What makes The Cotic Cycling Club meet ups worth a 280 mile round trip for a ride and a pint? James Vincent goes to find out what makes Cotic CC so welcoming.
Starter for 10
OK, readers, here’s a little pop quiz for you. Starting things off with an easy one – when was the last time you spent a day mucking about in the woods on bikes with your friends, pushing each other to try things you hadn’t done before? Within the last week or so? Nice one.
Let’s try another – when was the last time you went on an uplift day? Within a month? Not bad, not bad. Bonus question for you – can you remember your first uplift day and if so, how was it? A little bit daunting perhaps?
Moving swiftly onwards… How about the last time you went to a BMX park or BMX track? Never!? What do you mean BMX’s are for kids? I’m telling you, you’re missing out!
Never mind, one last question for you – Have you ever been on what you thought was a casual after-work ride, only to find yourself in the middle of a global bike launch, complete with lights, music, action-packed video and free beer? One that was attended by the bike’s designer (along with most of the rest of the company), the race team/stunt riders, and a gaggle of other like minded loons? Oh, you have? Well hello there members of the Cotic Cycling Club, nice to have you with us today.
I’m sorry, let me explain for the rest of you. Recently, Cotic announced the latest version of its do it all hardtail, The BFe. As is usually the way with these things, the embargo was set for an otherwise uneventful Wednesday evening in September and at precisely 7pm BST, a carefully coordinated series of events took place; The product page went live on the Cotic website, email newsletters were sent out, and stories went live around the globe (including right here on this very website).
All very slick, but to be honest, nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the 30 or so members of Cotic CC who accepted the invitation to Lady Cannings Plantation on the edge of Sheffield for an end of summer get together that very same evening. At 6.30pm, Cy (Turner, Cotic head honcho) greeted them in the car park (and sorted out demo bikes for those keen to try something different), then led them through the woods like a veritable Pied Piper to a clearing with a lone easy-up nestled in-between the trees.
So far, so normal…
At around 7pm, the curtain was pulled back, and the assembled throng stood in stunned silence as Cotic showed off its latest creation to these lucky members of the Cotic CC, in a legitimate world exclusive. Indeed – somewhat amusingly, people were unable to process what they were seeing, unsure whether to applaud, laugh or cry. Fortunately Baybutt had a video cued up, so he hit play and an awkward silence was averted.
After watching the video, there was plenty of opportunity for ogling the new bike, Instagramming the bejesus out of it, and chatting with Cy about what’s changed with the new model. Beers were cracked open, and before long conversation turned to actually riding bikes, which, lest we forget, was all most folk were expecting to do this fine evening. As an added bonus, there were a handful of the new BFe’s available to demo (on top of the regular demo fleet), so you could really indulge your inner bike journo if you wished.
That all sounds marvellous, but what is Cotic CC exactly?
A Cotic bikes owners’ club.
OK, great. What’s it all about, and whose idea was it?
When talking about Cotic CC, you have to talk about Richard Baybutt, or simply Baybutt if you’ve known him for longer than five minutes. At Cotic, Baybutt is the main marketing man, photographer and daft ideas person. He also has the honour of being quite possibly the world’s most excitable person when it comes to the simple pleasure of riding bikes.
Some riders are all about riding downhill, and while they can feign interest in your lengthy bikepacking escapades for a couple of minutes, it’s not long before their eyes glaze over and they start looking nervously about for an exit. Likewise, other riders can eulogise about enduro, but try to hold them in a conversation about BMX and they’re going to struggle. On the flipside, Baybutt is a rare breed, always genuinely stoked regardless of what you’re up to.
Indeed Cy is quite happy to lay the very existence of Cotic CC at Baybutt’s door, even though Baybutt himself is a little more coy about it. “It came from Dave (Camus) our ambassador, who rides a BFe. And he does everything – he rides skate parks, he rides uplifts, he rides enduro and he’s really, really good at all types of riding.” This is high praise indeed as Baybutt is no slouch on a bike himself, but I digress…
He continues, “So I wanted other people to not pigeonhole themselves and think oh, BMX is for kids, or bikepacking is for beardy weirdies, or anything like that. I want everybody who rides a bike to do everything, or at least try it twice. Just so that they can say, ‘ah, BMX is fun, it’s not for me’, or ‘oh my god, I’m going to go ride the Tour Divide, I’m done with downhill – I want to pedal for five weeks on end’”
Ultimately, Cotic CC is Cotic’s way of getting mountain bikers to ride their bikes and to open their eyes to what else cycling has to offer, other than the niche they’re in. Because we all fall into a niche, whether we realise it or not. But it’s nice to remind ourselves that there are other types of riding out there, and Cotic CC helps riders experience things they wouldn’t have done otherwise, in a relatively safe, stress free environment.
