Tested: Scott Contessa Genius 720 2018

After a month on the Scott Contessa, the bike really lives up to its name. It’s a beauty that inspires fun. It may be an aluminium bike but it doesn’t feel like a second-tier bike, it delivers maximum fun for minimum bank roll. If you’re in the market for a new trail / Enduro bike, this should definitely be on the shortlist.


Watch National Enduro Champ Izzy Flint razz her Scott Contessa Genius on the trails of Blue Derby.


How did the Contessa Genius feel on the trail?

The Scott Contessa gave us the feeling of an old reliable friend. One of those people you’ve known for a long time; they’re dependable, don’t let you down and require little effort to maintain the friendship. Riding the Contessa Genius felt like this. It just did what it was supposed to do. We didn’t feel the need to make a lot of modifications to the bike and it was perfectly balanced for a really predictable ride. It just felt simple, easy and fun.


The new Genius frame shape is super compact, ideal for shorter riders.

Scott Contessa Genius 720 Frame Details

Interestingly, while the men’s Genius is available in 29er or 27.5 formats, the Contessa is 27.5″ only.

What is the Contessa Genius built for?

With 150mm suspension front and rear it is a real all rounder in the trail / Enduro category. In Scott’s words it’s made for “Any trail, Any time”. Our bike was running 27.5″ wheels with big 2.8″ rubber for huge amounts of traction, but you can also fit 29″ wheels if you prefer the feel of a larger wheel. That adaptability is pretty cool, though we can’t imagine many people will have a second set of wheels to take advantage of this ability. Interestingly, while the men’s Genius is available in 29er or 27.5 formats, the Contessa is 27.5″ only.

The Contessa Genius comes stock with 27.5+ tyres, but you can fit a 29er wheel if you prefer.

For 2018 Scott have given the Genius a total makeover. You can read all the details here, or in our Contessa Genius 720 First Impressions piece. For women riders though, one of the benefits is a super low standover height now, with the new frame shape.

It’s not super light, being an aluminium model – it comes in at 13.4kg – and while we could feel the weight a bit on the ups, it’s not a slug.


Scott have given the Contessa’s shock a lighter tune than the men’s Genius.

Scott Contessa Genius 720 Spec Details

So what makes it a women’s specific model?

This bike has exactly the same frame and geometry as the men’s Scott Genius. The contact points that are different (740mm bar, 40mm stem and a women’s saddle), the rear shock has a lighter tune, and the chain ring is two teeth smaller than the men’s bike, with a 30-tooth.

The frame and geometry is the same as the men’s Genius, but the contact points like the saddle, grips and bar are women’s items.

In order to get the dropper lever where we felt comfortable accessing it, we had to rotate the whole Twin Loc assembly backward quite a lot, which made it hard to get at the lockout lever.

Any pre-ride mods?

It was literally a set the sag and go have fun kind of set up. Sweet hey. The FOX Nude EVOL Trunnion rear shock comes with a Contessa custom tune. We’re not sure exactly what they did, but it felt perfect to us, and was easy to get dialled in.

We spent a bit of time try to get the position of the Twin Loc and dropper post lever right for our hands too, which we’ll get into more below.

We even hit up some new jump trails that we’d never ridden previously and it didn’t disappoint, soaking up everything we chucked at it.


We took the Contessa Genius on all our local, rocky trails.

Where did we ride it?

Over a four week period we took it to our local trails – Enduro style trails with rocky sections, fast corners, drops and jumps – to get a good feel of the bike on familiar and technical terrain. We even hit up some new jump trails that we’d never ridden previously and it didn’t disappoint, soaking up everything we chucked at it.


Standout ride qualities

The best thing about this bike is the playful and fun feel. It’s easy to throw around, has great traction and feels super balanced to ride. It felt great cornering and in particular was enjoyable on drops and jumps – the sizing had that right balance of stability and manoeuvrability. The bike felt amazing in the air; it pops nicely and is predictable. If you’re an experienced rider, or just keen to start jumping we recommend this bike for air time.


With the Twin Loc set to the 100mm mode, the Genius climbs nicely.

Climbing on the Contessa Genius

The Contessa Genius comes with a pretty unique lock out system, Twin Loc, which places the lockout lever for both rear shock and the fork on the bars within reach of your thumb. The rear shock has three modes: 150mm-travel, 100mm-travel and full lock out, with the fork’s compression also adjusted at the same time.

One of the first things we noticed about the Scott Genius was the excellent pedal clearance when climbing. With the Twin Loc engaged to 100mm-travel mode, the bottom bracket is lifted. Riding up technical terrain and being able to pedal through steep rock features enhanced the ride compared to other bikes in this category.

SRAM Eagle’s massive gear range is a game changer.

We did struggle a little bit with the ergonomics of the Twin Loc system. The dropper lever and Twin Loc lever are all integrated into one clamp and you can’t adjust the position of the levers separately. For our test rider, who has small hands, it was tough to get at both dropper and Twin Loc levers, we had to favour access to the dropper as it was used more often, and the TwinLoc system we rotated to a position where it was quite hard to access

Plenty of cables up front!

Features we dig

The Syncros Trail Fender is fully integrated and super cool. It is designed to work specifically with Fox 34 and clips directly onto the fork with a 2-bolt direct mount. No more cable ties nor mud in your eyes.

The Maxxis Rekon+ tires are a nice addition to the bike to inspire confidence and stability, and that white wall retro look is a winner. Often the first thing we swap out on a new bike are the tires, however we we’re super keen to try the Rekon+ and they worked really well on the Genius. They are a plus tire and have a tread pattern with angled centre tread for braking, coupled with a raised shoulder area for cornering – meaning they both roll and grip well. They didn’t feel slow or sluggish in the least.

The Syncros fender is so neat! Much cleaner than having to zip tie a fender on.

The bike also has SRAM’s new GX Eagle. Not only a thing of beauty, it came in very handy on a few steep climbs on our local trails, with super low climbing gears. While we understand why Scott went for a small 30-tooth ring, we’d still prefer a 32-tooth.We had the feeling on climbs of being either in too easy or too heavy a gear, and couldn’t quite find the sweet spot with the 30-tooth.

With the new suspension layout, there is lots of water bottle space, something often missing on small-framed bikes, which is a nice luxury for days without a pack.

Plenty of room for a water bottle there too.

Sizing

The size small was perfect for our tester’s height at 163cm, although we felt on the cusp of moving to a bigger size. The small was easy to throw around, but a medium could also have worked for our tester.

The size chart shows the small fame going up to around 173cm and medium starting for someone of 168cm. Sizing is really personal preference, but we think that if you are much taller than 165cm the small would feel a bit cramped in the cockpit.

