack, but it's also strong enough to take anything the Rottweiler up front chooses to attack.

The Cotic benefits from careful finishing kit selection. Front to back, top to bottom, Cotic has gone for tough and reliable parts that match up to the character of the bike. This is just one build you can choose - Cotic doesn't supply bikes finished, although it does offer the key elements at discounted rates when bought with a frame.

If you want a robust bike that'll really add spice to your riding it's hard to suggest anything better than this. It wasn't quite the fastest climber or fastest descender among the batch of bikes we but whatever it tackled it was always close behind. It wasn't the lightest or the heaviest, either, but it felt good on the climbs and still solid on the descents.

Most importantly of all, though, it was simply great fun to ride and marked itself out as the bike we'd unhesitatingly choose first for a big day in the mountains.

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