Cotic Hemlock - First Ride £980

Potentially good value but flawed

BikeRadar score 2/5

Cotic’s small range shows good attention to detail and offers plenty to like. For 2009, they've addressed criticisms of a flexible back end on previous versions of the Hemlock to release this, its improved incarnation. Our test bike showed promise – until the frame collapsed due to an assembly failure. Cotic say they've fixed the problem, but we still have concerns.

Ride & handling: Tight and controlled, but we don't think flexy rear end is strong enough

The Hemlock responds as well to being pointed down precisely picked lines as it does to being floated over the top at speed.

Uphill performance was tight and controlled with the ProPedal platform damping dialled in, but we preferred to climb technical sections with the lever flicked off, making the most of the masses of traction.

Unfortunately the swingarm snapped across the lower pivot bearing housings while descending a flight of steps, causing the frame to collapse.

It was then discovered that a crucial washer had been omitted on medium frames during factory assembly. Cotic addressed the problem immediately and the chainstays on all faulty bikes have been recalled and replaced.

They supplied us with a second test sample and although we haven’t replicated the fault since, we remain sceptical about the minimal amount of material at this critical part of the frame.

Under braking the seatstay flexes considerably at the disc mount, and even resulted in the seatstay becoming permanently bowed on our test model.

Frame: Good attention to detail plus adjustable travel at a reasonable weight

As habitual mud pluggers, we appreciated the Hemlock’s weather-friendly details. The swingarm is angled to shed filth, and three-quarter length gear outers resist water ingress. Clearance swallows most combinations of big tyres and sticky mud, and pivot bearings are readily available sealed cartridge units.

The low-slung top tube keeps the bike out of the way for steep descents and technical sections, bolstered by a straight seat tube allowing full saddle drop.

New features for 2009 include the oversized 1.5in head tube, which minimises front end height when run with an integrated headset. Frame finish is black anodised or gloss white powdercoat.

The new Fox RP23 High Volume shock boosts the short-travel version to 120mm (4.72in), while the long-travel stays at 150mm (5.90in).

Travel is adjusted by interchanging the rocker plates, though you’d need suitable forks for each version as it’s designed to run forks spanning 130-160mm travel.

The back end now has a beefy torsion box to improve stiffness while keeping frame weight down to a reasonable 6.5lb.

Equipment: Disappointing fork, but Shimano, Bontrager, Magura and Maxxis kit works well enough

The Hemlock is only available as a frameset. Our short-travel test bike was fitted with Magura Thor forks, which suffered from top-out rattle.

A vanilla build kit of Shimano SLX drivetrain, Bontrager finishing kit, Magura Louise brakes and Maxxis Highroller wheels was flawless as expected.

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