Cotic Soul frame £499

Do-it-all steel frame gets modern twists

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Now in its third generation, the British-designed Soul is Cotic’s lightweight do-it-all hardtail, using steel rather than aluminium or carbon for that lively, playful trail feel. 

It’s no revolution, however. For 2013, Cotic have made a couple of future-proofing additions to a blueprint that otherwise hasn’t changed. With a design rated for anything between a 100mm and 140mm fork, it remains a flexible ride in all the right ways.

Ride & handling: Comfortable and adaptable enough for UK conditions 

We built our bike up with trail-light but tough components, favouring the solid and dependable 2013 2x10 SLX groupset, a slightly bling set of CrankBrothers Cobalt wheels and Truvativ, SDG and CrankBrothers finishing kit. 

Cotic’s designers use a relatively long top tube designed to be run with a shorter stem, so we fitted a 60mm Truvativ to keep the steering light and nimble. That top tube works well to create a comfortable reach for big day rides. 

A RockShox Revelation fork enabled us to test the frame with different travel settings. With the maximum 140mm up front, the Soul is pinned on the downs and when sat on the nose of the seat, the front wheel stays fairly well planted on steeper climbs, too. 

In the twists and turns of the singletrack it struggles to find control however, and zaps power from your legs on the straights. Stiffening the fork and losing a bit of tyre pressure at the front helps if you’re determined to use full travel, but we were certain there was more to squeeze from this bike.

Dropping the fork to 120mm brought the change we were looking for, and made the Soul a more balanced ride. It becomes tighter and more nimble through the turns, climbing efficiency increases and handles rocks and roots with almost the same aplomb. 

The Soul’s solid, neutral yet characterful feel gives instant confidence to push harder. Whether throwing the bike into berms, through rock gardens or simply flowing the singletrack, it feels agile and planted. It’s versatile and friendly rather than harsh or demanding. It’s not the lightest, cheapest or most modern option, but its trick is to never make you think of any of these things. 

A dropper post transforms any ride, and it’s a modification that really benefits the Cotic. With the seat out the way this bike wants to play, and play we did, with the sort of commitment that usually comes after a long relationship with a bike; it just feels ‘right’. You’ll want a dropper post – the extra flow more than compensates for the weight gain. Those not convinced will be pleased to hear that there are no bottle cage mounts on the seat tube, so standard posts can be dropped to the hilt. 

The Soul is outstandingly comfortable. With our favoured saddle we were happy to ride the bike all day on all kinds of terrain, and in the British weather the Soul loved life and shed mud easily – even in the thickest wet clay conditions. There was never any chance of clogging, with a country mile separating the tyre and frame at the nearest points.

Frame & equipment: Capable, futureproof and well worth the effort of a custom build

The Soul’s main tubes are custom made from heat-treated Reynolds 853 steel, and while the down tube remains the same, the ovalised top tube has lost weight. This ovalisation provides good lateral stiffness for increased pedal power, while allowing some vertical flex for comfort. 

The new tapered head tube increases that stiffness, while allowing the fitment of noticeably stiffer tapered forks that are becoming increasingly popular for trail use. 

The larger 34.9mm seat tube adds a small amount of extra rigidity – and it’s lighter than the narrow tube it replaces – though its main function is to allow for easy dropper post use with its 31.6mm internal diameter. 

At the back, Reynolds 4130 tubing forms the wishbone stay and bridgeless chainstays, which provide oodles of mud and tyre clearance. Neatly machined dropouts end in a replaceable mech hanger, and there are cable clips on the underside of both seatstays allowing a fully housed cable setup from the seat tube back.

The mix of steels creates a frame that’s tough and durable with low vibration resonance, with flex enough for day-long comfort. As you’d expect for the top-end price, the welds are hardly noticeable and the paint is covered in a hardwearing lacquer. 

Our build came out at 12.7kg (28lb), though around 11kg (25lb) is easily achievable with more cross-country parts choices. At £499 for the frame and seat clamp, a decent complete bike is going to cost £1,500-plus, and Cotic can supply a limited range of pre-fitted headsets and bottom brackets. 

A longer-travel build will please aggressive riders who like to use every last root and pump bump to its full advantage, but there are no chainguide mounts to keep things secure in the rough, though a clutch mech (such as 2013 SLX) does help keep noise and dropped chains to a minimum. 

Nevertheless, long travel, single ring thrill seekers will be better served by Cotic’s BFe (beefy), which is basically this frame with an extra pound’s worth of bigger tubes, ISCG mounts and the strength to take 160mm forks. 

While 100mm forks drop the Soul into cross-country territory where it’s less competitive for weight and stiffness, and 140mm puts it up against the likes of Pace’s aluminium RC325.5, 120mm of trail-ready travel suits it perfectly. We think it will suit riders looking for a fun, comfortable and responsive hardtail to chuck about woods, stomp the hills and ride on all-day epics – mountain bikers, to put it another way… 

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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