Our good friends at ‘Freedom Bikes’ in Brighton lent us the owner’s Cotic Soda for a day’s test riding, we also took along an On One 456 Ti. Our test run was 3 repetitions of a loop around Houghton Forest which included rooty descents, fast flowing singletrack and a long fireroad climb. This was the first time either of us had been on a titanium bike.
One of our gang is getting into racing and endurance mtb events and is looking for a lightweight hardtail that is suitable for general riding but can also be used as his race bike, on the other hand I am usually last up any climb so look for something more trail orientated and don’t really worry too much about weight. We weigh 10 & 13 stone respectively. This review is based on both of our feedback and conclusions.
Cotic Soda. The tubes on the Soda are narrow and it looks like a skinny tubed whippet however the tubes feel solid when tapped, it was built with Fox 120 Rl race forks, full XTR, Mavix Crossmax SL wheels, tubeless tyres and Easton CNT cross-country bars that were stunningly comfortable. The first thing that struck us was the ride position of the Soda, (it is exactly the same as both the Soul and Hemlock) sort of half way between sit up and stretch out if this makes sense. Everything was set up perfectly which makes a welcome change from some of the test bikes we have recently experienced. It was a medium size and weighed in at 22lbs.
On One 456Ti. The 456Ti looks a very different beast, the top is chunky and the down tube is ovalised and approximately 3 times the diameter of that on the Soda however both the seat and chain stays are very narrow, narrower than those on the Soda. The 456 Ti was built with XT kit, Fomula Oro brakes, Mavic 717 wheels, 2.2″ Michelin all mountain extreme tyres, a Pace Fighter coil fork and 28″ wide, 2″ rise bars that were perfect for me. The ride position is very much sit-up. The head angle was noticeably more relaxed than the Soda. It was an 18″ frame and weighed in just under 24lbs.
Comparison. The test loop began with a wet twisty rooty descent followed by a sharp drop onto a fireroad. Both bike were fun and fuss free; however I almost stacked the 456Ti just from going way to fast into one rooty corner, I didn’t realise I was going too fast, I just was. The Soda was perfect and just went over everything without any worry. Next came a rooty contour hugging section and basically we played tag wtih each other the Soda required more pedalling whereas the 456Ti just rolled around and over everything. A long fireroad climb showed a big difference in the bikes. The Soda accelerated very easily and the ride position really favoured blasting the bike up the hill, its light weight enabled us to keep the power on for a long time before fatigue reared its head. The 456Ti was not in the same league as far as rapid climbing is concerned, it is more of an up hill cruiser, it did accelerate but just required more effort to keep the blast going than the Soda. There was only 2lbs weight difference between the bikes so we put the climbing prowess down to the ride position rather than the weight. Next up was a long section of singletrack with roots, dips, berms, stuttery downhill, a couple of sharp climbs and finally a very steep chute. We had great fun and were laughing out loud as we looned about; however there was a difference in the bikes. The Soda would have felt perfect if we had not had the 456Ti to compare it to. The Soda was good fun and the faster we went the smoother it felt but it didn’t have the same degree of security that oozed from the 456Ti. The 456Ti was absolutely planted on the trail, as the speed increased it felt like a suspension bike and stayed glued to the ground, whoever was on it finished first by a reasonable margin. My buddy had a couple of offs on the 456Ti just as a result of going too fast into things. We concluded that both bikes are great fun in singletrack and general trail riding but the 456Ti gives a completely different experience and can handle the rough stuff as well as our nerve will allow.
Conclusions. Both the Soda and 456Ti were our first experiences of riding a titanium bike. We agreed that the faster (harder?) they are ridden the more comfortable and trail hugging they become, certainly they are in a different league to all the aluminium and steel hardtails we have ridden over the years. The Soda is a great bike that can do anything we will ever attempt, it can be built light and the ride position would make it a good choice for racing. In contrast to magazine reviews we felt no flex in the frame either vertically or horizontally, as the speed increased it absorbed the bumps, if this is flex we are all for it. The 456Ti is very much a trail bike and for us the ride position didn’t favour accelerating up climbs, its no slouch but anyone would reach the top of a climb quicker on the Soda. The front and rear of the 456Ti could almost be from separate bikes, the front is very burly whereas the rear is extremely svelte. Where the 456Ti excels is singletrack and rough stuff, we both concluded that in this environment it was truly awesome and at speed it flattened roots and rocks and hugged the trail like a suspension bike.
After a full day of riding what was the outcome? My buddy concluded that the Soda was just what he had been looking for in terms of a general purpose / race bike so he bought a new medium sized frame with the etched graphics from Freedom Bikes. I loved the 456Ti, the laughter and fun we had on it so I bought an 18″ in polished finish with stickers. Were we impulsive? perhaps, there are plenty of other titanium frames that we didn’t try; however we both agreed that we had enjoyed one of the best days riding we have had for a long long time and at the end of the day that’s what its all about really.
Thanks to Ben & Alan at Freedom Bikes (01273 681698)