And to me, that diversity is one of the huge selling points of the club, which I guess is only a natural reflection of the brand themselves. Case in point – for the first event, they had a lock-in at a Sheffield skate park for the evening. Obviously Cotic doesn’t make a BMX, but that’s not an issue. It brought a couple of its BFe bikes along, and some people did bring their own BMXs, but it was for Cotic owners only. “It meant that people who hadn’t ridden a skate park before knew that no scooter kids were going to be there taking the piss or anything like that, and you could just have a go. And people were like dusting off their 20 year old BMXs to just join in. And it was awesome.”
Soon after this, Cotic CC descended on Revolution Bike Park in Wales, to give riders an introduction to uplifts without the worry of being surrounded by stormtroopers with downhill bikes. It was pretty hectic because Revolution isn’t a beginner park, but it encouraged people who’d never thought about putting their bike on a tractor and dragging it up a hill the opportunity to come and have a go. Emails beforehand explained everything, about where to go, what to expect and what to bring. The demo fleet was available again, but this time the bikes were limited to the Rocket or Rocket Max as it wasn’t the place for an Escapade or a Soul. It was still slightly daunting, but not as scary as it might have been.
Other plans include a mechanics’ workshop, and Hannah Saxelby (demos and dispatch) has set up the Cotic Women of Steel Group, a women only riders’ group. You don’t even need to own a Cotic for that one.
This all sounds great, how do I join?
It’s really very easy – if you own a Cotic, any Cotic, you’re in. And here’s the best bit – it doesn’t even need to have been bought new! No really – if you own a secondhand, first generation Soul, or the latest Flare Max 132, you’re in the club!
Which brings me neatly onto Stuart and his Flare Max, who’d made the three hour trek up from Cambridge for the evening. Chatting to him in the pub was a little like talking to a mirror – we both started mountain biking in the early 90s riding shonky hardtails down mental tracks. We both had a bit of a lull when we went to university, before slowly getting back into it afterwards. And mountain biking seems to have done an excellent job of consuming both our lives. A little bit older now, and with a bit more disposable income behind him, Stuart now wants to ride the sort of bike he’d dreamed of when he was younger. Taking advantage of Cotic’s awesome demo service, he took a Rocket Max for a spin and was blown away by the Longshot geometry “I was riding Giants and things like that, and never really noticed it, that they were really short, until I jumped on the Rocket. It just fitted. It was the climb that made me realise it, I was sitting on the bike and it was just easy. Easy climbing.”
“It just fitted. For a big bike I was expecting it to feel a bit dull, but we went Upper Cliff and Lower Cliff at Cannock, popping off bits on the bank, and it just felt lively, but really stable at the same time. I rode my new Flare Max around Chicksands to get a bit of a set up on it, and my next full ride was the Naughty Northumbrian. Going into really steep tech, full of loose rocks, I didn’t feel like I had to hold back. I could just push it and push it, it felt bottomless. For 130mm travel, it felt way more bike than that.”
All that way for a bike ride!
It’s obvious that Stuart loves his bike, but I’m intrigued – what would cause someone to drive a 280mile round trip for an evening ride with a bunch of strangers? “It’s the social side of things I suppose more than anything. Just to get a feel for things. I’m fairly new to Cotic – I’ve done a few demo rides, met up with Sam (Cotic’s roving demo man) a few times at various different places. I like the image and the ethos and the brand. Mountain biking’s social for me. It’s getting out with your mates on rides and having a few beers.”
There’s no doubt that we’ve ticked all those boxes tonight, and it seems as though the bike launch has taken a back seat to catching up with old friends, making new ones, and generally hanging out with like minded souls. Ain’t mountain biking brilliant!
If you own a Cotic and want to be the first to know about future Cotic CC events, head over to www.cotic.co.uk/contact and sign up to the mailing list. And if you want to test ride a Cotic, either from their base in the Peak District or anywhere else in the country, just email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07398 189114 and they’ll sort you out.