At 163cm, our test rider was on a size small, but could stretch to a medium.

Final thoughts on the Contessa Genius?

Who doesn’t want a beautiful Italian Contessa? This bike is a real winner. It looks awesome and rides awesome, with excellent balance and all-rounder handling. We’d ideally like to see some tweaks to the Twin Loc system for riders with smaller hands like our tester, but that’s a minor gripe. Overall, this is a top trail bike that really does come close to that ideal do-it-all steed and is pretty decent value too.

Tested: Scott Genius 920 2018


The 2018 Genius is a very different machine to earlier models, borrowing heavily from the new Spark line up.

2018 sees the biggest leap yet for the Genius platform. With a brand new frame design, 150mm of travel, 29″ wheels with big rubber, and pretty laid back geometry, this latest Genius pushes the bike further away from its roots. The Genius platform began life with victory in the XC Marathon World Champs in 2003 under Thomas Frischknecht, but there’s no way anyone would opt to race this latest version in an event like that any more; it certainly sits at the aggressive end of the trail bike spectrum now.


So what changed for 2018?

It’s more a question of what didn’t! Firstly you’ve got an entirely new frame and suspension configuration. In its full carbon guise found on the higher end versions (this bike is carbon front, alloy rear) the frame weighs just over 2.2kg, it’s freakishly light for a 150mm-travel machine.

The front end has tonnes of standover height, but preserves space for full-sized water bottle.

The new suspension layout places the shock low in the bike, and the whole shock mount / bottom bracket area is massive now, making for a very stiff heart of the frame. The shock placement means standover height is nice and low, while you’ve still got room for a water bottle. It also allows for neater cable routing for the bike’s Twin Loc system too. The suspension is now a proper four-bar linkage, with a pivot on the chain stay which translates to improved performance under braking in particular.

The Nude shock is a partnership between FOX and Scott. It’s unique in that you can adjust the air volume (and the shock’s travel) remotely, and it doesn’t feature a traditional compression adjustment or lockout.

All of these changes have flowed from the Spark, which was given an overhaul 18 months ago. At the same  time, Scott introduced more aggressive and trail-oriented versions of the Spark, allowing them to position the Genius as bike for more serious terrain.

Bombing through the trails of Hornsby Mountain Bike Park.

What’s remained?

You learn your way around the Twin Loc levers pretty quickly. It’s amazing how much you use this feature once you’re in the habit.

The key to the Genius’s all-rounder abilities has always been in its suspension adaptability, and that hasn’t changed. The Twin Loc system, which lets you reduce the rear travel via the FOX NUDE shock from 150-100mm at the push of the lever, or lock the suspension out entirely, is a hallmark of Scott’s bikes. It’s undeniably effective and simple to use. The system’s downside is the extra clutter and annoyance of the cables, but some time invested with cable cutters and some brake line trimming can get it all pretty neat. Your thumb learns to navigate all the levers quickly.

The FOX Transfer dropper is top notch. Bonus marks for the neat integration of the dropper lever into the grip clamp too.

What version is this?

The Genius comes in both 29er and 27.5 formats, though it’s actually the same frame, only the wheels change. The 27.5 version gets 2.8” rubber, and even the 29er runs chunky 2.6” tyres (on proper 30mm rims too!). This version, the 920, rolls on the big wheels, and is carbon up front and alloy out back, for a reasonable $5399.

30mm-wide rims give plenty of support to the 2.6″ tyres.
The cable ports make dealing with the internal routing pretty straightforward really.

Where does it shine?

Anywhere technical, both up and down. While the Genius is a far cry from some of the burly Enduro bikes on the market, Scott have definitely shifted this bike’s focus towards rowdier terrain. It’s slack, with a 65-degree head angle (or 65.6 in the steeper setting), and the wheelbase is quite long too with a 438mm rear centre, giving it good stability in the rough and at speed.

This bike relishes in the chunder.

Then on the climbs, it just claws up everything – the tyres have a big contact patch, and you’ve got plenty of low-range gearing. The Twinloc system is golden on technical climbs too – hitting the lever and engaging the 100mm mode provides a firmer suspension feel (and helps raise the bottom bracket height for pedal clearance on tricky climbs), but without impinging the bike’s small bump compliance like a traditional lockout would.

On smooth trails, or when trying to make really fast direction changes, it does feel like a fair bit of bike to throw around.
The 150mm-travel FOX 34 uses the more basic GRIP damper. On the bigger, uglier hits we felt it could use a bit more ramp up or high-speed compression damping.

Any drawbacks?

We found that the fork, with its GRIP damper, can’t quite match the performance of the rear suspension when the hits come big and fast. The addition of some volume spacers is recommend to help resist the thunk of a bottom out too, as the rear end seems more progressive than the fork.

If you run the bike in the 100mm mode, it’s much more nimble on smooth trails.

Those big 2.6″ tyres weigh close to a kilo each, and at high speeds it’s a little reluctant to make quick direction changes, but that’s the trade off for stacks of grip and confidence obviously. We’d happily live with them.

It’s not the first time we’ve had the chain jump off the lower jockey wheel of a SRAM Eagle derailleur.

We also managed to bounce the chain off the lower jockey wheel a couple of times, causing the drivetrain to jam up. It’s not the first time we’ve experienced this with a SRAM Eagle rear derailleur, so hopefully SRAM are onto it!

More refined than high tea.

Aside from the Genius’s performance when the terrain gets challenging, it’s the level of refinement and attention to detail that impressed us most. Small things like the way the Twin Loc, dropper post lever and lock-on grip are all integrated into the one clamp, or the way the chain guide is mounted to the suspension pivot.


Check out our reviews of the earlier versions of the Genius below too

Tested: Scott Genius 700 Plus Tuned

Tested: Scott Genius 710 Plus

Tested: Scott Genius 710

Tested: Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned


How neat is the integrated mud guard from Syncros?
The chain guide is affixed to the main pivot, again incredibly nicely executed.
Smart lines, clean cables.

Even little things like the headset spacers have unique styling to them. The cables have large ports too, which makes the arse ache of internal cables easier to handle as well. All those small things add up to a really impressive machine, though we do wish the frame had more comprehensive down tube protection (we put a rock through a Scott frame in early 2017, and the experience scarred us!).

More aggressive and more confident than before.

So what’s the verdict?

Scott have played a smart game here: when they created ‘trail’ versions of the Spark, it gave them space to give the Genius a whole new character, with more guts and swagger than before. The new Genius, with its slack angles and oodles of grip, won’t be hanging at the pointy end of many 100km marathon races like it did in 2003, but it’s a far more confident and fun bike now, and that’s what we’re all about.

Aussie Video: Fry and Flint, Enduro Champs at Blue Derby


Row Fry is a legend of the sport here in Australia, though you’d most likely associate her name with XC racing, rather than ripping it in Enduro on a bike like the Scott Genius. She’s former National XC Champion and marathon racing star, and it’s only recently that she turned her hand to Enduro (read our interview with Row Fry here) and has quickly risen to the top.

Isabella Flint is a young pinner on the ascension – at just 15 her performance at the Enduro National Champs would have placed her fourth in Elite Women. She has the EWS in her sights and will be one to watch closely.

We caught up with Row and Izzy at Blue Derby, just a hour or so from their hometown of Launceston, for an arvo of ripping the trails. Enjoy!

Learn more about the 2018 Scott Genius range.

And if you want to read more about the bikes they’re riding, make sure you check out our Genius First Ride Impressions here, or our First Bite pieces on the Genius 920 and Contessa 720.

Blue Derby on the 2018 Scott Genius

 

 

 

First Impressions: Scott Genius 920

The 2018 Genius looks a lot cleaner than in years past.

What are we looking at here?

It’s a 150mm-travel 29er, with the trail bike category in its sights. Although this bike recently won the Enduro National Champs under Rowena Fry and Izzy Flint (read about it here), we would shy away from positioning it as an Enduro machine. It casts a broader net. A 150mm 29er might sound like a big bike, but it doesn’t look or feel like a handful. It’s lightweight, and the proportions are easily managed.

You can read a lot more about the new frame design here, in our 2018 Genius launch piece.

The thumb gym – Twin Loc levers and the dropper, all in one clamp which is incorporated into the grip lock ring.
The rear shock is custom item from FOX – when you hit the Twin Loc lever, the shock’s air volume changes, reducing the shock stroke and changing the spring rate.

Sticking to their guns

Scott have been beating the drum of their Twin Loc system for a long time now. Ask anyone who’s owned a Scott and they’ll tell you the same story: they can’t imagine riding without Twin Loc. It does work bloody well once you train your thumb (Gameboy users will be fine), allowing you to alter the suspension travel and damping on the fly.

Yes, there are a lot of cables up front, but with some care you can keep it reasonably neat.

The downside is that the handlebar has cables hanging from it like a Hanoi telephone exchange. At least Scott now supply the bike with some coiled plastic wrap to help contain the tangle a bit; it’s kind of like they’re admitting, “hey, we made a mess, but here’s a wettex to clean it up.”

Whatever your thoughts on the aesthetics, the system is simple to use, and we really like the way the Twin Loc and dropper post lever are all integrated into one clamp.

No mucking about here – chunky rubber on wide rims, for stable tyre performance.

Other wheel size options?

Yes, you can get this bike (or one fairly equivalent) with 27.5 wheels shod with 2.8″ rubber. Even this 29er version comes with good sized tyres, 2.6 / 2.4″ Schwalbe Nobby Nics mounted to 30mm wide Syncros rims. It’s a solid pair of shoes, meant for real riding. Hallelujah – nothing holds a bike back quite like feeble wheels and tyres.

How neat is this? The Syncros fender not only keeps mud off you, but it also covers up the holes in the back of fork arch, so mud can’t collect there either.
The 34 Performance fork has the basic Grip damper. A question mark here.

First ride impressions?

At the time of writing, we’ve only had one outing on the Genius, but it felt really promising. We’ll definitely be paying close attention to the setup of the FOX 34 fork, which only has the base model Grip damper – our inkling is that we’ll need to add some volume spacers to get the support we want, but time will tell. We’ll be bringing you a full video review of the Genius 920 soon.

SRAM GX Eagle out back, you’ll hear no complaints from us!
A bit of extra security, with a chain guide factory fitted.

First Impressions: Scott Contessa Genius 720

Off to a good start!

The Genius platform just underwent a huge redesign for 2018 (read all about it here in our Genius Launch piece), bringing its frame design into line with refreshed Spark. The 2018 Genius is off to a good start in Australia – Rowena Fry just claimed the Enduro National Champs on a Genius (interview here), and her young protege Isabella Flint took out the junior women’s on a Contessa Genius too.

150mm travel up front, with a FOX 34.
A SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, with a 30-tooth ring, gives you climbing gears aplenty.

More aggressive, but still very much an all-rounder

The geometry of this latest version is slacker than its predecessor (you can adjust the head angle from 65 – 65.6 degrees), but the bike hasn’t ventured into full on Enduro territory,  it has stayed true to its adaptable roots, which make it such a exceptional all-rounder. It runs 150mm travel at both ends, and the suspension is adjustable on-the-fly with the Twin Loc system. Hitting the lever shortens the rear travel to 100mm for climbing, and firms the fork damping, or you can lock both ends out completely.

How good do those gum wall tyres look?

What makes this a women’s bike?

So what makes this bike women’s specific? Just the paint job, a women’s saddle and a ‘Contessa Custom Tune’ rear shock, as far as we can tell. The geometry is identical to the men’s version, but you don’t get wheel size options – the men’s Genius comes in both 27.5 or 29er, but the Contessa is 27.5 only, rolling on high-volume 2.8″ Maxxis rubber. In all though, there’s not a lot of difference between this bike and the men’s version.

The Twin Loc system is neatly integrated – you can barely see where the cable meets the rest shock.

By way of comparison, we’re also going to be reviewing the men’s version of this bike, but in a 29er format. Our experiences with the Genius go way back over a decade now, so we’re itching to experience the improvements of this new evolution.

The left hand side of the bar is a busy place, with the Twin Loc lever and seat post dropper remote.

Check out our reviews of the earlier versions of the Genius below too

Tested: Scott Genius 700 Plus Tuned

Tested: Scott Genius 710 Plus

Tested: Scott Genius 710

Tested: Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned


 

Bike Check: Nino Schurter’s Scott Spark RC 900

Nino’s Scott Spark RC 900 is a real beauty, with amazing finishing touches and attention to detail everywhere you look.

We’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Medium frame Scott Spark RC 900, the ultra-light 29er XC race bike with 100mm of travel controlled by the Twinloc remote lever.
Nino in the rocks of Nove Mesto. Photo – Armin Kuestenbrueck/Red Bull.
The Champion alright…
Nino doing his thing in the final World Cup of the 2018 season, Val di Sole, Italy. Photo – Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull.
A 38 tooth SRAM Eagle chainring would be too hard to push for you, or I.
A neat touch, the little Nino character tucked away behind the seat tube.
That is right, only 9.38kg as seen here.
Nino swapped to a 29″ wheel Spark and Scale mid last year ahead of the Rio Olympics, which he won. He’s never raced a 27.5″ Spark since. A 90mm stem with massive negative rise helps the position he needs.
Slammed enough?
The move from DT Swiss to a complete SRAM bike meant RockShox for the champ.

