After previewing the oh-so-lovely Scott 2015 range in Melbourne, it was time to lift the altitude to lung burning levels, throw in some relaxing chairlifts, endless dusty singletrack, a seven foot wild moose and the golden opportunity to test any 2015 Scott bike we wanted. We were in Deer Valley, Utah for some seriously intensive bike testing.
With singletrack galore at our glove tips, Flow’s Mick Ross took a hit for the team in the name of journalism and put time on both wheel size Scott Sparks, a 27.5″ Genius and its bigger brother the Genius LT, and lastly the all-new highly adjustable 27.5″ wheeled Gambler downhill bike.
Scott offer wheel size as an option, meaning the exact bike is available in either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels, which could be a headache for smaller markets like Australia, with bike stores and the distributors managing double options for the Scale, Spark and Genius models. This is an interesting moment for the bike industry – along with Scott, Specialized, Trek and Lapierre also offer the same bike in two wheel sizes, whilst some brands (like Giant) on the other hand have wholly adopted the 27.5″ wheel across their entire range of mountain bikes.
Regardless, rhe 29″ Sparks have slightly less suspension travel front and back (100mm) than the 27.5″ Spark (120mm) to play to the strengths the larger wheel We are seeing it more and more these days, where brands are helping the consumer decide on the wheel size by relating the decision to frame size. Below is a graph that Scott use to communicate the ‘sizes for sizes’ concept – food for thought, anyhow.
Slight shock tune changes and new spec choices aside, next season’s Spark remains largely the same as the 2014 version but we were eager to spend time on them anyhow as we hold them very high on our list of preferred bikes for cross country . We seized the opportunity to take the Spark 700 Tuned and Spark 900 Tuned, the top level Spark identical in spec, size medium, in both wheel sizes out for a good old back-to-back wheel size comparison on a short and punchy test loop. Same tyres, same everything. Trying to forget any pre-existing opinions of the wheel size debate, we approached it like it was our first time.
Highlights of the 27.5″ Spark.
- Heightened agility; The quick nature of the smaller diameter wheels translates perfectly into the Spark’s lightweight, flickable and spritely frame with crazy fast results.
- Loves ripping around tight turns; Into and out of a slow corner, or tight squeeze between trees, the 27.5″ Spark jumps back up to speed with incredible responsiveness.
- Promotes playful riding and jumping; Feeling a lot like the older 26″ wheeled Spark, this guy doesn’t mind a bit of airtime, manuals/wheelies or popping into the air and landing where you planned to with real predictability.
Favourite aspects of the 29″ Spark.
- Stable and comfortable; The bigger wheel – especially up front – gave us a reassuring feeling that there was more between us and the ground than with the 27.5″ Spark.
- Loads of traction; When cornering, braking or turning the 29er exhibited more contact with the dirt, and hence increased traction.
- Maintains speed like a perpetual motion machine; When you get moving, the Spark 29er stays moving. The bigger wheels love to be wound up and let go, maintaining speed is a real forte and very noticeable compared to its smaller wheel brother.
What would we choose, 27.5″ or 29″?
- If your frame size is smaller, the 27.5″ makes sense regardless, and the same goes for a larger rider with the 29″ bike suiting best.
- If you’re a medium size frame like we are, it’s time to give it real thought. Fun, or efficient? Not that either can’t be fun or efficient, they each have a strengths, not weaknesses.
- Marathon or endurance races will be fantastic aboard a 29er, where the distance is gobbled up by the big rolling wheels. Also, for less-experienced riders, the confidence and sure-footedness of a bigger wheel is valuable.
- If your trails are tighter, races shorter, or the reason you ride is pure fun, the smaller wheeled Spark won’t resist that hooligan within you coming out. It shall let you dart about the place pulling wheelies and pumping around the trails at crazy pace.
It’s hard not to love the Scott Genius, with its category leading lightweight frame and the proven Twinloc system controlling an adaptable, supple and sensitive 150mm of rear suspension. It’s a real winner, plus since the move to FOX rear shocks last year, they just got more favourable in our books.
Like the shorter travel Spark, the Genius comes in two flavours, 27.5″ or 29″ with a few of models to choose from $3500 – $6300 in aluminium and carbon. We spent a great deal of time on the Genius 700 Tuned, the cream of the crop model, dripping in the finest components, and constructed from Scott’s HMX highest grade carbon magic material.
On the trail, the Genius doesn’t ride like a lot of the other 150mm bikes, like the Trek Slash, Lapierre Zesty, or a Giant Trance SX for example. The Genius swings more toward the theme of a long legged trail bike, rather than a mega plush, slack ground-hugging bike, with a combination of sharper angles, upright seating position, and a suspension rate that feels firm and supported. Frame geometry is adjustable via a tiny and unobtrusive reversible chip at the bottom shock mount, which allows a little bit of an ‘attitude adjustment’; we ran it in the low/slack setting, but would opt for steeper head angled if the riding was to be dominated by tighter, slower trails or more climbing.
