cotic rocketmax 4 2023

Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 long term review

by 28

The Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 is the brand’s flagship big travel bruiser. Made-in-UK steel front triangle with 160mm of Droplink rear travel.

  • Brand: Cotic
  • Product: RockertMAX Gen 4
  • FromCotic
  • Price: £2,199 frame only (complete bikes from £4,649)
  • Tested: by Benji for 15 months
Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 in size C4

Pros

  • Fears no steepness, up or down
  • Hella grippy, everywhere
  • Just a joy, all the time

Cons

  • Limited dropper insertion
  • Smaller frames may run into bottle/piggyback shock issues
Front 3/4 pic

The Bike

Let’s not spend too long describing the Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 again. We’ve already done a launch story about it (read it if you wish) and I did a quick Bike Check about the early mullet incarnation of this frameset.

Suffice to say, the Cotic RocketMAX is the brand’s burliest bike. To stick it in a pigeon hole, it’s an enduro bike. 160mm rear travel via proprietary linkage driven single pivot design. 160-170mm fork travel up front. Steel front triangle and seat stays. Alloy chain stays.

Pilot’s POV

As you can probably imagine, the nature of a Tech Editor’s testbed bike is something of an exercise in Trigger’s Brooming. The bike is in a permanent state of change depending on what test bits are plumbed into it.

With that said, this current guise you can see here is definitely the best build I’ve put on to the Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 frame. The only thing I’d change would be the crank arms. The XT ones pictured are 170mm long. I’d prefer shorter (because there are no downsides to shorter cranks, so long as you have the gearing range).

‘ead badge

A quick glance as the complete bikes offered by Cotic is reassuring. They know what they’re doing. There are no outright clangers in any of the spec sheets. On to the frame then. It looks ace. The paintjob is lovely. The welding is neat. The decals and headbadge are decent. The whole thing is really impressively out together.

Aesthetics matter (whether we like it or not). The steel full-susser aesthetic is something that I am a sucker for. The RocketMAX looks approximately 1,000 times cooler than any carbon machine, in my eyes anyway. Some snooty folk may sniff at the bolt heads at the seat/chain stay junction. I totally don’t mind them.

Eight hundred and fifty three

Similarly, the Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 has almost entirely external cable routing. The dropper routing goes up the seat tube via a grommeted porthole above the BB. The rear mech cable enters the seat stay at the rear shock junction and pops out again to meet the rear mech. If you like internal cable routing, you won’t like the RocketMAX. If you (correctly) appreciate the practicalities of external routing, you will love living with the RocketMAX.

There are two sets of bottles bosses. One under the top tube and the other under the down tube. I never used the ones under the down tube. Because they’re under the down tube. If I need more than one water bottle, I wear a Camelbak.

Dropper plumbing

The main bosses under the top tube proved more than up to the job of holding decent-size water bottles, even with piggyback shocks. On this size C4 frame there is very probably more room inside the front triangle compared to the smaller sizes, so smaller riders may run into bottle issues especially if running piggyback shocks.

Speaking of shocks, I’ve run the bike with air shocks (Fox Float X and Marzocchi Bomber Air) and air forks (Fox 36 Float) and whilst those air sprung boingers were fine, I am just wholly sold on coil. And I think the RocketMAX perfectly suits coil in every way. It suits the aesthetic and it suits the ride feel.

Speaking of which…

Front shock mount

The Ride

With a relatively high level of progression to the rear suspension, the RocketMAX works beautifully with a coil shock. It feels supple and free-moving yet also firm and supportive, though the whole of the travel stroke. This essentially feels amazing everywhere. Grippy, comfy, calm, confident.

Is it a ‘playful’ jittery jib machine? Nope. Am I bothered? Nope.

DropLink links

Does it bob? Yep, all bikes can bob. Can you stop it bobbing? Yep. I actually find coil shocks easier to not-bob because the damping circuits are free (from air seal stiction) to do their thang; you’re safe to dial on low speed compression and/or rebound to counter the bobs without ruining the suspension performance elsewhere.

If you’re going to run a Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 with an air shock (I appreciate than ‘going coil’ is daunting to a lot of people) then I’d recommend getting a Cane Creek air shock with a climb switch. They’re the best option by far.

