25/03/2024 - In Praise Of Little Bikes

In Praise Of The Little bike

Cy writes....

I have just had one of the most fun weekends' biking for ages, and whilst I'm still buzzing, I wanted to write in praise of the little bike. The mountain bike of the lighter, shorter travel variety, because I am convinced that a lot of why I loved riding my bike this weekend was due to the choice of bike.

Over the last few months, my main mountain bike has been of the shorter travel variety. At the tail end of last summer I needed to do some setup and kit testing for our downcountry style builds, so I got on a FlareMAX with some light wheels, fast tyres and shorter travel. It was a LOT of fun. Zipping along on fast rolling tyres felt like cheating, and just the shear vivacity and liveliness of the shorter travel, lighter bike made me smile.

FlareMAX short travel steel full suspension bike

As the autumn turned to winter, I got more and into rallying the little bike. I found I was seeing trails in a new light, changing up my rides a little. As the weather turned the trails sloppy and wet, my fast Wolfpack Race/Trail combo wasn't really sticking to the floor, so they got swapped out for something toothier, but still reasonable weight.

I'm going to level with you here, running Cotic at the tail end of last year was very, very hard. When your work is bikes and it's tough, riding a bike with my company name on it is sometimes the last thing I want to do.

For years my bike of choice has been a RocketMAX built pretty enduro, with big sticky tyres. Across three generations I have loved riding and racing those. But, riding something a little bit different helped up the fun factor on local trails I know well. Gave things a different feel, and as I wasn't riding much at that time, the lighter bike was flattering on the climbs rather than a chore. I even fitted a 28t front ring when I changed my chain. Sometimes you just don't want to 'man up', you just want to be looked after and have a nice time. My lightweight little bike with easy gearing did just that.

Rallying little bikes is the new enduro

Thankfully things are a little easier now, and my will to ride - and my fitness - have improved again, but the little bike has been the constant thread of encouragement and fun through it all.

I took apart my RocketMAX before Christmas and transferred all my lovely bike-industry-idiot build kit across, but kept the light wheels and tyres right where they were. I ditched the SIDs and bumped the fork up to 130mm and swapped in my favourite Cane Creek DB Air IL rear shock. I have the 4 pot Maguras off my RocketMAX on there with 38mm rise bars. It's a right mashup, still a good weight, but NOW we are rallying!

As I said, the move to the little bike has mostly been to switch things up and keep things fun on my local, but as my capacity and desire to ride has come back, so has the variety of locations I ride in. Then the doubt creeps in. The FlareMAX is my only mountain bike currently. Is it enough for everything I want to do? Will it deal with the spicier end of things? One of the luxuries of riding a RocketMAX is that you are never, ever under-biked. It's as happy zipping through some trail centre singletrack as it is at the Golfie, or uplifting on gondolas in the Alps. Wherever you are, that bike has got your back. And here is where we circle back to last weekend......

Guy Kesteven is a big fan of the little bike, and loves a FlareMAX too

Last weekend I had a bunch of old riding buddies up for visit, and we did a big ride at Wharncliffe on Saturday. Now, this is the place that helped make Steve Peat the rider he is - we actually bumped into him and Laurie Greenland on the ride - and it is mostly not for the faint hearted. It is steep, janky, technical, and on that particularly day it was very, very wet and slippery.

I don't ride there much because it's right the other side of the city, and the Peak District is much closer for me. I have also never really gelled with the riding there. It's quite a particular style of riding; technical, committing, sometimes high consequence. I like techy riding, but Wharncliffe is almost wilfully awkward in places.

I rode there a few weeks ago with a few mates on our ebikes, and despite it being lovely to be out and ride with friends, I'm not convinced I enjoyed the riding that much. The ebike made light work of the big, steep hill that Wharncliffe sits on, but wrestling 25kg of bike through those peculiarly janky, tricky, rocky trails was very high effort and not especially rewarding. Not helped by the fact I don't know the trails well enough to find those little 'unlock' moves to open them up a little. My shoulders hurt more than my legs by the end of the day!

As a result of that ride, and despite there being a few ebikes in the group this weekend, I committed to riding the little bike. And you know what? It was FLIPPING BRILLIANT! The easy pace of the big group combined with my ickle chainring meant climbs weren't too tiring, but my goodness it was brilliant on the main trails.

It was easy to make trialsy moves through the jank, a pleasure to pop up rockovers. It carried speed across the faster sections. It definitely wasn't holding me back.

In the steep stuff it was great! It might not have a 63.5deg head angle, but it's still got that lovely Longshot geometry front centre and I have my bars set pretty high. My brakes are brilliant, so riding with poise and precision down some really steep trails was no problem at all. It was just fantastic.

As I hung it up (after the worst/hardest/longest post ride clean of the winter) that evening, I involuntarily said out loud "Bloody love this bike", to no one in particular.

Now at this point Paul - if he's reading this - will be rolling his eyes and making 'told you so' noises, as he has long been an exponent of riding light, short travel bikes very fast everywhere. It taken me a while to come around to it, and it might not last forever, but for now 2024 is the year of rallying little bikes. You heard it hear first.

Want a little bike like mine? Start with a FlareMAX Trail build and spec it up as you like it. Your Bike Built For You.

I've got HUNT XC Wide wheels and run the 2.25" Wolfpack tyres for SPEEEEEED in the summer, so you could pick those to keep the weight off. For right now UK conditions the Vigi/Boss combo will work well. Closest spec to my actual bike is the Platinum build, but you don't need to go nuts unless you want to. Any of the FlareMAX bikes with fast, light wheels and tyres will be brilliant. If you have any questions on specifying your bike build, just drop me a line. Otherwise, hit the button and let's get rallying!

Order your FlareMAX today

Order your FlareMAX today

See you out on the trails. I'll be the one popping off every trail feature in sight with a silly grin on my face.



Founder and Director, Cotic Bikes

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