Cotic bikes has been going for over 15 years now, making mostly steel-framed mountain bikes designed in Sheffield.
In 2019, the brand grabbed our attention with its longshot geometry, with stretched-out wheelbases and slacker head angles, originally inspired by Chris Porter’s Nicolai Geometron bike.
For 2020, Cotic has tweaked the recipe just a little, and the new FlareMAX 29er trail bike gets a touch more reach and a significantly steeper seat angle to take advantage of the extra room in the cockpit and help it climb better.
I think the new FlareMAX looks particularly fetching in this Irn-Bru colour scheme. Do you agree? Richard Baybutt
Cotic FlareMAX frame details
The FlareMAX pumps out 125mm of rear-wheel travel via a linkage-driven single-pivot suspension design, which Cotic calls droplink.
It’s made the leverage rate slightly less progressive this year because, apparently, some heavier riders were struggling to use full travel on the outgoing bike without setting too much sag.
The ovalised top tube is wider than it is tall to improve lateral stiffness. Richard Baybutt
The steel tubes are galvanised (as well as painted) to keep corrosion at bay and Cotic says they’re unlikely to rust unless the bike is abused.
The swingarm and rocker links are made from aluminium alloy because it’s easier to manufacture, according to Cotic.
The swingarm is the only major frame component made from aluminium alloy. Richard Baybutt
The top tube is noticeably wider laterally than vertically, while top and down tubes are gusseted at the head tube to help stiffen the front end of the frame.
There are bottle cage mounts hidden under the top tube to hang a water bottle inside the front triangle.
A bottle can be hung from under the top tube. Richard Baybutt
Cotic FlareMax geometry
All figures are measured directly from the XL test bike.
Effective seat angle: 75.5 degrees
Head angle: 65 degrees
Chainstay length: 450mm
Bottom bracket height: 335mm
Bar height: 1,075mm
Dropper post travel: 148mm
Cotic FlareMAX Eagle Gold build kit
Cotic builds to order, so parts can be swapped out (in many cases at no extra cost), upgraded or omitted to save cost. You can even send in a box of parts and have your bike built up with those.
My test bike is an off-the-shelf build that Cotic calls the Eagle Gold, though this should be considered a starting point rather than set in stone.
I like the tough, grippy WTB tyre combo, Hunt Trailwide wheels and now-proven SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain.
The Cane Creek shock comes set to Cotic’s base-tune, which was a great starting point for me, and the Helm fork impressed me more in this 130mm-travel format than the 160mm fork I tested in our latest forks group test.
There’s nothing wrong with brand-mixing brakes and drivetrains, but I’d rather see SRAM take care of the brakes. Richard Baybutt
The Shimano XT brakes disappointed yet again though, with an inconsistent bite-point from the off.
Cotic FlareMAX Eagle Gold ride impressions
Cotic FlareMAX Eagle Gold climbing performance
After starting with 30 per cent sag in the shock, I upped the pressure slightly to avoid bottoming out and to make the bike sit higher when climbing and cornering.
As a result, it carries its self well over undulating singletrack, especially with the shock’s climb-switch engaged, which slows compression and rebound damping for a really settled ride when seated.
There is a little pedal-bob, but the bike responds to pedal input reasonably well thanks to its short travel. With the high-volume tyres and supple-under-power suspension, it tracks across rooty traverses effortlessly.
The 15.3kg / 33.7lbs weight (XL, measured) isn’t exactly impressive for a bike in this category, but it doesn’t “feel” heavy to ride and many aluminium bikes with a similarly sturdy build wouldn’t be noticeably lighter.
However, on steep climbs the 75.5-degree effective seat angle (measured) could do with being another couple of degrees steeper because I occasionally found myself perched on the pointy end of the saddle to stop the front wheel lifting.
Cotic FlareMAX Eagle Gold descending performance
The FlareMAX is well-balanced in the turns and stable for a bike of this travel. Richard Baybutt
I found the Cotic’s geometry easy to get on with straight away. I measured the XL’s reach at 505mm, which is just about right for my 190cm height, although I’d probably swap the 35mm stem for a 40mm one.
Once I’d firmed up the shock a little, the Cotic corners well. There’s plenty of steering stability from the 65-degree head angle and short-offset fork, and the 450mm back-end balances the long front-centre nicely in this XL frame size for good front-wheel traction, especially once you learn to lean on the bar – as is the case with any longer bike.
Skid-approved. Richard Baybutt
Combined with the genuinely low (335mm) bottom bracket height, the Cotic is both stable in the corners and agile when turning as you change from one direction of lean to the other. However, pedal-strikes are quite common with the 175mm cranks I had, so consider speccing something shorter.
The 130mm/125mm suspension is impressively active, but the steel frame never made it feel like it’s got more travel than advertised.
As far as I could tell, it felt about as stiff as many alloy bikes of this ilk. That’s no bad thing: the frame doesn’t flop about like a wet playing card, but neither does it make the bike conform to the trail like something with more travel.
It’s the geometry that lets the FlareMAX punch above its weight on the descents. I soon felt comfortable hammering through bomb holes and rooty descents thanks to its stable wheelbase and big wheels, but you’re still aware of the travel when the going gets rough.