- New Bike Day: Cotic FlareMax
OK, that’s the maiden voyage out the way. Time for some rambling initial thoughts, with apologies to @metalheart. Brevity is not really my strong suit. You can always just look at the pictures though 🙂
I took it for a four hour ride around Corryhabbie hill. So a mix of surfaces from loose rocks, through farm tracks to smooth trails and a bit of road and some steep ups and steepish downs. But the main reason for picking the loop was that I rode it exactly a year ago to the day on my Five in similar conditions.
I’m not really into “best bike ever” reviews. They are all good and on the initial rides I’m hyper-sensitive to the small differences and whether the bike is marginally better or marginally worse than other bikes on that particular section. It takes me a while to just accept the bike as it is and start trying to get the best out of it. That said, initial impressions were very positive. The bottom line is that it gives me the same sense of stability and security that I’ve learnt to love on the fatbikes, but without the drag on smooth sections and with that lovely progressive suspension feel. I’m as far from a riding god as you’ll get, but even I could just pump the rear and get it to hop over little ditches and off lips, which was rather addictive. It was certainly more playful than I expected for a bike that looks like a tank on paper.
It’s slack and I definitely noticed the extra wheel flop when I was building it up. For the first few minutes spinning along some broken tarmac I also felt that the steering was a bit different. Maybe a bit more of a caster effect. But riding back along the same section at the end of the ride it felt totally normal.
Letting the brakes off and bombing over rough ground it’s brilliant as you’d expect really. Very stable. Usually my (lack of) nerve is the limiting factor, but here it was more a case of having to back off because I was going so fast that my vision was getting blurred.
I rode through one stream crossing that I’ve always walked in the past. It just has a bit of a drop into it and the rocks seem that bit bigger than all the rest. Of course, once I pushed the bike into the section it rolled through with no problems as would no doubt have been the case on any other bike. It’s just that I felt more willing to give it a go.
I’m not qualified to talk about the nuances of the x-fusion shock, but I really liked the simple 4-position lever. All four positions are useful and different enough that they change the feel of the bike. It’s basically climb, trail, descend but with an extra firm setting for road or smooth climbs. The new Pike also seems to “finally” have a useful middle setting. On previous RTC3 forks I’ve always just ignored the middle position, but I used it quite a bit yesterday.
One big surprise was the climbing. I expected it to be pretty good on rocky technical stuff and it was, but I thought I’d be fighting it to keep it on line on longer drags. In fact it was easy just to sit in and pick a line. I managed to ride up a climb that I walked on the Five last year. At one point I almost came to a halt while I lined up for a section and it still felt totally balanced. I did position the saddle a bit further forward when I built it. I’ve not tried it in a more central position, but it feels so good where it is that I doubt I’ll bother.
I also found myself using the “no 2” position for off-road climbing rather than the stiffest, which was a surprise as I usually prefer the rear to be as locked as possible on a climb. There is a nice spring to the feel of the bike in that position. So it doesn’t feel harsh and seems to flow over things nicely, but doesn’t feel as though it’s sucking away any power either.
One thing I didn’t really notice was the length, which was strange as that’s supposed to be one of the more “radical” things about the geometry. It just felt like it fitted really. Maybe having the bars a bit forward is what kept it stable on those slow climbs though as it naturally pulls you forwards a bit.
It’s definitely a bike that gets more fun as you go faster, but it was still a pleasant place to be just spinning along and admiring the view. Unlike the Smuggler that I had last year I didn’t feel that I had to ride aggressively to make it work. Maybe that’s the longer chainstays or maybe that’s because (following a bit more coaching) I naturally ride with a bit more weight on the front wheel.
So, playful and fun, motors up the climbs and offers lots of confidence on the descents. Not a bad start and if nothing else, at least I got it dirty 🙂
Posted 1 year agomccraqueSubscriber
Thanks for taking the time to write up the first impressions @Roverpig.
I spent an afternoon on one a couple of weeks back, and ragged it around the Surrey Hills – albeit with the Cane Creek shock.
