2019 Cotic BFe First Ride Review

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James Vincent grabs a first ride on the new Cotic BFe hardtail.

Cotic BFe 2020 2019 review
2019 Cotic BFe

When launching a new bike, some bike companies whisk a select group of lucky journos off to some exotic location on the other side of the world, wine them and dine them, and treat them to such rarified treats as helicopter rides and other fancy things. Only after they’ve passed these gruelling tests do the journalists get to look at, and if they’re really lucky, sometimes even ride the new bike. But Cotic isn’t like most brands, and did things a bit differently earlier this week by announcing the latest iteration of their rowdy steel hardtail, the BFe, at a surprise launch to members of the Cotic owners’ club just outside their hometown of Sheffield. I was lucky enough to be there, to see what went down, swing a leg over the new bike, and have a chat with Cotic founder, Cy Turner.

Helicopters? Pah, who needs them.

Cotic BFe 2020 2019 review
Burly Iron

The Frame

The BFe has been scrabbling around in the dirt and getting itself into trouble as the rowdy younger brother of the legendary Cotic Soul for 13 years now. In this time, there have been five versions of the frame, each one being tweaked and fettled as wheel sizes and riding styles evolve, with its most significant update happening 2 years ago back in 2017. This was when Cotic used the BFe to first pioneer its Longshot geometry concept, which has since been rolled out across the rest of the range. Through this continued Longshot development, Cy and the team realised that the BFe was now in need of an update to bring to the bike all the things they’d learned in the past 2 years. So for this new BFe, the head angle has been slackened by 1° to 65° for improved handling, while the seat angle has steepened by 1° to 74° for a better pedalling position. The reach has gone up to a roomy 485mm (size large) for extra stability, and for the first time (thanks to popular demand) there’s an XL in the range. The rear end now features Boost 148 spacing – back in 2017, the Great Axle Spacing Debate™ was still raging, but I think it’s safe to say that debate is over and 148mm is here to stay. Chainstays are a compact 428mm, and the wheelbase is now a stable 1221mm. All these dimensions are based on a sagged 140mm fork, and as before, the BFe is happy with anything from 120mm to 160mm travel up front. 

The BFe is still the go to bike for when the Soul just isn’t enough – think pump tracks, dirt jumps, enduro races, downhill tracks and trips to Whistler. As such, it’s a tough frame – at its heart is still a Reynolds 853 downtube, while Cotic’s own heat treated FM tubeset makes up the rest of the frame. There are gussets and braces in all the important places, and there are ISCG tabs on the bottom bracket for fitting a chainguide/bash guard should you desire. Cable routing is still all external, save for the last few cm of the dropper post, and there’s still room for one water bottle inside the frame, meaning you can slam the seatpost out the way should you need to. All in all, it’s a frame that’s been consistently tweaked and refined through countless hours of riding.

Cotic BFe 2020 2019 review
Gobs of clearance for up to 2.6″ tyres

Full bikes start at £1,799 for the Silver build kit, rising to £2,499 for the Gold build kit. Alternatively, you can pick up the frameset for just £549 if you have a shed full of spare parts.

Build Kit

The bike I rode was decked out with Cotic’s Silver build kit (with a few choice upgrades), and featured a solid mix of own brand components (bars, stem, grips), an X Fusion Manic dropper post, WTB Silverado saddle, and Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes. Spending money to upgrade where it counts, it had a Hunt Trailwide wheelset, WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss tyres, and a 140mm X Fusion Sweep Roughcut HLR fork. With these choice upgrades, the bike retails for £2,249. 

Cotic BFe 2020 2019 review
X Fusion Sweep with Roughcut HLR damper

As I only got limited time on the bike, it would be unfair to comment too much on the components, other than to say they all worked perfectly. It’s worth noting that all Cotic build kits are chosen to be durable and are reflective of what works in UK riding conditions by UK riders, not an accountant in sunny California trying to hit a budget.