Loam mantlepiece

The sheer bigness of the bike is both a testament to – and a poke in the eye – accepted bike handling ‘theory’. Sure, the bike’s length and slack head angle give it immense stability at speed. Which is helped no end by the ‘give’ in its chassis. But this length does not make it a ‘handful’ in tight corners. It just doesn’t. Bigger bikes do corners – including tight hairpins – better. Once you stop riding them like small bikes.

With long bikes you can also bring the BB height up. You no longer need to be pulled down into the bike to make up for its geometry inadequacies. Long and high bikes ride so much better than short and low bikes in my experience. It may sound totally illogical and contrary to what you’ve always thought about MTB numbers but the proof is in the riding.

Alloy chain stays, steel seat stays

With generous reach, relatively long chain stays, relatively high BB and ample stack height (657mm on C4), the Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 offers one of the best handling geometry formulas currently available.

I didn’t even think the seat angle was an issue despite it being an off-trend 76.5° ‘slack’. With a saddle placed a bit forward on its rails, the position is fine. Indeed, steeper seat angled bikes can feel rather cramped and/or overly ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ in nature (the bike ends up feeling like it is one bike uphill and a totally different bike downhill). On the Cotic there’s no front end wandering. There’s no ‘treading water’ feeling of being in an inefficient pedal power position. It’s actually totally fine. The RocketMAX will surprise many by just how much of an amazing ascender it is. It’s like an unflappable escalator.

Cable tidies

I have a niggle. It’s not standover per se, but it is to do with the seat tube length. And where the seat tube pivot is. Basically, the longest travel dropper I can fit in the space allocated is a 170mm travel dropper. I suspect if I really shopped around I could maybe find a 185mm travel dropper from some alt brand or other that would fit but as it is, I’ve not encountered one yet. So the good ol’ Brand-X 170mm it is. For riders who’ve got used to 200mm+ droppers, 170mm will feel insufficient.

And some of you may notice that I’m running a -1.0° Works Components headset in the bike. Is the stock head angle too steep? For my preferences, running a 160mm fork, I like it slacker yes. Most folk will not mind the stock geometry, or they can opt to run 170mm forks. And hey, angle adjust headsets exist and the RocketMAX has a normal headtube. It’s good to have the option regardless.

Non driveside view

The RocketMAX is a bike primarily designed for terrain that has substantial gradient to it. Which is where it excels. Any sort of uphills, any sort of downhills. Cotic offers the shorter travel FlareMAX or the Jeht bikes for more XC or trail bike duties.

Having said that, if you really need to you can set up the RocketMAX to be more zippy on flatter terrain (fast rolling tyres, more low speed compression) but it’s not the bike to get if that’s what the majority of your riding life is. The RocketMAX likes more challenging terrain, whether it’s the challenge of speed, roughness or steepness – or ideally some sort of combination of these.

Syntace thru-axle

Right then. Is ‘steel feel’ a real thing or just hype? It’s very real. All it takes is one attempt at a latticework of off-camber roots to prove it. And in a more subtle – but more consistently relevant sense – there’s less fatigue. You’re not fighting the bike as much. You’re working in tandem with it. The RocketMAX makes you realise just how much of your efforts on other bikes are going into dealing with jitter and line-fighting. You’re less tense, less clenched.

This feel goes hand in hand with the aforementioned high ‘heads up’ riding stance. The front end is high and once you’ve unlearned loads of bad riding (bad geometry) habits, you find yourself generally more forward on the bike at all times. And staying more forward. There’s no constant repositioning of yourself backwards and forwards, searching for the sweet spot. You get middle-forward and get on with it. Consistent handling, consistent grip, consistent goddamn fun.

Rear 3/4 pic

Overall

The Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 is an amazingly capable mountain bike that exudes a level of calmness, control and – yes – comfort that makes it unique. Bikes with great geometry and decent suspension are not uncommon these days. It is the three-dimensional compliance of the frame chassis that is key to the RocketMAX experience. It is not a sinuous, flexy noodle. It’s more like a muscle that tenses and releases at an instantaneous and instinctual level. This is a special bike.

