Cotic Soul (frame only) review

Extensively evolved XC/trail flyer

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Now in its fifth generation, Cotic’s Soul is the forefather of ferrous-framed UK trail hardtails. The latest Longshot geometry adds techy climb and descent control without killing responsiveness, but the frame deserves a better wheel pack than the test bike came with…

Cotic Soul frame

Skinny rims, a soft wheel-build and wooden-feeling tyres choked the sample, so give the frame fatter wheels and quality rubber to let it breathe
Skinny rims, a soft wheel-build and wooden-feeling tyres choked the sample, so give the frame fatter wheels and quality rubber to let it breathe

The Soul has always used Reynolds 853 — the Birmingham firm’s premium air-hardening steel alloy — for its main tubes. But Cotic’s owner, Cy Turner ('Cy Cotic', geddit?), has added his own tweaks. The head tube is a neat tapered piece, the double-butted down tube and Ovalform top tube get open-ended gussets, and the oversized seat tube locks down the centre of the bike for powerful drive. 

Super-skinny wishbone seatstays connect onto cowled bolt-through dropouts, and the swerved and kinked chainstays leave room for chunky 27.5x2.6in tyres on wide rims.

It’s light for a steel frame, especially one with a crazy-long 480mm reach (Large). The 66-degree head angle is steep enough but still slack compared to most cross-country/trail hardtails. Cotic doesn’t match it with a steepened seat tube though, which has implications if you want to fit a longer fork. 

While the seat tube has internal dropper post routing, the cable/hose is then directed up the outside of the down tube — a practical solution, but not pretty.

Cotic Soul kit

Cotic offers several full builds. The test bike is a tweaked version of the Shimano SLX-based Silver model and would set you back £2,299.

Upgrades include an X-Fusion Manic dropper and its top-spec Sweep RC HLR fork. While good for a cost-effective unit, this can’t match the control of the latest top-end forks, making it worth paying another £100 for a Cane Creek Helm.

The other thing the Soul deserves is better wheels. Hope Pro 4 hubs are ultra-tough, but the test bike came inconsistently laced into skinny Tech XC rims. Subbing in a set of well-built, wider wheels with 2.6in tyres underlined the Cotic’s ride with a different class of float and traction. Thankfully, wider rims and rubber are part of Cotic’s custom-build menu.

Cotic Soul ride

Luckily, there’s more than enough class in the Cotic frame to shine through even in stock form. 

Cy’s evolution of the Soul tubeset has kept it sweetly balanced from head tube to dropouts. It’s stiff enough to stay accurate in rowdy terrain and deliver taut torque transfer for acceleration kick and climbing drive, but with enough compliance to keep hands fresh and let you flow through trouble rather than clang off it.

The combination of a long reach with a short-travel fork does feel a bit weird at first, but limiting travel to 120-130mm works to make sure the back end isn’t left trying to match the impact absorption of an enduro fork.

 It also helps keep the front end anchored superbly on climbs, carving just the arc you want round power corners and threading through narrow gaps between trees.

The extreme Longshot stretch and short fork can feel odd at first, but boost its climbing as well as descending prowess
The extreme Longshot stretch and short fork can feel odd at first, but boost its climbing as well as descending prowess

Add the muscular rear end, and the Soul is a brilliant technical climber that loves to take the fight to the hill or lighter alloy/carbon race bikes when the going gets interesting. 

The head angle is still steep enough that you can whip the long wheelbase through corners, and if the front tyre does start to slide, the stretched reach gives you forever to re-grab traction through the synapse-fast response of the super-short stem. That makes it a super-fast and agile singletracker, without any laziness or flop in the steering.

While the Soul’s length and low front-end make it hard to pop, hop and manual at first, you’ll soon adjust and get it lofting satisfactorily, if never as eagerly as on the Morf. 

A steeper seat angle would make it work better with longer forks, but Cotic’s sturdier BFe is the obvious choice. If you find the Longshot geometry too remote, then you just go down a frame size and add a longer dropper for a more conventional fit.

Cotic Soul specifications (test bike)

  • Frame: Reynolds 853 main tubes (DZB down tube, Ovalform top tube), 4130 chromoly rear triangle
  • Fork: X-Fusion Sweep RC HLR, 120mm (4.7in) travel
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Hubs: Hope Pro 4
  • Axles: 15x110mm/12x148mm (Boost)
  • Rims: Hope Tech XC
  • Spokes: Double-butted
  • Wheel Weight: 1,990g (f), 2,720g (r), including tyres
  • Tyres: WTB Vigilante TCS Light/High Grip 27.5x2.3in (f) and WTB Trail Boss TCS Tough/Fast 27.5x2.25in (r)
  • Crankset: Race Face Æffect
  • Bottom Bracket: Race Face X-Type
  • Mech(S): Shimano SLX M7000
  • Shifter(S): Shimano SLX M7000 (1x11)
  • Cassette: Shimano SLX M7000, 11-46t
  • Chain: Shimano HG700
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore M6000, 180mm rotors
  • Bar: Cotic Calver, 780mm
  • Stem: Cotic Short, 35mm
  • Grips: Cotic lock-on
  • Seatpost: X-Fusion Manic 150mm dropper
  • Saddle: Cotic
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L
  • Size tested: Large
  • Weight: 13.04kg

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

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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