Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Cotic Soul 853 steel hardtail review

Posted by Lee | September 24, 2008 | 18 comments so far

2007 Cotic Soul 853 steel hardtail

The classic steel hardtail has seen somewhat of a revival in recent years. Whilst some manufacturers — Orange with their P7 spring to mind — have had a steel thoroughbred in the stable for years, it seems the emergence of ‘smaller’ brands into the mainstream like On-One, Cotic, Sanderson, Dialled Bikes and Pipedream (to name but a few) have put steel steeds firmly back on the map.

Mountain biking seems naturally suited to niches and the MTB fraternity waste no time in categorising the latest trends. We have Ti bikes, singlespeeds, 29ers, 96ers, 69ers, rigid, steel, the list goes on. You could even argue we have niches within niches. However, the one ‘niche’ that has interested me recently is the growing trend for long travel steel hardtails from the likes of our local Dialled Bikes (see Colin’s Prince Albert review), Brant’s On-One (see Matt’s On-one Inbred review) and Cy Turner’s Cotic.

After riding a full suspension bike since 2004 — a Specialized Stumpy — it was, I suppose, natural to think at the end of last year of upgrading to a newer model. I’m not in the position to be owning multiple bikes so it had to be a strict replacement rather than an addition to any fleet. I could have gone for a five inch full suss bike, maybe higher. After all, the availability of ‘all mountain’ bikes is now far more wide ranging than when I’d last been in the market.

Instead, and this maybe a surprise to some, I had actually decided to go back to basics. It was time to get myself a hardtail again, albeit the new breed capable of taking a longer fork.

At the end of the day, I missed the simplicity of previous incarnations I’d owned and a hardtail is obviously a bit lighter on the service bills too. Moreover, and a question I asked myself on numerous occasions, do the trails I ride on a regular basis really demand the excesses of an ‘all mountain’ machine? Not a discussion for today at least.

After extensive research of the current options — and a lengthy chat with Cy Turner at Cycle 07 — I opted for the Cotic Soul. The first thing that strikes you about the Soul (other than the cost — at £420 frame only, it’s not the cheapest steel frame on the market) is it’s a good looking bike, albeit a tad strange with its skinny tubing out back, making you wonder whether it really is going to stand up to the rigours of our sport.

Based around an 853 Reynolds front triangle, the Soul has a slack head angle meaning it comfortably takes a fork up to 130mm — I’m currently running some 08 Air U-Turn Revelations which have so far been excellent. Its compact design and sloping top tube combine well to give you a bike that’s chuckable, responsive and capable of handling aggressive riding when conditions demand.

2007 Cotic Soul 853 steel hardtail with Rock Shox Revelation forks

As its steel you can really feel the frame working in your favour on bumpy terrain. OK, I can’t just plough through stuff, but my teeth, if not my contact lenses, are still in place at the end of a rocky or rooty descent. Designed in the UK, for UK riders, means it also takes into account the less than favourable conditions we ride in pretty much all year round so has plenty of mud clearance.

In almost a year of riding it’s coped brilliantly with anything I’ve thrown at it — our own local trails traversing the North Downs and Surrey Hills, South and North Wales’s finest centres, South Downs slogs, I could go on. It climbs well, its snappy through twisty singletrack and gives plenty of confidence on long flowing descents.

Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, when you get on the Soul, you’ll forget all about those skinny tubes and first impressions. On closer inspection you’ll appreciate the rear end does cut the mustard and the extra gussets just behind the bottom bracket shell give it the reinforcements needed to tackle the worst of the lumpy stuff.

A short stem up front keeps you in full control of the front end, whilst the long top tube offers a comfortable riding position for all day adventures. It really is an awesome go anywhere bike that will have you grinning like a Cheshire cat every time you ride it.

Cotic go as far to say that it might be the last bike you’ll ever need. Well I may just have to rethink my policy on multiple bikes, because as the name suggests, this bike really is now part of my soul.

Additional photos of my Cotic Soul hardtail are on Flickr.

Filed under Bikes, Reviews in September 2008


About the author

As Baz Luhrmann said in his Sunscreen song: look after your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone. Well, until they do finally give up the will to live and screech to a halt like a knackered bottom bracket, I'm just going to keep riding because that's what I love.

Whilst I'm more full time parent and part-time biker these days, I still make the best of the time family life affords me, even if the fitness yo-yos massively.

I ride a Cotic Soul, which is currently single-speeded, and also a 2010 Trek EX-8 for drier times.

We are a pretty lucky bunch to live in such close proximity to the Surrey Hills, which gives us an embarrassing amount of trail choice. Some of my all time local favourites have sadly now been 'decommissioned', but with the likes of BKB, Summer Lightening and China Pig, there's still plenty to smile about whichever way you turn.

There are 18 comments on ‘Cotic Soul 853 steel hardtail review’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. Colin says:

    Although I’ve only managed to prize the Cotic off Lee for a couple of hundred yards, it only took that long to tell me its a very special bike indeed and very well specced/set up.

