One of the major themes of this year’s Trail Bike of the Year test is the sheer breadth of character and construction methods among the top contenders, and the irresistibly fast and fun Cotic FlareMAX is the perfect example.
This review was updated on 22 May 2017 to include our video review.
Reynolds top-quality 853 steel actually gains strength around the weld areas so the thickened ends of the butted tubing can be kept short for little obvious weight penalty over alloy and carbon bikes. It also potentially gives an 853 frame a subtle spring feel that few composite, alloy or even titanium frames can match.
Cotic emphasises this character where it counts with reinforcing plates where needed without resulting in excessive stiffness. Conversely it uses an oval top tube and oversized seat tube to make sure the flex doesn’t get out of hand.
Cotic’s 853 build experience, plus the reduced leverage of the 120-130mm fork and a similarly well-engineered alloy back end, mean the FlareMAX is a proper sweet-spot chassis. It’s compliant and naturally ground moulding enough to make the harder-compound ‘Fast Rolling’ WTB tyres feel like properly sticky rubber. There’s not so much travel and twang that things get out of hand and hard to decipher in 3D, though.
The upgraded dampers on this custom version of the standard Silver build are ideally suited for keeping the naturally lively chassis consistently controlled. The DH derived, dual-compression circuit Roughcut damper in the McQueen fork is superbly supple, controlled and predictable, making it totally worth the £100 upcharge over the simpler, spikier RL2 version.
Cane Creek’s Inline shock seems to have solved its initial reliability issues and now provides super-accurate rebound tuning if you’ve got the knowledge to maximise its potential. Add a massive 800mm bar, responsive 55mm stem and relaxed 67-degree head angle and the Cotic is a superb mix of surefooted, high-traction confidence and responsive playfulness that loves to be chucked around the trail.
Set up correctly the suspension is both super supportive through the corners but able to carry speed through rooty chunder; in fact, it does this so well it leaves most other bikes for dead. There’s enough space between the ‘Droplink’ linkage pieces and Boost back end to fit a 2.8in ‘plus’ tyre if you really want to maximise grip and float. Either way it’s a bike that connected immediately with our testers and rapidly became one of my favourite rides from a sheer fun point of view.
|Name||FlareMAX 29 Custom|
|Brakes||Shimano M506 Deore 180mm|
|Cranks||RaceFace Aeffect 30t|
|Fork||X-Fusion McQueen Roughcut HLR Boost 130mm|
|Frame Material||Reynolds 853 steel mainframe, alloy rear|
|Front Tyre||WTB Vigilante Fast/Light|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano SLX|
|Rear Shock||Cane Creek DB Inline Climb Switch 50, 120mm travel|
|Rear Tyre||Trail Boss Fast/Light 29x2.3in|
|Wheelset||WTB i25 rims on Shimano SLX hubs|
|Frame size tested||L|