The Twinloc lever toggles the rear shock travel amount, lock and also the fork compression adjustment with one lever.
A de-stickered FOX Nude shock is not an ideal scenario for the SRAM rider, though RockShox would surely be developing a shock to suit the bike.
DT Swiss carbon wheels with gold spoke nipples, so trick.

Gold SRAM XX1 drivetrain, of course.
2.1″ Maxxis Aspen tyres.

2018 Scott Genius – First Ride

Following on from the drastic changes to the featherweight Scott Spark last year, it was no surprise to see the new Genius has adopted many of the design and construction methods into the longer travel platform to achieve a ridiculously low frame weight of 2249g with shock and hardware. In true Scott fashion, the new frame is leading the 150mm travel trail bike category on the scales; we’re very impressed.

Scott’s new recruit, one of downhill racing most experienced, Andrew Neethling holding the medium size Genius frame we weighed at 2180g. Yes, that’s ridiculously light.
2018 Genius 900 Tuned. Photo – Markus Greber.


So, in a carbon nutshell what is new?

One frame, two wheel sizes, and for many reasons.

The new Genius has been designed to accept 27.5” and 29” using one frame, changing wheel diameters will only requiring a flipping of the geometry chip on the upper shock mount to change bottom bracket height. Scott are confident that without the need to change parts like the headset and forks, the bike can ride in a manner that they are happy with. This means less models to manufacture, and in the end the pricing will reflect at dealer level, that is always a plus (ha, get it…).

Choose your size, 27.5″ and 29er.

The names remain the same, any Genius models in the 700 range use 27.5″ wheels with 2.7″ tyres, and the Genius 900  models use 29″ wheels with 2.6″ tyres.

Brendan Fairclough was frothing to get his new Genius built and hit the trails. 27.5″ wheels for his Genius, always.

Don’t call a Genius a ‘plus’ no more.

Well, sort of, plus it is still there, but in an effort to simplify the enormous Scott range there will be with fewer models in the catalogue. All the 27.5” Genius bikes will have 2.8” tyres (plus, pretty much) and not called ‘plus’ bikes as such. We’d be happy if the rest of the industry followed suit on this move, tyres are tyres, bigger tyres are bigger tyres, that should do it.

The new Maxxis 2.8” Rekon tyres are the rubber of choice for the Genius, and when compared to the Maxxis 2.5” Minion WT tyre, there is an only 1mm difference in the width between them, though the 2.8″ does appear to have the larger volume. Like what we have seen with the release of the new Pivot Mach 5.5, we predict the era of plus tyres bikes to shrink in size and find the sweet spot, and 2.6″ on 30-35mm wide rims seems to provide enough air volume and tread patch without too much bounce and roll from being too huge. Traction is a good thing, but not with a sacrifice of weight, speed and the ability to blast into a berm without the tyre blowing off. We like this.

Big tyres on 27.5″ wheels = agility and traction. Or choose the 29er and you’ve got some serious speed on your side, with a trade off for some of that rapid agility.
2.8″ rubber in a lightweight tread pattern and casing, we had no flat tyres during four days of hard riding.

An entirely new frame construction.

Put the new Genius and the cross country oriented Scott Spark side by side and you’ll see a strong resemblance, the tiny carbon linkage drives the new trunnion mount rear shock down toward the bottom bracket region, this frees the top tube to become much lighter without having to bear the load of the shock. Also, the whole bottom bracket area needs to be strong to manage all the forces that go into the bottom bracket and crank region, so to combine it with the rear shock it’s a no-brainer.

While the 100/120mm travel Spark uses a one-piece rear end and a flex-stay arrangement, the Genius uses 150mm of goodness so a flex pivot arrangement wasn’t achievable and they’ve opted for a lightweight bushing in place of a cartridge bearing on the chainstay. Bushings are so 1995, but we’re totally going to trust the engineers on this one, as this pivot has only a small jog to do, and a bushing can do it.

Taking advantage of the expired patent surrounding the Horst Link that Specialized held for many years, the Genius shifts the suspension pivot from the seat stay to the chain stay.

The big change was shifting the rear shock down towards the centre of the frame to share pedalling and suspension forces in one area.
Frame cutaway showing the Shimano Di2 battery mount integrated into the downtube protector and very nice cable routing. The trunnion mount shock lets it all fit into a smaller space than before.
Yes, 2.18kg for a 150m travel frame with rear shock and hardware. Crazy stuff.
New vs. old – full carbon construction, less aluminium bonded into carbon. The new chain stays are HUGE.
The seat stays are much lighter and simpler too with fewer parts providing marginal gains to an overall lighter bike, losing 100g right here. A bushing is used in the chain stay pivot to save grams.

TwinLoc, the remote lever that simultaneously adjusts the front and rear suspension.

Nothing new here, Scott’s tried and tested Twinloc lets you toggle between open, traction and locked mode. In open mode you have all the 150mm of travel out the back, traction mode closes part of the FOX Nude rear shock’s air chamber limiting it to 110mm of travel with a much more progressive feel, and then the climb mode is locked out completely.

The three modes also have an effect on the fork, adding compression and locking it out to match the rear. It’s a great system, and so very easy to activate.

The Twinloc lever integrated into the Syncros grip with the FOX Transfer dropper post lever too.
The FOX Nude shock has the Twinloc cable entering from the underside of the shock, very tidy!

That cockpit!

The moment we set eyes on the thing, it was the one-piece Syncros cockpit that had our attention. Scott’s in-house parts and accessories brand – Syncros – have come up with a crazy new one-piece bar and stem called the Hixon iC. With a virtual stem length of 50mm and 760mm wide, it weighs only 290g. It’s not eh first-time Syncros have done such a thing, the Scott Foil aero road bike also uses a one-piece cockpit.

While we would usually expect a 150mm travel bike to be fitted with a 780mm handlebar, we typically would trim to 760mm anyhow. There is a 780mm bar in the pipeline, perhaps a feature on a longer travel Genius LT to be released next year.

A 290g bar and stem anyone?
The Syncros stem and matching spacers give the front end a sleek shape. The bars we had on the demo bikes are pre-production samples; the final product will have a glass finish to match the frames.

Getting dirty, how does it ride? Oh yes, and ride we did.

Sticking to its heritage as a bike born in the Alps of Europe, the Genius is the all-day trail bike personified. It is super-light, efficient to climb, and for want of a better description, not too big or not too small. 150mm travel at both ends may seem like a lot, and it does feel super plush when you jump on, but with a flick of the Twinloc lever, the bike can be quickly adapted. While we are a long way down under from the snow-capped craggy peaks of the Alps where cows roam the fields and trails are often hundreds of years old, the adage of ‘earning your turns’, or simply climbing long roads to bomb back down gnarly singletrack translates anywhere in the world.

Dropping in, the Genius was quite capable of hitting trails blind, pinned and safe.

Scott have always put a lot of emphasis on creating bikes that climb well, hence the Twinloc and frame geometry that remains sensible and practical, rather than going for the buzz-word trends like; short chain stays, massive top tubes and slack head angles the Genius plays it fairly safe with numbers, and that is its key to the balance. Scott were keen to stress te point that the new Genius is not an enduro race bike, rather a trail bike with a wide range of versatility. We can only bet a Genius LT using the new frame configuration will be up for renewal next year

Talking frame geometry the new Genius is far longer in reach, slacker in the head angle and steeper in the seat angle. We’re happy to see the chain stays shorten too, down from 445 to 436mm, a big difference and gripe we had with the Genius we reviewed recently.

The numbers on the new Genius tick the boxes.
Nino and Brendan, two riders from opposing ends of the spectrum coming together on the Genius that sums it up really.
Climbing super-technical trails made much easier when using traction mode with a higher BB and less rear travel.

It was only very recently that we reviewed the outgoing 2017 model Genius Plus 700 Tuned, so it was very fresh in our minds how that bike performed. In comparison, the new model feels to have made improvements in key areas, especially the suspension curve, now with a very nice and supple feeling off the top of the stroke. The geometry tweaks make the bike more nimble in the turns, easier to manual and jump through tight landings. With the suspension, pivot moved from the seat stay to the chain stay the bike feels more planted under brakes and very supportive beneath you when pumping through the trails, and resists pedal strikes well.

27.5″ or 29″ then?

We rode both, after two long days of riding a huge variety of trails on the 27.5″ wheels with 2.8″ tyres we changed to the 29″ wheels and got back to it. The trails in Aosta Valley were ideal to gain a great understanding of what wheel size suits best, with nail-bitingly fast straights, rough embedded rock gardens all joined with the tightest switchback corners we’d ever seen. That’s Europe for you!

It was the 29er variation that we stuck with, the stability in traction won us over, though it was certainly a tougher task to ride the tight switchback turns, even resulting in one over the bars incident while attempting a nose-pivot turn at speed. Scott give you the option to choose what wheel size you want, offering many models.

How were all the parts?

The bike we rode was the Genius 700 Ultimate, a bike that will be available in Australia as a special order only as it’s going to hit a price point that would make you weak at the knees, a top-spec model with nothing shy of the ultimate parts. A SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain with its lustrous gold finish, FOX 34 forks (the 700 and 900 Tuned Genius models come with a FOX 36), DT-Swiss 30mm wide carbon wheels and a very slick black/black paint job.

Our only gripes were that on the steep, dry and loose trails of Aosta, we wished for a more aggressive front tyre, though we’re sure that on our home trails we’d have no qualms with the fast and light Maxxis Rekon, and the SRAM Guide brakes even with 180mm rotors at both ends didn’t particularly like the insanely flat-out descents into hairpin corners, though like the tyres we would surely be happy with the power of the Guide brakes on our regular trails.

Massimo
Massimo from Aosta Freeride, our guide on amazing trails, hauling through steep and slippery switchbacks.

The longer reach and slacker angles give the new Genius way more scope to push hard.

Give me more Genius!

Following the might impressive launch of the Spark last year, the release of the new Genius will solidify its place in the long-travel trail bike segment. If your rides involve a blend of exploring new places, climbing to the top on your own steam, descending hard and fast, then from our early impressions, we will back this bike with full confidence.

We’ll be back with more from the 2018 Scott range with pricing and availability, stay tuned.

Shootout: Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 29 vs Scott Spark 900

A tale of two trail bikes from the big ‘S’ and bigger ‘S’.

We love these type of reviews, where we carefully set both bikes up and jump between them multiple times over a few solid rides to feel the differences, then we sit back and pick the finer details apart taking into consideration everything that would concern a potential buyer.

Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 29er: $7000, 12.82kg.

Scott Spark 900: $6500, 12.32kg.

We chose the Spark and Camber for many reasons, they share the same wheel size, suspension travel amount and are aimed at the all-round trail rider. The Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 29 and the Scott Spark 900 are only $500 Australian dollaroos apart too, see, very close in many ways. Still, no matter how similar they may appear on paper, there were quite a few subtleties that helped us to our final verdict.


Where these two sit.

Slotting in between the lean World Cup cross-country racer, the Epic and immensely popular all-mountain Stumpjumper, the current iteration of the Camber has been around for a few years now and is a touch older in its development cycle than the Scott Spark which was completely revised for the 2017-year model. The Camber uses the outgoing non-boost standard hubs and could possibly be due for a refresh soon-ish, while the Spark is up to date with all the modern standards. The Camber is available in 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes, and in a wide range of price points from $2500 right up to the $11000 S-Works.

The Camber is Specialized immensely popular trail bike, built to suit the everyday trail rider.

The Spark has won its fair of World Cup races too and recently both gold medals at the Rio Olympics. While the longer travel and more laid back Spark 900 we have on test is not the ultra-light and mighty sharp version that Nino Schurter and Jenny Rissveds race, it’s built on the same platform. It must be confusing to work at Scott with so many Spark models in the catalogue – there are dozens of variants, in three wheel sizes, 27.5”, 27.5” Plus and 29er.

The Spark draws on its cross country racing heritage and adds travel and a slacker attitude.

Frame and build:

The Camber and Spark both have lovely carbon front triangles mated to an aluminium rear end. The well-regarded FSR suspension design used across all Specialized suspension bikes gives the Camber top marks straight away. The Spark uses the one-piece rear end with a flex stay taking place of a suspension pivot on the rear end. Both bikes have 120mm of rear travel.

Scott haven’t done much at all in the way of frame protection with this Spark, leaving the underside of the frame vulnerable to flying trail debris, even the chain stay is bare, resulting in noisy chain slap and chipped paint. In fact, this is our second Scott Spark 900. An unfortunate incident on the Juggernaut Trail in Launceston rendered the first one useless as a random rock kicked up and put a whopping hole in the down tube. Unlucky? Yes, but it could have been avoided with protection like the thick rubber shielding found on the downtube and along the chain stay.

On the scales, the Spark is 500g lighter than the Camber. The wheels and drivetrain are the bulk of the weight savings on the Spark.

Aesthetically, they’re both winners. The Specialized is a real jaw dropper, its understated glossy finish and minimal graphics are appreciated, take a step closer and the glittering blue paint will wink back at you in the sunlight, very slick indeed. The Spark’s light grey and green scheme is also well done and matched nicely with all the components, sharp indeed.

Shining carbon and glitter under a dark blue clear coat, be the envy on the trail with a bike looking this good.

With Scott’s new frame design placing the rear shock and linkage low and centred in the frame it gives the bike a low centre of gravity and loads of space in the frame for a full-size water bottle. The move to this new shape, suspension configuration and one-piece rear end allowed Scott to make the lightest suspension frame on the market with the Scott Spark RC model.

Wide, low and beefy, the heart of the Spark.
Check out how the rear brake calliper attaches to the hub axle, another weight saving and allows the rear end to flex without a suspension pivot.

Both bikes have very neat internally routed cabling through the frame, and we appreciate the way the Spark so neatly gets the TwinLoc cable to the rear shock, you can barely even see where it exits the frame.

Unique to Specialized is the SWAT system, a very clever way of incorporating storage inside the frame. By removing the ‘trapdoor’ underneath the bottle cage you can access a large amount of space in the Camber’s down tube to stash an inner tube, chicken burrito and spare parts. An allen key set clips securely into the underside of the top tube, it’s amazing how handy that can be!


Suspension configuration:

The Camber is a real set and forget type of bike, with the Auto-Sag system taking the guess work out of the rear shock setup. With a standard three-position compression lever on the rear shock (open, medium and locked) and indexed GRIP damper in the fork, it is very easy to get your head around.

Simple, neat and quick to setup. The Camber is very low on fuss.
That red valve is Specialized’s own technology – Auto Sag, inflate the rear shock, press the red valve and it’ll rest at the right sag for your weight. Too easy.

In classic Scott fashion, the Spark’s suspension revolves around their Twinloc design, which allows the rider immediate control over the suspension at both ends. The Twinloc has three settings; 120mm travel,  an 85mm travel setting (which gives you a much firmer spring rate and less sag), and then fully locked out, while simultaneously adding compression damping to the fork to match. The Twinloc does a stellar job of adapting the bike’s characteristic – not just travel amount – to suit the moment. Use full-travel mode for descents and rough surfaces, the medium one for the climbs (less travel, firmer compression and less sag) and locked out for tarmac or out-sprinting Julien Absalon.

The Twinloc lever sits close to the thumb on the left side of the bar, it’s is incredibly ergonomic which promotes you to use it often during the ride to your advantage. A lot of people dislike the cabling associated with TwinLoc, but once you’ve used the system for a while, you’ll be less concerned about the cabling and stoked on the performance, we promise.


Parts and spec:

Both bikes have a solid dose of in-house components. Scott’s own component brand Syncros dominates on the Spark, and the Camber is dressed Specialized’s own parts. With the Camber, Specialized gear is used everywhere except the drivetrain and suspension. While the Scott uses Maxxis for tyres and FOX for the dropper post amongst their Syncros parts.

The Spark is a real winner in our eyes when talking spec – the 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain is a HUGE upgrade from the Camber’s 11-speed SRAM GX drivetrain. We’d also pick the FOX Transfer post over the Specialized Command Post, it’s really our favourite dropper on the market right now.

The Spark’s brakes are a level higher than the Camber with Shimano XT vs SLX (we dig the Camber’s integration of the SRAM shifter and Shimano brake levers, nice one!), not a huge difference in braking performance while riding though. The difference in suspension, on the other hand, is quite noticeable – the Spark’s FOX FIT 4 Performance Elite fork feels leagues ahead of the GRIP damper in the Camber’s fork.

There’s a big difference in the wheels with the two bikes too. The Roval Transfer rims are 29mm wide versus the terribly narrow 20mm Syncros rims. The sturdier rims and tacky tyres gave the Camber a sure-footed feeling when the trails got faster. We also bent the Spark’s rear wheel out of shape on one ride. The narrow Syncros rims may feel light and contribute to the Spark’s fast rolling, but we’d ditch them in favour of something wider in a flash.

The Maxxis Forekaster tyres seem to feel more at home on softer soils while the Specialized Purgatory/Ground Control combo is a great pair of tyres for a wider range of trails. During our testing, the trails were dry and handpicked, so the Forecasters on the narrow Syncros rims felt a little on the sketchy side in comparison to the Specialized tyres.

The higher specced drivetrain and suspension has a real impact on the way the bike rides, it feels lighter, smoother and the increased gear range is a big bonus.


Pricing and value:

The pricing came as a real surprise to us. Without checking we’d have sworn the Spark would have been dearer than the Camber, but it’s the other way around. Considering they are both from well-established brands with subsidiary headquarters in Australia the pricing is quite a contrast. The Specialized is priced $500 higher than the Scott, but with a level of spec that comes in well under that of the Spark. We have to question why it’s so expensive, it does seem fairly uncompetitive on that front.

**UPDATE** Specialized have informed us of updated pricing on the Camber, since April’s Autumn Savings sale the price dropped from $7000 to $6000, a big drop in price for sure!


Ride time:

Shredding the trails on these two steeds was unreal. They both meld the best bits of a cross country race bike with just the right amount of trail bike performance. We’re often watching riders, white-knuckled and tense, trying to wrangle their sharp cross country race bikes around the local trails. If only they knew how much better off they’d be on bikes like these two!

With 120mm of travel, dropper posts and decent width bars you’re able to relax and tackle the trails with more confidence and comfort. If you’re considering a Specialized Epic or Spark RC/World Cup we’d suggest trying one of these too, for 90% of the trails they are just as efficient and can also cross over to a race a few times a year too.

The Spark has slightly slacker geometry than the Camber, which will let you push a little harder when trails get steep and technical, and in the hands of a skilled pilot, you could let it rip very hard. It’s got more fire about it, encouraging you to get up and attack, weighting the front wheel, and the suspension is very smooth. If you’re diligent with the TwinLoc lever, it’s fast and efficient too – hit a climb, push the lever, and sprint away.

In comparison, the Camber felt slightly more laid-back to ride; we found ourselves seated more, pedalling through the trails, less aggressive overall. It’s calm demeanour and grippy tyres make it a very stable and relaxed bike, but without at the same sense of urgency as the Spark.

The wide rims, tacky tyres and sensitive suspension feel very sure-footed.

Best aspects for the Camber:

It’s a sturdy bike to ride with zero-fuss suspension, easy to understand the setup. We love the clean aesthetics, minimal graphics and lustrous finish. The SWAT system is nifty and handy. On the trail the Camber is a comfortable and confident bike to ride, the sure-footed manners from the wider rims and tacky tyres really set it apart from the Scott.


Low points for the Camber:

It’s the value in the spec that received low marks in this comparison –  the drivetrain, brakes, less sophisticated fork and shock are all good performers though for $7000 we’d have to wish for more coming from one of the biggest brands in the world. There was rattling in the dropper post while the FOX Transfer felt smooth and quiet all the time. 


Best aspects for the Spark:

The Spark is quite good value for the money, excluding the rims, the spec is dialled. The Twinloc broadens its usage ability; it could well dabble in a marathon or multi-day event with its quick adjustable suspension, low weight and fast rolling wheels.

The frame geometry is very trail friendly; it will be a great bike for an aggressive rider without isolating a cross country rider who requires efficiency.

There’s a lot to like with its attention to detail, the way the Syncros grips integrate both the FOX Transfer post remote with the Twinloc lever and the stem spacers shaped like the stem to give a unique and clean aesthetic. We appreciate the nice Syncros chain guide for peace of mind and the SRAM Eagle drivetrain is a standout spec choice we are totally impressed by.


Low points for the Spark: 

We are dumbfounded that there’s no frame protection either underneath the downtube and across the chainstay. We have had firsthand experience how that can play out.

The 20mm wide rims are too narrow which give the bike nerves over loose terrain, and we bent the rear wheel way out of shape during testing.

A debatable point is the Twinloc’s added complication. It adds an element of untidiness to the cockpit with two extra cables to manage and of course, maintain. There are a lot of fussy neat-freaks out there (us included) and the added cables might deter them, though really with some time and TLC (and a pair of cutters) you can tidy the Spark’s front end up just fine.


Verdict: 

If it’s a question of practicality vs performance, the Specialized has that edge with its zero-fuss suspension, frame protection, the ability to store your tools and spares on the bike so they’re ready to go, and robust wheels and sure-footed tyres.

**UPDATE** Note the updated pricing from April onwards, the Camber went on sale for $6000.

Though from a performance standpoint the Scott has its measure, we found it a more exciting and versatile bike to ride and the higher quality suspension and drivetrain are noticeable on the trail. It’s hard to pass up, especially when you consider the price.

Not even our concerns about the fragile wheels and unprotected frame could turn us off the Spark in this head to head review. Its superior spec, adaptable suspension, low weight and price impressed us. Once you trash the rims, stick on some wider ones, and you’ll be good to go.

Pick one? The Scott.

Tested: Scott Genius 700 Plus Tuned

We reviewed the Genius Plus 710 model earlier this year, using the same frame as this model with a lower level parts spec for $5999. We went deep into our thoughts behind the plus bike concept and how they ride on the trails, head to that review here – Tested: Scott Genius Plus 710.

On review this time around, we have the top-end ‘Tuned’ model, which translates directly to ‘holy crap this bike is dialled!’ with its premium parts kit and absolutely gorgeous finish and impressive 12.1kg weight. Everywhere you look on this bike you are greeted with pure class, from the parts to the paint the Tuned level option is very tidy.

We love the colour scheme; it’s a kick arse looking rig.

27.5″, Plus, or 29er? Our two cents on plus bikes.

Arrgh, it’s still convoluted to explain after a couple of years coming to terms with the middle wheel size; 27.5″ plus. So, you’re a mountain biker in the market for a new bike, what wheel size do you choose? Let’s simplify it here; 27.5″ for agility, 27.5+ for traction and control, and 29er for speed and confidence. The Plus tyres are typically between 2.8″ and 3.0″ in width, they have a huge volume of air and mount to wide 35-40mm rims. This all lets you drop the tyre pressures right down low, that’s where the grip comes from.

The Plus format is an excellent option; though it’s not going to be ideal for every rider, or every trail. That said, in the world of hardtails, we do think it has the potential to take over. It makes perfect sense: Unless you’re looking for a full-blown cross-country racing machine, you’re better off on a hardtail with 27.5+ wheels/tyres. You’ll crash less, get fewer flats, have more fun. When it comes to dual suspension bikes, then the matter is a bit murkier, and it becomes more of a horses for courses kind of issue.

Plus bikes, are they your thing?

Despite the marketing teams from the big brands telling us so, we’ve still not seen a plus bike raced at the top level at an Enduro World Series race; we’d have to agree though, for race speed we’d opt for a 29er with chunky rubber on wide rims over a plus bike. It’s the way that the tyres can still bounce and squirm when pushed at race pace. That said, we are about as close to that pace as we are to winning anything, so we’ll back away from that debate and get back to bashing around the trails for the fun of it.

This Scott Genius Plus uses 2.8″ Maxxis tyres on 35mm internal width Syncros rims, which traditionally is on the smaller end of the scale to what we’ve used previously on plus bikes. The Maxxis tyres also have a more regular shape to them, the Maxxis Minion tyre on the front is particularly incredible.

Why not just big tyres on wide rims? Well, that’s a good question, thanks for bringing it up. While we’re not able to see into the future, we can bet on a few things now and then that the industry is up to, and where things are going. After the release of the new Pivot Mach 5.5 with its 2.6″ Maxxis tyres on 35mm wide DT Swiss rims and the 2017 Specialized Enduro 650B with 2.6″ tyres, we’re expecting that platform to put a dent in the popularity of the big 3″ tyre plus bikes next season. Or we could be very wrong, let’s see.


The traction. 

There is so much traction, the dilemma we had testing this thing was what to do with it all? Jumping onto the Genius after riding various long travel 29ers we found ourselves doing some pretty cool things when we began to get comfortable. Like pedalling anywhere and all the time, keeping our feet up through sketchy corners, blasting long jumps over obstacles with a complete lack of regard of line choice. It was damn good fun!

Imagine a 2.8″ Maxxis Minion… Yeah, exactly.

There are always sections of trail that challenge the traction of a mountain bike tyre when we dropped the tyres down to around the 20 psi mark and even lower, we were able to claw our way up steep and loose sections of the track so, so, so much easier.

When compared to the Schwalbe or Specialized 3″ tyres we’ve tried, the Maxxis tyres have more bite and cornering feel than the larger balloon shaped tyres, it helps the bike find good precision on the trails, a criticism we had with the Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie and the original Schwalbe Rocket Ron 3″ tyres on the earlier Scott Genius Plus models.


The high-end bits.

The Tuned model is the top offering from Scott in the plus bike range, the FOX suspension is the best you can get with all the adjustments and slick Kashima coated bits, the SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain is a big winner in our hearts, and the finishing touches from Syncros like the carbon bar, stem and saddle finish it perfectly. All the small bolts like the seatpost clamp, bar/stem, and grips are all torx keys, too.

Big wheels need good brakes and the SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes are well and truly up to the task, it’s also nice to see the aluminium carrier rotors as standard too, very fancy.

Even the unstoppable FOX Transfer post is the flashy Kashima one, there’s really nothing to dislike about this parts spec at all.

