Words by Flow | Images by Flow, Matt Staggs

The not-so-minor details

Product

Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

Contact

Sheppard Cycles
www.scott-sports.com

Price

AUD9,499.95

Weight

10.00kg

Positives

Lightweight, intelligent frame design.
Confident geometry.
Race ready.

Negatives

Narrow rims.
Integrated Twin Loc remote limits grip choice.

We aren’t tennis experts here at Flow, but we reckon that Roger Federer’s tennis racquet would be pretty bloody good.

if going fast is the objective, there aren't many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.

If going fast is the objective, there aren’t many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.

Much like the Fed wouldn’t settle for a rubbish racquet, Nino Schurter wouldn’t rock up to the start line aboard anything but the best, so when Scott released an all new Spark frame last year, we sat up and paid attention.

The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

We covered the revisions to the frame, as well as the spec on the model we’re testing in our launch recap and First Bite for this bike, so we’ll jump straight into how the bike went out on the trail.

Onto the important part!

Onto the important part!


What’s the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup all about?

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is about going fast everywhere, all the time. Every watt of power that you put into the pedals goes straight into moving you forward, at pace, through the incredibly stiff frame, efficient suspension and light overall weight.

The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into moving you forward.

The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into the trail.

The seated position is a real winner, comfortably stretched, and perfectly suited to spending extended periods of time on the bike, either racing or chewing up long training rides. In the saddle, the Spark’s riding position felt long enough in the front end to give stability and confidence, and short enough in the rear to feel like you could whip the bike through a corner or take the tighter line.

The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.

The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.

Scott have done a good job on the geometry of the new Spark, it’s a far more confident bike than before.

In terms of pumping and weaving the Spark through the trails, we’re seriously impressed with how the new Spark has improved upon its predecessor not only with lighter weight but with increased frame stiffness, which means the Spark goes where you want it, without feeling squirmy or deflecting off track.

The new Spark is seriously stiff, which is a real confidence booster when the trail gets fast.

The Spark climbs like a scalded cat. Seated pedalling puts you in a good position to grind away powerfully, but for short bursts of power, utilising the Twin Loc remote, locking the rear shock out and pounding out of the saddle delivers devastating efficiency.

If the climb is loose or technical, we found leaving the shock open useful to increase traction to the rear wheel. With the TwinLoc system in its open position, the suspension is very smooth at the top of the stroke, so the rear wheel tracks over loose terrain nicely. Around switchback corners, the Spark goes exactly where you point it, which was a refreshing reminder that not all bikes have 65-degree head angles and kilometre long wheelbases!

Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.

Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.

Whilst it’s a bit of a given that a ten-kilogram XC bike is going to climb well, the descending performance of the Spark was sound too. The combination of the longer front centre, slacker head angle and shorter chainstays than the previous Spark was noticeable, meant the bike felt confident in some pretty technical terrain.

The biggest limiter for the Spark on the descents was cornering traction with the race focused Rocket Ron tyres, which we had to run quite hard due to the combination of the flexy sidewalls, narrow rims and minimal puncture protection.

The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.

The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.

The other limiter on descents was the lack of dropper post- we stopped to put our seat down for a couple of descents and it demonstrated just how capable the Spark has the potential to be. Even if you’re a racer who wants the lightest possible weight, unless your descending technique is flawless, we seriously think a dropper post could be the faster option, not to mention a ton more fun riding with your mates on the weekend.

As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.

As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.

Through twisty and undulating singletrack, the Spark delivers an efficient and addictive ride. We always found ourselves wanting to push harder aboard the Spark, it just rushes forward, even when you should be exhausted – this thing would be an XC Marathon destroyer.

The only criticism we would have about the Spark out on the trail is the commitment it requires from the rider to get the most out of the bike.

Where on a trail bike with a more relaxed geometry a rider can safely potter through singletrack in the saddle if they’re not feeling it, and ride technical sections with a dropped saddle and slacker geometry, the upright and forward position of the Spark rewards hitting the trails at pace, as the steering is twitchy at slow speeds, and the bike feels tippy coming into technical terrain slowly.

The Spark rewards committed and aggressive riding.

Put faith in the Spark’s stiff frame and excellent geometry however, and you’ll find yourself negotiating tricky sections and singletrack with more confidence than you would think aboard an XC race bike. It just takes a more confident approach!

As we discussed before, with the addition of a dropper post and in the hands of a skilled pilot, you would have yourself a super light and super capable bike not just for the race track, but a bit of lighter trail riding also.


Who is this bike for?

There’s no doubt that the Spark is aimed at the gel-munching, leg shaving XC racer. Its race credentials in the hands of Nino Schurter prove far beyond our amateur opinions that this bike is ready to be ridden up, down and all around at serious pace.

It's fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.

