Cotic SolarisMAX long-termer first look– a versatile trail-shredding steel hardtail

Bike Perfect’s Senior Tech Writer Graham joins the cult of Cotic with his SolarisMax long-term test bike build

What is a hands on review?
Cotic SolarisMAX frameset
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Early Verdict

This versatile hardtail frame should build up into the perfect trail-shredding companion for all my product testing needs

Pros

  • +

    Sensible trail-orientated and versatile geometry

  • +

    Tidy finish

  • +

    Decent weight for a steel frame

  • +

    Many many bosses for mounting stuff

  • +

    Beautiful color

  • +

    Boost rear end

Cons

  • -

    Internal dropper routing requires clip-on guides

  • -

    Seat angle could be a degree or two steeper

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We\'ll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

Hardtails hold a special place in the UK MTB scene. Whether it's because of our short tech MTB tracks, grinding pivot-destroying winters, or our general do-it-yourself love for the underdog approach to riding. Hardtails have endured the full-bounce revolution and if you head to any riding spot you will more often than not see some riders still keeping it real on the trails. 

While I look back fondly to my salad days which mostly consisted of throwing myself off-road gaps on burly hardtails, I will be the first to admit hardtails back then were all a bit shit. Luckily the best hardtail mountain bikes are better than ever, taking full advantage of geometry evolutions and componentry improvements over the years.

When it came to picking a frame for my long-term test bike I wanted something that I could ride a bit of everything, whether that be trails center, bikepacking, or carefully picking myself down the odd enduro trail. For me it was a no-brainer, it had to be a hardtail.

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset pictured from the side

There's something very satisfying about the simplicity of a hardtail (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Specification

When it comes to UK bike manufacturers there aren’t many that carry the cult-like status as Cotic. An independent bike manufacturer based in the Peak District, Cotic has been designing and developing steel MTB’s since Cy released the legendary Soul hardtail back in 2003.

Cotic is still a relatively small operation although their large catalogue of bikes is a testament to their success. Guy’s raving reviews of the 140mm Jeht or short travel FlareMax5 tempted me but I knew it had to be a hardtail and the SolarisMAX ticked all the boxes.

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset pictured from behind

The frame uses Reynolds 853 steel for the front half and 4130 cromo for the rear end (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

The SolarisMax is a 29er hardtail built using a Reynolds 853 steel front triangle and 4130 cromo wishbone stay rear end. It's built as Cotic’s all-round hardtail and can handle between 120mm and 140mm of travel. Cotic has used large diameter, thin wall, air hardening tubing with a signature Ovalform top tube. Cotic says that the choice of 853 steel and tube shapes gives the bike a more compliant and traction-rich ride feel.

Inspired by the capability of the Stif Squatch I previously tested, I will be setting my bike up with a 130mm fork. That means Cotic’s Longshot geometry on my medium frame has an effective reach of 456mm, 65.7-degree head angle, and 74.7-degree seat angle. A bottom bracket drop of  60mm keeps your feet decently close to terra firma for better stability, the longer 444mm chainstays will help too. While the shorter reach and higher bottom bracket won’t offer the same stability as the Squatch, the more sensible numbers of the SolarisMAX should mean it's a lot more versatile and comfortable to ride over long trail days and bikepacking adventures. 

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset bottle cage detail

Bottle cage bosses, its got plenty (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

There are loads of practical features too, the subtly curved and crimped chainstay and straight seat stays give plenty of tire size choice, clearing either 29 x 2.6in or 27.5 x 3.0in. A threaded bottom bracket makes freshening up the bike after a hard winter that bit easier. Cotic has gone crazy with the frame bosses, there are seven 64mm spaced bottle cage bosses, a bottle cage option under the downtube, plus an eighth boss at the top of the downtube. That means riders can run two bottles on the downtube, mount frame bags, or use them for cable routing. Essentially they are there for whatever you might need them for.

One feature that might not appeal to everyone but was an important feature for me was external cable routing. I love the clean lines of an internally routed brake cable as much as everyone else, however as this bike will likely see a fair bit of chopping and changing of componentry, the convenience of external cable routing was a must.

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset rear end detail

The rear end has enough space to clear a 29 x 2.6in or 27.5 x 3.0in (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Early verdict

I was delighted when my frame arrived in the trademark Cotic Supernova Orange. The color seriously pops and the graphics give it a minimal and refined finish. The metal head badge is a nice touch too, depicting a trail meandering off into the distance and accurately representing the kind of riding I hope to be doing on this bike.

Weight is pretty reasonable at 2.6kg for a do it all hardtail, undercutting several competitors such as the Pipedream Sirus (2.8kg), Stanton’s Sherpa (2.75kg). Despite its steel construction is only 200g heavier than Bike Perfect Editor Rich Owen’s long-termer hardtail, the alloy Banshee Paradox V3

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset head badge detail

The metal head badge finishes the frameset off nicely (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Believe it or not, product shortages affect the industry Illuminati as well so the process of building the bike up has taken longer than expected. I should have all the parts now, although anyone that has built up a bike knows there is always something that you have forgotten. The excitement is palpable though and I already have some rides planned in the near future to give it a proper good shakedown. 

I'm very excited to get this bike built up and I have some very tasty goodies for the build. As you can see I will be running an Ohlins RFX34 M.2 fork with 130mm of travel but you will need to wait for my next update to see the full final build and hear my first thoughts on how it rides out on the trails. 

Cotic SolarisMAX frameset pictured from the front with a Ohlins fork fitted

The Ohlins RFX34 M.2 with 130mm of travel should compliment the SolarisMAX well (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Tech specs: Cotic SolarisMAX

  • Use: XC / trail
  • Construction: Reynolds 853 steel front triangle, 4130 cromo wishbone stay rear end
  • Recommended fork travel: 120 to 140mm
  • Weight: 2.6kg (medium actual)
  • Head tube angle: 65.7 degrees (130mm fork)
  • Wheel size: 29 or 27.5+ degrees
  • Rear hub spacing: 148x12 Boost
  • Seatpost diameter: 31.6mm
  • Bottom bracket: 73mm threaded
  • Finishes: Supernova Orange (featured), Midnight Blue
  • Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
  • Price: £719 (frame only)
Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.

Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.