    Anyone in the market for a steely should put this very high on the list.

  2. Andy says:

    That frame looks a bit small or have you just raised the saddle for the pic?

  3. Lee says:

    Andy, you’d be forgiven for thinking so but that saddle is normal riding height. The frame is 16″ (a small in Cotic’s book).

    Trust me I agonised over the frame size for some time but trying one (albeit a Soda) at the Cycle show made my mind up. At the end of the day, the small’s TT length gives a far more comfortable riding position for me with the right combination of stem length than a medium would.

  4. Lorenzo says:

    This is an interesting post indeed. I, too, was thinking to get rid of my fs bike and go back to a steel hardtail. The Soul is a great option and I’m glad you’re happy with it! The only thing I hate is that odd head badge, but I think I could deal with it 😉

    Happy riding… and happy new year

  5. Chris says:


    how tall are you, if you don’t mind me asking?

  6. Robin says:

    I got a Soul (large – I’m 6’2″). Hope HS, XT throughout, Fox Talas (90-130 adj), Thomson stem, seatpost..

    LOVE IT. Really does make you grin while riding! Now my only MTB.

  7. Gavin says:

    Hi Lee

    great read – very helpful for me as I am struggling to choose between getting either a cotic soul frame or a dialled PA frame to put the components from my 2006 stumpy hardtail on to. Cotic sounds lovely but pricey compared to the PA… cheers, G

  8. tony says:

    Hi Gavin

    There are quite a few happy Dialled PA owners round here too. NeilP was out with us last Thursday on his PA having swapped over the bits from his Whyte. First outing but he seemed more than happy with how it was riding.

  9. Lee says:

    Hi Gavin

    I agree with Tony, there’s plenty of satisfied PA owners on our patch. For me, I just wanted something different (and it was a 30th B’day treat to myself!). Dialled are a local company with strong local backing from the likes of HFTH in Dorking. Cy at Cotic talks a lot of sense and convinced me on the Soul when I saw him at the bike show! Just for info my Soul is 16″ (small) and I’m 5′ 9″.

    Happy soul searching!

  10. Gavin says:

    Guys, thanks for the feedback – I have decided to go for an orange flavoured PA- at £240 how could I not. Roger down at head for the hills in dorking was really helpful today too.

    See you out on the trails!

  11. Rob Mitchell says:

    Just stumbled on this thread and thought I would add a couple of points. I have been running a Soul for about a year and have been really happy with it (in builders tea,which you either love or hate). As I said, I really like the bike, but their is a slight problem….. The Cove Handjob I had before it was better….cant quite put my finger on it but it was a tiny bit better at everything. Still thats the great thing about this sport, everyone is looking for something slightly different…..

  12. DaveW says:

    I’ve got a Cotic Simple and a Prince Albert and they are both great – the Cotic lighter and springier than the Dialled, but the ride varies a lot depending on how you have built them up. The Simple is a rapid response, 4″ XC bike with SIDs and the dialled more of a trail / hardcore XC bike, with Coil Revs. The dialled was previously built up as a freeride bike, with Marzocchi Z1 Sport forks, super high rise bars and riser stem and felt totally different.

    I’ve never had a handjob though (and I’m not asking for one from anyone on here either, before we go the way of that STW thread…)

  13. Mikesdw says:

    Am I being ignorant here? I love steel frames, but isnt the cotic soul just a rock lobster with gussets? £170 worth of gussets.

  14. Dave says:

    Hi Mikesdw,

    Well Tesco’s Baked Beans and Waitrose Baked Beans are essentially the same thing but some people prefer to go to Waitrose. Not sure about the Rock Lobster analogy either. Every time I’ve tried to look for full geometry the web site is either out of date or doesn’t have all the details I need. Now, I’m guessing that Merlin still sell all they want so they aren’t going to bother improving it.

    Anyway, back to the beans! Take an Inbred and a 456. both steel frames but the Inbred is much more flexible than the 456, I really can feel the frame twist as I put the power down. The Haro Mary I ride now make the 456 feel flexy!

  15. Matt says:

    Just to add to Dave’s comments, but maybe it’s those gussets which make all the difference? There’s a lot of Cotic customers who seem to think there’s something about the bike that makes it worth the money.

    For me, my 100mm Inbred is ideal (best money I’ve ever spent bike-wise) but it’s a different beast to the Cotic and just about every other steel frame. My Muirwoods on the other hand is a great blast but really beats me up. Love them both…

  16. paul901 says:

    I hope I never run into DaveW on the trails displaying his Cotic Simple and ‘Prince Albert’ :-0

    I thought Voodoo Wanga was a wind up but it’s been trumped by this one. Off road companies really did set out to antagonise normal bike conventions with their nomenclature didn’t they…

  17. matt says:

    Dear Moles, I have a Soul up and running, info and thoughts here:

    Matt (aka broken Cock)

  18. Related: Cotic switches to Lynskey | News, 2009 | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.