Frameworks Racing & Cotic Collaborate on a Steel DH Frame

Apr 24, 2023 at 2:42
by cotic-bikes  
Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike

Press Release - Cotic Bikes

Well this is exciting! Neko Mulally's Frameworks Racing is going to be testing and potentially racing a Reynolds 853 steel front triangle designed and developed here at Cotic. I have been working on this for a few months now, and it's great to finally be able to tell you about it.

Fort William

I first met Neko through our mutual friend Chris from Downtime Podcast. Neko is Chris' co-host on the excellent World Cup Post Race Shows, and we got introduced properly at the Fort William World Cup. Neko came over to our stand and we had a good chat about frame design and the details that matter. He was really open, and I am so impressed at how fast he has grasped the detail of suspension design. I gave him a bit of advice about trying to solve the fatigue cracking problems they were suffering from all last season on the aluminium frames. I am just a big fan of World Cup DH racing, so we were all just super excited to have a bona fide World Cup racer chatting to us!

Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike

Worlds Les Gets


When we got to Les Gets Worlds last year, we found that there were race teams pitting all over the place. Literally IN town; on driveways, in parking bays, on street corners, everywhere! I rolled down from our chalet to the other apartment we were renting at the bottom of the hill, and I noticed the Frameworks Racing pit just opposite. I was just about to head up to say hello, when Neko rolled out on his training bike, rode straight over, looked me straight in the eye and said "I've been looking for you. We need to talk steel frames!". He had to get going right then, but it still counts as one of the coolest things that happened that week!

The next day Neko and his mechanic Anxo come over to the Cotic stand and we had a long talk about race bike design, and using steel in particular. The plan was hatched that I would design a steel version of the front triangle they were racing - same geo, same pivots, just in steel.

At the time they were still fighting the cracking issues and I could tell Neko was frustrated. I cannot even begin to fathom the mental toughness he has to drop into race runs on frames with cracks in them! A different breed...

Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike

Frameworks x Cotic Collab

Although through extensive use of gussets they seem to have gotten on top of the durability issues on the aluminium frames, Neko was still keen to run steel and see if the ride feel or any other attributes would be an improvement for the race bikes.

On the long drive back from Les Gets, I asked Neko to send me the tube specs for the aluminium frame. I set about doing some stiffness and strength comparisons in my notebook using some simple beam theory equations, to get a feel for where we were. Stress = My/I for all you equation fans out there.

The really exciting thing from my point of view was that on that first look, our stock RocketMAX Gen4 down tube was a good deal stronger and stiffer than the aluminium down tube on the first Frameworks frames. I started working through all the tubes on the frame and it became clear that we wouldn't need to do anything completely new or crazy thickness to get much improved global strength and stiffness out of the front end. Neko is also using a ZS56 standard head tube, but I already had that covered in my design toolbox. I used the same size for the RocketMAX Gen4 development so I could use reach adjust headsets.

As I got further into the design and engineering, Neko's good friend Dan - the Chief Designer and Engineer at RAAW bikes - got involved to design review my work. It was great to work with Dan, having only known him to say hello to at races before. It's fun to bounce ideas around, and having someone as diligent as him checking things is a really great part of the process. Dan's helped Neko out with the carbon design on the rear ends, so it was nice to be able to tie both ends of the frame together in this way.

Ultimately, the Frameworks x Cotic front end uses the exact same down tube as the RocketMAX Gen4, then the same size and spec tube for the seat tube. The top tube isn't Ovalform as it would be on a Cotic. We kept it round because I was a little concerned about dual crown fork stanchions hitting the thin edge of the ovalised tube. It's also two wall thicknesses up on the RocketMAX, because downhill.

After that, it was about getting into the details of the tube junctions and trying to reinforce the frame, whilst nicely managing the stiffness out of the reinforced areas. There are a lot of gussets!

Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike
Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike
Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike
Frameworks Racing x Cotic steel DH bike


You can see the head tube and seat tube reinforcement. They're pretty obvious. The seat tube gusset design came from my experience with designing rocker link frames for our very first full suspension frame - the Hemlock - way back in 2006.

Neko wanted some adjustability in the frame for trying some different suspension rates, so the shock mount is a shuttle type design that can be flipped to move the shock pivot to reduce or increase the rising rate of the frame. There's also another shuttle for a third configuration. Lots of options!

Our friends at Five Land Bikes built the frames between runs of RocketMAX's, and we had it finished in Stormtrooper White by Cerakote Up North near Preston.

This is such an exciting project to be a part of, and I want to say a massive thank you to Neko and Anxo for putting their faith in me on this. It's been a privilege to get involved, but I'll admit to still being nervous. It's my first full-blown DH bike, and although you can work the numbers and do the maths, it doesn't mean anything until the tyre hits the dirt.

With Neko's unfortunate hip injury, he'll be passing on testing to another rider, but we should hear all about it soon. I'll be on the Frameworks Racing episode where they go over it. There is still the possibility they will prefer the aluminium frame, but even if they do, I still got to design a World Cup DH bike, and that is so cool! Everything crossed it goes well!


Founder and Director
Cotic Bikes

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Member since Dec 12, 2017
29 articles

  • 127 3
 As a proud owner of a Cotic as well as a close follower of the brand and Neko's journey... This is just really cool. I am super excited to see what comes of this. Great job, Cy!
  • 35 2
 Even with Neko out the saga continues, downhills greatest side story.
  • 18 3
  • 4 0
 What do you have? I just did my first ever complete build with a FlareMax frame in purple Smile
  • 2 0
 @mkul7r4: I've got a matte nimbus Jeht I custom built up last year. My dad just built up a purple FlareMax as well! It looks awesome. You can see my build on my profile.
  • 83 7
 Frameworks is the most exciting thing happening in bikes right now.
  • 20 12
 don't forget Paul Aston of MTB with his Aston-a-Tron by Egerie
  • 37 19
 @vhdh666: nothing about paul aston is exciting.
  • 18 2
 @vhdh666: Paul has a lot of knowledge and experience but super super bias. You have to take what he says with a grain of salt, if not a whole shaker of it
  • 5 1
 Frameworks and Trinity are neck and neck, at least to me
  • 4 0
 @FisherFreerider: I don't find HIM exciting either
  • 12 2
Why does the mountainbike-scene seem to bash on people that are trying to move the sport? For instance Paul Aston and Leo Kokkonen both seem to receive quite a bit of harsh feedback in the comments here at Pinkbike. They might not be the smoothest people out there, but they are moving the sport. They are also putting their name out there, and not hiding behind some corporate logo. The sport today would be in a different place if it had not been for their inputs.
  • 10 1
 @artistformlyknowasdan: But he knows how to ride a bike for sure, probably better than 99% of us here, so it is worth to hear from him. He is biased for certain type of riding, but it's ok, if you like other type of riding, just don't listen to him. At least he seems to be honest.
  • 3 0
 @suppehue: you're totally right.
  • 2 0
 @MichiganMachete: I don't know how they both find the time to make so much video content. I wish I could figure it out because it seems effective, but I barely have enough time to make bikes.
  • 7 1
 @suppehue: I really don't get the POLE / Leo Kokkonen hate. They make a bleeding-edge geometry bike using unique manufacturing methods, and they do it all domestically. Oh, did I mention that some of these ridiculous CNC-ed bikes are a decent value proposition against the present Yeti/SC/ other fake boutique manufacturers?

Not my personal taste in geometry, but still a great company in my eyes.
  • 1 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: it's more of his attitude and warranty than his actual bikes. Do some Googling and you'll see why there is lots of hate. I'm more of a Chris Porter fan myself.
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: me too, but Chris also gets hate. It's a bit of a shame I think
  • 2 1
 @jaydawg69: Woah, the claims of pure unresponsiveness on the part of the warranty department is heinous, even for a rapidly growing company. It sounds like Leo is in over his head. Reminds me of YT and Markus Flossmann: new brand, big ego, shit customer service, and really slow logistics.
  • 5 2

What do you think I am biased towards?

I am definitely biased toward bikes that are reliable, well-made, interesting, forward-thinking and that handle extremely well and safely for their desired purpose.

I am biased against bikes that are unreliable and break, brands with bad after-sales service and warranty, carbon wheels that explode, expensive suspension that has issues out of the box or within a few days of riding, and outdated difficult and dangerous geometry.

If that's what you mean by bias then I am probably the most biased 'journalist' in the industry and proud of it.

  • 2 2
 @astonmtb: those are definitely very good reasons to be biased. thanks and keep up the good work
  • 34 3
 Looks awesome, love a steel frame dh bike
  • 4 3
 Actually this will be a steel front and probably carbon rear Smile
  • 3 2
 @lkubica: ah ok so it’s lighter for the shock to do it’s work…
  • 7 4
 Looks like a revised Kona stinky
  • 2 0
 so look at this:
  • 1 0
 @enduroNZ: oops sorry, downvoted by mistake. It does.
  • 2 1
 @tremeer023: Except it is a Horst Link, not a linkage driven single pivot, so completely different suspension kinematics.
  • 1 0
 @enduroNZ: Actually more tike an old Stab that also had a head tube gusset like that Smile
  • 30 4
 Watch out if you are using magnetic cleats, imagine windmilling after a jump with your shoe glued to your top tube!
  • 34 0
 Endless frame surfing possibilities though
  • 3 8
flag Notmeatall (Apr 24, 2023 at 8:20) (Below Threshold)
 Unfortunatley every magnetic cleat i've seen is on the pedal itself, no on the shoe.
  • 21 1
 @Notmeatall: practicality does not always make good humor,
  • 10 0
 Thank god I'll have something to keep me planted while I'm standing on my derailleur
  • 1 0
 new fear unlocked
  • 15 0
 First off, Hope Neko heals up soon! Second; This is dope. Love what Neko has done and is doing. Frameworks is the grassroots back of the napkin engineering that I love. Love that assistance from Cy and Cotic. May just be the next push bike for me.
  • 17 4
 They did havd a lot of cracking through the season, but nothing to do with the quality of Frank's work, just overstressed material. Neko tells me they have pretty good durability on the latest aluminium front ends with extra long gussets and some other tweaks. He still wanted to do the steel front end because he is keen to learn whether there might be some performance or durability advantages.
  • 7 0
 After attending some UCI events I’m shocked bikes don’t break more often. How hard and fast they hit things is just beyond anything 99.99% will ever do
  • 5 1
 @artistformlyknowasdan: Agreed. Which is why I am still a little nervous about this, despite the work done on the design. Those racers do crazy stuff!
  • 8 2
 @cotic-bikes: Appreciate the candid perspective. Too often it's all hype and hyperbole from marketing departments. Maybe that impresses some, but it puts most of us off. I've always been more comfortable with the Cotic approach and the positive responses to projects like Kavenz and Frameworks shows honesty isn't obsolete.
  • 3 0
 @cotic-bikes Is there not a kind of industry standard on stresses ? I mean there have been lots of aluminium downhill bikes in the past so has all this stuff not been worked out before , would bigger brands go through this process with cracked frames just without the publicity ? I cant recall anyone else being so open about the development of a bike so just wondering how typical the process is .
For what its worth my flare max hasn't snapped but then I'm not exactly riding like Neko Smile
  • 5 0
 To clarify my last comment, I mean the Cotic approach - as I perceive it - is similar to that of Kavenz and Frameworks: each of them has been uncommonly candid and honest with development stories and avoid excessive marketing nonsense.
  • 6 0
 @moonsaballoon: No there isn't. Closest is the EFBE tri test but that's a proprietary set of tests you gave to buy from them, and as I said, I don't necessarily agree with some of their test loads. The ISO4210 standard is simply product safety for "an bicycle". It's pretty low level for mtb, although one of the fatigue load cases is unnecessarily rudiculous. It doesn't even have a bottom out load case for rwad suspension, so it's not the be all and end all by any means. Loads on mtbs still quite hard to define because it's such a dynamic vehicle ridden in a great variety of unpredictable environments. Add to that the progression of the sport so that even average riders are much more sendy than 20 years ago, and it's a hard thing to define completely. As I said above, you can calculate and hand wave all you like, but until it gets ridden hard you just don't know for sure.
