The steel BFe (‘burly iron’) has long been a stalwart of the British hardcore hardtail scene, with 26in, 650b and 29in-wheeled versions being offered since its inception in 2005.
Cotic’s ‘Longshot’ geometry, based around a short 35mm stem, punts out some of the most aggressively shaped bikes on the market.
This steel BFeMAX 29er boasts a build that screams technical capability and a frame design that leaves no doubt about the brand’s fast and gnarly intentions for this bike.
How we tested
We put four hard-hitting hardtail frames, which can be built up into complete bikes for around £3,000, to the test on some of the UK’s toughest and steepest tracks.
These UK-designed frames were ridden at our proving grounds in the South West, on the varied tracks of BikePark Wales and in the steep loam of High Burnside, near Aviemore in Scotland.
Smooth, stable handling is a must, but so is pin-sharp accuracy, so you can thread your way between trail features that might otherwise throw you off-line.
Also on test
- Ribble HT AL
- Pipedream Moxie Mx3
- Bird Forge
Cotic BFeMAX frame
Cotic uses its own ‘FM’ butted, heat-treated chromoly steel tubes on the BFeMAX, along with a Reynolds 853 down tube to “bring life and pop” to the ride. The top tube boasts Cotic’s ‘Ovalform’ profile, again to add compliance.
There are several braces and lugs for extra strength at tube junctions. The top tube slopes drastically and the classically skinny seatstays continue this line.
External cable routing makes for easy maintenance, while several bottle cage bosses and an ISCG-05 chain guide mount add versatility.
The frame is designed for 120mm to 160mm forks, with the geometry varying depending on what you fit.
With a 150mm-travel RockShox Pike up front, my large frame had a slack (measured) 65-degree head angle and a 489mm reach, making it one of the longer bikes on the market.
At 445mm, the slim chainstays are the longest in my four bike test, and the bottom bracket (BB) sits 326mm from the ground, higher than the rest.
Cotic BFeMAX geometry (based on 140mm travel fork)
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74.5||74.5||74.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||65||65||65||65|
|Seat tube (mm)||390||425||460||495|
|Top tube (mm)||608.1||633.6||660.1||687.6|
|Head tube (mm)||100||110||120||130|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||60||60||60||60|
Cotic BFeMAX kit
There is a range of builds on offer, with customisation on top, too. My bike is based around the £3,039 Gold GX build, but with a couple of upgrades.
I opted for a RockShox Pike Ultimate, rather than the Revelation RC that comes as standard. This top-end Pike has high- and low-speed compression damping adjustment and is one of the best trail forks available.
I also chose SRAM G2 RSC brakes over the standard Shimano Deore stoppers. Hunt’s latest Trail Wide V2 wheels were shod with WTB rubber – a super-aggro Verdict and a faster-rolling Trail Boss.
Both have the Light casing, and the front tyre comes in the High Grip compound.
Finishing off a good-value package are Cotic’s own cockpit and saddle, plus an X-Fusion Manic dropper post on my build.
Cotic BFeMAX ride impressions
With some seriously meaty tyres, a long front-end and a similarly rangy rear, stability is the name of the game with the BFeMAX.
Point it down a steep chute or get it up to speed over loose rocks or matted roots and it’ll hold momentum, shrugging off off-camber kicks and shimmying its way over shifting ground.
Longer bikes pitch forwards and backwards less as their front and then rear wheels roll over bumps, so with its lengthy wheelbase the BFeMAX has a relatively calm-feeling ride. This is echoed by its smooth front end.
There’s no doubt the plush Ultimate-level fork and chunky WTB tyres play a part, but perhaps there’s something in the water at the Reynolds factory that keeps the front end from feeling overly stiff.
Climbing on the Cotic proved to be no problem. The seat-tube angle isn’t all that steep, at 74.5 degrees, but the extra length at the back helps keep your weight centred between the wheels for directional control when the incline increases.
When comparing what are, on paper, very similar bikes, it’s often the little differences that make the biggest impacts.
On rough climbs, the high BB helps prevent the pedals catching on rocks and roots, while on slow, steppy technical descents it gives a little more breathing space when pushing the bike over the precipice of a rock-roller.
However, when it comes to faster trails that duck and dive between trees, I found the Cotic a little less willing than some of its competitors to make those last-gasp chops and changes.
A lower BB would add confidence in the turns and also give even more stability to an already composed-feeling bike.
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Tyres||WTB Verdict Light/High Grip 29x2.5in (f), WTB Trail Boss Light/Fast Rolling 29x2.6in (r)|
|Stem||Cotic Shorterstem, 35mm|
|Shifter||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Seatpost||X-Fusion Manic dropper|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM GX Eagle (1x12)|
|Handlebar||Cotic Calver, 780mm|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM DUB|
|Frame||Steel w/ Reynolds 853 down tube|
|Fork||RockShox Pike Ultimate, 150mm (5.9in) travel|
|Cranks||SRAM GX Eagle, 32t|
|Chain||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Cassette||SRAM GX Eagle, 10-50t|
|Brakes||SRAM G2 RSC, 180mm rotors|
|Wheels||Hunt Trail Wide V2|