Cotic BFe 2020 2019 review
High and low speed compression damping on the X Fusion Sweep Roughcut HLR Fork

The Ride


The first thing I noticed when chasing Richard Baybutt (Cotic’s in-house photographer/marketing machine/all round good dude) down Lady Cannings trails, was that the boost rear end really makes the back of the bike so much stiffer compared to the wimpish 142mm spacing on my own previous generation BFe. I enthusiastically told Cy and Baybutt this was a huge improvement, to which they looked at me incredulously and asked if I was really tuned in to that sort of thing like some bike testing savant. I nearly had them, but I couldn’t keep a straight face. Who am I kidding – absolutely no one is going to spot the increase in stiffness between a 142mm and 148mm rear end. But this is what the market demanded – hardtails are often built up as second bikes for riders with spare wheels and parts lying around. As boost spacing has been around for a while now, those once new boost wheels are now finding their way onto second bikes, and Cy found the 142mm spacing of the previous iteration was putting potential buyers off. So 148mm it is.

The excellent Hunt Trailwide wheels are an option across the range

One thing that is immediately noticeable and hugely improved, is the seated pedalling position. Although the reach has increased, the tweaked head and seat angles work together to put you more in the centre of the bike, and even with my heavy camera pack on there was significantly less strain on my lower back. Without the camera pack, the new BFe moves uphill very quickly, with an incredibly direct feel. Each and every pedal stroke translates to forward momentum as long as there’s traction – this is a hardtail after all, so some body english is required on rougher terrain. The lighter Hunt Trail Wide wheels and WTB Trail Boss Light casing tyres certainly help with this spritely feel – my personal BFe has the Hunt Enduro Wide wheels, Tough Casing WTB tyre and Cushcore insert out back, all of which add up to a significant weight penalty, but that’s the price you pay for riding a hardtail on the rocks of the North Lakes. 

New jerseys needed with that frame colour.

Pointed downhill, and the BFe doesn’t like hang about. I was a little hesitant to push it too hard because of that lighter rear tyre, but once the speed picks up you can really feel the bike start to skip along, skimming the tops of the rocks and encouraging you to pump the slightest rise and fall on the ground like all good hardtails should. If you happen to get it wrong and slam that rear wheel into the ground, there is no getting away from the fact that it’s a tougher frame than the Soul, and thusly more of that force is transmitted through to your legs, but the payoff is that you are highly unlikely to damage the frame no matter what you throw at it.

Yeah, yeah, you can’t see the bike, but – Art.

The longer reach and wheelbase add even more stability, but the BFe remains surprisingly nimble. On the tighter berms of Blue Steel at Lady Cannings, I was able to flick the bike around with ease, and moving on to the rougher trails outside the safety of the plantation I was able to pick and choose lines with ease, happily dictating where I wanted to go, rather than simply holding on as a powerless passenger. In spite of only having 140mm of travel, the X Fusion Sweep with its Roughcut damper easily coped with everything I could throw at it, and really helped the front wheel go where I was pointing it.

Sole/jersey matchy matchy

Overall

The BFe is a well loved classic for a reason, and this update is going to do nothing to harm that well deserved reputation. It’s a tough, durable and hard hitting hardtail that will suck up anything you can think of to throw at it, both here in the UK and abroad. The slight geometry tweaks translate to a much improved riding position that is most noticeable when pedalling, while downhill and in the air it retains all of the old bike’s character but with improved stability at speed. And thanks to the boost spacing out back, the rear end is that much stiffer…(James had a winky emoji in here, but we can’t quite bring ourselves to publish an emoji. But he’s joking. OK? – Ed)

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Review Info

Brand: Cotic
Product: BFe
From: cotic.co.uk
Price: £2,249 as built
Tested: by James Vincent for

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Having ridden bikes for as long as he can remember, James takes a certain twisted pleasure in carrying his bike to the most inaccessible locations he can find, before attempting to ride back down again, preferably with both feet on the pedals. After seeing the light on a recent road trip to Austria, James walked away from the stresses of running a design agency, picked up a camera and is several years deep into a mid life crisis that shows no sign of abating. As a photographer, he enjoys nothing more than climbing trees and asking others to follow his sketchy lines while expecting them to make it look as natural and stylish as possible. He has come to realise this is infinitely more fun than being tied to a desk, and is in no hurry to go back.

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