Straying away from his beloved steel hardtails, Cotic owner and designer Cy Turner had mixed results with his first full-suspension bike, the alloy Hemlock. Its follow-up, the Rocket, is the result of two-and-a-half years of development and hard testing around the hills of Sheffield. Combining an alloy swingarm with a steel front triangle, it offers a unique ride at a price that's competitive with its aluminium counterparts.
Ride & handling: Agile, lively and confidence inspiring
Cotic are coming up to their first decade in business – that business being UK designed steel hardtails, at least until their first foray into full-suspension a few years back with the Hemlock. The Rocket is no hardtail but it still oozes the 'steel is real' mantra.
The first thing you notice about this bike is the unusual feel. There's no dead thud when doing the rear wheel drop test – in fact, it’s far more likely to spring back up and hit you in the face. For this is no trail-deadening behemoth, it’s a nimble, lively beast that, if you’re not on your game, will quickly let you know it.
We love this about the Rocket. It’s got edge, and so it should – how many other steel full-suspension bikes can you think of? The progressiveness of the Droplink suspension mixed with the twang of steel means you can pick the bike up even in the depths of a high-speed rough section and change line, double up those convenient compressions and have fun with the trail.
This progressiveness also gives the Rocket the feeling of a shorter-travel bike, but when you need it, you get the full benefits of 150mm of rear suspension. Cotic’s slack-and-low approach – 66.5° head angle and 13.3in bottom bracket – gives you nothing but smiles in steeps and corners alike, and makes the Rocket a confidence inspiring place to be. In slower speed, square-edge-hit territory the bike does get a bit bogged down though, showing the downside to a very progressive suspension setup.
Our test bike came in at 29.7lb (13.5kg) without pedals. It's not the lightest 150mm-travel rig by any means but the weight doesn't translate to the ride. Powering up technical climbs, the bike feels light underneath you and traction is plentiful. When hammering tight singletrack it bursts from corners with urgency and flair, and punches pockets of trail into submission. The best thing is, you can feel every detail of the terrain transmit from the tyres to your fingertips as the Rocket reads the Braille-written story of the trail.
Frame & equipment: Stiff and responsive chassis; pick your own kit
The Rocket's fuselage is made up of a Reynolds 853 steel front triangle – giving it a very Cotic aesthetic – an aluminium swingarm, and a chromoly seatstay and shock strut. Weight is 7.8lb with Fox Float RL shock. The 150mm of rear wheel travel is brought to you via Cotic’s own Droplink design, which produces a progressive suspension curve.
15mm pivot axles on the main and Droplink pivots coupled with the ultra-stiff 35mm steel seat tube and a Syntace X-12 142x12mm rear end make for a seriously stiff and responsive setup. ISCG 05 tabs mean chain guides are a go, and with this bike's ability to pop along the trail like everything’s a transition we can forsee a lot of people using them. Finally, up front the 44mm head tube gives ultimate fork compatibility.
Our test rig was kitted out with a Fox Float 32 fork up front and RL shock at the rear, full Shimano Deore XT drivetrain, SLX brakes, Hope Pro 2 based wheels and Bontrager finishing kit. To buy though, the Rocket is only available as a frame and shock, in 16, 17.5 and 19in sizes. Prices start at £1,350 with a Fox Float RL (including Hope seat clamp, chainstay protector and delivery) and rise to £1,580 if you want a custom tuned BOS Vip’r shock.
BikeRadar caught up with Cy Turner at the Bespoked Bristol handmade bike show to find out more about the development of the Rocket. He told us that work started on the new frame two-and-a-half years ago, after bikes like the Trek Remedy and Lapierre Zesty took suspension performance and aesthetics to a new level.
“The Hemlock was pretty much at the end of its development path," he told us. "It was four years old and had slowly got more ‘aggro’ so we realised that was where the market was going. We also realised that if we were going to make a full-suspension bike again, it needed to look like a Cotic, and it needed to look fantastic."
Cy said the aim with the Rocket was to provide a stiffer, more unified feel between the front and rear ends, a more progressive suspension curve, to provide more 'pop' and let the bike sit up in its travel more, and a look that echoed that of his steel hardtails. He reckons he's succeeded on all counts.
“It feels so ‘all of one piece’ compared to almost every other bike I’ve ridden, which is a key to making it fun to ride," he said. “Everything about it has come out as well as or better than we hoped and it’s so much fun.” For more on the Cotic Rocket, check out BikeRadar's first look.