Cotic BFe Max review! Cotic takes the BFe name made famous 16 years ago and gives it a 2021 29er spin.
There are a few bike models that have really shaped the modern mountain bike industry and I feel that the Cotic BFe is one of them. Originally introduced in 2005, the BFE has long been the go-to hardcore hardtail for anyone wanting a bit of unsuspended fun. With geometry that worked with 120-160mm forks, the original 26er became an instant classic, popular with riders wanting a do it all hardtail. The versatility of the BFe made it the perfect choice for a session at Bolehills, a classic Peak District route, or even a few laps of the freeride lines.
As the industry moved away from 26in wheels, so too did BFe with Cotic releasing a larger wheeled 27.5in model, but still supported 26in wheel fans and famously getting the #26aintdead hashtag to go viral.
But as many other brands, and riders have found, you cannot escape 29ers and in 2020 the classic Burly Iron hardtail launched in Max configuration. The Cotic BFe Max launched with the same playful ethos as previous BFe’s and that same classic versatility to run 120-160mm travel forks, but what has the move to 29er done to the BFe?
Cotic BFe Max | About this review.
This is a review of the frame only not the complete bike. As you can see I’ve built my test BFe up with various components that I have been reviewing this year. Cotic offers the BFe Max as a frame only or as a complete bike, but their builds are very different to how I completed my test bike.
Cotic BFe Max Review | Frame Features
After 16 years of evolution and development, it’s hardly surprising to see some very neat details on the BFe Max in terms of frame design and geometry, and Cotc being who they are like to put their stamp on every aspect of the frame and material.
Keeping the Buly Iron magic alive is a heat-treated Chromoly frameset. Cotic uses a mixture of its own Cotic Fm tubing and reinforced Reynolds 853 down tube to keep weight low, but strength high. After all a 160mm travel, 29er hardtail, made to be thrown around needs to be durable enough for the big stuff, but light enough to climb back to the top again.
From a distance, the tubing might all look like your standard round fare, but on close inspection, you’ll see that tube profiles have been chosen for different areas. The ovalform top tube, for example, is shaped to improve precision when riding through rough terrain but not at the expense of compliance.
Stealth routing is used only for the dropper post, the rest of the cables and hoses are attached via neat bolt-on clips. These can be removed for a cleaner look if you moved to AXS or decided to run single speed. The seat tube itself is a 35mm (31.6mm internal) reinforced design exclusive to Cotic that is said to boost pedalling stiffness while maximizing dropper post compatibility.
Upfront, you’ll find a 44mm standard headtube, but if you choose the frame only you’ll need to purchase a headset and press it in yourself. Being a standard 44mm design though makes sourcing parts a breeze and ensures ease of compatibility with steerer tubes. Important if you’re building your BFe Max up using parts you might already have, as many hardcore hardtail owners often do.
I’m happy to see the move to 29in wheels hasn’t infringed on tyre clearance, with Cotic stating that tyres of up to 29 x 2.6in will fit in the S-bend chainstays, perfect for UK winter riding. Keeping the rear wheel in place is an included Syntace X-12 149 x 12mm bolt through axle, a pinch bolt on the drive-side of the frameset keep the axle from coming loose.
Cotic wanting the BFe Max to be as versatile as possible, the frame enjoys plenty of mounts and bottle positions meaning you don’t just have to be a hardcore hardtail lover to appreciate the big-wheeled BFe, and in fact, it makes a great mile muncher too.
Cotic BFe Max Review | Geometry
Cotic bikes are known for their great handling, and much of this is thanks to Cy’s attention to geometry. The BFe Max uses Cotic’s Longshot geometry to produce a low-slung frame that’s easy to chuck about, but with enough reach for stability at speed and comfort.
There are 4 sizes to choose from, S, M, L and XL with reach figures ranging from 438mm to 510mm (based around a 140mm fork). At 178cm I opted for a size large with a reach of 485mm (or 474mm with a 160mm fork) and a seat tube length of 460mm. This gave me a great amount of standover for getting rowdy, but with enough room to happily ride local XC routes from my door.
Each model has a 65-degree head angle (64 at 160mm) and a seat angle of 74.5 (73.5-degrees with a 160mm fork). What’s interesting is that Cotic likes to show its geometry under sag, so the numbers on their website are what you will feel when sat on the bike. I also find it very helpful that Cotic goes to the effort of offering the geometry of their frames with different lengths of fork too. Again an important feature for anyone choosing a frame only purchase with a plan to use what parts they already have.
Cotic BFe Max Review | My build
You’ve likely seen this build in various other reviews as the Cotic BFe Max has been one of my long term test bikes this year. So far I’ve tested Hopes new XCR brakes, Silt carbon wheels and Michelin Wild and Force AM tyres on the BFe, but as you can see there are a few more reviews to come.
