Delicate, hesitant and relaxed – three words that aren’t in the Cotic RocketMAX’s vocabulary. You only have to look at its low-slung silhouette and slammed angles to know the RocketMAX is a hard-charging beast, but does it have a refined side?
Click here for an overview of the 3 interesting steel enduro MTBs on test
About to turn 18, the brand Cotic is neck-deep in the UK riding scene. Based just a stone’s throw from the rugged grit of the Peak District, their bikes exude their hard-hitting, tough-as-nails ethos. Best known for their progressive steel Solaris and BFe hardtails for many years, the latest Gen3 RocketMAX 29er is a very different beast. A wild concoction of their ‘Longshot’ geometry, blending a Scottish made Reynolds 853 front triangle and seat stays with Taiwanese fabricated aluminium chainstays.
The Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 in Detail
The latest Gen3 version of the popular RocketMAX increases the travel to 160 mm, with a new down tube design and revised suspension kinematics, as well as a steeper seat tube angle. The Cotic frame is a thing of beauty, with a unique ovalised Reynolds 853 steel top tube, intelligent cable routing and many smart design features. Weighing in at 15.4 kg, the € 5,575 bike we were sent features a no-nonsense build – ready for action and anything you can throw at it. Cotic offer a number of standard builds, though you have almost unlimited freedom to spec the bike as you desire. The star of our bike is the 160 mm RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork, an undisputed performer, paired with the Cane Creek DB Air CS shock. The performance focus continues with a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain and SRAM G2 RSC brakes with 200/180 mm rotors. The bike rolls on HUNT Trail Wide 29” wheels, shod with a WTB Verdict 2.5” tire in the Light/High Grip compound on the front and a WTB Trail Boss 2.4” in the Tough/ Fast Rolling compound on the rear. The build is finished with a 150 mm X-Fusion dropper post and, Cotic-branded 35 mm stem and 800 mm bars.
Cotic RocketMAX Gen3
Fork RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 160 mm
Rear Shock Cane Creek DB Air CS 160 mm
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 150 mm
Brakes SRAM G2 RSC 200/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XT 1x12
Stem Cotic 50 mm
Handlebar Cotic 800 mm
Wheelset HUNT Trailwide 29
Tires WTB Verdict/WTB Trail Boss 2,5"/2,4"
Size S M L XL
Weight 15.40 kg
The geometry of the Cotic RocketMAX Gen3
The Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 is a generously sized bike. With a long reach of 490 mm in size Large and a relatively slack seat tube angle of 75.8°, it has a big, roomy cockpit. The long 448.2 mm chainstays balance out the long front centre, while a 27 mm bottom bracket drop is paired with a tall 638.3 mm stack. The 63.5° head angle provides some clues as to the intent of the bike and at 1290.3 mm, the wheelbase is almost in the ‘1300 club’. The Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 can be squarely summarised with those three very overhyped words: long, low and slack.
Gentle riders will find the longshot geometry unwieldy and would be best sizing down but if you white-knuckle the grips and give it some beans, it will take you effortlessly faster than your normal comfort zone.
|Seat tube||390 mm||425 mm||460 mm||495 mm|
|Top tube||604 mm||631 mm||657 mm||686 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm|
|Chainnstay||448 mm||448 mm||448 mm||448 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,234 mm||1,262 mm||1,290 mm||1,319 mm|
|Reach||443 mm||467 mm||490 mm||515 mm|
|Stack||620 mm||629 mm||638 mm||647 mm|
Taking no prisoners! The Cotic RocketMAX on the trail
Looking at the numbers and the design of the bike, you may suspect you already know what’s coming next. Yes, the RocketMAX looks to be built for the downhills and is a big bike for big trails. However, we were surprised at just how composed the RocketMAX is on the climbs. We were expecting a barge but the Cotic displayed a nimbleness that defies its stretched proportions. The (comparatively) low anti-squat values result in lots of small-bump traction, yet surprisingly there isn’t much bobbing when pedalling smoothly while seated. Uphill sprints will get the suspension bouncing if you leave the shock open, but grip remains high and the RocketMAX scrabbles up steep, loose pitches with ease, aided by the long chainstays which keep the weight balanced and the front wheel on the ground. The Cotic RocketMAX uses Cotic’s droplink suspension system, with an interesting take on a linkage driven single pivot layout. The shock is driven directly by the long seatstay, connected to the seat tube by the small droplink. You can feel the performance focussed intent of the suspension system and the ride of the Cotic is supportive and firm. Charging the same descents as the other bikes in this group, the Cotic feels like you are riding a much smoother trail, opening up gaps effortlessly. It’s not plush and the progression of the suspension results in a firm racy feel, full of support for loading up the suspension in corners. Mid-stroke support from the ‘baked bean can’ sized Cane Creek DB Air CS is huge, so much so that it feels a little overdamped and we would run the compression adjusters lighter than the recommended setup.
Our testers found the setup of the overly complex Cane Creek DB Air CS very involved. You can get a good tune, but it takes time and experience and is the polar opposite of the excellent Lyrik Ultimate fork which can be optimised in 10 minutes of trail time.
On flat-out, open terrain, the Cotic is totally in its element, railing sweeping turns with effortless confidence and outrageous speed. It only loses its cool a little when the trail gets really tight and you have to start throwing your weight around to get the big wheelbase moving. How much this quiet and composed ride is down to the properties of steel rather than the suspension is impossible to quantify but the RocketMAX charges rock gardens without fuss. Build quality is top-notch and we experienced no creaks or squeaks, just the sounds of the tires tearing chunks from the ground. The SRAM G2 RSC brakes struggle on big descents with the 200/180 mm rotors, and we would upgrade to CODES if we wanted to get into some racing. As with all long bikes, you have to stay focussed and the longshot geometry means it’s a big bike that needs purposeful input. Ride it with determination and it’s a rocket. Get lazy and fall to the back of the bike and it feels like you are riding a runaway freight train.
Ultimately the RocketMAX is an awesome bike which shouldn’t be defined by its ‘niche’ frame material but by its performance. It happily goes toe-to-toe with formidable bikes like the YT CAPRA 29, Nukeproof Mega and Specialized Enduro. Just like those bikes, it can be pedalled all day and dragged round mellow trails but that’s missing its point entirely. If you don’t have downhill trails on your doorstep or are looking for an allrounder, the 140/125 mm FlareMAX would probably fit better if you’re hooked on the Cotic ethos. The RocketMAX is a bike to chase down mates on agro terrain, to knock chunks out of a stage time, or to thrash on shuttle days.
Tuning tips: choose a simpler shock unless you like dial-twiddling | specify a longer 170 mm dropper at checkout
The Cotic RocketMAX Gen3 shoots any nostalgic ideology about twangy steel frames down in flames. Instead, it is a potent, fast and impeccably composed KOM hunter. What it lacks in playful poppiness it makes up for in raw speed, making light of the hardest trails we could find. It’s happier on flat-out tracks than super-tight twisties and the longshot geometry means we would size down if we were between sizes. If you’re looking for something different, that will easily keep up with the long-travel carbon exotica competition (and most likely outlive it) the RocketMAX is a bike that needs no hyperbole.
- super stable and composed droplink suspension
- easy to ride fast on flat-out trails
- solid on the climbs
- complex shock makes setup tricky
- SRAM G2 brakes underpowered
- demanding on tighter terrain
You can find out more about at cotic.co.uk
The test field
Click here for an overview of the 3 interesting steel enduro MTBs on test
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey