The announcement from Cotic that they are developing an electric mountain bike doesn't comes as something of an expected surprise (stay with us here).
Knowing how Cotic is one of the more open-minded and progressive bike brands out there, we’d be surprised if they hadn’t had a go at fabricating a prototype e-bike.
The question was always going to be how the steel-centric nature of Cotic bikes would accommodate the extra stuff required for electric mountain bikes, principally the big ol’ battery.
Well, the answer appears to be that Cotic are going to use aluminium instead. There are few tell-tale Cotic signature features on the prototype e-bike (notably the steel seat stays, the Droplink suspension design, the down tube shock mount) but all-in-all you’d be hard-pressed to identify it as a Cotic.
Anyhoo, we know very little about the bike except for that it’s a long way off being available. How long? Try the end of 2023. At best.
Over to Cotic HQ…
What’s the spec of the Cotic ebike?
Nothing is fully defined yet. Our emtb won’t be an exact replica of one of our current bikes, but it’s very much a variation on the theme. As you can see it runs our proven droplink suspension and Longshot geometry, so you know it’s going to handle and feel great. The prototypes are certainly a solid start. Others may come after, but we’re focusing to doing this one right for the moment.
When can I buy one?
Cy signed the drawings off in July 2019, we only just received prototypes, and Shimano tell us even if we order now we won’t get drive units and batteries until the end of ’23 earliest. So, these are 2 years away from production as a minimum. We’ll reveal more when we have the final spec nailed down and a firm delivery date. We’re not fixing any dates. There’s no point. We have literally no influence over when the kit arrives, so to try and put a date on that is to add stress to a situation that doesn’t need it. We’re keen to get it to market, but it will be ready when it’s ready.
Finally, whilst we’ll be stoked if people are interested in this, please don’t get in touch just yet. It’s lovely that people are keen, but the bike isn’t finished; we don’t know the spec, the price, or even exact dates. We are fully committed to, and concentrating on, regular bikes as much, if not more, than we ever did.
Why haven’t Cotic released an eMTB yet?
We haven’t released an emtb yet because we wanted to wait until the tech was a bit more mature, but mainly because the current supply issues combined with prototyping in Taiwan means that it takes a very, very long time.
When did you decide to make an ebike?
We have been looking at it for about 5 years, but things really came together about 3 years ago when through our OE connection with Shimano it became clear we could use STEPS.
Why did Cotic make an ebike?
It’s a huge market, and it’s a part of the sport now, and they’re fun! It massively increases the accessbility of mountain biking to people who maybe aren’t strong enough to get ‘out there’ on a regular bike. Cotic is 18 years old. We have customers from our early years who might well be getting to an age where riding a regular bike isn’t fun or even possible anymore. For others it gives more bang for buck if you only have a limited time window for riding. As good examples, we’ve done big rides that would normally take me 3.5 to 4 hours in just over 2, and Cy’s ridden more with his wife in the last two weeks with her having the ebike than in years. That last one alone makes it a reason to build one on a personal level.
Why isn’t the Cotic ebike steel?
We have played around with a few ideas, but all variations on the theme of it being a droplink bike. We definitely had a few ideas of how we could use steel, but nobody likes the look of the external battery bolted to a skinny tube, and if you are going to go big on the down tube to put a battery in there, there is absolutely no benefit from using steel. Steel needs to be small diameter and thin wall to get those beautiful ride feel characteristics. Here, aluminium is definitely the way to go. That said, we have an absolutely sick idea for a steel frame, but it would cost a huge amount of money and I doubt any factory would even countinance making it, so we’re keeping it sensible (both price and technical risk) for our first product.
What is the progress of the project so far?
It’s a slightly frustrating product to develop; because it’s aluminium and will be produced in the Taiwan we had to prototype over there, which always takes a few months. There’s been a couple of bumps in the road with a change of vendor, and then Shimano releasing the (larger, 630Wh) 8036 battery which meant redesigning the down tube, and adopting metric size shocks, but really the main issue is that Covid hit and it’s taken until now to just get 4 prototypes. Overall it’s been long and frustrating, but see also everything else with bikes right now.
On the bright side though, we’re looking forward to the fun part now, which is riding and developing the bikes properly. We have one in each size so everyone at Cotic can get involved, and friends beyond the company too. We had our first afternoon of team ebiking last week and there were a lot of laughs, and silly climbs attempted.
Why did you choose Shimano STEPS for the drive system?
We used Shimano because (if you have an OE account with them) are the only ebike drive provider who doesn’t require you to commit to 100s or 1000s of units per year for them to be interested in supplying you. Plus, Shimano stuff is generally well thought out, we have a great relationship with them and the warranty support should be pretty solid too, so it all points to good things for a smaller brand looking to get an ebike off the ground. The bikes use the top end EP8 drive unit.
What have the first ebike rides been like so far?
Fun, scary, confusing, uplifting, frustrating, puzzling, silly. A big power bike is quite a different thing to a regular bike, so managing the power output, the weight, how that affects the geometry and how you plan your rides. It’s quite different. We’re just into the calibration side now we have OE software access, so I’m looking forward to finessing it a little. We have a frame in each of the 4 sizes all built up, so we’re all having rides, feeding back, figuring it out. What we will say is that we think it’s quite a good bike already. There’s definitely some things to sort, but it’s not far off.
What’s next for the bike?
Nail down the drive spec, internal installation and wire lengths and get the Shimano kit ordered. Then it’s trying a few different configurations of geometry and specification of the bikes so we can order the frames as soon as possible.
Are you concerned about the sustainability of the product?
The battery issue is a worry, but given that’s a global issue with electric cars etc, the solution will have to present itself. We suspect it will be in the form of battery farms or similar. Just because a battery is done in it’s initial application, doesn’t mean it’s useless. If it still holds 70% charge and can happily charge and discharge at a low, steady rate, we see old batteries being used to store electricity generated by renewables where the performance isn’t such an issue. You can even build your own powerbanks using old cells relatively easily. One of our friends already does. These seem like a good solution to us, but unfortunately we have no influence on whether it becomes a widespread option. Closer to home, the relaibilty of the drive units is still improving, and we really hope that a refurb option comes online for the warranty replaced units that fail in service.