Sheffield-based Cotic has been making steel-framed mountain bikes for over 15 years. In 2017, the brand got our attention with its ‘Longshot’ geometry (stretched-out wheelbases and slacker head angles), inspired by Chris Porter’s Nicolai GeoMetron bike.
For 2020, it’s tweaked the recipe slightly. The new FlareMAX 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.
Cotic FlareMAX Gold frame
The FlareMAX pumps out 125mm of travel via Cotic’s ‘droplink’ suspension design, which places a rocker link between the single-pivot rear-end and the shock.
Cotic has made the leverage rate slightly less progressive this year because some heavier riders were struggling to use full travel on the previous bike without setting too much sag.
The painted steel tubes are galvanised to minimise corrosion, and Cotic says they’re unlikely to rust unless the bike is abused.
To provide a stiffer feel when you’re wrenching on the bar, the top tube is wider laterally than vertically, while the top and down tubes are gusseted at the head tube.
The swingarm and rocker links are aluminium alloy rather than steel because it makes them easier to manufacture. There’s a bottle cage mount under the top tube.
Cotic FlareMAX Gold kit
The XT brakes had the same inconsistent bite point I’ve encountered on other sets.Richard Baybutt
Cotic builds to order, so parts can be customised or omitted to save cost and waste. You can even send them a box of parts and have your bike built up with those.
My test bike was an off-the-shelf build. I liked the tough, grippy WTB tyre combo, Hunt wheels and SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain.
The Cane Creek shock came set to Cotic’s base tune, which was a great starting point for me, and the matching Helm fork impressed me more in this 130mm-travel format than when I tested the 160mm version.
Yet again, the Shimano XT brakes disappointed, with an inconsistent bite-point from the off.
Cotic FlareMAX Gold first ride impressions
After starting with 30 per cent sag on the shock, I upped the pressure slightly to avoid bottoming out and make the bike sit higher when climbing and cornering.
It then carried itself well over undulating singletrack, especially with the shock’s Climb Switch engaged (this slows the compression and rebound damping for a really settled ride when seated). There’s a little pedal bob, but the bike responds to pedalling inputs well thanks to its short travel.
With its high-volume tyres and supple-under-power suspension, it tracks across rooty traverses effortlessly.
Being made from steel, its weight (15.3kg, XL) isn’t exactly impressive for a bike in this category, but it doesn’t feel heavy to ride, and many alloy bikes with a similarly sturdy build aren’t noticeably lighter.
On steep climbs, at 190cm / 6ft 3in I felt the 75.5-degree effective seat angle (measured) could do with being a couple of degrees steeper, occasionally finding myself perched on the pointy end of the saddle to stop the front wheel lifting.
Otherwise, I found the Cotic’s geometry easy to get on with. The 505mm reach on the XL bike was about right for me, although I’d swap the 35mm stem for a 40mm one for a roomier feel.
Once I’d firmed up the shock, the Cotic cornered well. There’s good steering stability from the 65-degree head angle and short-offset fork, and the 450mm back-end is well- balanced with the long front-centre for great traction.
The FlareMAX is stable and agile.Richard Baybutt
Combined with the low bottom bracket height (335mm), this means the FlareMAX is both stable in the corners and agile when initiating the turns. I had quite a few pedal strikes with the 175mm cranks, so consider speccing a set with shorter arms.
The suspension is impressively active but, unlike some steel full-sussers, the Cotic never feels like it has more travel than advertised.
Despite the much-touted ‘compliance’ of ferrous frames, the FlareMAX feels about as stiff as many alloy bikes of this ilk. The frame doesn’t flop about like a wet playing card, nor does it have so much ‘give’ that the Cotic conforms to the trail like a longer-travel enduro bike.
It’s the geometry that lets this bike punch above its weight on the descents.
Cotic FlareMAX Gold early verdict
It’s suspension and geometry, not frame material, that make the bike, and Cotic has nailed both.
Cotic FlareMAX Gold geometry
Seat angle: 75.3 degrees
Head angle: 65.6 degrees
Chainstay: 44.75cm / 17.6in
Seat tube: 49.5cm / 19,5in
Top tube: 67.6cm / 26.6in
Head tube: 13cm / 5.1in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.2cm / 1.2in
Wheelbase: 1,248.3mm / 50.5in
Stack: 63.66cm / 25.1in
Reach: 51.5cm / 20.3in
15.3kg (XL) – without pedals
S, M, L, XL
Shimano Deore XT M8000, 180mm rotors
SRAM Eagle GX 12spd, 10-50
SRAM Eagle GX
Cane Creek Helm Air, 130mm travel
Steel front triangle, aluminium alloy swingarm, 125mm (4.9in) travel
SRAM Eagle GX
Cane Creek DBAIR [IL] with Climb Switch
X-Fusion Manic, 150mm
SRAM Eagle GX
WTB Vigilante TCS Light 29x2.5in (f) and WTB Trail Boss TCS Tough 29x2.5in (r)
Seb's been riding and racing mountain bikes for half his life. Since getting hooked on mountain bikes aged thirteen riding a tiny 24Seven Crosser, he's raced downhill, enduro and cross country, and while no athlete, still enters the occasional race. Seb studied experimental physics at university, and he's now happily using (wasting) his degree experimenting with different bike setups, trying to work out what works best and why. You'll often find him riding the same track ten times in a day, changing just one thing to pin down the differences. Seb's much happier back-to-back testing suspension on a wet Welsh hillside than riding the latest five-figure bikes on some sunny press trip - although he quite likes that too!