For a steel full suss – it’s bizarrely quick and efficient to pedal, I found. Even around the carpark, on tarmac, on fire road climbs. It just felt like it had real zip. I can’t explain why.
Completely agree with what you say about it getting you to try things too. It made me feel (maybe too) confident straight off the bat. as a result I checked Strava at the end of the day and, on trails I ride a fair amount, had 18 of my quickest times – in less that perfect conditions. Proof that the feeling wasn’t just in my head.
The front wheel does seem to grip and give bags of confidence. The flip side for me – it felt a little more nose heavy and less neutral in the air than my current bike, and a little more exaggeration required in the movements – particularly manualling (not that I am great at them anyway).
I came away with a big smile. And just trying to work out how to afford one myself having already bought a Full Suss around 12 months ago…Posted 1 year ago
Jeez, I was expecting war & peace, is disappoint… maybe it was the pictures 🤣
i was under the impression that the length wasn’t really that different, just that the relationship of you to the bike was.
however what I really wanted to hear was it was crap and that you’d be selling it to me cheap at the end of the year. Still, I can but hope 😆
good to hear it’s living up to its reputation.Posted 1 year agoKryton57Subscriber
This whole length thing is odd. My Spark is a longer TT than I would have bought 2 years ago, yet the cockpit (Reach?) feels shorter – not a bad thing it fits well.
Nice write up, you should be in Cotic Sales, I’m almost tempted to buy one (I would in 10 years time when I enter solo/pootle mode).Posted 1 year ago
If you were on the orange bike then that’s quite some coincidence, given your comment above about seeing my tyre tracks. Especially as I think you are only the second cyclist I’ve ever met on that trail. You don’t fancy letting us in on next week’s lottery numbers do you 🙂Posted 1 year agotomd1984Member
Mmmmmm, that’s a lovely build. I’ve been mulling one of these over for a while, but was starting to rule it out for being tooooo long. Your reflections on the feel of the ride have been interesting so far @roverpig, thanks for taking the time to post – i appreciate the detail.
At the mo i’m on an old school 26″ hardtail that’s actually too small for me, so an old school nu-skool geo bike will feel big.
If its not too silly a question, how much adaptation in body position is needed to weight the front on this sort of geo bike? Is it a case of full weight shift, or more of a hunch/lean over?
I like the concept of a shorter travel bike that’s fun and still able to get a bit rowdy without being wallowy. It was a nice surprise to find @ceepers ‘ thread on potentially doing a demo at my local trail centre this summer 🙂Posted 1 year ago
Cheers for the detailed write up. I love that you’re so happy with the bike. It’s the biggest buzz about doing this job.
Thanks @Cy. I got another ride in tonight and seem to be gelling nicely with the bike already, which is unusual for me. I’m not the sort of person who can jump on a new bike and immediately start setting PRs on descents, which is why I find demos tricky. It takes me time to build up the faith in the bike and trust that it will do what I want. But it looks as though we are going to get along just fine 🙂
If its not too silly a question, how much adaptation in body position is needed to weight the front on this sort of geo bike?
That’s the funny thing. I know it’s long and slack. I’ve read the geo chart. But it doesn’t feel as though you need to do much. There is a bit more of a shift required to lift the front, but other than that it just seems to put you in the right position, Maybe that’s the longer chainstays or something, but it feels very balanced. By contrast, on the Smuggler I did feel as though I needed to shift my weight forwards. If I did so it was amazingly fast, but I felt as though I needed to attack all the time. If I got tentative (and tentative is my strong suit) it wouldn’t work. The FlareMax seems to be up for it if you want to push on, but also fine if you don’t. I got caught in a squally shower this evening and just wanted to get off the hill safely. The descent was rooty and steep in places but I could just cruise down it and still have fun. But when the sun came out and I did want to attack it was definitely game-on.
Climbing is a real surprise. I was convinced that I’d have to pay a price for the extra security going down. In fact, tonight, I set PRs on both climbs (which I’d done 16 times previously). In fact I’m currently fastest and second fastest this year on those. OK, only 11 people have recorded times this year, but still, not bad for a guy in his 50s.
