After seventeen years and five iterations since day one, Cotic have called time on production of their very first model, the Soul.
It’s not often that bike brands kill off their first ever model, and the Cotic Soul had lasted almost two full decades with five refreshes. Pete had a chat with Cy Turner to find out the what, where and why.
How hard was it to call time on the Soul?
It was a bit emotional, but it dropped out of the numbers when doing the stock turn review. It had simply dropped below our threshold in terms of sales volume, and when we all discussed it, we all realised that the ‘Soul’ type of rider had migrated to some of our other product lines.
As trails still exist, why do you think a trail hardtail isn’t what people are looking for?
Up to a point that’s true, but riding and what those trails are has progressed too. When I designed my first Soul in 2002 to be my only MTB, to do a bit of everything, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have ridden down Nae Spleens on it. I can barely do that on my RocketMAX.
However, the trail hardtail definitely hasn’t gone away, it’s just changed. The ‘Soul’ type of rider is now much more inclined to ride 29″ wheels, and we have the SolarisMAX in the range for that. It’s basically the 29″ wheel Soul in a lot of ways. That’s certainly how it was originally conceived. And those riders preferring the lively 27.5″ wheel tend to be a little more rowdy, so they gravitate towards the BFe. The trail hardtail is very much alive, we still make two.
Are riders generally looking for more bike than they think they need?
Maybe, maybe not. In a lot of cases I think not. I think the advent of amazing modern geometry like our Longshot geometry means that the tendency for over-biking has reduced. People used to buy a big bike ‘for their Alps trip’ because a racey old schoo geo XC/trail bike would be horrible to ride in the mountains.
These days I would happily ride our FlareMAX 29er trail bike in the mountains with some tough tyres on, then put lighter tyres on back in the UK, because the geometry is great in steep terrain. The Golfie trails are an interesting example, now they all have Longshot geometry, I would be happy to ride down stuff like 3G and Repeat Offender on our hardtails. That wasn’t the case a few years ago. All round mountain bikes have come a long way in the last couple of years.
Do you think your more ‘rad’ bikes have maybe sent people elsewhere for trail hardtails?
In a very few cases, yes. We do get customers who have Solaris Gen1 or Gen2 bikes from a few years ago who are ground-covering type riders who contact us and lament how ‘gnar’ the SolarisMAX has got, but up to a point I think that’s just their preconceptions about geometry.
The SolarisMAX is a brilliant mile muncher. Stick 120mm forks and some light wheels and tyres on it and it will be lovely to razz about the South Downs on, with the added benefit of totally having your back when it does occasionally get steep and rowdy. Just because it’s got a 35mm stem, doesn’t mean it’s not lively. It’s bloody awesome in singletrack. And the Soul was a ‘rad’ bike in terms of geometry.
Every time I walk past the demo bike I just want to jump on it and razz it around the yard. Plenty of people are buying our other hardtails though, more than ever, so I don’t think it’s the geometry that’s the issue really, it’s wheel size trends.
Did you try and keep the Soul running with some changes/updates before you called it quits?
We kicked around some ideas, but like I mentioned, ultimately the ‘Soul’ type of rider is buying the SolarisMAX instead, so it’s not like we don’t have a product for them.
What are the benefits of dropping a bike from the range?
Cashflow and marketing overhead, plus a little bit of stockholding. If a product doesn’t sell a certain volume in a certain amount of time, it does start costing us more money to stock it. Basically if it gets to a point where we can’t sell a minimum quantity batch of product within a year, it has to stop.
To give you a frame of reference, up until about 18 months ago we would have been confident of selling 2 or 3 more than minimum order batches of Souls per year. Having one less model line is one less thing to market, and there were a couple of Soul specific stock items like the headset which we won’t have to stock anymore. That’s small beer really. The main thing is that it simply wasn’t selling in big enough numbers.
Will we ever see the Soul return?
Seeing as naming bikes is about the hardest thing we do (or it seems that way), I’m sure a name that’s so iconic to our brand won’t stay dormant forever, but it would have to be the right product. We’re not just going to slap a Soul sticker on the next product that comes along. The Soul was originally a progressive trail bike, something light and lively to do mountain biking on. If something comes along that’s true to those values, that could be a Cotic Soul.