We’ve long been big fans of Cotic bikes. The slender steel tubes help to produce a really clean, distinctive and uncomplicated look, while the progressive geometry it’s been pushing for a number of years makes them eager to be ridden fast.
While I got on well with the previous iteration of the RocketMAX, a contender in last year’s Enduro Bike of the Year category, the Cane Creek fork had me scratching my head when trying to perfect the setup and, when things got really rough, the RocketMAX wasn’t as comfortable as the best in class.
The latest Gen3 RocketMAX has been tweaked somewhat though, to try and rectify some of these issues. The brand now offers fork and shock options from suspension giant RockShox, but will these changes equate to a big jump in performance on the trail?
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX frame and suspension details
The third generation of the RocketMAX continues to use a Reynolds 853 steel front triangle, which includes a custom-designed seat tube and is mated to a 6066-T6 aluminium rear end.
Cotic’s droplink suspension system – a linkage actuated single-pivot design – now delivers 160mm of rear-wheel travel compared to 150mm on the Gen2 RocketMAX, making it the longest travel 29er it’s ever made.
Cotic hasn’t just increased the amount of travel, though. It’s also tweaked how it’s delivered and says it’s reduced the leverage ratio and the progression rate in a bid to offer a more composed and plusher feel to the suspension, which should make things a little easier going when it comes to pummelling through rock gardens.
Cables are routed internally and externally, and Cotic says that routing the cable to the rear derailleur internally not only helps to improve aesthetics but reduces any annoying rattle.
An integrated OneUp Components upper chain guide helps to boost chain security and add peace of mind, especially if you plan on taking the RocketMAX between the tapes.
Being a British brand, Cotic has ensured there’s more than enough mud clearance through the rear triangle to fit a big 2.5in tyre should you wish.
There’s also a bottle cage mount on the underside of the top tube if you’re worried about having to wear a pack and carry water on your back.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX geometry
While the RocketMAX Gen3 might have been somewhat of an outlier just a couple of years ago with its Longshot geometry, this year more brands are edging closer to these relatively extreme proportions – clearly, Cotic must have been onto something.
The RocketMAX Gen3 comes in four sizes, ranging from small to extra-large, with reach measurements spanning 443mm to 515mm.
I chose to ride the medium with a reach of 470mm, making it one of the roomier (when stood up out of the saddle) bikes on the market. At 631mm, the effective top-tube should help to provide plenty of room when seated too.
In a bid to create a very balanced ride, Cotic opted to use a long (compared to most) rear centre – otherwise known as effective chainstay length, which is measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the rear wheel axle.
All sizes of the bike feature a 450mm rear centre and my medium is paired with a 810mm front centre, which is measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the front wheel axle, to give a wheelbase of 1,260mm.
The slack 64-degree head angle should help to keep things feeling calm and stable at high speeds.
Cotic measures its effective seat angle with a saddle height of 815mm. Once set to fit me, my saddle height was just under 700mm, which should explain why I measured the effective seat angle to be somewhat steeper than the claimed 75.8 degrees, and the effective tube angle measured just over 76.2 degrees.
There’s 27mm of bottom bracket drop, which sits it at a respectable 343mm off the floor.
|Seat angle (degrees)||75.8||75.8||75.8||75.8|
|Head angle (degrees)||63.5||63.5||63.5||63.5|
|Seat tube (cm)||39||42.5||46||49.5|
|Top tube (cm)||60.4||63.1||65.7||68.6|
|Head tube (cm)||10||11||12||13|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||2.7||2.7||2.7||2.7|
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX kit
My bike started out with the standard Silver SLX build but Cotic made some changes in order to squeeze the most out of the bike in terms of performance and around our Enduro Bike of the Year budget limitations.
What’s great is that the Lyrik Ultimate, as seen here, is standard on the Silver SLX build, which is impressive. It’s got 160mm of travel and offers both high- and low-speed compression damping adjustment, along with rebound adjustment. It’s easy to set up and a doddle to tune.
The Deluxe Ultimate shock that my bike arrived with isn’t standard though and isn’t an upgrade option either.
Cotic also upgraded the Shimano MT620 wheels to Hunt’s Trail Wide 29 wheels and wrapped them in WTB rubber instead of the Continental Trail Kings that come as standard.
Up front is a WTB Verdict Light/High Grip 2.5in and at the rear a 2.4in WTB Trail Boss in the Tough casing and Fast Rolling rubber compound.
Cotic supplies the bar, stem, grips and saddle.
The full build weighed in at 15.12kg.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX ride impressions
I rode the RocketMAX Gen3 in a wide variety of conditions, ranging from thick mud and deep, root-riddled ruts on steep, natural forest tracks to faster, more open hardpack trails at the bikepark.
This enabled me to get a comprehensive feel for how the bike behaves on everything from slower-paced tech trails to high-speed, full-on rock smashing downhill tracks.
When it came to set up, things were very straightforward and getting the suspension dialled in and balanced didn’t take long.
The Deluxe rear shock came with two spacers fitted as standard, but after some tinkering, I ended up leaving them in place. I did however use the shock’s low-speed compression adjustment, moving the dial around to the more open of the three positions. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option on the Deluxe Select+ shock.