  • 1 0
 @moonsaballoon: "Is there not a kind of industry standard on stresses?" even if there might be 'standards', you need proper reference implementations, preferably open source ones, so that stress machines are also reproductible. I guess we are far from there.
  • 2 0
 @cotic-bikes: one indication are the breaking points, so it's very important to break stuff to know when it breaks.
  • 11 1
 It's giving me modern kona stinky vibes
  • 11 3
 Probably a good idea to keep the Raw finish considering the quality of their paint lately is bobbins
  • 25 3
 Sorry you've had trouble. Drop me an email. I'd like to know what trouble you have had.
  • 33 0
 American here.
How bad is Bobbins, on a scale from fully dodgy to dog's bullocks?
  • 3 0
 @chrod: a little bit less bad than pony
  • 15 5
 Steel is Real
  • 7 0
 What happened to FTW? Were those frames cracking frequently?
  • 20 3
 They did havd a lot of cracking through the season, but nothing to do with the quality of Frank's work, just overstressed material. Neko tells me they have pretty good durability on the latest aluminium front ends with extra long gussets and some other tweaks. He still wanted to do the steel front end because he is keen to learn whether there might be some performance or durability advantages.
  • 5 3
 @cotic-bikes: What kind of safety factors are you using when doing a FEA of the frame compared to the tensile strength of the steel? And what are the load cases that are comparable to DH riding?
How heavy would a steel frame be, if you tried to make it fatigue resistant?
  • 16 4
 @bashhard: Nothing on the frame as far as I can tell on my load cases has a safety factor less than 1.2 on yield. For load cases I used the ones I normally use, increases a little in a couple of cases. I also used the EFBE Tritest as a reference, but I don't agree with a couple of their philosophies so not all of them. Because I have no measured frame of reference for DH load cases, I did a direct comparison to Nekos aluminium frame, aiming at significant reductions in stress relative to material limits for the steel frame.
  • 8 3
 @cotic-bikes: thank you, that is interesting! Especially since a 1.2 safety factor does not seem like a lot as a starting point. That is for example a lot less than the safety factor of 2.0 that is generally used in commercial airplanes for structural components. I guess a bike frame failure is not as catastrophic though haha.
I think strain gauges on a frame used by Neko might give an idea on the real world load cases?
  • 4 0
 @bashhard: username checks out
  • 2 0
 @cotic-bikes: next version should have a titanium front end lol
  • 3 0
 @bashhard: you and @cotic-bikes lost me at safety factor. I’ll just keep reading along and pretend. I’m glad there are smart people like you two!
  • 10 0
 @bashhard: Safety factors seem so simple, but are complex in practice - and dependent on how you define them.

The better the inputs, the more precise the design can be. If we could somehow know precisely all material properties, stresses, environmental factors, and desired service life, a factor of precisely one would be sufficient. Safety factors are a reflection of the uncertainty of the inputs.

It's also a matter of what the factor is applied to. It could be applied to a static load case to cover dynamic loads, or a dynamic load case to cover environmental conditions, or maybe the applied stresses are poorly known.

For example, a bridge may have a factor of ten, but that may refer to ten times the load case for the bridge when new, with the additional strength requirement due to weathering / corrosion. If we want it to last, say, fifty years, that factor of ten may barely cover the full lifespan. Or maybe a bike could be designed perfectly for the 99th percentile user, yet still given a seemingly excessive safety factor to cover the possibility the bike will be purchased by Brage Vestavik.

