Ben has been running the revamped Cotic BFe Silver build with upgrades through the winter months to see what a progressive hardtail can and can’t do.
The BFe is the classic Cotic ‘steel is real’ offering, and the current incarnation has been run through the mill by our tester Ben Plenge with a few key upgrades to get the most out of the bike.
- Heat-treaded CrMo frame with Reynolds 853 downtube
- 44mm head tube.
- Internal dropper routing.
- Clearance for 27.5 x 2.6 or 26 x 3.0″ tyres.
- Shimano SLX 1 x 11 drivetrain.
- XFusion HLR 140mm fork (£100 upgrade).
- XFusion Manic Dropper upgrade £150.
- WTB tubeless tyre upgrade £50.
- Base build £1649.99 RRP, build with upgrades £1949.99 RRP.
On any Sunday in winter, across the UK, in moody, dark forestry blocks you will more than likely find somebody ragging around on one of Cotic’s steel-framed hardtails. The Peak District brand has become synonymous with the UK’s unique ‘hardcore hardtail’ riding scene, and the BFe has been a big part of that since its inception in 2005.
BFe, standing for Burly Iron and pronounced ‘Beefy’ (Iron is Fe in the periodic table) is Cotic’s do-it-all 27.5 inch wheel frame that can be built up in one of three main guises. 120mm fork for lighter trail duties, dirt jumping and pump track laps. 140mm fork as tested here, for all round trail ripping and versatility, or with a 160mm fork for maximum speed, aggro riding and even DH racing.
The frame numbers are thoroughly modern with the size large having a long, 472mm reach, short, 428mm chainstays and a 66 degree head angle when the fork is at 25% sag. With really low standover you can choose the size based on length and riding style, rather than solely on what you can get your leg over. At just under 5’10” (176cm) I went for a large, but could have run the medium. Frames are available for £449 in a choice of colours and decals and in small, medium or large sizes.
We were sent a Silver Build to test with a few upgrade options. The standard bike comes in at £1649, without a dropper post and with an X-Fusion Sweep RL2 fork, but ours had an X-Fusion Manic dropper post and an upgraded X-Fusion Sweep HLR fork, which along with the WTB tyre upgrade takes the price to £1949 for this specific bike. It is worth noting that all bikes in the Cotic range can be custom built to order and this can all be done online.
Up front you get a set of X-Fusion Sweep HLR forks with 140mm of travel and plenty of external adjustments to get your setup dialled. The rest of the bike features a mix of Cotic’s own brand finishing kit and a Shimano SLX 1×11 drive train and Deore brakes. The Deore hubs are laced to WTB ST i25 rims and you also get an X Fusion Manic 125mm dropper post. The front tyre is a WTB Vigilante High Grip in the Light Casing, and the rear tyre is a WTB Breakout High Grip, Tough Casing tyre.
One omission for a bike with such gnarly intentions, is a chain device, which always seems a bit short-sighted when they cost so little and weigh only a few grams.
We spoke to Cy Turner, Mr. Cotic himself, to see what the thinking behind the lack of chain device was:
“Two reasons, firstly, dropping a chain with modern clutch mechs is not usually a problem therefore why carry around the weight? Neither myself, Paul, Sam or Will ride with chain guides on a variety of Cotic bikes and none of us have trouble. None of the demo fleet runs them apart from the new Droplink bikes where the top guide is integrated. Modern retainer chainrings are a wonderful thing.
Secondly, we know people who do run chainguides tend to be quite picky about which chain guide they run. So we provide the ISCG mounts (the BFe has had these since it first came out in 2005) and let people make the choice. I have to say that we don’t get any customer feedback demanding this. At all.
In conclusion, I am of the opinion that bikes designed for aggressive riding should have the option for a chain guide, but it’s not a necessity.”
When you first ride the BFe you instantly become aware that there is a lot of bike in front of you, and not much behind you. The long front centre coupled with short chainstays meant it felt like my weight was quite rearward-biased in my seated climbing position and the front end would wander on climbs. This was fixed somewhat by slamming the saddle forwards on the rails as far as it would go, which has a similar effect to steepening the seat tube, placing my weight forwards of the rear axle as I climbed.
Opting for the longer 45mm stem option instead of the 35mm stem specced here would also help this. This would also feel somewhat different if I had opted for the size medium instead of the large. Once I had done that I felt like I had way more control on tight switchbacks and slower, techy climbs.
