A Decade of Cotic: 2003 - 2013
Rider owned, designed and ridden; Cotic turned 10 this year and Cy Turner, the founder, has done a great job of telling a the story of how it all came to be and how it has become the success is it today. It certainly hasn't been straight forward or plain sailing but has been worth the sweat. Go grab a brew and have a read.
Words: Cy Turner
For those of you who don't know the story, I've been mucking around with bike designs for years, right through school and my engineering degree. After stopping DH racing around 2000 I got back into trail riding, but I missed all the nice things from my DH bike: like good suspension, big tyres, short stems, wide bars, disc brakes. I'd always liked steel for hardtails for the feel and the durability, having been through a lovely nickle plated Diamond Back Axis and a custom Greg Fuquay to name but two, when I was XC racing. However, hardtails - and particularly steel hardtails - at that time were still stuck somewhere in 1995, with no tyre clearance, rim brakes, short top tube/long stems. I bought a 99 Kona and put some Psylos, big bars and short stem on it. It was OK, but it was a bit flexy, was way too short for long rides and didn't have disc mounts or good tyre clearance. With fairly typical engineering arrogance, I measured up the Kona and started solving the problems as I saw them. Designing bikes; how hard could it be? HA!!
The geometry was developed around 100-125mm forks, being a little slacker than the Kona, but mainly pushing the rider forward and stretching out the top tube. Reynolds 853 allowed me to go pretty thin on the tubes for lighter weight whilst going bigger on the diameter to stiffen it up. It's all fairly standard stuff engineering-wise, but it was mixing all these ingredients up that was key. I was putting together my dream bike; a tough, fun, light hardtail which I could rag around woods and the hills with impunity.
Originally I was going to get Dave Yates to build me one for my own amazement, and that would have been that. However, a chance friend-of-a-friend introduction got me a contact in Taiwan, and when I sent over a full CAD production drawing they knew I was fairly serious and got me a price for 100. I figured out I could get a loan to buy them and if I squinted I could just about afford to pay it back even if we only sold a handful of frames, as I wasn't planning on giving up the day job in railway engineering at that point. I had a mate who could do the website and another mate who could design the stickers. They would work for bike bits, so off we went!
2003 : Soul number FIFTEEN in pink
After prototyping the Soul in 2002, and getting lots of feedback that I might be onto something with this bike, we went into production with the first batch of frames in 2003. It didn't quite go to plan, as you can see from the picture below. I ordered matt grey number 817. Someone in Taiwan got it mixed up and ordered them in 718. Which is barbie pink. So, start your own business, get a massive loan to pay for 100 frames, get dead excited when they finally turn up, OH CRAP THEY'RE ALL PINK. I think I laughed. A little bit. Through gritted teeth.
As it happened we were powder coating and finishing the frames in the UK back then, before we found a good paint shop in Taiwan, so it wasn't the end of the world. My wife Jen would sticker up the frames in our kitchen (because she was better at it than me, and I didn't have the patience!) on a Thursday night and I would box them up before I took them to the Post Office after work on a Friday. You have to start somewhere.
The product launch was supposed to be at Mountain Mayhem in June 2003, but the frames arrived - all in pink - a week before the race. With no time to repaint the frames before the event, we had to take two pink frames to the race for Paul and Kelvin. Paul's actually looked awesome with full black finishing kit, X0 and Crossmaxs, and, although it wasn't the plan, 2 pink frames did make it out into the wild.
As luck would have it, and via the power of twitter, the Dutch owner of one of the pink frames emailed me a month ago saying that he still had it completely unused as he'd bought it for his girlfriend, and, well, things hadn't gone well. I couldn't believe there was a mint unused Mk1 Soul, in the notorious pink no less. So we did a deal, and Gerben is now the proud owner of a brand new Soul3 in duck egg, and we have the pink Soul number 15 back with us for our museum box. Funny how things work out.
From the original batch of Soul frames, accidentally painted the wrong colour.
2007 : Cy at PINDALE, PEAK DISTRICT
This photo was from our first attempt, back in 2007, to get some proper good photos for promotion and ads. I had been full time on Cotic for a few months at this point, having finally given up my day job and taken the punt that I could sell frames for a living in summer 2006.
My mates Niall (who designed the original stickers and logos) and Kelvin (web and graphics guy for Cotic from day one) are also amazing photographers, so we built up some bikes - including the then new BFe - and I rode around Pindale and Broken Road in the Peak over and over again. At one point we spotted this outcrop, which isn't actually a trail, but would look good. We were all really pleased with how it came out, and it was good enough to catch Sim Mainey's eye at Singletrack magazine just as they were on deadline. A couple of quick emails and boom, me on my first ever mag cover; Issue 34 of Singletrack.
2007 : Robbie Rickman, Sheffield and Staff
Robbie Rickman approached me in 2007 about a ride in 4X. I wanted to promote the BFe, and Robbie looked great both on and off the bike, so it was a good move. We had a lot of fun over the years with Robbie racing 4X and DH on his hardtail, making some great videos, and writing a really fun blog about all sorts of things as well as bikes. Kite surfing, slack lining, bit of science here and there. Lots of good stuff. Have read if you've got a few minutes.
Robbie stopped racing a couple of years ago to concentrate on his physics PhD (yes, not only talented on a bike, he's bloody clever too. Git!), but he was a big part of the Cotic family for a good long time, and it was great fun.