Stresses in bikes are nowhere near as well understood as stresses in airplanes - let alone the disparity among potential buyers. Being involved in the engineering side of the bike industry, I've seen several approaches:

1. Design for the lab tests (ex. ISO or EFBE) and apply a - somewhat arbitrary - industry-standard safety factor. The tests are an imperfect simulation of actual use, hence many bikes breaking in similar locations, despite passing the tests.

2. Attempt to record actual stresses from company staff or sponsored riders and assume these are a good model for customers' use. Few companies do this to any extent, let alone sufficiently for me to trust the results without applying a hefty safety factor.

3. Iterate until the bikes stop failing. While this may feel unscientific, it often produces the best results.

Sounds to me like the Cotic-Frameworks collaboration is using method 3. They already have a product with fairly well understood properties (the aluminum frames) and the outcomes are fairly well known, so it's reasonable to add a small safety factor over the last generation of the aluminum frames. It also helps that these frames will be inspected more frequently than could be expected of customers' frames, allowing Cy and the team to cut it a little closer than would be the case if they were going straight to production.
  • 7 0
 @R-M-R: That's a very fair analysis. Ultimately I don't have any measured data on the loads in a DH bike, but I did have a relatively well understood frame with a fatigue issue, but had never failed catasprophically in use. Hence the use of comparative analysis in the design of the steel version, with some (hopefully) sensible sense checking using some well established load cases.
  • 4 2
 @cotic-bikes: Not only do I not fault you for it, I trust that method more than if you started from a clean sheet, predicted the loads and ran a battery of simulations.

My own areas of specialization are geometry, kinematics, and chassis dynamics*, and I also appreciate the usefulness of observation, rather than clean-sheet calculations. For every dodgy, what-were-they-thinking design, someone calculated that to be the ultimate bike! Better to rely on lots of observation and a little innovation than the inverse.

* Particularly for front linkages - yes, we've chatted before Wink
  • 1 0
 @bashhard: It isn't an aeroplane is it?
  • 2 0
 @R-M-R: Oh hi!
  • 1 0
 @bashhard: "if you tried to make it fatigue resistant?" steel 4130 cromoly is much more fatigue resistant than alloy. It is also flexing more.
  • 1 0
 @HappyBiker19 : I hope it didn't come over as bashing Cotic, I was just wondering what the process and load cases look like for designing a bike frame because I didn't see a lot of insights into that process before and I guess that it is a complicated topic with the uncertainty of loads a dh bike experiences.

@R-M-R: Thank you for your thorough insights. Yes, you are totally right. Safety factors are not straight forward in practice, especially if you do not know enough about the real world stresses the bike experiences. I was trying to get a little more insight whether there are some well accepted models for dh bike load cases so running a simulation and using a good safety factor could cut down the number of prototype iterations.
The 3rd approach seems legitimate if you go through a lot of iterations especially if you have a lot of experience and failures are most likely not of catastrophic nature.

@zoobab2 I'm not sure about the correct english term. I was trying to describe the term "dauerfest", which means that the stresses in the material are so low that the material could go through infinite cycles without failing. For some steels, that behaviour is theoretically achievable and I wondered how heavy a frame would be if one made it fully fatigue resistant.
  • 2 1
 @bashhard: I feel most designers do not adequately research prior designs. We can use everyone else's R&D as our own, yet too often we want to rush ahead and "get started" with our own R&D and designs.

There are no industry standard load cases. There are common tests, such as ISO and EFBE, that provide a good starting point, but simply designing to these standards is an incomplete picture. The closest thing to an industry standard is to apply a safety factor within an established range to the ISO test protocol. It's lazy and incomplete, but it (usually) works.

A few companies have used strain gauges under actual riding conditions - and even fewer have done a good job of it.