It seems a silly thing to say after watching those youngsters throw theirs down Snowdon, but it does seem to be a bike that works well for talentless bimblers too. It’s fast up, across and down without ever feeling like it will kill you. Of course that’s because I’ve not got close to its limits. But that’s the point, you don’t have to. All that capability is there to play with but it doesn’t suck the life out of the trails like some longer travel bikes, so you can still enjoy the ride without having to be on the edge.
It’s got a lovely lively feeling to it as well. I hesitate to talk about steel as I’m sceptical that you (or at least I) can really detect the effect of the frame material given all the other squishy bits on a mountain bike. To be honest, I never felt that my Mk1 Solaris was particularly springy either, but this does have a nice zing to it.
Right, I’ve rambled on long enough, so I’ll shut up now. Of course, I’m still in the honeymoon period, so take it all with a pinch of salt (and don’t lose hope @metalheart), but so far it’s all good.Posted 1 year ago
That’s more like it (the vintage) rp 🤣
maybe it was coz no pictures…
i found the original Rocket was similar in that it was happy however you wanted, it held back in latency (but it was definitely there when you wanted/needed it).
looking forward to trying out the LS geo on the new SolarisMAX in a couple of weeks (66 deg HA is going to be interesting!). I have high hopes 😜Posted 1 year ago
Good write up and lovely build RP. Nice to see an honest review where people don’t claim to be gnarduro riders. I would absolutely love one of these in blue with pink highlights and hope purple build. Might even be a possibility if I shift the Whyte..
The SolarisMAX is being released this month and I’m really hopping that it’s a HT version of this, sharing the same/similar longshot geometry.Posted 1 year ago
So what is like to ride ?
There are more words on the subject up above than anybody could possibly want, but in summary I’d say that, for all the talk of radical this and progressive that, it mostly just feels like a very well sorted short-travel trail bike. Yes, you get that bit of extra confidence on descents that you’d expect from a 29er with a long reach and slack head angle, but for the rest of the time it behaves like you’d expect a 120mm full-suss 29er to. It’s lively and engaging enough to be fun on mellower trails and it seems to climb very well. If you just want to get from top to bottom as fast as possible I dare say the Rocket (or RocketMax) is better, but for riding up and down mountains all day long it’s great.
Of course, there are lots of great trail bikes out there these days. Is it better than all the rest? I have no idea. I’m not even sure how you’d define best. For example, Alex of this parish had a FlareMax and moved on to a Smuggler. I sold my Smuggler and now ride the FlareMax. We’re both having fun, which is all that matters really.Posted 1 year ago
@cokie: my understanding is that the SolarisMAX is LS geo and that details will be uploaded next week sometime.
I have one reserved, can’t promise as detailed an analysis as rp though. Maybe I’ll lend it him for a real write up….
@normalman: I enjoyed 66.5 on the original rocket, interested to see how 66 will play on a HT. I definitely prefer slacker, this is as slack as I’ve ever gone though. I’m happy to give it a go, I’m anticipating completely different handling from my b/p set up current one…Posted 1 year ago
@cokie: I’ve bought 6 frames in the last, oh, 10 years (and helped 3-4 frames/bikes go cotics away). And a 10 year email trail.. 🙂
I guess cy knows a sale when he sees one.
Think of it a bit like a toddlers pester power…
I dont really know that much more, just I’ve had some dealings with cy and he responds… My original solarismax (and original 26″ rocket) was one of first out the door… I’ve previous.Posted 1 year agofacianMember
Looks great! I was in a similar position when I ordered my new BFe, not being the most skilled or adventurous rider but still hopeful that the experts had developed a bike that operates in a large enough window to allow me to bimble around on it as well as attempt some poorly executed trail “slaying”.
After two days riding back to back initially in the Surrey Hills (chasing a much better rider on a full-sus down some trails that are a bit out of my comfort zone) and then a nice long relaxed ride the following today on a mixture of gravel fire-roads and gentle forest trails it seems that the new geometry really does work everywhere!
I’m sure some of it is new bike enthusiasm helping me along, but it definitely feels ‘right’.Posted 1 year ago
it seems that the new geometry really does work everywhere!
That’s a very good point. It’s tempting to think that long and slack is just for hardcore riders and naturally the marketing material is full of super skilled dudes shredding, but it does seem to work just fine for normal folk too. In fact I’d argue that us talentless idiots need the extra security even more than the dudes and if you can get it without ruining the rest of the ride, why not? But, like you, I’m also very much in the “new bike enthusiasm” phasePosted 1 year agofacianMember
Exactly @roverpig i think the stability it provides is arguably more important to someone who is building up skills & confidence. A World Cup rider on a Brompton would probably out-ride me when I’m in one of my less adventurous moods, but it’s good to know the bike will do everything i want to and more.
You obviously have to sell the dream, as well as delivering the reality. The same applies to Supercars and 1000CC Sports Bikes as well for example, and most other sporting equipment.Posted 1 year agochiefgrooveguruMember
“In fact I’d argue that us talentless idiots need the extra security even more than the dudes and if you can get it without ruining the rest of the ride, why not?“
I’d totally agree with that.
The only caveat for my local riding is the tightness of turns and slippery surfaces, so too much reach equals not enough weight on the front but then balancing that with longer chainstays equals too much wheelbase. But I’ve never ridden anywhere else which is so like a constant slalom! I still like slack and pretty low round here. And give me more normal trails (especially like what you’ve pictured) and Longshot should be awesome.Posted 1 year ago
Ten hours in the saddle now, so time to wrap up the “initial thoughts”. It’s interesting as quite a lot of it is counter-intuitive.
According to the geometry chart and the magazines it’s radically long, yet it doesn’t feel it. In fact I think it may be the most comfortable I’ve ever felt on a bike. According to the scales it’s not light (at 32lb for my size large) yet it’s possibly the most playful bike I’ve ridden. It’s slack, yet it doesn’t seem to be any harder to keep it on line when climbing. In fact it climbs very well. With the long chainstays, physics would suggest it must be harder to lift the front up. Initially I’d have a agreed that it took a bit more effort and was perhaps a touch nose-heavy, but now it just feels natural to pop the front over stuff. I suspect I’ve adapted my position slightly without realising it. To be clear, I’m crap at manuals on any bike, but, now I’ve got used to it, I actually seem to be able to lift the front more reliably on this than on any other bike I’ve ridden. I think it comes down to the extra stability. I feel very relaxed on it so I’m looser and more willing to throw my weight around. A better and braver rider may be able to make a shorter bike work better but for cowards like me the key to riding well is often just to stay relaxed and this is definitely the most relaxed I’ve ever felt descending on a mountain bike.
Of course, I’m still very much in the honeymoon period. The acid test will be how I feel in six months time. Also, it’s not all good news. That stability can encourage you to reach stupid speeds. Then you realse that the little drainage ditch is actually a lot bigger than you thought and it’s full of rocks and now it is approaching so fast that you’ve got no choice but to try and hop over it. Well it worked this time, but if you don’t hear from me for a while it may be because I’m in traction 🙂
Posted 1 year agobedmakerSubscriber
At the mo i’m on an old school 26″ hardtail that’s actually too small for me, so an old school nu-skool geo bike will feel big.
It will feel great more than likely, going back to the 26″ bike…not so much!
I had a short ride around on my 1997 Ibis Alibi the other night, it’s just unspeakably horrible. The riding position whether sitting or standing is grim. It’s light, but that’s really all it has going for it.
Well it worked this time, but if you don’t hear from me for a while it may be because I’m in traction
That is sort of my worry since I got my Pole. It’s so fast, so capable, and the front needs weighted to get the best out of it – I worry that when it goes, it will be spectacularly bad…
Thankfully though, it gets you into bother, but also is very good at riding back out of it with minimal fuss. I love these new bikes!Posted 1 year ago
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