2007 was also a big year in a lot of other ways. It marked our move from Nottingham to Sheffield, but also marked a far more significant milestone; our second member of staff! Paul Dexter joined in November 2007 to help out on, well, pretty much everything! He deals with all sorts of the day to day running of Cotic as well as helping with development and being a sounding board for great/silly ideas (delete as applicable). He's been a key member of Cotic pretty much from the moment he started. Couldn't do it without him!
2009 : Kate Potter at the MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
What can I say about this? I never set out to make race bikes, but our Soda was a pretty good basis for a race weapon as Kate proved to stunning and humbling effect when she took her Cotic all the way to the World Championships in Canberra in 2009. I didn't once consider that someone would ride one of my bikes at the Worlds. I'm still sitting here shaking my head at the fact it happened as I type.
We started sponsoring Kate in 2007 when we got a co-sponsor deal with Bontrager. It was great, and Kate had some amazing results in 24 hr and XC racing, and she caught the eye of the Aussie national coach. She had some real ups and downs competing at that level, but it was quite an adventure! Kate still guides and coaches other riders through A Quick Release and still rides Cotics.
2009 : Cy at STANAGE EDGE, PEAK DISTRICT
ME AGAIN! It's all about MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! [ego mode cancel] Photo-gimping again, this time in 2009 after the move to our beloved adopted home of Sheffield. This is the Plantation Descent at Stanage, a favourite of mine for showing real Peak riding. Grippy gritstone blocks, peaty moorland, line choices, steep, fast. This is just over the hill from my house and up the other hill from the warehouse, so it's very much part of what Cotic is these days. I wrote about it, and about how it affected my riding in Issue 3 of The Ride Journal. You can download a free copy from their website if you fancy a read.
2012 : ROCKETMAN
Rocketman. A new icon of the company. This really represents the start of the current phase of Cotic, after Joe Bowman got in touch with me to help support the fledgling This Is Sheffield web collective. It was the start of something great. It's really pulled me into the Sheffield scene, and I've met a great bunch of fun, fast, talented people. Joe was shooting videos for TiS, and I approached him to do a promo for the X, which became Late For Work. Joe's massively creative, and it was a lot of fun coming up with a story for the production. It was also incredibly effective in kickstarting X sales. It was Joe's first paid video job!
Fast forward a year and we're in the process of launching the Rocket and Joe is now Steel City Media. We had a long and very funny lunch throwing ideas around for promoting the video, but we couldn't get away from the idea that we should put a superhero on the bike, with tonnes of over the top ideas like fire jumps and other mad stunts. It worked out to brilliant effect, to the point where although some of the more out there stunts didn't happen, Joe sidled up to me at Hamsterley Gravity Enduro last year, smirked and said "I got fireworks in it", I knew it would be a winner.
So here he is, local fast lad (and as of the Vallnord round, officially World Cup "in with the big boys" racer) James "Swinny" Swinden as Rocketman.....
2013 : Chay Granby of COTIC STEEL CITY MEDIA RACING
This year we've jumped back into team sponsorship again to promote the Rocket in the latest 'it girl' of the sport, Enduro racing. The Rocket was quite a departure for us, considering our background as suppliers of fine steel hardtails, but it was born of the riding I now do all the time. It's the bike I ride most these days too. That said, a super slack and low 150mm travel trail bike was always going to help break new ground for us, and having tried enduro racing last year and had a ball, I really wanted to get in with a team supporting the sport and showing off the Rocket to best effect.
I ummed and ahhed about the team all through last winter, and then as per usual when the season was upon us I tried to put something together. Luckily some Sheffield magic was on hand to help, as Joe stepped in with Steel City Media as a co-sponsor, and when utterly stumped in the search for riders I sat in a field watching one of our local mates races and realised I was surrounded by extremely rapid riders! A post out offering a couple of rides on the team to the dual racing lads and along came Josh Lewis and Chay Granby, who have been pinning it all season long. Here's Chay at Innerleithen. You can download this as a wallpaper here. If you're at any of the UK Gravity Enduros, pop over for a chat.
2013 : Today's Soul in duckegg
The most recent Soul update included a tapered headtube. After a lot of testing of different geometry options, we still felt the original Soul geometry was the best all round option for our riding, but we needed to futureproof things. I remember not buying a Bontrager Race Lite back in the day because Keith staunchly stood by 1" steerers when everything was 1 1/8". I didn't want to make the same mistake, and the beauty of taper steerers is that they are at least backwards compatible so it's an easy switch. I went for a tapered head tube rather than the full width 44mm because the Soul needs to stay elegant and light.
Another addition was the oversized 34.9mm seat tube. This was born out of the Solaris project when I needed a stiffer tube to keep everything in check on the 29er, but the final solution had no weight penalty over the older 28.6mm seat tube and it had the added bonus of a dropper seatpost compatible 31.6mm seatpost size. Again, futureproof.
The final touch came about from batch2 of the latest Soul3 design onwards (late 2012). Reynolds DZB down tube does enough with extra internal thickening to negate the need for the gussets which we added in 2009 for Soul2 to meet the new CEN safety regs. This meant that after 3 years with gussets, we could finally eliminate them again and go back to those lovely clean lines of the original gussetless design, albeit a hell of a lot tougher than that original version!