The drivetrain is a TRP 12-speed system, the same James Vincent has already tested for us. I’m running an E*13 Vario Dropper and remote, Nukeproof carbon bar, Burgtec 35mm stem (Longshot geo is based around a 30-35mm stem length), and Praxis Cadet chainset.
As you can see I’ve tested the BFe Max with both the 2021 Fox 36, at 160mm and a 2021 RockShox Pike Ulitmate with 150mm of travel.
Cotic BFe Max Review | Climbing
Downhill is the fun bit, but first of all, we have to get those climbs out of the way, thankfully Cotic has produced one hell of a climber with the BFe Max. Considering the BFe name was once synonymous with hardtail hooning and pump tracks, the updated big brother is a sure-footed climber.
Looking at the geometry alone, the seat angle doesn’t appear to be as next-gen steep as some bike brands like to shout about, but we know the number stated on the Cotic website is the actual number we’re using on a ride. Whereas some full-suspension bikes might list a 78-degree seat angle, this is likely at static and once under sag that number can change greatly depending on how a rider has set their front and rear suspension up. To compare, the Cotic BFe Max is within 0.5 degrees of the Pole Taival that I tested earlier this year (depending on fork), and a Santa Cruz Chameleon is listed at 72.8 degrees, however once sagged that’s likely to be nearer 74-degrees. So the number that Cotic is running is similar to what other brands are offering on their hardtails.
Cotic’s Longshot geometry though means that you’ll get more reach on a smaller-sized bike at sag. You could argue that you don’t want more reach, and that’s fine as Cotic’s geometry is great for jumping between sizes, but as many riders have experienced, a longer reach means a better body position both for climbing and descending.
Whichever size BFe Max you choose though you’ll be impressed with how well it despatches climbs. It’s a comfortable place to sit and spin, with your hips just in the right position to get the most out of your legs and a wide range rear cassette. It’s not an XC race stretched out feel thanks to the shorter stem, but it’s a comfortable place to be for long rides or even just smashing out a few local loops.
Cotic BFe Max Review | Descending
Of course, Longshot geometry doesn’t just provide more reach, but it also dials up the amount of wheelbase a bike has, and a longer wheelbase means a more stable and controlled ride on your way back down again. My size large test bike with 160mm forks has a wheelbase of 1252.5mm, and that’s pretty damn long. Having the wheels so far apart calms the trail down even when booting down boulder-filled trails at speed. Each BFe Max has the same 444mm chainstay which I found on the large to give a good balance of high-speed comfort and the ability to change direction, hop, and attempt to manual.
The slack head angle means you can comfortably drop into chunkier trails and terrain, without feeling uncomfortably far over the bars, and the BFe’s ability to run longer travel forks really peps up its downhill prowess.
Cy’s dialled Longshot geometry keeps the BFe stable at high speed, and it can be surprising just how fast the BFe can accelerate and maintain speed through technical terrain. The low stand-over and short(ish) seat tube keeps the dropper and frame well out of the way when railing off-camber root sections. This stability combined with the compliant nature of the frame material keeps what would be a frantic ride nicely controlled. The compliance is just enough to take the sting out of the terrain, and never dulls the overall experience.
Riding the BFe is a familiar experience. It has the classic ride qualities of a sorted steel frame from the ‘good old days’ only developed with modern geometry and designed around the latest standards. So while it feels familiar the speed and capabilities of this slender steel bike are way beyond what we thought bikes would be capable of all those years ago.
Things we loved
- Lovely compliant ride.
- The versatile design makes the BFe Max a perfect do it all bike.
- The Cotic website is filled with useful info for riders/bike builders and the Cotic team are great to deal with.
Things that we would like to see
- Perhaps a more robust chainstay protector than the included velcro model.
- I’d happily pay a little more to have a headset included and pressed in. There are not many people with a headset press.
Living and riding in the Peak District, I feel the BFe Max is a great bike to own for my type of riding. It’s not overly heavy, nor is the geometry overly extreme, everything is well-considered and carefully designed and the result is a bike that fills the boots of a classic name extremely well.
What I enjoy the most about the BFe Max is how well balanced the ride is. There are some bikes that are obviously weighted to one type of riding or another, and I think the BFe does a great job of covering a lot of bases. It handles the technical downhill trails extremely well, and although long, it corners brilliantly (these big bikes need more speed for the tight stuff). On trails with less gradient, I never felt over biked and climbing is astonishing considering the BFe’s burly pedigree.
It can be worrying when a brand takes a name from the past and gives it a modern spin, but Cotic has done the BFe name proud and made another instant classic!
|Price:||£549 Frame only|
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 4 months|