23/09/2020 - MBR Online Editor Benji Haworth's Custom FlareMAX Bike Check

MBR Online Editor Benji Haworth's Custom FlareMAX Bike Check

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I've known Benji for about 15 years now, right back to when he was working at Singletrack Magazine. He's a fantastically skilled technical trail rider, who was one of a pioneering group of Calderdale based 'Death Tech' riders who took on some insanely steep and tricky sections made up of the North Of England's decaying industrial past. Trails like "Steps of Death" and "Punch The Wall" give you an idea!

I always really appreciated his independent mindedness when it came to bike setup and handling, and his dedication to testing things out rather than dismissing them if they didn't fit with his current thinking. He's found a home at MBR's Online Editor, and is yet another industry bod who's chosen to buy a Cotic rather than blag something free from a bigger brand. He's got a pretty eclectic build on the bike, but it's an interesting read. Take it away Benji.....

Benji writes....

This is a build-up of a frame-only. In case youíre wondering why it has bits that arenít available via Cotic. Itís a size large, by the way.

First of all, why a FlareMAX and not a RocketMAX or indeed a Flare?

Iím a 29er rider through and through. Iíve dallied with mullet setups in the past and while they have some good aspects (namely the ability to drive forward using the backside of trail features) I find that I simply donít often ride the sort of terrain where a smaller rear wheel has a benefit. For virtually everywhere I ride, a 29in rear wheel is better.

Why not a RocketMAX? In a practical and financial sense, I donít have the parts that fit a RocketMAX. Well, a suitable travel fork and rear shock in other words. More than that though, I prefer bikes to not tilt around so much during on-off riding. I lIke my bottom bracket to stay in a relatively tight window of height-from-ground no matter what the rider/terrain/brakes are doing at the time. I do much more slow-speed steep and tight rooty stuff than I do balls-out fast rocky stuff.

I was tempted by the slacker head angle of the RocketMAX but - as you will see when you read on - there are ways around that.

The FlareMAX has good reach, itís a linkage-driven single pivot (my preferred compromise of all suspension systems), low enough BB, loads of standover, decent length chainstays, takes a water bottle, accepts 170mm dropper post insertion and has no annoying standards that stop you messing with its geometry (head tube, shock mount hardware etc).

And the paintjob is fabulous. Obvs.

Front to back then. Here we go with my FlareMAX build list...

Schwalbe Magic Mary 2.3 Ultra Soft - THE best tyre is the world. Slow rebound DH compound wrapped around a trail-friendly carcass and a tread pattern that plain works.

Halo Vortex wheels - got on test for MBR and kept because theyíve never let me down. They are actually pre-BOOST axles held in place with a conversion spacer kit.

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203mm rotors front and rear - I donít understand anyone who doesnít run big discs. Why not run big rotors? You brake less and have more flow. The brakes themselves are Shimano Deore M6000 ie. the best Shimano brakes because they donít have wandering bite points. I much prefer the lever shape of Shimano brakes. Thatís the main thing.

Fox 34 Float 140mm - inherited from friend and MTB photographer Sim Mainey. A few years old now but still working well (the forkís not bad either - haha!). Iím not sure how many spacers are in themÖ possibly three. I run compression fully open and the rebound somewhere in the middle. Again, my riding is less about repeated hits and more about a series of intense moments. As an aside, I really like how the Fox 34 matches the overall look of the FlareMAX. A Fox 36 would throw off the aesthetics.

Cotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike checkCotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike check

The mudguard is a RideGuard PF1. Technically, the best mudguard Iíve used is a Mudhugger but... they donít look very nice on this bike! So Iíve gone with the next best thing, a RideGuard PF1.

The headset is a Works Components Angle Headset that offers 2.0į of head angle change. The headset is a bit boring looking and the bearings arenít massively well sealed from the elements but I can live with that. The head angle is now 63į, which Is what Iím used to. Sounds mental. Will be standard on all trail bikes in a couple of years - mark my words!

Iím currently switching between two Nukeproof stems. One is 45mm long and one is 35mm long. Both are on test for MBR. Truth be told, both work and I should just pick on and get on with it. Although the 45mm stem looks the most aesthetically in-keeping with the rest of the bike, thereís no arguing with the performance of the 35mm stem when things get steep.

