Cotic Hemlock Demo Ride: Freedom Bikes Brighton

30 11 2007

Our good friends at Freedom Bikes in Brighton lent us their new Cotic Hemlock demo bike for a day out at Whiteways. It was our usual type of ride over natural terrain with a healthy dose of singletrack, off-piste sections and some gnarly stuff. We had a great day and the Hemlock was seriously good fun, in fact it fitted in so well we didn’t really notice it and had to stop and check it out every now and then.

The Hemlock is a frame only and is available as 4” or 6” rear travel depending on the rocker plates that are fitted: our demo was the 4” version. The Hemlock is currently only available in a battleship grey colour that I loved; however my buddy wasn’t keen, no worries as we understand it will soon be available in anodised black (I would still opt for the grey). The main triangle of the frame looks fairly burly and has reinforcing gussets around the headstock and seatpost, in comparison the rear of the frame looks slim and svelte with M4 the bolts pinning the suspension joints. There is plenty of mud clearance between the seatstays, chainstays and bottom bracket pivot area, in fact the seatstays curve out so much that more than once my shoes brushed them as I pedalled. If it was my bike I would cover both the chain and seat stays with protective tape to prevent the anodising getting scuffed by my shoes. Despite its looks I would say that the Hemlock is definitely not a ‘freeride’ bike and I wouldn’t want my 14.5 stone landing on it from any great height. The top tube on our medium size was 23.5 inches giving plenty of room to stretch out without resorting to a long stem, the stand over height is very impressive with inches of room between the dangly bits and the top tube. The frame geometry is a combination of slack head tube angle and steep seat tube that places the riding position smack in the centre of the frame very similar to my buddies Cotic Soul hardtail. The Hemlock was built with some racy components including what appeared to be plastic rimmed wheels that were seriously light weight, XT drive-train, a Magura Laurin fork and new design Hope M4 brakes that were truly stunning, it weighed significantly less than my usual 30 pound bike. Only the fork disappointed, I fiddled with varying air pressures but concluded that a Fox Vanilla would be a far better choice for me.

So how did it ride? in swoopy singletrack where the hammer could be put down the Hemlock was stunning, for off-piste riding it was great and the suspension provided tenacious grip when climbing even on very steep slippery chalk. The slack head angle combined with the long top tube places plenty of rider weight over the front wheel with the result that the Hemlock turns very quickly and it can be leant and teased around a corner rather than hard steering to point it in the right direction. We found the best riding position was to stand on the pedals, bum slightly back and shoulders slightly forward, stay off the brakes and lean into the corners. In this riding position sinewy, contour hugging singletrack was the natural home of the Hemlock where it really could be blattered along at mega-grin inducing speeds. The bike felt very stiff and ‘planted’ on the trail which helped to impart great confidence when thrashing it around. Riding off-piste inevitably means riding over fallen trees, branches, general woodland detritus, short steep drops and short steep climbs. The Hemlock got over everything but the weight forward riding position meant that lifting the front wheel required a wheelie technique rather than just lifting it into your chest. I soon got used to this, in fact riding the Hemlock would be a great way to improve wheelies – and I need all the help I can get! On steep drops I found that I had to lean much further back than usual to prevent the weighted front from endo-ing into the ground, I got used to it but the first couple were a little scary.

In conclusion, for hammering the North or South Downs singletrack the Hemlock is damned near perfect and fantastic fun, if this is your preferred riding then it should be very near the top of any bikes you are considering. For the frameset alone the 4” and 6” travel versions come in at just under and just over £1000-00 respectively, at this price I think it is exceptional value. I would go for the 6” version. As with any frameset the cost of a full build will depend on rider preferences and depth of wallet but I would definitely budget for light weight wheels and an active fork.

Thanks to Alan at Freedom bikes for the loan of the Hemlock. Freedom bikes will do an excellent deal on a full build of the Hemlock or supply it as a frame to hang your own parts onto. Contact Alan on 01273 681698.

Some photos







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