Cotic’s Soul was the original posh steel hardtail revival machine that has since been much copied by several similar UK micro brands. Cotic made the obvious jump to 29in wheels relatively early too – and we were impressed when we first gave the Solaris frame the once-over back in 2012.
But plenty of water has passed under the mountain biking bridge since then – indeed, the Soul frame is also now available in an up-to-the-minute 650b re-rub. So does Cotic's 29er now feel like a classic original, or has it been outclassed by the competition?
Frame and equipment: same difference
There are obvious similarities between the Soul and Solaris, including a steel frame with sloped top tube for low standover and wishbone back end, clean graphics and long top tube, short stem style geometry. Cotic hasn’t just taken the Soul drawings and stretched them though.
The Solris is based around a rock-solid Shimano XT groupset
The ovalised top tube is bigger in diameter and 10mm longer to work with the standard issue 60mm stem. The down tube is double butted at the head and it gets the fat 34.9mm seat tube of the BFe hardcore hardtail, in the lighter weight 853 steel, for stiffness and shimmed dropper post compatibility. The seat tube is kept straight for easy seat dropping but that leaves the back end relatively long. We would definitely tick the 780mm bars option on Cotic’s build kit and then possibly chop it down, rather than opt for the 710mm flat bars of our test example, which looked and felt out of place.
Ride and handling: more solid than soulful
Apart from the bars everything about the Solaris fit felt sorted. The elongated top tube and layback seatpost mean it’s still got a decent reach with the 60mm stem if you are pulling up a long drag. It’s got a solid feel through the pedals and a tall bottom bracket reduces the chance of pedal strikes on rocky and rutted trails. The long front and back ends keep things stable rather than snapping out at either end and the turning centre is where you expect too. The stout tubes give plenty of feedback so you know what the tyres are doing early and the 120mm X-Fusion Slide fork is a predictable and trustworthy performer too.
To stop flex in the frame making the steering vague, Cotic has oversized the Solaris's seat tube and top tube diameters
The steel tubeset is undoubtedly more forgiving than alloy, but the hunt for predictable accuracy has squeezed some of the life out of it compared with some peers. Where Niner's ROS 9 seems to melt impacts and trail trauma and the Singular Buzzard feels pretty lively and keen under power, the Cotic thuds along with a noticeably less dynamic feel.
There’s little of the micro compliance that helps the tyres find scraps of traction at the ragged edge either, and we had to drop pressures significantly lower than our normal 30psi test level to put some smoothness and grip under its wheels.
While the steering is quick enough the long wheelbase and rear end make it hard to hustle through tight trails and it’s certainly not a whip or flick machine. The tall bottom bracket also makes it feel slightly precarious rather than planted if you’re drifting.
Specifications as tested:
- Size tested: L (also available in S, M)
- Weight tested: 12.34KG / 27.2lb
- Frame: Reynolds 853 maintubes, Cotic butted chromoly steel rear
- Fork: X-Fusion Slide, 120mm
- Shock: N/A
- Max tyre size: 2.4in
- Chainset: Shimano XT
- Shifters: Shimano XT
- Derailleurs: Shimano XT
- Chain: Shimano XT
- Bottom Bracket: Shimano XT
- Cassette: Shimano XT
- Front: Stan’s ZTR Arch EX rim, Hope Pro 2 Evo hub
- Rear: Stan’s ZTR Arch EX rim, Hope Pro 2 Evo hub
- Tyres: Continental Mountain King II, 29x2.2in
- Brakes: Magura Marta, 180/160mm rotors
- Bars: Race Face Ride, 720mm
- Stem: Cotic forged, 60mm
- Grips: Velo, lock-on
- Seatpost: Cotic layback, 31.6mm
- Saddle: Cotic cro-mo
- Headset: Hope
- Pedals: N/A
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.