Words & Photos by Robert Johnson
Founded in 2002 by Cy Turner, Cotic Bikes is to Sheffield, UK, what Santa Cruz is to, well…Santa Cruz! What began with the classic Soul hardtail 17 years ago, has now evolved in to a diverse range of bikes covering the trail and enduro genres. Now they’ve even got Plus, gravel and road options. A common theme throughout the range is the use of Reynolds steel tubing and an “Ovalform” top tube, which is touted to offer great trail vibration damping.
The Flare sits firmly in the trail segment of Cotic’s offerings. The 125mm of rear travel is paired to a 140mm fork, 27.5” wheels, and their Longshot Geometry to produce a, “Light and lively trail bike,” in their words. I was able to squeeze a week out of their hectic demo schedule to put a size large demo bike to the test on the Peak District’s finest trails.
Sitting aboard the Flare, the initial feeling is that of a very capable bike. The 490mm reach on the size Large should provide riders up to 6’3” with a comfortable descending position, though for those like me with a long inseam, the 74.5-degree effective seat angle is slightly slacker than ideal when the dropper is extended. A 66-degree head angle, 18mm BB drop, 437mm chainstay and 598mm stack round out the numbers, suggesting a good balance between stability and agility to match the bikes intentions. However, the bar height was on the low side since I’ve been riding bikes with a 620mm+ stack recently. Not necessarily a fault of the bike, but simply a consideration that’s required when spec’ing your own Flare.
As with all full suspension Cotic bikes, the 125mm of rear wheel travel is controlled by their droplink system— a linkage driven single pivot. Cotic claims their layout is designed to utilize chain forces to provide relatively high anti-squat in the larger cogs, which reduces in the harder gears. It has a reasonable level of progression, and promises, “Stable braking performance.”
Cotic offers a wide variety of spec customization options when purchasing one of their machines, with Silver, Gold and Platinum level kits available in both Shimano and SRAM guises. Further customization of nearly every component is available within these spec levels, should your bank balance allow for it. These builds begin at roughly $3,640, with the frame and a custom tuned X-fusion O2 shock option at roughly $2,120.
The Gold build I tested featured some mid level kit courtesy of a Shimano XT 11spd drivetrain, Race Face Turbine cranks, X Fusion Manic dropper, a Hope Enduro wheelset, X2 brakes, and a Cotic own-brand cockpit and saddle to round it out. There wasn’t anything overly flashy or stand-out, but I struggled to find any serious complaints with the spec. This spec level comes in at roughly $5,220 using the bike builder on their website.
The Hope wheelset was wrapped in WTB rubber. A 2.5” Vigilante in the light casing rolled up front, while the monstrous 2.5” Convict with Tough Casing did the work out back. It is a formidable pairing that extends the capabilities of any trail machine. The noticeable weight penalty of this chunky rubber is welcome in my eyes, offering vast grip and security, and there was still impressive mud clearance around the rear wheel. At 14.5kg/32lbs, the overall weight of the bike is higher than usual for the class, but can be somewhat justified by the no-nonsense, burly build. It would be easy to knock off a significant portion of the weight with a simple wheel and tire swap, which may be worthwhile if you seek increased climbing pep.
Because the front triangles are made in the UK by Five Land Bikes (rear ends and linkages are produced in Taiwan), Cotic is able to closely monitor the quality of their frames and ensure they meet the highest standards. Frames are coated in an anti-corrosion layer before being painted, and decals are painted on for a high-quality finish. Cable routing is all external and handled by some clean looking cable clamps with the exception of the internally routed seatstay section of gear cable. The Cotic bikes are more expensive than some similar aluminum options, but their excellent build quality, after-sales support and ride feel certainly go some way to offset this.
Buying a Cotic also opens you up to the growing worldwide community of Cotic owners, who all take great pride in owning their Cotic machines and have regular meet-ups to ride and chat about them. From my experiences at the events that Cotic regularly host at their UK headquarters, it’s clear that a certain passion accompanies the ownership of a Cotic bike.
For a bike with 125mm rear travel, the climbing performance is perhaps not as you would expect. Where many bikes in this category accelerate like a long legged XC whippet, the Cotic instead acts as more of a short-travel “enduro” rig. There’s a great deal of suspension sensitivity to rider weight input, which results in more bob than expected. When sagged, the bottom bracket height is low, but not ground hugging. This allows for less attention to be paid to timing pedal strokes perfectly, which saves energy over the course of a ride.
