Cotic FlareMAX 29 Custom review

Sheffield steel ripper that’s ready to go full monty

BikeRadar score4/5

One of the major themes of this year’s Trail Bike of the Year test is the sheer breadth of character and construction methods among the top contenders, and the irresistibly fast and fun Cotic FlareMAX is the perfect example.

This review was updated on 22 May 2017 to include our video review.

Reynolds top-quality 853 steel actually gains strength around the weld areas so the thickened ends of the butted tubing can be kept short for little obvious weight penalty over alloy and carbon bikes. It also potentially gives an 853 frame a subtle spring feel that few composite, alloy or even titanium frames can match.

Cotic emphasises this character where it counts with reinforcing plates where needed without resulting in excessive stiffness. Conversely it uses an oval top tube and oversized seat tube to make sure the flex doesn’t get out of hand.

The Cane Creek DB Inline's Climb Switch
The Cane Creek DB Inline's Climb Switch

Cotic’s 853 build experience, plus the reduced leverage of the 120-130mm fork and a similarly well-engineered alloy back end, mean the FlareMAX is a proper sweet-spot chassis. It’s compliant and naturally ground moulding enough to make the harder-compound ‘Fast Rolling’ WTB tyres feel like properly sticky rubber. There’s not so much travel and twang that things get out of hand and hard to decipher in 3D, though.

The Cotic FlareMAX was a top contender for our Trail Bike Of The Year. See why in the video above

The upgraded dampers on this custom version of the standard Silver build are ideally suited for keeping the naturally lively chassis consistently controlled. The DH derived, dual-compression circuit Roughcut damper in the McQueen fork is superbly supple, controlled and predictable, making it totally worth the £100 upcharge over the simpler, spikier RL2 version.

The bike is compatible with Plus or 29er wheel sizes
The bike is compatible with Plus or 29er wheel sizes

Cane Creek’s Inline shock seems to have solved its initial reliability issues and now provides super-accurate rebound tuning if you’ve got the knowledge to maximise its potential. Add a massive 800mm bar, responsive 55mm stem and relaxed 67-degree head angle and the Cotic is a superb mix of surefooted, high-traction confidence and responsive playfulness that loves to be chucked around the trail.

Set up correctly the suspension is both super supportive through the corners but able to carry speed through rooty chunder; in fact, it does this so well it leaves most other bikes for dead. There’s enough space between the ‘Droplink’ linkage pieces and Boost back end to fit a 2.8in ‘plus’ tyre if you really want to maximise grip and float. Either way it’s a bike that connected immediately with our testers and rapidly became one of my favourite rides from a sheer fun point of view.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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