The not-so-minor details
Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup
Lightweight, intelligent frame design.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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!
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 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.
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.
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 superlight 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 raceday would give the Spark even more zing.
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.
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 raceday, and using something a bit sturdier that can be safely run at lower pressures for everyday riding.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.