Cotic Flare Max – Review
Being a keen mountain biker, I am fully aware of the n+1 phenomenon, the idea being that no matter how many bikes you own the correct number is actually one more. After our recent interview with Cy Turner, the owner of Cotic Bikes, I was quite keen to try out the Cotic Flare Max and see if it lives up to the hype.
The Flare Max’s I have ridden came with 120mm rear travel and we’re designed to accommodate 27+ or 29 inch wheels. I tested the bike in both configurations, and I found the 29 option most suitable for what I was looking for, it just seemed to roll and climb better than its beefier smaller cousin.
Being 5 feet 6, I opted for a small frame as I currently ride a small size on my main bike. It was interesting that the Flare Max was actually longer than my current bike, so the reach took a bit of time to get used to. Whilst this elongated frame (in comparison to my own bike) actually felt great once I got used to it, but it is worth bearing that in mind, as I can imagine that if you are shorter than 5’2”, or have T-Rex arms then it might not be the best fit. When trying out a Flare Max at a local demo day at Stainburn, I found the drag of the thick 27.5” tyre was a bit too much too handle for my tired legs and didn’t really seem to pay off on the downhills, so when visiting Cotic headquarters, I opted for the 29inch wheel and flew up and down the beautiful Hope Valley scenery.
The build I tested at Cotic’s office a few weeks ago had an X-fusion McQueen RL2 120mm at the front and a Cane Creek DB Air shock at the back. The drivetrain was Shimano SLX with a 1 x 11 drivetrain, Shimano XT brakes, X-fusion Manic stealth dropper and a pair of Hunt 29-inch Trailwide wheels. This mid-level build comes in at around £3,500. Keep in mind the potential for customisation, if you thought that you required more dropper post length or you wanted to run a 140mm fork, with almost other brands you would have to invest in a new part or purchase all of these options separately and buy a frame on its own. Most of the time though, when purchasing from Cotic, you can actually change those things prior your purchase and usually the size changes have no impact on the price. This has led to hours of fun for me, customising various builds on Cotic’s website.
I talked earlier about the length of the bike but the small Flare Max was a perfect fit for me. It had about 12mm longer reach than my current enduro bike and was only 0.5 degree less steep than my 170mm suspension bike. It’s hard to get your head around this when you think about the bike’s intended purpose as a trail bike but this is why the Flare Max felt so comfortable descending on steep terrain. Also, having that short stem on the bike, afforded me better control on the turns, which helped offset the handling of the bigger 29” wheels. The steel front and the aluminium rear triangle were very light, perhaps a little to my surprise. I always believed that steel makes bikes heavy but to my surprise, the bike felt much lighter than my current steed (800 grams lighter), albeit admittedly that enduro bike is a bigger 170mm travel rig.
I have tried the Flare Max both on our local trails in Stainburn and on a Cotic demo loop heading out the front door from Cotic’s HQ and into the Hope Valley. When riding in Stainburn forest, we mostly rode steep loamy descends and the main red descent track which has quite a lot of rockwork built into it. The Flare Max felt very stable and confidence inspiring down the steep chutes thanks to the longshot geometry and I must admit the steel frame actually felt great on the rocky descend. I often forgot during the ride that I was riding a 29 inch wheel bike, it just felt like I was going faster, without feeling too hindered in terms of handling.
The second loop we rose was a bit different, but it was great to test the bike out on the trails that the designers and the rest of the Cotic team ride on daily. We rode a natural loop that started at the bottom of the hill, climbed to the top of it on roads and gravel tracks and followed a rocky riverbed descent, with big boulder rocks, back down the hill. At the outset when I saw the hill above me, I was doubtful that I would be able to climb it easily and without my precious “Eagle gear”. However I was able to climb the hill in a comfortable, quick manner. This must have been in large part due to the bike being lighter, but also the geometry (I.e the seat angle) didn’t hurt either.
The descents were very rocky and in comparison to my 170mm coil shock bike it definitely felt like more work, which is to be expected, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Throughout the descent though, I felt stable and always in the right place on the bike and the lightweight of the Flare Max helped me to shift it around on the trail to avoid some of the larger boulders.
Unlike my 170mm bike it was clear that I couldn’t just plough it through anything in front of me, it required a bit more finesse, but the weight and the handling made that task easier. As we were riding I was definitely mulling over whether I was over-biked on my bigger enduro bike, the Flare Max was handling anything I could chuck at it and had the added bonus of being easier to pedal and get up to the top of the trail. I have been certain that I would continue to buy 160-170mm enduro bikes every few years, as they had the travel and the geometry I needed and pedalling up wasn’t much of a concern, but riding the Flare Max now a few times has left me with the feeling that I could probably decrease the travel.
Cotic Flare Max is a great bike to have. It is a great fit for a trail centre to a natural descend alike. It is a confidence inspiring, good climbing machine that I would like to add to my n+1 list. If you are looking to purchase one, go here.
June 12, 2019