Scott insist on speccing a 32mm legged fork on the Genius, we’d love to see a 35mm leg RockShox Pike, or a FOX 34mm legged fork up front for a little bit more front end rigidity and confidence when turning the bike under brakes.
After spending time on the Spark and Genius LT we gravitated back to the 27.5″ Genius. It’s just so capable everywhere, up the climbs, down them and anything in between. It’s a true all-mountain bike, capable of letting you explore and ride anything. If you’re always travelling, or riding new trails, the Genius would be that perfect bike for arriving at a trail unseen, you will never be under gunned or over prepared.
Rejoice! The Scott Genius LT is coming to Australia. We’ll soon see three models ranging from $4799 for the Genius LT 720, up to the model we tested here, the Genius LT 700 Tuned for $8999.
The Genius LT, is a big rig. With a whopping 170mm of travel, big rubber and a healthy dose of burly components, this is the bike Scott’s enduro racers use. The Genius LT personifies enduro in every aspect, it’s a big rig capable of riding the roughest, steepest and fastest trails around the world. Be warned though, it needs real terrain and elevation to make the most of it. After seeking out the steepest and roughest black diamond trails in Deer Valley, we never got close to finding the upper limits of this mighty capable bike. But, we still got a very good idea what it is all about.
What the Genius LT does well is squashing a whole lot of gravity loving attitude and components into a super efficient riding bike. Just like the regular Genius and the Spark, it uses the Twinloc suspension, which does much more than lock out the suspension via a remote lever. The instant you hit that Twinloc lever, the bike jumps up, the suspension firms up and you get a real boost. It really feels like you’ve been given a push.
The frame geometry is also quite tuneable, an interchangeable headset is included with the Genius LT, and the lower rear shock mount is reversible too, to give the rider a healthy dose of options to tweak the bike to excel in the climbs, slower, faster or steeper terrain with some trial and error experimenting.
Don’t get too excited yet, the Voltage ain’t coming to Australia. But maybe if we hassle the Scott distributor enough they may be able to put a special order in, or we’ll see them next year at least. Call it a freeride bike or a mini downhill bike, this guy would actually be a suitable choice for many downhill races at regional level.
Like a scaled down version of a downhill race bike, this chunky bike boasts a coil shock with a whopping 170-190mm of travel. It’s adjustable in its geometry and travel by reversing the lower shock mount, so it can be just as at home in the bike park throwing down tricks and jumps, or slacken it off for some higher speed downhill racing.
The final test we did on the 2015 Scott rigs was the biggest, baddest bike in the range: the all-new Gambler. Up a wheel size for 2015 but that’s not all, with the frame completely different in almost every single aspect. The Gstaad-Scott team were racing these bikes at the Cairns World Cup in April this year, but went unnoticed as from a far looks a lot like the 26″ version.
The downhill tracks at Deer Valley were a pretty good test for the Gambler, with frightening rock gardens and heart stoppingly steep chutes everywhere. The Gambler loved it all, and confirmed our love for the 27.5″ wheel on a downhill bike. For example, take your average rock garden – just stay off the brakes, and you instantly notice that the wheels don’t get as hung up on the edges, or fall into holes. A bigger wheel is always going to help that, but when you put a big tyre on a 27.5″ wheel, you’re unstoppable.
We quickly became confident, and after a couple runs we were hitting the rock gardens at full pelt, smashing the bike into the sharpest, ugliest rocky straights we’ve ridden in ages. The Gambler is also dead quiet, the thud of the tyres is all you really hear when descending. That has always given us a little bit of a extra confidence boost, if the bike is silent the harder we will push.
Is big too big? With advice from the guys at Scott, we opted to run the Gambler in the shortest wheelbase setting, and highest bottom bracket mode. Then we lowered the fork crowns as low as possible, sharpening the head angle even further. Still, we found the Gambler to be a mighty stable, long and confident ride.
With a massive adjustability range from a 61° – 65° head angle and a chain stay length that is adjustable from 422 – 440mm, in the right hands it could be fine tuned to suit such a wide variety of terrain. Plus you can fit 26″ wheels into the frame, and then tweak the geometry to suit the smaller wheels, nifty!
The rear suspension is so incredibly supple off the top of the stroke, it helps the wheels glue to the dirt and the tyres maintain contact with the loose surface as you bounce around. Sure the tyres are great, but the traction that such a supple suspension feeling gives this bike is unreal.
In all, we found the revisions to the popular Spark, Genius and Genius LT to be a small but good step in the right direction. The Gambler is amazing, and is surely going to make for a capable and fast downhill bike for the gravity crowd. Fingers crossed the Voltage will land on our shores one day, as we’d love to hit up some freeride lines and big jumps on the downhill tracks over here.
Keep your eyes out for the full range on http://www.scott-sports.com soon.