A bike with the reputation of the BFe is all about going down though, and rightly so, as it is proved a capable descender, coming alive as the speeds picked up. The long reach gives you acres of space to move around between the wheels, weighting the front and back to pump and pop through the terrain. The burly build of the frame doesn’t transfer to a harsh ride however, and it offers a fair bit of compliance whilst still feeling tight and focussed like a good hardtail should.
This is complimented by the smooth performance of the X-Fusion Sweep fork which really surprised me with its ability to calm the trail down and keep things composed. The front end compliance and control is probably enhanced by the use of a Reynolds 853 downtube and Cotic’s years of experience to create a strong, yet supple, front triangle.
Initial setup of the Sweep fork was super simple. I just set the sag to 30% and ran the high and low speed compression wide open along with the rebound, as I prefer a fast fork. Two runs later I added a couple of clicks of each and I have not touched it since. The performance has been very consistent throughout the test and they do a good job of staying up in their travel which helps to keep the bike balanced.
When I first got he bike and did ‘the carpark test’ I found the fork really uninspiring and even now, when you just push on it, it doesn’t feel as refined as a Pike or 36, but when you actually ride it is somehow transforms and soaks up all the trail chatter whilst keeping you connected to the front tyre.
Speaking of tyres, the WTB rubber specced here are both tyres that I am really familiar with. The Vigilante is a great all round UK tyre that clears fairly well in the mud and holds up well on hard pack and everything in between. The Breakout at the back is a strange choice for a bike that many people will probably buy as a second, winter bike as its low profile tread is pretty sketchy in muddy conditions. In the dry, it is rad and a really fun tyre but for winter use you will need to budget for another tyre. I didn’t experience any punctures during the test. Happy days.
All of the Shimano kit worked flawlessly throughout, which was a relief as all of my recent experience with Shimano brakes (XT and SLX) has been awful. The entry level Deore brakes don’t have loads of power, but they have enough for most riding and every time you pull the lever, you know exactly what you are going to get. Gear changing has remained crispy and smooth, and I’ve not even had to change a cable.
The other finishing kit was fine, with the X-Fusion Manic dropper post lever being nicely ergonomic and the post running smoothly throughout. Another highlight for me was the Cotic grips. As somebody who prefers not to wear gloves, I really found these to be great grips. Both the compound and also the rubber waffle on the underside added up to a good connection between rider and bike.
Out on the trails, the Cotic is a great bike in most situations. It just gets on with business and is pretty composed for a hardtail. You can sort of point and shoot down rough trails if you like, and the steel frame, X-Fusion fork and high volume WTB tyres take care of the rest. This is a far cry from cheaper, more crude aluminium hardtails that can be super harsh and sketchy.
Whilst you can monster-truck into sections, that does not mean that a more finessed approach is off the cards. You can hop and pop off of features and take the long, fun line, instead of the direct, racing line. It is truly a versatile bike in the ways that you can ride it as well as the places that you can take it.
The BFe corners as well as most hardtails out there, with the short chainstays encouraging you to flick the rear wheel around tighter turns, making shapes and getting a bit loose. The rear wheel weight bias caused by the short chainstays means you can pump and manual out of turns, but it can also let the front wheel push on a bit in drifty turns if your weight is not fully committed to the front tyre.
There are a couple of small things that let it down on the trails. The first thing is cable noise as the externally routed cables can flap about and vibrate a bit on rough sections which is a bit annoying. It’s not awful, but it is noticeable.
Also, this bike was fitted with a 35mm stem and I just found that with such short chainstays and long reach, that it made it harder to weight the front wheel, especially on steeper and off-camber sections.
You can specify the 45mm option when you buy, and for slack frames like this, I certainly prefer the longer stem for its ability to let you weight the front tyre.
Finally… Being really picky, the quick release axle on the fork is really fiddly to use.
- Versatile, go-anywhere bike.
- XFusion HLR fork very composed.
- Composed ride.
- Amazing steel ride feel.
Could do better:
- WTB Breakout tyre a bit low profile for UK riding.
- Internal routing could solve cable noise.
What do we think?
Overall, the Cotic BFe is a rad bike to ride.
To be honest, for a few quid under £2000 it needs to be as well, but what you get is an authentically modern UK mountain bike. People in the rest of the world just don’t really build or ride bikes like this. You are getting a totally functional, and high quality product that should last years, but more than that, you get something British that speaks volumes about you as a rider and your values.
I love what Cotic and other British brands like it bring to the UK scene and to the marketplace. Great work.