Paired with a 32t front ring, the Flare doesn’t feel like it has the “relatively high anti-squat” that Cotic claim is present on their droplink system, though “relatively high” is open to interpretation of course. The easy to reach climb switch on the Cane Creek shock fitted to the rear of this machine helps, but as is usually the case with this shock, the bike still bobbed a little even in the firmer mode. It’s important to clarify that there are benefits to this lower anti-squat value when compared to others in the class. The Flare instead excels in its ability to scale rough sections of climb, where its suspension sensitivity finds grip in some surprising situations. This sensitivity is not just good for its class, it’s good full stop!
This class-leading sensitivity continues on the descents, where the 125mm of travel is incredibly effective at smoothing out trail chatter. This leads to a slight issue with the Flare, as the confidence offered by the rear suspension and geometry result in its short travel being quickly forgotten. There were a number of occasions where I was coming into root and rock infested sections of trail at the same speed as I would on a long travel 29er, and this quickly exceeded the limits of the Flare. The result was a real white knuckle ride, gripping on for dear life as both bike and body were thoroughly rattled. This is not to say that the bike underperforms in rough terrain, only that it’s geometry and sensitivity disguise the fact it’s just a 125mm travel trail bike. This short travel, combined with the poppy nature of the steel tubing, make this bike a riot to ride if you back off a touch and focus on jumping off of any lip you can find, picking your way through the trail a little more delicately.
On some bigger hits, running 30% sag on the rear of Cotic resulted in me becoming quite well acquainted with the bottom out bumper. That said, the bottom-out feeling was never harsh, just a subtle “knock” as you’re made aware that there’s no more travel to be used. Adding volume spacers to the Cane Creek suspension would improve the big-hit ability, but this wasn’t a possibility in the short testing time frame. Braking performance on the Flare creates no concerns, with the rear end staying quite neutral and the rear wheel still relatively free to absorb the hits.
The lateral stiffness of the bike is excellent, which results in a lot of fun when hitting corners hard. Its response is very direct. This is most likely a result of the use of aluminium for the chainstays, which have a bigger cross section than the steel seatstays. This design choice makes a lot of sense in my opinion for a bike of this nature. The combination of the lateral stiffness of the chainstay and some vertical compliance in the skinny seatstays gives a better end result for the rider. The mid-height bottom bracket offers a good combination of cornering feel and agility. The Flare doesn’t have the “in the bike” feeling of some, but you don’t feel awkwardly perched on top of it either.
The Cane Creek fork and shock on the bike performed excellently from the get go, but I wasn’t able to find a sweet spot in the week I was aboard the bike. With so many tuning options, these units are a fettlers dream, and Cane Creek offers good support for the set up. That said, it will likely take a bit of time before you find the optimal set up for your riding.
While the weight figure may put some people off, it’s not something that detracts from the grin-factor of the Flare. Though there is a weight penalty due to the steel tubing used in the frame, it allows for a more comfortable ride with the short travel. For many, this will be a welcome compromise.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The relatively short time riding the Cotic certainly had me reconsidering my choice of personal bike. For non-racing situations, the capability of the 125mm travel Flare is admirable, and aside from the occasional pinball event, there was seldom a minute that I wished for a bigger hitting rig when riding the trails that surround the Cotic HQ in the UK. The Cotic Flare exudes feelings of fun times and is great for all day adventures in the hills on a variety of terrain. It manages to blend the enhanced trail feeling of a short travel rig with the sensitivity of a longer legged machine. The Flare is not a bike for those looking to win races, but simply for having fun in the mountains.
Price: About $5,220
Weight: 32.21 lbs
Frame: Steel Front Triangle and seatstay, Aluminium chainstay; 125mm
Fork: Cane Creek Helm Air, Boost, 140mm
Shock: Cane Creek DB Air IL
Brakes: Hope Tech X2, 180mm rotors
Handlebar: Cotic Calver, 780mm W, 25mm rise
Headset: Hope EC44/ZS44
Saddle: Cotic Cromo rail
Seatpost: X Fusion Manic dropper, 150mm drop
Shifter: Shimano Deore XT 11spd
Stem: Cotic 45mm
Wheelset: Hope Tech Enduro
Front Tire: WTB Vigilante 27.5×2.5” Tubeless
Rear Tire: WTB Convict 27.5” x 2.5” Tubeless
Bottom Bracket: Race Face Cinch Threaded
Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 11spd, 11-42t
Cranks: RaceFace Turbine Cinch, 175mm, 30t ring
Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT 11spd
Stiffness and flex blend
On the heavy side
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