Sheffield-based Cotic has expanded its ‘Droplink’ suspension range with the 130mm travel Flare and 29er/27.5+ wheeled ‘Max’ models, but its 650b Rocket is still an absolute glued-to-the-ground ripper.
- Best mountain bike: how to choose the right one for you
- Which is faster: hardtail or full-suspension?
Cotic is one of the few designers using steel, with premium air-hardened Reynolds 853 mainframe tubes and steel seatstays. The chainstays are alloy to allow the extensive shaping to fit the Boost rear end. Rear pivots on the seatstay mean the wheel follows a simple arc around the main pivot. The two Droplink arms on the subtly kinked seat tube create a progressive shock feel for plush traction but power-and-play ‘pop’ when the shock is tuned right. Cables, hoses and bottom bracket are all external for easy maintenance and longevity.
Our bike was based around the mid-range ‘Gold’ kit spec, well worth getting for the fork and shock. Cockpit and wheel pack were spot on, Shimano XT is noticeably stiffer in feel than SRAM shifting, but the rear brake wasn’t totally consistent. Extensive kit upgrades and a custom build menu are available.
The tubes might be thin and the fork narrow compared to 35mm-legged Boost units, but there’s no doubt the Rocket is a bike with serious trail presence and gravity swagger. You can really feel the difference in the way the steel frame and advanced dampers connect to the trail. There’s a palpable ‘stickiness’ in the way they mould around the smallest surface bumps and suck the Rocket down on to the ground like a DH bike. The first turn shows this rich connection extends to the tyres — WTB’s ‘Fast Rolling’ compound and ‘Light’ carcass boots feel like super tacky chewing gum on the Cotic.
Tangible twist in the long, skinny mainframe means it finds its own flow around high cornering load or blunt-impact situations, rather than crashing and clattering over the top. That gives a sense of the bike snaking around beneath you as you lock the 785mm bars on to target, but together with the outstanding damper performance it creates an unshakeably confident ride.
The geometry maximises the rewards of all this grip. The tall fork rakes out the head angle to nearer 65 than the published 65.5-degree angle while the long chainstays stretch out stability further. We were initially concerned about the tall bottom bracket, but it squats down into the Cane Creek DBinline shock as soon as you’re rolling and never felt like it was going to high-side us out of corners.
There are moments that the frame flex and sheer length of the bike act against it when you’re turning it in hard, and it’s not the easiest bike to whip around. Occasionally the temptation to let it tank ahead on its own course got us into trouble, but we shouldn’t have been going that fast anyway.
What surprised us, given the steel frame and the way the Rocket hunkers down on to the trail, is that it doesn’t need gravity to get its groove on. The shock’s Climb lever, which slows down both compression and rebound, helps firm up pedalling manners when you’re grunting up a climb. Even with plush compression settings the shock is stable under power and, once you’ve dialled the pressure, its progression is spot on for support without spitting traction. It’s not overly heavy either, although the Gold spec build makes it pricey.
Having ridden the more basic X-Fusion fork and rear shock last year we’d say the extra dosh for the superbly controlled Roughcut fork damper and DBinline shock is worth it. Expect to spend extra time as well as money getting the fork and shock set up as, even though we got on great with Cotic’s default damping tune, balancing shock and fork pressures to hit the spot between over-firm and suddenly linear took us a while. Other Fox units are available as upgrades though.