Aluminum may be lighter and carbon, stiffer and sexier, but steel refuses to fade away. Move your gaze to the fringes of the bike industry and you’ll find a handful of steel bike brands offering an alternative approach to the mainstream, particularly here in the UK, where there has been a resurgence of steel frame-building in recent years.
Cotic favors Reynolds 853 steel tubing, because it is strong, tough, and still reasonably light. And, let's not forget its fabled ride quality and promise of additional compliance that can make many older mountain bikers go a bit misty-eyed and nostalgic - especially if your first ever mountain bike was made from steel. (Mine? Diamondback Ascent with a True Temper frame). Cotic considered using aluminum for its original Rocket, but when they found a 35mm diameter seat tube was the maximum they could use with their suspension design, steel was the better option. It hit the desired stiffness figures, and they’ve not looked back since.FlareMAX Construction & Features
FlareMAX frames are adorned with some well-considered details. The custom-shaped Ovalform top tube for example, which provides the right blend of lateral stiffness and compliance, and a 44mm-diameter head tube with an external headset bottom cup. Rejoice in its threaded bottom bracket (the common-sense choice for gritty UK conditions), and it’s ISCG05 mounts, onto which a One-Up Top Guide chain device is fitted as standard. That's a nice touch. There’s no fitting a front mech to this bike. The FlareMAX is designed entirely around a 1x drivetrain, which has allowed Cotic to beef up the bottom bracket area for added stiffness.
The rear triangle breaks Cotic's all-steel tradition with a single-pivot 6066-T6 aluminium swingarm. The seatstays are steel, however, and they drive the Cane Creek shock directly, stabilized by the aluminum Droplink rocker. Rear spacing is Boost 148, using a Syntace X-12 thru-axle. The FlareMAX is designed for 29” wheels with clearance for up to a 2.5” tire, and is also compatible with 27.5” x 3.0” tires if anyone is still interested in going down the Plus route. Cables are routed externally on the main frame, running along the top of the down tube. The rear gear cable is tucked inside the seatstay and the dropper-post cable is also internally routed. There’s one bottle mount - on the underside of the top tube for a 500ml bottle - but due to their desire to accommodate a piggyback shock, space is tight for a conventional bottle placement. But, one does
fit - Just.
Personally, I think the FlareMAX is a really good looking bike. It’s not as oversized or curvaceous as some, but I like the simplicity and the myriad of well-thought-out details that reveal themselves when you look closer. This bike traces its roots back to the original Rocket. There is a clear progression and evolution that I like about it, and the blue with orange accents kills it for me.