While it may be possible to create a predictive model of stresses, I favour observing past designs. There have been hundreds - maybe thousands - of DH / freeride / superenduro frames and there's so much to learn from designs that have failed or survived.

With carbon, where few companies do their own lay-up design, factories are the best resources: they have the greatest knowledge base of what's worked and what hasn't. As one design firm I worked with told me: "we just draw whatever looks good and let the factory fix it in lay-up". I quickly dismissed them from the project, but it shows how things are often done in this industry - at least at the low-effort end of spectrum.
  • 3 0
 Comment threads like these are the only reason I keep reading PB
  • 1 0
 @bashhard: Nah; bashing frames as a way of testing them, and perhaps a way of life lol
  • 1 0
 Approach #3
  • 2 0
 Very nice bike,it looks awesome! I hope more bike brands make a collab with Neko.It would be very cool for the designers learn new tricks from others and get new ideas about the bike. I would explore titanium and carbon tubes with lugs too,just for fun I would make a bike with all materials,like 1 tube of each material hehehe.
  • 5 0
 And that’s Cotic with a C, thank you very much.
  • 4 0
 I love seeing Frameworks gaining traction and evolving.
  • 2 0
 That Frameworks project gotta be the coolest thing happening in the DH world right now. Can't find a DH bike you like? Just build your own!
  • 4 0
  • 4 1
 Properly properly cool - bike looks hecka good with the Cotic touch
  • 4 0
  • 8 5
 This is the hottest Frameworks yet. This is the one I'd buy.
  • 2 0
 I love this and can't wait to see how it turns out!
  • 10 8
 Can't possibly work if its not Carbon
  • 21 2
 it's a mystery how those Commencal riders keep winning races
  • 1 3
 It’s getting a carbon rear end
  • 27 3
 It's steel, so it's got carbon in it
  • 3 0
 There may have been sarcasm in my comment!
  • 2 2
 @i-like-toytles: Pretty damn sure the Brit was joking.
  • 3 1
 @mkul7r4: pretty damn sure I was playing along
  • 2 0
 @mike425: shirley not
  • 1 0
 Unless a bike weighs 14kg it's trash and incapable.

*for avoidance of doubt, I am being sarcastic and very happy with my 16kg rig
  • 3 0
 Yesssss! This is AWESOME
  • 3 2
 Loving this next evolution of Frameworks and him working with Cotic. What a great colab!
  • 5 5
 Fuck yeah, I love Cotic, they always seem hyped on bikes and bike bits and making shit and riding bikes. Love my befe max too
  • 4 6
 @cotic-bikes can you share the spec on your downtube used? Is it the 38.1x1.1/0.90.6/0.9x740 from the Reynolds catalog offering or are you doing a custom spec tube?

Getting the lower bend in the thin wall 38.1 must have been a tricky bend for the Fiveland guys.

When you say up two wall thicknesses on the top tube would that be a 1.0/7/1.0 (vs an .8/.5/.Cool ?
  • 5 0
 The down tube is our own spec, and we had a specialist bend the tubes.
  • 3 0
  • 3 0
 Best news of the day!
  • 3 0
 What a cool project
  • 2 0
 That's one furry forearm.. dang.
  • 2 0
 This is a Collab that's actually bloody good.
  • 3 0
 Great work!
  • 1 0
 Thank you!
  • 1 0
 It looks pretty cool imo. I kind of get Ellsworth vibes with the big rocker link!
  • 1 0
 its rad seeing different brands being involved in this project out of pure interest in riding bikes.
  • 1 0
 Stab Primo FSR bet it RIDES
  • 2 0
 Good luck guys!
  • 2 0
 This is rad!
  • 1 0
 There may have been sarcasm in my comment!
  • 4 4
 I am dying to try a steel bike
  • 2 0
 Proud SoCal Cotic owner here. Do it! I have two in the family and they are incredibly fun bikes (built both from frame up).
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