Cotic FlareMax first ride review

Cotic's even longer FlareMax bikes revealed

Long a stalwart of the UK-designed mountain bike industry, Cotic has taken its popular trail bike, the FlareMAX and given it the long, low and slack treatment for 2018, dubbed 'Longshot'.

The FlareMax is their shorter travel 120mm 29er, which is paired with a 130mm 650b Flare. Longer travel Rocket and RocketMAX models round out its DropLink suspension models, and it's the FlareMAX that's first to get the new geometry.

The big news is the geometry. And much like Bird Cycleworks and the Geomotron, Cotic proves that UK based designers are pushing the limits of bicycle geometry.

You can also run the FlareMAX with plus-sized tyres
You can also run the FlareMAX with plus-sized tyres

While the 66-degree head angle and 74-degree seat are relatively standard these days on a 29er, it's the massive 482mm reach, and resultant 1,243mm wheelbase (with 120mm forks) that sets the FlareMAX apart from most 29er trail bikes (at the other end of the length scale you have the YT Jeffsy 29, with a reach of 445mm and 1,178mm).

The bike is designed around both 29in and 650b+ tyres, and there's now a size Small available, alongside Medium, Large and Extra Large. The frame is designed around 120–140mm forks and 30–50mm stems.

The stubby stem means overall length isn't massively impacted compared to the previous generation FlareMAX with the shorter reach
The stubby stem means overall length isn't massively impacted compared to the previous generation FlareMAX with the shorter reach

Cotic is well known for its use of steel tubing, and this continues with the new bike. Reynolds 853 steel is the tubing of choice, with a custom drawn 'Ovalform' top tube. Only the linkages are made from alloy.

The bikes and frames have a number of neat touches. For example, the One Up Components' customised top chain guide neatly held in place on the top hole of the ISCG05 mount, leaving the bottom two for a taco-style bash guard.

The main bearing has been increased in diameter for increased durability, while the 1x only design means Cotic has reportedly been able to boost stiffness to the Boost width back-end.

External cable routing will draw fans, as will the neat routing clips and fixings
External cable routing will draw fans, as will the neat routing clips and fixings

Cotic FlareMAX ride impressions

I briefly rode the FlareMax in somewhat mucky conditions in the Forest of Dean, which makes drawing too many conclusions difficult, but what was immediately apparent was that the combination of the big hoops, long geometry and reasonably progressive suspension creates a bike that feels like it's got more than its 120mm of rear wheel travel on offer.

The longer geometry, with that lower bottom bracket, has aided the handling of the bike. Adding length to the front centre of the bike means it's easier to weight the front wheel in turns and on descents, boosting front end grip and confidence, while minimising the feeling that the tyre might wash out.

Cotic has a long association with WTB's tyres — the aggressively treaded Vigilante is found up front
Cotic has a long association with WTB's tyres — the aggressively treaded Vigilante is found up front

This results in better, faster cornering. Adding length to the front and rear of the bike adds high speed stability too, and on loose or muddy chutes the shape allows you to effectively point and shoot to the bottom of the section, before hauling on the brakes to bring speeds to a more manageable level for whatever comes next.

Cotic has in the past been criticised for its relatively high bottom brackets. This was done, designer Cy said, to boost pedal clearance on technical trails in the rocky Peak District — where Cotics are designed. The revised geometry does have a lower bottom bracket, though it's still not super low. Fortunately the added length negates a bit of that extra BB height.

By lowering the BB a bit though, the FlareMAX still has decent pedal clearance, but also allows the rider to weight the bike lower down, yet again boosting stability and grip in corners.

Cotic's long-running DropLink suspension is a four-bar system
Cotic's long-running DropLink suspension is a four-bar system

The flip side of this increase in length, and certainly rear end length, is that the front end becomes tougher to lift or hop over obstacles. To get the most out of the handling you need to increase the range of movement your body has over the bike, which can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you're jumping on to said bike from a shorter one.

Getting the most out of the longer bike requires a shift in your riding technique, with a much more mobile body. To get the front end up you have to shift your weight a lot further back, while to get the increased traction from the front wheel you need to ride the front of the bike more. This isn't a bad thing, but if you choose to test ride a bike, such as the new FlareMAX, bear this in mind when  you first ride one.

The FlareMAX is a 29er with 120mm of rear wheel travel, though riding it you might not guess it
The FlareMAX is a 29er with 120mm of rear wheel travel, though riding it you might not guess it

The DropLink suspension is a classic four-bar system and, on the whole, performed as I expected. I'd probably add a volume spacer to the shock to aid ramp-up towards the end of the stroke, but otherwise the suspension was smooth, controlled and calm.

Cotic will offer a range of build options, and within those options you'll be able to customise the spec a little.

Cotic FlareMAX pricing and availability

Cotic offers a range of frame-only and build options, along with the ability to customise individual bits of your build. 

The frame-only option starts at £1,499 with an X-Fusion O2 RCX shock, which can be upgraded to Cane Creek DB Air IL options for an upcharge. 

Cane Creek's DB Air InLine is highly adjustable
Cane Creek's DB Air InLine is highly adjustable

Full builds follow Cotic's usual options, with Silver, Gold and Platinum options, starting at £2,799 with a Shimano SLX drivetrain, Shimano M615 brakes, X-Fusion McQueen forks, O2 RCX shock, WTB rimmed wheels and a number of finishing kit options.

From there the possibilities seem pretty vast, with various upgrades from the likes of Hope, RockShox, Cane Creek, SRAM, RaceFace and WTB.

Cotic should be receiving its first shipment later in February, though you can pre-order the bikes now from cotic.co.uk.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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