Non driveside full view

Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 Custom Specification

  • Frame // Reynolds 853 steel w/ Aluminium chainstays, 160mm
  • Fork // Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil, 160mm
  • Shock // X-Fusion H3C RCP Coil, 230 x 65mm
  • Wheels // DT Swiss XM 1700 Spline
  • Front tyre // Pirelli Scorpion Race Enduro M, 29 x 2.5in
  • Rear tyre // Pirelli Scorpion Race Enduro M, 29 x 2.5in
  • Chainset // Shimano XT, 170mm, 30T
  • Drivetrain // Shimano XTR rear mech & XT chain w/ Garbaruk cassette 10-52T
  • Brakes // Magura MT7, 203/203mm
  • Stem // Industry Nine A35, 32mm
  • Bars // Burgtec Ride High Alloy, 35mm, 800 x 50mm
  • Grips // Gusset Sleeper
  • Seatpost // Brand-X Ascend XL, 31.6mm, 170mm
  • Saddle // WTB Volt
  • Bottom Bracket // Shimano XT
  • Size tested // C4
  • Sizes available // C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
  • Weight // 16.8kg
  • Head angle // 63.1°
  • Effective seat angle // 76.5°
  • Seat tube length // 471mm
  • Head tube length // 130mm
  • Chainstay // 448mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,307mm
  • Effective top tube // 662mm
  • BB height // 28mm BB drop
  • Reach // 508mm

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Review Info

Brand: Cotic
Product: RocketMAX Gen 4
From: Cotic
Price: £2,199 frame only (complete bikes from £4,649)
Tested: by Benji for 15 months

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 28 posts - 1 through 28 (of 28 total)
  • Cotic RocketMAX Gen 4 long term review
  • bilbo
    Free Member

    Very nice bikes. I didn’t like the bolt on the seat stay but when I went for a demo was pleased to find Cotic now have an alternative design for this

    milko9000
    Free Member

    The sheer bigness of the bike is both a testament to – and a poke in the eye – accepted bike handling ‘theory’…. But this length does not make it a ‘handful’ in tight corners. It just doesn’t. Bigger bikes do corners – including tight hairpins – better. Once you stop riding them like small bikes.

    With long bikes you can also bring the BB height up. You no longer need to be pulled down into the bike to make up for its geometry inadequacies. Long and high bikes ride so much better than short and low bikes in my experience. It may sound totally illogical and contrary to what you’ve always thought about MTB numbers but the proof is in the riding.

    It would be (alright, it might be) interesting to read more about this somewhere. On the face of it you’re just saying it like it’s true, and I daresay it is (I don’t ride enough bikes to really have any insight but it would inform my next bike buy I’m sure), but perhaps there is an article in explaining it? How should one be riding it if you’re going down some horrid tight alpine switchback full of loose stones and with an awkward root. Or a twisty blown-out section of Bikepark Peaslake. And so on. Anyway, it looks cool, I like it in a similar way to how I like the look of Geometrons.

    sharkattack
    Full Member

    This review contradicts everything that the forum geometry wizards believe about bikes and handling. With a handlebar that high you should be understeering into every hedge.

    scottalej
    Free Member

    What a godawful looking thing though! Not convinced by steel on a full sus bike either. Just adding weight for no real reason.

    w043
    Free Member

    What is the height of the author? A C4 for me at 186cm looks pretty bang on…

    Ben_Haworth
    Full Member

    @w043 185cm 👍

    tomsharp78
    Full Member

    I have one, the exact same colour but with the Cane Creek coil and I can confirm the above is true to my experience.  I took it to the Alpes this year and it was incredible. It’s so competent in almost every scenario that suddenly the biking becomes all about you and your talents (I know thats all its ever really been about).  I’ve been waxing lyrical to everyone about it so I’ll do the same to you all.  Everything I have ridden since (my own and friends bikes) feels to be compromised in someway compared to it. On top of that, the Cotic customer service is peerless in the industry, so helpful and informative.

     

    I love it, it makes riding more fun and makes me ride better which is about as much as you can possibly ask for.

    Kamakazie
    Full Member

    This review contradicts everything that the forum geometry wizards believe about bikes and handling. With a handlebar that high you should be understeering into every hedge.

    There seems to be a perception that geometry needs to force people to be leaning on the handlebars in order to provide adequate front end grip. This is only the case when the front centre is overly long compared to the rear centre. In all situations the vast majority of weight goes through the pedals.

    The longer the FC v RC, the less of this will go through the front tyre. Well balanced geometry doesn’t require you to ‘weight’ the front to the same extent.