Cotic leaves plenty of fork steerer and spacers to ensure you can easily alter the stem and bar height to your preference.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX climbing performance
Uphill, I found the Cotic really easy going. This is thanks to a combination of that relatively steep seat angle, roomy cockpit and stable suspension that remains calm and almost bob-free when seated.
It helps that the rear tyre rolls pretty quickly too and the overall weight of the RocketMAX at just 15.12kg, which was actually the lightest of all the bikes in the Enduro Bike of the Year test.
While there’s a lever on the shock, which will help firm up the back end of the bike, at no point did I ever feel the need to use it, even on really steep or technical climbs.
Thanks to the generous proportions, I never felt the need to shift too far forward or try and hunker down over the stem to keep the front wheel from lifting either. Instead, I could just sit comfortably and spin my way up the hill without any dramas.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX descending performance
I have always been a big fan of the feel of a Cotic bike, and the RocketMAX Gen3 is no exception.
The RocketMAX exudes a lively but, more importantly, exciting feel from the get-go. The well-balanced suspension combines with a frame feel that’s tricky to put into words; taut and stiff enough to feel accurate and responsive, yet it still manages to deliver a bit of zing and pop as you load the bike from turn to turn.
While you might expect a bike with this much travel and with these numbers to feel a little dull on mellower trails, the reality is quite different, and it’s proven to be a lot of fun when tackling tracks with less gradient.
There’s no getting away from the fact that its lengthy geometry means you’ll need to commit your weight further forward to keep the front wheel gripping as you slice through the corners, which can take some time to get accustomed to, especially if you’re coming from an older bike with more traditional geometry.
But, the benefits of this stretched-out geometry when hooning down high-speed sections of trail are obvious straight away and the confidence it can provide is incredibly impressive.
The lengthy proportions – especially the long rear centre – do mean popping a manual takes a little more effort than on shorter equivalents, and I found that when I was properly fatigued towards the end of a long day on the hill and my arms were close to giving up that maintaining that forward attack position wasn’t always the easiest thing to do.
I only really noticed this when transitioning from high-speed straights into lower paced, awkward turns, where, if I wasn’t properly pushing myself, things didn’t feel quite as seamless as on some of the top contenders from this category, which were a little shorter.
That said, this felt less of an issue on the Vitus Sommet 29 CRX which has the same reach but a shorter back end (though a slacker head angle and longer front centre).
When the going gets steep, the RocketMAX is truly in its element. Alongside that confident geometry, the bite and predictability of the front WTB Verdict tyre only add to that feeling of invincibility that encourages you to go for just about any line and hold it.
The rear tyre performs well for the most part too, but can feel a little skittish in damp muddy conditions under braking.
While the brakes might be the cheaper, two-piston Deore stoppers, the light lever feel and punchy bite impressed. They might not be quite as fierce as the four-piston equivalents, but they’re solid performers.
In rougher terrain, the bump up in travel and the tweaks to how it’s delivered make the RocketMAX more composed and smoother when the hits do start coming thick and fast.
Composure and comfort when really pounding through the ugliest of terrain have definitely been elevated, but it’s still a more engaging, feedback-rich ride compared to some of its counterparts with similar amounts of travel.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing because it makes for a lively, exciting ride, but when ridden back to back with the likes of the Trek Slash 8 – a bike that does a great job of isolating the rider from the chaos beneath the tyres without sacrificing nimbleness or fun – it can’t quite match the same level of calm.
It’s also worth taking the time to add a little more in the way of chain and seatstay protection to help quieten down any unwanted chain slap.
Overall, the changes that Cotic has made to the RocketMAX definitely boost its performance without dulling any of that lively, engaging ride feel that I’ve always loved about this bike.
Its high-speed stability and confidence when things get steep are seriously impressive too.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 Silver SLX bottom line
Thanks to some changes to the rear suspension, a bump up in the amount of rear-wheel travel and some smart spec changes, the Gen3 RocketMAX is a great bike that’s very confident at higher speeds or when faced with near-vertical chutes.
The more stretched-out geometry does take a little time to adapt to and when things get really rough, it won’t smooth out the trail quite as well as the best in class, but its dynamic, lively ride and feedback-rich character help to add a serious amount of fun to proceedings.
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano SLX M7100|
|Tyres||WTB Verdict Light/High-grip 29x2.5in (f) and WTB Trail Boss Tough/Fast-rolling 29x2.4in|
|Stem||Cotic SHORTERSTEM, 35mm|
|Shifter||Shimano SLX M7100|
|Rear Shocks||RockShox Deluxe Ultimate|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano XT MT8000|
|Handlebar||Cotic Calver, 780mm|
|Frame||Reynolds steel front triangle, 6066-T6 aluminium rear end, with 160mm (6.3in) travel|
|Fork||RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 160mm travel|
|Cranks||Shimano SLX M7100|
|Cassette||Shimano SLX M7100|
|Brakes||Deore M6100 (203mm/180mm rotors)|
|Wheels||Hunt Trail Wide 29|