Bars are Nukeproof Horizon Carbon V2 35 handlebar, 38mm rise. Again, on test for MBR but Iíve liked Nukeproof Carbon bars in the past (Warheads anyone?) and these continue the pleasant vibe.

Giant Swage grips. My grip of choice. Tapered and single collar. Yes you can get the outer ends to move if you want to. STOP holding the grip there! These are designed to be held nearer the inner collar. They are excellently comfy, good value and Iím a big fan of tapered grips for control.

Cotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike checkCotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike check

Iím running a Fidlock bottle system. Part of me does miss being able to run other (cooler looking) water bottles but thereís no arguing with the function the Fidlock system offers for bikes with tight spaces.

To hold on to my spare tube and CO2 bits, I run a Louri frame strap. Although they are far from being the originators of these Ďenduro strapí things, I find theirs is the best Iíve used so far. I keep a small multi-tool in my pocket by the way, as tools get rusty if strapped to a frame.

I have a couple of rear shocks to choose from: a Fox Float X and a RockShox Monarch Plus RC3. Although the Fox Float X looks cooler and is softer off-the-top, I think I prefer the overall feel of the RockShox Monarch.

Cotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike checkCotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike check

Iím still on a 11 speed drivetrain. I feel no compulsion to change to 12. Itís a mix of Shimano SLX, SunRace and KMC. SunRaceís wide-range cassettes are one of the unsung greatest things to happen for general MTBers in recent times. Shiny 50T sprocket cassettes for under eighty quid. Yes. (Shimano's new Deore M5100 11-51 11spd is also ace - Cotic)

The mech cabling is Fibrax Pro-formance sealed derailleur cabling, which helps keep filth out for as long as possible whilst also feeling noticeably slicker. It may be my imagination but I also think itís quieter than other cabling, with less clicking and pinging noises.

The cranks are Race Face Aeffect which, although on test for MBR, I would probably spec on this bike anyway because there are shockingly few cranks out there available in 165mm crank arm length. Much like my stance on big rotors (why wouldnít you?), why everyone isnít on 165mm cranks I donít know. They pedal just like 170/175mm cranks but your pedals are further away from trouble. Whatís not to love? Chainring is 32T to mate well with the main pivot placement of the frame.

Pedals are VP Harrier flats. These arenít quite as good as my existing HT PA03 plastic flats. But my HTs are pink and clash horrifically with the FlareMAX paintjob. The VP Harriers do have the added benefit of being mahoosive whilst also being waffer theen. I run longer pins in them to induce some concavity into their shape/feel.

Cotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike checkCotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike check

The seatpost is a Brand-X Ascend XL in 170mm flavour. Iíve encountered this on numerous test bikes over the years and I canít find any reason to spend any more on a dropper post. I like the feel of the remote lever and the speed of the post; I never struggle to put the saddle exactly where I want it without any second guessing. The top part of the clamp also allows you to really slam the saddle forward to eek the most out of your effective seat angle. (this is the reason we spec the similarly brilliant-yet-good-value X Fusion Manic seatposts on the majority of our bikes - Cotic). The saddle is a WTB Volt Race: the fanciest version of the lovely, lovely Volt you can get before they start to remove the nice level of padding in it.

Cotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike checkCotic FlareMAX, steel full suspension, UK made, Reynolds 853, Cotic Bikes, enduro mountain bike, 29er mountain bike, full suspension mountain bike, steel is real, MBR magazine, bike check

The rear tyre currently is Maxxis Maxxis Minion DHR II. Which I only ever change for an overt mud tyre (Schwalbe Dirty Dan, Specialized Hillbilly, Michelin Wild Mud etc) when the conditions require.

Initial ride thoughts.....

Iíve got three rides under my belt so far on the FlareMAX. Perhaps the main thing to get across is that I havenít actually thought about the bike much at all whilst riding it. It rides how I thought it would ride! The reach and chain stay lengths are bang on. The BB height is a great height for both secure cornering and lofting either wheel upon demand.

My Ďbespokeí head angle (approx 63į due to Works Components angle headset) is great. Kudos to all bike brands who avoid head tube standards that donít allow for angle adjust headsets.

It reaffirms my preference for single pivot back ends over 4-bar or dual short-link designs; I can feel what the back tyre is doing more. Thereís more interaction with the terrain. The droplink design is predictable with no odd spikes or lunges.

The three most significant things Iíve experienced are all to do with the top tube:


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