    I’m not even sure a lower stack makes it easier to weight the front. It’s easier to apply force to something the closer it is to your body which a higher stack does.

    explorerboy
    Full Member

    Love the looks, love the simplicity and heard excellent things about Cotic’s customer service.

    I very much want one of these as my next FS.


    @benji
    , whats the nifty little doodad holding the CO2 canister on?

    Ben_Haworth
    Full Member

    @explorerboy Bow Tie Strap Anchor from Problem Solvers with an old mini-pump O-ring thing.

    explorerboy
    Full Member

    Cheers love! Another question – have you tried this bike in Cotic’s “trail” config at all?

    JonEdwards
    Free Member

    How should one be riding it if you’re going down some horrid tight alpine switchback full of loose stones and with an awkward root

    Gen 2 Rocketmax owner here. I’ll admit I was nervous last year before taking it to the Alps that it would be hard work in the tight stuff (even though I knew it would be brilliant on the open/fast/rough/steep). It was ace. Utterly unflappable.

    Partly its stability – there’s a calmness to it. You’re not having to concentrate so hard on staying on the bike, so you have more time to think about making it go where you want.

    Partly you can really lean on the front without it biting you. Whether that’s teetering round a switchback at 0.25mph or pulling big fat stoppies, there’s just a bigger window between putting weight on the bars and “ooh I’m going out the front door”

    Its not so much riding in a different/specific way as just trusting the bike more.

    The downside is that anything that’s not daftly hard starts to feel a bit mundane and dull.

    sharkattack
    Full Member

    I’m not even sure a lower stack makes it easier to weight the front. It’s easier to apply force to something the closer it is to your body which a higher stack does.

    I agree but have you seen the arguments about high bars vs low bars? People act like moving your hands 20mm further up is like building a fence on the front of the bike which you have to climb over to fight the front wheel because your weight is falling off the rear end.

    w043
    Free Member

    Ben, sizing felt good for you?

    eddd
    Free Member

    I’m 6’0, relatively short legs and feel great on the C3 – but I’ve set it up an unusual way.

    160mm fork, air shock with 2 tokens, mullet with no angleset. I could get away with 1 token and more damping,  but like the extra pop. By comparison, no tokens just wasn’t working.

    Before mulleting, it felt fine, but pretty ponderous in corners and so (for me) not as confidence inspiring. Now it rips around corners AND feels more stable (best-of-both from mullet tip in and slacker head angle I guess). I have 175mm cranks and have not ripped them off with pedal strikes, and got my best (or least worst…) enduro placing on it like this.

    Ben_Haworth
    Full Member

    @w043 Yep. Defo wouldn’t go smaller (if that’s what you’re weighing up).

    cy
    Full Member

    Thanks for the lovely review Benji! And thanks for the nice comments and feedback.

    Bar height – I’ve gone up a lot with my own bars in the last couple of years. Here’s my theory: On shorter bikes, you wanted lower bars to weight the front wheel, because the short reach meant when you stood up your backside ended up pushed rearwards because you didn’t have enough space on the bike for it not to. And that’s where your centre of mass is, just above your arse! So you used the lower bars to try and drag the weight forward.

    On longer bikes you have room to stand up and stay more in the middle of the bike, and for me anyway, I found higher bars helped me stand taller in the middle of the bike rather than hunched over, which tended to make me hinge at my hips more and push my weight back. Despite having been riding long bikes for over 6 years, I have 20 years worth of bad habits still ingrained so I need all the help I can get, so taller bars help keep me more in the middle of the bike, with weight more evenly balanced between the wheels.

    The major bonus of this is that higher bars allow me to get more lean angle on the bike when cornering, which is making my cornering better. When the bars are low, when you add lean angle to the bike to corner, the inner bar swings towards the floor and at some point you run out of extension on your inside arm. With higher bars, I can get more angle on the bike before I run out of reach, and can more comfortably weight the bars when cornering, so I actually generate more grip with higher bars, not less.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Someone Who Thinks Too Much About Bike Handling, B. Eng (hons)

    cy
    Full Member

    @scottalej Hey, if you don’t like the looks, not a lot I can do about that, but literally the entire review explains the reason for using steel. The calmness, the grip, the feel. These are the performance reasons we use it. And sure, it’s not going to win any weight contests against carbon frames (although it’s closer than you’d think), it’s competitive with most aluminium enduro frames out there. My fancy build weight 14.5kg with no carbon parts.

    rickon
    Free Member

    The high bottom bracket thing – I remember riding a bike with a very high BB, and it felt like you were being tipped over into switchback corners. The lower BB felt like you had less weight higher up, so had a slower tipping into corners. I can’t see why a longer bike negates that – and I’d love for it to do it!

    Can someone explain what’s going on that would make a higher BB better in corners? (I was going to write ‘more stable’, but maybe that’s the problem – I’m thinking about it all wrong, and it’s not about stablity at all?).

    keefezza
    Free Member

    Got a gen 3 myself and absolutely love it. Constant wrist pain means I can’t quite ride as much as I’d want but it’s way way more capable than I’ll ever be.

    First ride I had, 2 years ago, was my first trip to revolution bike park. By the end of the day I could barely use the brakes so it’s a good job it’s such a capable bike, it just took me through stuff at speed I couldn’t do on purpose!

    IMG_20210911_155705333_HDR

    LAT
    Full Member

    People act like moving your hands 20mm further up is like building a fence on the front of the bike which you have to climb over to fight the front wheel because your weight is falling off the rear end.

    i wonder if the higher than usual bb has an influence on this. or, to put it another way, i wonder how much of an influence the higher bb has on the handling overall. the r/c is pretty long, too

    edit: and it is such a looker. that said, i never got on with the looks of aluminum, let alone carbon. and steel suspension bikes do give you something extra.

    colournoise
    Full Member

    @explorerboy You know you want to!

    2023 09 17 Getting Fooled Again 06

    cy
    Full Member

    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I think the BB thing is related to a lot of other received wisdom that goes out the window with longer bikes. When the bike is long it is intrinsically stable, so things you used to need like a low bb to pin a shorter, less stable bike with shorter front centre into a corner aren’t needed. And in fact, you get get a bit of ground clearance back and inject a bit of easier movement back into the long bike with a higher bb. It’s a little bit like rebound damping: We all used to run bikes with slow rebound because we needed to keep a short bike with little wheels from pitching around too much. You were stabilising the bike with the damping. Now the layout of the bike is intrinsically stable, you can run fat rebound for sensivity and grip without upsetting the bike. Double win.</p>
    That said, our bb heights aren’t specifically the result of cornering ability. Mainly it’s because of where Cotic is based, we don’t have smooth fireroads to winch up, we have knobbly rocky climbs. If you are constantly clonking your cranks or pedals on our local loop, you are having a bad time! If a bike can’t pedal easily up the climb from the bench at Blacka Moor, the bb is too low!

     

    scruff
    Free Member

    Leo Kokkonen of Pole bikes has written a bit about high BBs and goes into it in a bit more detail on a podcast with him, think it was Pinkbike.

    LAT
    Full Member

    @cy thanks.

    pierreelie
    Free Member

    @cy, would you like to share you bike build to reach 14.5kg ? I’ve just finished mine which is 16kg and want to know where I can optimize. I’m looking for the next season to enjoy it  !


    IMG-8610

    cy
    Full Member

    @pierreelie That looks great! I’m afraid the main differences are pretty spendy, as I have a full bike industry idiot drivetrain. Titanium eeWings cranks, XTR mech and shifter, Garbaruk cassette and hollow pin SRAM chain. There is over half a kilo there compared to SLX. That 14.5kg is quoted without pedals as that’s what most other brands people compare weights with are weighed like. I run MY22 Lyrik at 170mm which are about 300grams lighter than Zebs. Ti rail saddle, Galfer rotors, a few ti bolts here and there. Wheels are HUNT TrailWide which are a good weight for their toughness.

    I also run mid-casing tyres too, not dual ply. The SG2 WTB Verdict front is about 300 grams lighter than the Tough casing version, and in the winter I usually run a Maxxis DHR2 rear in EXO Plus rather than DD.

    intheborders
    Free Member

    What a godawful looking thing though! Not convinced by steel on a full sus bike either. Just adding weight for no real reason.

    FWIW when I replaced a 29 Camber evo camber with a gen 2 Flaremax using the same components the bike weighed just a kilo more, and about 200mm longer.

    +5 years later and it’s covered 5500 miles & a million and only needed the frame bearings changed once, as opposed to the Camber which went through a set every 6 months or so…

    Go ride one.

Viewing 28 posts - 1 through 28 (of 28 total)

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