Cotic FlareMAX Silver SLX plus upgrades review

A long, steel bike that's upgradable depending on your needs and budget

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £3,449.00 RRP

Our review

Relatively niche in application, but those who love it, will adore it
Pros: Geometry that’ll likely give up before you do; ability to adjust spec to match your pocket
Cons: Sluggish up hill and between tight corners; tyres didn’t overly impress
Skip to view product specifications

Cotic’s FlareMAX is one of the most radical bikes, geometry wise, in the trail bike market, with a humungous reach of 479mm for a size large. It’s also one of very few to use steel tubes — Reynolds 853 for the most part, with a custom drawn ovalised top tube to boot.

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  • The Cotic FlareMAX Silver SLX is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.

The FlareMax will take either 29in wheels (as tested) or 27.5+ plus wheels, and is designed (and supplied) with forks from 120 to 140mm of travel.

It’s one of the few bikes out there where you can add upgrades at the point of purchase to fine-tune the spec to your preference and budget. This means there are options to change almost everything, from cockpit and brakes to suspension and wheels.

Given the bike will take 29in or 27.5in+ wheels, you can buy a second pair of hoops, with tyres, to cover both bases. You even have the option to add extras such as mudguards, pedals and even jerseys during purchase.

WTB tyres aren't a common site — here they're mounted to wide WTB rims
WTB tyres aren’t a common site — here they’re mounted to wide WTB rims
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

This means that pretty much every pocket is catered for, so long as you can reach the base level Silver build at £2,749.

The long 479mm reach (size large), slack 65.6-degree head angle and rangey 447.5mm chainstays combine to give a wheelbase of 1,246mm (Large, with 130mm fork). As this suggests, the FlareMax is a long bike, which contributes to it being flat out on descents.

Point it to where you want to go and hang on, because the speed it can pick up over choppy and loose terrain is ridiculous. The length, fore and aft, gives incredible amounts of stability at speed, while the slack-ish head angle comes in to its own at these speeds.

A Cane Creek DB Air Inline controls the rear suspension and has plenty of adjustment
A Cane Creek DB Air Inline controls the rear suspension and has plenty of adjustment
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Likewise, on steeper trails, with so much bike in front of you, there’s plenty of room to move over the bike to ensure your body weight is in the right place to avoid the feeling of going over the bars, and to make sure you can drop your weight just right to make the most of catch berms and drifty corners.

When trails head off camber, so long as you’re happy with the tyres, the slight flex through that steel frame helps keep the tyres glued to the ground.

The shape of the bike encourages you to keep accelerating down a trail, and it’s here that you’ll find two things: The ‘High Grip’ WTB Vigilante tyres just don’t have the confidence inspiring pedigree that rubber from the likes of Maxxis might have — our testing team found situations where the Vigilante just wasn’t quite confident enough — and with the heavier casing they also feel a touch wooden.

Cotic's 'DropLink' linkage is a four-bar system
Cotic’s ‘DropLink’ linkage is a four-bar system
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

You’ll also remember that there’s only 120mm out back. The linkage is progressive and controlled, but there’s no doubt that you get through the travel far quicker than you would on a longer travel bike.

Some 120mm bikes benefit from shorter travel figures, with a light, poppy and agile ride that may not encourage you to go all out, but can still be very fun on more mellow or twisty trails.

The FlareMax doesn’t quite have that quality though, the heavy tyres accelerate slowly and contribute to a 15.8kg overall weight — not very svelte.

Furthermore, the long back-end takes away a bit of the bike’s eagerness to switch direction quickly. As such, it doesn’t have the most engaging ride on woodsy tracks where there’s a lot of twisting, turning and accelerating.

The only Cane Creek Helm in this year's Bike of the Year came with 130mm of travel
The only Cane Creek Helm in this year’s Bike of the Year came with 130mm of travel
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The Cane Creek shock fitted to my test bike has a slightly rubbery damping feel that some will like and some won’t. It certainly splits opinion and there are lots of adjustment to play with — both to get it right and potentially get it wrong. It’s a bike that deserves some investment of time to get the most from it.

As you may have guessed, the FlareMax likely won’t win many KOMs on the climbs. The weight and supple, rubbery suspension sap a bit of energy. However, the nicely balanced geometry, with a long front and rear, puts you squarely between the wheels, and so on technical climbs, so long as you’ve got the lungs, it’s likely that the FlareMax will make it up to the top.

The FlareMax is a bike that will suit a certain type of rider; one who wants to head to steep, loose, rocky terrain, and who is happy to control their riding to suit the shorter rear travel.

That said, I’d almost be tempted by the longer travel RocketMAX. It has similarly contemporary geometry, a similar feel up the climbs, but more travel to really deal with the terrain it encourages you to throw it down.

Cotic FlareMAX Silver SLX specifications

The Cotic FlareMax has 120mm of travel built in to its steel frame
The Cotic FlareMax has 120mm of travel built in to its steel frame
Steve Behr / Immediate Media
  • Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*, XL
  • Weight: 15.8kg
  • Frame: Reynolds 853 steel, 120mm 29in
  • Fork: Cane Creek Helm29 130mm
  • Shock: Cane Creek DB Air IL
  • Chainset: RaceFace Aeffect
  • Cassette: Shimano SLX
  • Mech: Shimano SLX
  • Shifters: Shimano SLX
  • Wheelset: Shimano Deore hubs, WTB ST i29 rims
  • Tyres: WTB Vigilante 29×2.5 High Grip/Tough (f), WTB Vigilante 29×2.3 Fast Rolling/Tough (r)
  • Stem: Cotic Shortstem 45mm
  • Bar: Cotic Calver 780mm
  • Headset: Cane Creek
  • Saddle: Cotic
  • Seatpost: X Fusion Manic 150mm
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore 180/180

Cotic FlareMAX Silver SLX geometry

  • Seat angle: 73.6 degrees
  • Head angle: 65.6 degrees
  • Chainstay: 44.75cm / 17.62in
  • Seat tube: 46cm / 18.11in
  • Top tube: 65.8cm / 25.91in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 3.2cm / 1.26in
  • Wheelbase: 1,246mm / 49.06in
  • Stack: 62.74cm / 24.7in
  • Reach: 47.9cm / 18.86in
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BikeRadar would like to thank 661 Protection, Northwave, Effetto Mariposa and Finale Ligure for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.

Product Specifications

Product

Name FlareMAX Silver SLX
Brand Cotic

Available Sizes S M L XL
Saddle Cotic
Wheelbase (in) 49.06
Top Tube (in) 25.91
Seat Tube (in) 18.11
Chainstays (in) 17.62
Wheelset Shimano Deore hubs, WTB ST i29 rims
Weight (kg) 15.8
Stem Cotic Shortstem 45mm
Shifters Shimano SLX
Seatpost X Fusion Manic 150mm
Seat Angle 73.6
Rear Tyre WTB Vigilante 29x2.3 Fast Rolling/Tough
Brakes Shimano Deore 180/180
Rear Shock Cane Creek DB Air IL
Rear Derailleur Shimano SLX
Headset Type Cane Creek
Head Angle 65.6
Handlebar Cotic Calver 780mm
Front Tyre WTB Vigilante 29x2.5 High Grip/Tough
Frame Material Reynolds 853 steel, 120mm 29"
Fork Cane Creek Helm29 130mm
Cranks RaceFace Aeffect
Cassette Shimano SLX
Frame size tested L