It’s fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.

Despite this, we think that if you place a high value on having a bike that is light and fast, and your trails are relatively smooth and non-technical, then a skilled rider could have a lot of fun aboard the Spark. Fit it out with a dropper post and you’ll surprise yourself with how capable this machine is, not to mention the fact that on a bike this light you’ll be able to ride much further before getting tired.

If you're a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.

If you’re a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.


What upgrades could you make?

As we discussed in our First Bite, it would be difficult to blame your bike if this was your race weapon and you had a bit of an off day.

The Spark won't let you down come race day.

The Spark won’t let you down come race day.

Despite this, if you really wanted the ultimate race machine, you could go for the Spark 900 RC SL model, which is the lightest full-suspension bike in existence, weighing in as a complete build at under 10kg, and coming stock with Fox’s Factory level suspension, a full Eagle XX1 groupset and carbon Syncros wheels.

We got a test ride on the SL model at the launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren't disappointed.

We got a test ride on the SL model at the Spark launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren’t disappointed.

Another option is to get yourself a set of race wheels for the World Cup model tested here. The stock Syncros XR RC wheels aren’t a bad wheelset whatsoever, and they did the job perfectly throughout the review. Impressively, the lightweight and relatively nondescript aluminium wheelset stayed true throughout testing. However, a set of slightly wider, lightweight hoops for race day would give the Spark even more zing.

The Syncros wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.

The Syncros XR RC wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.


Is it good value for money?

Cynics will probably point to the Fox Performance level suspension, Eagle X01 drivetrain and alloy Syncros wheels and see them as below par for a bike of this cost. However we think the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is hard to go past for the discerning XC racer.

The Performance of Fox's Performance level suspension really surprised us.

The name says it all when it comes to the suspension- performance.

The Spark's stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.

The Spark’s stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.

With an overall weight of ten kilograms on the dot, and perhaps the best dual suspension XC frame currently on the market, not only in terms of weight but in the areas of stiffness and geometry, we would sacrifice the top of the line components in a couple of areas.


How did the components perform?

The Eagle X01 drivetrain was flawless throughout testing, as were the wheels as we discussed earlier. If you bought a set of race wheels, the XR RC’s would make an excellent training wheelset. Another potential upgrade you could make to the bike with a second wheelset is saving the lightweight Rocket Ron tyres for race day, and using something a bit sturdier that can be safely run at lower pressures for everyday riding.

The Rocket Ron's are a race tyre through and through.

The Rocket Ron tyres aren’t the most confidence-inspiring.

The Fox Performance series suspension was a real eye opener. Far from feeling like Fox’s second tier offering, the fork and shock felt supple, stiff and well tuned to the purpose of the bike. The way Fox have managed to lower the weight of their 32mm fork offerings through their ‘Step-Cast’ technology has not led to any loss in stiffness or increased flex, which is astounding.

We were seriously impressed with Fox's Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.

We were seriously impressed with Fox’s Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.

The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.

The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.

As we noted in the First Bite, the Ritchey World Cup Series components are real standouts on this bike. Not only do they look gorgeous, but the stem and handlebar combination worked well, and the seatpost stayed put with just 4nm of torque and a smear of carbon paste.

Scott’s Twin-Loc remote system worked excellently on the Spark, as its pace-demanding attitude meant that having the option to stiffen or lock out the suspension completely was highly useful during short sprints, climbs and smoother sections of trail. The ergonomic positioning of the remote with its integration with the grip clamp meant it was easy to reach the levers for on-the-fly suspension adjustments.

The Twin Loc remote aboard the Spark integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.

The Twin Loc remote integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.


Any gripes?

We think the rims should be slightly wider internally, as their narrowness meant we were forced to run the Rocket Ron tyres at very high pressures or they felt very squirmy, which meant there wasn’t a heap of traction available on loose trail surfaces.

The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would've liked.

The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would’ve liked.

Secondly, whilst the integration of the Twin-Loc remote onto the Syncros grips gives the handlebar a clean look, it means you can only run grips with the same lock ring fitting as the stock Syncros offering. As grips are often a personal preference on a bike, we see the lack of options for changing them out as a potential dilemma for some riders- for example, lots of XC riders use push on foam grips, which is not an option aboard the Spark.

The integration of the Twin Loc remote limits the options for changing grips.

The integration of the Twin Loc remote provides excellent ergonomics but limits the options for changing grips.


So, who would the Spark light up the trails for?

The all-new Scott Spark is a cross-country race bike through and through, but it’s reminded us how much fun blasting through the singletrack at full pace and having a bike that responds with ferociously sharp steering can be. Whilst the majority of people that own this bike will probably enjoy racing, it doesn’t have to be your number one focus to have a good time aboard the Spark. 

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