Since 2011 when I last bought a new bike, the mountain biking world has gone a bit bonkers. New wheel sizes, new component standards from rear hubs to headsets and bottom brackets and the rise of the enduro and trail bike and different riding positions.
At some point in the not too distant future I am going to have to bite the bullet and replace my bike so decided I’d better test one to find out what all these new fangled standards are all about.
I’d like another British bike so with Cotic offering informal test days every weekend and one this weekend on Cannock Chase I went along. Sam turns up with a van full of bikes and after a little fettling coaxes the group around well known trails.
I opted to test a medium Cotic flare, a 130mm travel ‘trail’ bike but apparently built to be light and lively. Also interesting as per all Cotic’s is the steel front end to the frame. The Cotic website is here.
Mountain biking has changed in the last 5 years, all the other testers were wearing peaked helmets and most were wearing kneepads. Nearly all were also on flat pedals so I know this new stuff is not just about the bike……
The new fangled stuff I’d be trying for the first time included the following with my thoughts below!
- Me wearing baggie shorts
- Wide handlebar, Short stem
- 27.5 wheels and 2.3 aggressive tyres
- Dropper seat post
- 1×12 drive train
- Super slack head angles
My Pearl Izumi Champion Kit came with a pair of baggie mountain biking shorts. First off they are not that baggy and are lightweight and tailored to fit you ‘on’ the bike not off. They were comfy but with #PIChampion lycra on underneath, to be honest, I didn’t really see the point – round one to old man
I’ll start off being really honest – even in the car park before heading out I hated the Flare, but a lot of it was that it was simply too small for me and the geometry of a medium had me bum in the air and very cramped up with the short stem (see photo). I tried a 29inch 120mm Flare Max, large, on one section of the Monkey trail and immediately felt better really enjoying throwing it about but could feel the big wheels and I now know I definitely want to stay with the smaller wheel size (now 27.5).
Positives on the Flare though – quite light given the steel frame – the rear suspension (drop link) was amazing – almost like not noticing it was there. The X fusion shock and fork were also very good. It also looks great, much better than the big aluminium sections of my current Marin frame.
The wide bar – 785mm and short stem (well no stem) – an absolute no – hated it, really don’t get the point at all. I had to stop 3 times on the Monkey trail simply to feed the bars through some tight spots between the trees and bashed the bar a couple more times. On the tight corners, I was almost hitting my knee. The large Flaremax I tried had a 40mmish stem and slightly narrower bars and I found this much more to my liking! – round two to the old man.
27.5 wheels and big fat tyres were fine. The tyres were a little heavy but as a standard, the difference to the 26inch wheels is only just noticeable. – round three to the new brave world.
1 X 11 drive chain was Shimano XT with a 11-42 on the back and a 30 teeth up front. I have been concerned for a while I would not be fit enough to ride a single front ring which would be big enough for tonking road sections on Mountain Bike Orienteering races but this setup round the Monkey Trail was spot on, including a stiff climb up to the top of Lower Cliff where I rode the whole of it without any problems. People always say it is simpler not having to worry about a front mech and to be honest I would agree blasting around a trail centre but Id like to test 1X11 on a MBO score in the Peak District before committing.
Round four – Brave new world.
Dropper seat posts – this again is easy. If there is anything gnarly enough for me to put my seat down as I used to back in the early 90s that I can’t ride with my seat up I am not doing it – I don’t bounce like I used too, I am too chicken. The weight penalty alone is not worth it for me.
Round five to the old man.
Super slack head angles are difficult to explain. Old XC racers have head angles of between 71 and 72 degrees, making them twitchy and very direct, with a penchant for putting you over the handlebars if you get it wrong. The slacker head angles of modern trail bikes at 67 and 68 degrees make them easier to ride but less responsive. Fighting the short stem, wide bar and with the bike too small for me I couldn’t properly feel the effects of the slack head angle so the jury is still out on that one.
Round six – a draw.
All in all a really useful test and I would like at some point to try a large Cotic Flare with a lightweight xc type wheelset some narrower bars and short stem and no dropper before I make a final decision but at this point I am leaning towards a 27.5 inch XC short travel full suspension bike – trouble his hardly anyone makes one anymore 🙁