Now in its 4th incarnation, the Cotic FlareMax takes on frame updates, new build options and a ‘down country’ alter-ego.
Can you believe that the first generation Cotic FlareMax is now approaching 5 years old? Launched in 2016, the Cotic FlareMax is Cotic’s aggressive short-travel 29er. Built around the DNA of the Rocket enduro bike and Solaris frameset, the FlareMax has always been a bike capable of punching above its weight, or perhaps more accurately, its travel.
Over the past 4-5 years, Cotic has consistently tweaked and rejigged the FlareMax, but the Derbyshire based brand has always stuck to a familiar winning formula. A steel front triangle mated to an alloy rear with leading-edge geometry and a playful suspension tune. While the ingredients are similar, the Gen 4 FlareMax is a true evolution with frame updates, new build options, and updates to the alloy swingarm.
Gen 4 Cotic FlareMax
For 2021 the FlareMax runs the same 125mm of rear-wheel travel as the Gen 3 but is available in builds with either 120mm, 130mm or 140mm travel forks. With 120mm of travel the new FlareMax sits nicely in the new ‘down country’ segment, bikes with XC levels of travel but the geometry of a trail/enduro bike.
If you have been following Cotic over the past few years you’ll already be aware that the brand has made steps to manufacture bikes in the UK and this follows on with the new FlareMax. From today, the official launch of the new bike, a limited run of UK made frames is available to purchase, while Taiwanese bikes will be offered from August.
Wherever your FlareMax is from it will feature the same steel/alloy configuration and the same radical Longshot geometry which gives the bike a 65.6-degree head angle and 75.4-degree seat angle with a 130mm fork fitted (check the Cotic website for geo with a 120 or 140mm fork installed).
The new bike also takes the same seat tube configuration and pivot location as the Cotic Jeht. This means the new FlareMax benefits from the Jeht’s suspension kinematic and allows for better seat post insertion, very important especially for riders on the smaller frame options.
Changes have been made to the alloy swingarm forging providing clearance for up to 2.6in tyres, and the rear shock is now a futureproof metric model.
The other big change to the Cotic FlareMax is the build options. Riders can choose different levels of spec from a Silver level SLX bike all the way to a Gold level GX AXS build but there are also ‘no cost’ specification options to those builds to suit your riding style. For example, someone wanting a more pedal-friendly bike will likely choose a SID equipped build with 120mm travel, but for the same cost Cotic will swap out the SID for a 140mm travel Helm fork. There are also similar options for the wheels too, with no cost changes from Hunt XC, Trail or Enduro wheelsets.
Gen 4 Cotic FlareMax Gold XT First Look and ride
Gen 4 Cotic FlareMax Gold XT first ride
I am very much a fan of ‘down country’ bikes and don’t really understand when people get upset when the term is used. A ‘down country’ bike is legitimately something new, it’s not a trail or enduro bike and anyone who thinks an XC bike is the same thing isn’t really riding hard enough. Sure it’s annoying that new labels are created from time to time, but ‘down country’ doesn’t offend me in any way, in fact, I love this type of bike.
Fortunately for me then, Cy from Cotic turned up at my local trails with the FlareMax in its most pedal-friendly build featuring a set of 120mm RockShox SID forks and 2.25in Wolfpack tyres. The large size bike I rode was a launch edition UK built bike with a reach of 490mm, a seat post angle of 76-degrees and a head angle of 66 degrees. At 178cm the size felt spot on, boasting a comfortable seated position for winching up climbs and lots of room for flinging the spritely steel bike back downhill again.
As I only had a day to play with the new FlareMax I decided I wanted to throw this short travel bike into the deep end with some fast, technical, steep, rocky and loamy tracks, and just for good measure, I chucked the odd jump and brown serpent into the mix too, not normally the type of riding associated with a 120mm sub 13kg whippet. To get to the fun stuff though requires quite a long climb taking in fire roads, open fields and technical singletrack. Think of my test route as a really challenging XC ride, only with Enduro level downhills, and massive rock gardens, perhaps even a ‘down country’ route.
Before even hitting dirt it was easy to tell that this build of the FlareMax wasn’t going to be much of a chore uphill. The low weight, narrow fast-rolling tyres, steep seat angle and efficient suspension are a perfect mix for swift uphill progress.
The new kinematic is borrowed from the Cotic Jeht but as I haven’t ridden a Jeht yet I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I quickly discovered though was a very stable pedal platform with no noticeable bob. The suspension doesn’t squat under load meaning every ounce of leg power is transferred to the rear wheel, but it’s plush off the top for swallowing up trail imperfections, rocks and roots. It’s exactly what you want from a bike when climbing and its efficiency uphill meant Cy and I could chat about old cars while soaking up the scenery.
I have to say the first climb on my local loop is pretty epic. It’s a great climb with tons of variation, it offers great scenery and is an excellent test for a bike’s uphill ability. I also like to think this climb misleads people to believe ‘oh, we’re going on a classic XC ride’, as we reach the summit of one climb to see that it continues even further. While the first 40min of this ride is quite peaceful and relaxing the rest of the ride gets pretty rough and ready, let’s see how this 120mm travel bike with XC tyres handles the downhills.
The first downhill starts on a flattish trail with a few turns here and there before quite suddenly plunging off the side of the hill. On our test ride the trails were pretty dry with just a few wet patches here and there, but with a lot of loose rock covering the track. As soon as I tipped the front wheel of the Gen 4 FlareMax into the first steep, loose, corner I knew it was something special. It’s a testament to Cy’s attention to geometry that this, what some people will continue to call an XC bike, absolutely pins it downhill. I cannot emphasise just how good this bike is. No matter how steep or loose the trail got, regardless of the size of the rocks or drops the FlareMax took it on the chin in a manner that surprises me even now while thinking back on it.
Of course, being a short travel bike, the FlareMax benefits from a playful nature with progressive suspension that is easy to hop in the air, but while this build had only 120/125mm, this Cotic can really take on some seriously chunky terrain.
How does it compare to similar bikes?
Well, I’m obviously going to compare the new FlareMax to my own personal bike, the YT Izzo. A bike I tested last year and enjoyed so much that I purchased one and have been riding weekly on the same trails I tested the Cotic. Of course, these two bikes aren’t identical. The Izzo is carbon and has 130mm travel front and rear, while the FlareMax has 120mm upfront and 125mm on the rear, the Cotic also has 15mm more reach on a large.
Keep in mind that I bought the YT and I still to this day really enjoy riding it but given the choice of the new FlareMax and my own bike I would take the Cotic. At speed and on rough terrain the Cotic feels more stable, and the additional reach lets me get over the front and push the front wheel confidently into corners for traction.
It’s not only the sorted frameset that makes the Cotic such a blast to ride, the build is especially well thought out too. For a 120mm fork with an XC background, the new SID is an extraordinary fork, and the Wolfpack tyres give so much more bite than what I was expecting and survived my pretty brutal trails unscathed.
Gen 4 Cotic FlareMax First Impressions
I’ve mentioned in past reviews that I like to ride a bike rather than feel that I’m just being taken on a ride. What I mean by this is that some bikes take too much of the edge of a ride, they sanitise the trail and that saps the fun out of riding for me. The Gen 4 FlareMax though is engaging, responsive, confidence-inspiring and fun.
For more information about the new Cotic FlareMax visit the Cotic website.