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This is the new fifth incarnation – hence Gen 5 – of Cotic’s 29er short-travel ripper the FlareMAX. Besides looking very pretty in the bluebells, what is it all about?
29in wheels at both ends as standard, though as with most of Cotic’s latest full suspension bikes, you can run in mixed wheel mullet if you want to. The Downcountry-tstic amount of 125mm travel at the back is delivered via Cotic’s long-established Droplink system. Fork-wise, you can run up to a 140mm travel fork up front. Or you can go all the way down to 120mm. Or you can split the difference and run a 130mm travel fork, like the one featured here.
Regardless of bouncy bits, the Cotic FlareMAX Gen 5 still features those signature steel tubes all over. Yes, the chainstays are aluminium, but the rest is steel. The front end is made from the iconic Reynolds 853. The frame features Cotic’s own ‘ride tuned’ Ovalform top tube with its multi-profile round-then-ovalised coolness. New for the FlareMAX is a new down tube and that BB brace between the down tube and seat tube. It’s all these lovely metal tubes that combine to give Cotic frames their particular ride feel. More on how the bike rides shortly.
Needless to say, steel full sussers offer a ride that is different to most alloy and carbon frames out there. ‘Tactile’ is very probably the correct word, and the word that Cotic use themselves a lot of the time.
The FlareMAX is Cotic’s lightest, shortest travel suspension bike. Cotic state the FlareMAX is designed to be nippy, responsive and fun, basically. Cotic goes on to describe the FlareMAX Gen 5’s remit as “whizzing between the trees, covering long distances, but it’s still got your back for a big day in the hills.”
As we found out when we reviewed the previous Gen 4 FlareMAX, the 125mm rear travel is taut, full of engagingly useful feedback and offers just enough for when terrain gets hectic. As ever, it is the geometry that exerts the biggest influence here. Cotic has long been a proponent of decent progressive geometry. Cotic has what its calls ‘Longshot’ geometry and it is pretty much as progressive as they come. Cotic’s geometry offers an underlying capability to its bikes, regardless of suspension travel numbers. We’ll go into geometry specifics shortly.
Cotic frames are designed, developed and tested entirely at their base in the Peak District. As a lot of you will already know, Cotic’s founder – Cy Turner – is the lead designer and engineer. Cy was the guy who started Cotic way back in 2003. (Twenty year anniversary alert!) Cotic are more than just Cy these days. One of the key personnel involved with the Gen 5 FlareMAX is Cotic’s Operations Manager, Paul Dexter.
Explaining his affinity with the FlareMAX, Paul: “It’s all about the handling … There’s less pitch fore and aft on a shorter travel bike like the FlareMAX, so when I move my weight around it has an immediate effect on what the bike does. I love cleaning techy climbs, and this direct connection to the trail really helps in those situations. My FlareMAX skips down the trail rather than smothering and feeling disconnected, a feeling reminiscent of riding a hardtail but with more grip and no aches afterwards!”
Speaking of Paul, the Cane Creek Helm forks specced on the Trail builds of the FlareMAX Gen 5 are custom tuned for Cotic. Specifically, they are based around a baseline damping profile of Paul. Paul is a lighter weight rider who often finds stock-tuned forks to be overdamped. Cotic’s Cane Creek Helm forks have a relatively light damping tune as a base. The idea being that lighter riders can have a decent performing fork and heavier riders can dial on more damping if they need to.
The FlareMAX Gen5 is made exclusively in the UK by Cotic collaborators Five Land Bikes. The experienced crew at Five Land Bikes in Scotland manufacture the Reynolds 853 front triangle in small batches. These front triangles are then married to rear ends from Cotic’s suppliers in Taiwan. Much of the remaining machined parts are made for us by Unite Components and Bear Frame Supplies, both UK operations.
Whilst up at Five Land, all the major parts of the frame are dip coated in manganese phosphate to prevent corrosion before being painted using tough and durable automotive spec paint by Five Land. The graphics are masked and painted – not just stick on decals. The two colours for the Gen 5 FlareMAX are Limestone and Teal by the way. As an added bonus, all FlareMAX Gen 5 frames are security Datatag’d.
A bit more about the FlareMAX Gen 5 geometry. Longshot geometry was been such a big step forward for Cotic that geometry is now refinement rather than revolution.
The 2023 Gen5 FlareMAX gets a 4mm lower BB. The head angle remains at 65-66°, depending what length fork travel you put on there. The Gen 5 gets shorter seat tubes for increased standover and a bit more dropper post insertion depth, especially on the C4 and C5 sizing. The seat angle has got a bit steeper for comfier climbing.
The biggest change is the increase is size options, and what they’re called. Like it did with its recent RocketMAX rejig, Cotic has dropped the trad Small, Medium, Large naming. Gone are the previous quartet of Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large sizes. In its place are five new C sizings: C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5. C-Sizing aims to get more people their perfect fit by reducing the reach steps between sizes to under 20mm. Cotic has also shortened the seat tubes for the C2, C3 and C4 bikes. In practice this means you will be less likely to fall between sizes.
The new C-Sizing tightens the gaps between sizing, and give you more options to size up or down as you wish. In terms of the key numbers for sizing, the bikes cover a reach range of 436mm up to 512mm and a seat tube length range of 390mm up to 496mm.
Oh yes, none of the cables-thru-headset shenanigans here. Hardly any internally routed anything in fact. Which, in my not-very-humble opinion, is absolutely flipping fantastic. Internal cable routing solves zero real problems. It only introduces them.
- Complete bikes from £3,599
- Rolling chassis from £2,699
- This Cotic FlareMAX Trail Gold XT build featured here is £4,849
First Ride Feels
Caveat: this C3 test bike is not the size I’d go for. Whilst the reach (477mm) isn’t way too short for me (185cm) I’d definitely suit the larger sizes more. With that said, I have no hesitation and coming out and saying that the new Gen 5 FlareMAX is a winner. It takes the previous FlareMAX and just makes it a bit better.
That lower BB is the most significant geometry change here. Sure, the steeper seat angle is nice and everything but it’s the dropped BB that is most welcome and most noticeable. The new FlareMAX dives into things just that little bit more securely and confidently.
Immediately before having a go on the FlareMAX Gen 5 I’d just been riding 500+mm reach bikes with 63° head angles. It didn’t take long to readjust to the Cotic. After one initial shakedown setup run on the FlareMAX, I was off ducking and diving up, down and across exactly the same daft tech tracks I’d been riding the Big Bikes on.
A big shout out here to the two (four?) most important components on a mountain bike: tyres and brakes. The Shimano XT brakes were amazing. A well-running set of Shimano brakes are an amazing thing. The tyres were also really, really great. Particularly the front WTB Verdict rubber. Traction for days, as they say. The rear tyre was a WTB Trail Boss and… well, almost anything would have worked in the buff conditions of the test period but still. It was fine (I suspect it may not be that great in the wet but we shall no doubt find out soon, unfortunately).
The suspension dampers were both top class. The Cane Creek DB Air IL is still by quite some margin the best air shock out there. I like to run it ridiculously open and fast and use the Climb Switch for, you know, climbing. If your lever-phobic you can break out the dinky Allen key (which lives in a slot in the Climb Switch) and dial the LSC and LSR to your heart’s content.
The Cane Cane Helm was also impressive. Speaking as someone at the light-ish end (73kg) of the rider weight spectrum, I can very much appreciate a fork with a lighter touch to its damping range. The level of support in the sir spring – combined with decent stoutness of the fork chassis – totally helps the front end to not feel outgunned when it gets rough.
As for the steel frame, it really is just great. There’s a reason I chose a Cotic RocketMAX to be the SingletrackWorld Big Bike Bits testbed. The steel frame of the FlareMAX Gen 5 is like having an extra dimension. It’s like a super vitamin that gives you increased comfort, calmness AND control.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. I’m going to pass this C3-size FlareMAX Gen 5 on to some more of the SingletrackWorld test Squadron to see what they make of it.
Cotic FlareMAX Trail Gold XT specification
- Frame // Reynolds 853 with 6066-T6 aluminium chainstays, 125mm
- Shock // Cane Creek DB Air IL Climb Switch 210×50
- Fork // Cane Creek HELM29, 130mm
- Wheels // Hunt Trail Wide 29 V2
- Front Tyre // WTB 29 Vigilante 29 x 2.5in
- Rear Tyre // Trail Boss 29 x 2.4in
- Chainset // XT M8100 Chainset, 32T
- Drivetrain // XT M8100 12spd, 10-51
- Brakes // Shimano XT M8100 brakes, 203/180mm
- Stem // Cotic SHORTERSTEM, 35mm
- Handlebars // Cotic Calver Bars 780 x 25mm rise
- Grips // Cotic Lockon grips
- Seat Post // BikeYoke Devine dropper
- Saddle // Cotic x WTB
Geometry of our size C3
- Head angle // 65.6°
- Effective seat angle // 75.8°
- Seat tube length // 444mm
- Head tube length // 120mm
- Chainstay // 448mm
- Wheelbase // 1,248mm
- Effective top tube // 634mm
- BB height // 36mm drop
- Reach // 477mm