Top FOX kit, front and back. The suspension is superb.
That’s what we call high end, a FOX Transfer dropper post, Kashima too!
The Syncros cockpit is carbon, no corners cut here at all.
Adjustable frame geometry via a little reversible chip at the rear shock.

When compared around with other big-name brands, the Scott stacks up very well indeed, have a look for yourself. Where top-end carbon bikes tend to hover around the $9-$11K mark, it makes this one an attractive option if you’re interested.


Twinloc.

Scott’s dual suspension bikes are built around their Twinloc suspension adjustment system, it works perfectly and gives Scott a point of difference from the masses. The nicely ergonomic Twinloc lever sits closely to your left thumb to toggle the rear shock between 130mm, 90mm and locked out. It simultaneously adjusts the fork too, to match the rear end. Yes it does add extra cables that might put off the fussiest riders, though with some time with a pair of cable cutters and some trial and error you’ll be able to tidy it up just fine.

The Twinloc lever on the left side of the bar.
The remote cable to the rear shock is hidden from view, nice touch.

In Open mode, the suspension feel is super buttery, with a really lively feel, that ramps up nicely. Like we mentioned in the review of the Genius 710 Plus, the single-pivot suspension design coupled with the Twinloc is a great pairing. There’s no pedalling platform, and with very little anti-squat in the suspension configuration, it’s very responsive. Hit the lever and engage Climb mode, and the feeling is very different – the bike sits up higher in its travel, raising the bottom bracket, and the suspension becomes much firmer. As we’ve noted above, the Plus tyres still take the edge off, so the ride is surprisingly smooth even with only 90mm of travel.

The full lock-out is really useful on the road, but where we would normally let rear suspension help find traction on loose fire road climbs we would still be able to lock it out and rely on the big tyre and low pressure to bite in hard.


Want more on how it rides?

Click through to our video review of the Scott Genius 710 Plus to see it in action and hear more of our thoughts on the bike’s construction and ride character. 


Cut to it.

The Genius Plus is an all-terrain monster; it’s a big bike with massive ability. Take it to a trail that you’ve found challenging, and your worries will fade away as the traction machine gets going. Don’t look for the Genius Plus for a bike park or race track, give it a challenge, not a clock, and it’ll sure be a great companion on many trails to come.

Max traction, maximum fun.

The stunning finish, incredible parts, adjustable frame geometry, adjustable suspension and grippy Maxxis 2.8″ tyres are a real standout. And on the trail, it’s super confident, lovely and smooth and dead quiet.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark 900

There's lots of options in the Spark range, which we love!
There’s lots of options in the Spark range, which we love!

What’s the Spark model we’ve got on test?

The Spark 900 we’ve got on test is a 120mm, 29” trail bike. With a dropper post and a beefy fork, it’s a world apart from the Spark RC 900 World Cup we recently tested.

A Fox 34 up front means this isn't a cross-country bike.
A Fox 34 up front is the first clue this isn’t a Spark aimed at cross-country racing.

What’s the Scott Spark 900 all about?

The 120mm trail bike hasn’t received much love recently, with many companies increasing their trail bike model’s travel to 130mm, and going with beefier components than in years past.

Scott have stuck with 120mm of travel front and rear for the Spark 900.
Scott have stuck with 120mm of travel front and rear for the Spark 900.

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with the evolution of more aggressive trail bikes, and indeed a 130mm trail bike with solid kit is a great quiver killer, a 120mm bike with a slightly lighter build gives you that extra versatility you don’t get from an XC race bike, whilst remaining light and zippy in the singletrack. 


What do you get for your money with the Scott Spark 900?

The Scott Spark 900 retails for $6499, and comes with an acceptable rather than astounding build kit for the price. The front triangle is carbon, paired with an alloy rear end.


What’s the frame’s build quality like?

The Scott Spark 900 is a lovely bike on the eye, and a scan over the frame reveals real attention to detail.

We quite like the Spark's lines, and the cable routing is executed nicely.
We quite like the Spark’s lines, and the cable routing is executed nicely.

The front triangle is very similar to the Spark RC model we tested earlier this year; Scott have once again integrated a very neat chainguide that attaches to the main pivot, however the grade of carbon is slightly heavier than what you’ll find on the RC models.

We're big fans of the integrated chainguide.
We’re big fans of the integrated chainguide.

The sloping top tube gives solid standover clearance, and the headtube and downtube are chunky and look ready for some straight-line ploughing.

The chunky downtube doesn't feature any protection, which we find a bit odd.
The downtube doesn’t feature any protection, which we find a bit odd.

The rear end is alloy, a definite nod to the Spark 900’s trail riding intentions as opposed to its race oriented RC siblings, as well as a point of difference between the 900 and the Ultimate and Premium Spark models, which come with a full carbon rear end.

The Spark 900 features an alloy rear end.
The Spark 900 features an alloy rear end.

What about the squishy bits?

the suspension is from Fox, with the Performance Elite fork and shock utilising the same internals as the top of the line Factory series, but without the Kashima coating.

The rear shock attaches via a trunnion mount.
The rear shock attaches via a trunnion mount.

The 34mm fork with low speed compression adjustment is a great choice, providing a stiff front end with tonnes of adjustment.

Both the front and rear end are hooked up to a Twinloc remote on the left-hand side of the handlebar, which has fully open, 95mm travel and fully locked out settings.

In the dropper post department, the bike comes stock with a Fox Transfer dropper post that’s integrated nicely into the Twinloc suspension remote, which also doubles as the lockring for the grip.

The Twin Loc remote and dropper post lever are integrated into the grip lockring.
The Twin Loc remote and dropper post lever are integrated into the grip lockring, much like the Spark RC model we tested earlier this year.

As we discussed in our First Bite of the Transfer, it’s a very impressive offering. Disappointingly however, the post only features 125mm of drop in a size large- we’d like to see a 150mm post specced for larger sizes.


Is that an Eagle drivetrain?

It is indeed! The drivetrain is Sram’s Eagle paired with a 32 tooth chainring up front.

Range for days.
Range for days.

XT brakes?

Yep- we won’t waste your time here, Shimano’s XT brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear will work exceptionally


Where will we ride the Scott Spark 900?

We started this First Bite discussing how many brands are beefing up their trail bikes to cope in gnarlier terrain, at times to the detriment of how fun a lightweight trail bike can be in flowy singletrack.

We’re excited to see how the Spark goes on the flowy trails it was designed for, but we’re also interested as to whether its 120mm of squish will be noticeably different to beefier 130mm trail bikes on more technical trails.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.
The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.

Okay, maybe nobody said that to us, and we certainly haven’t thrown the Spark sideways through the air like the Swiss wizard himself, but the all new 2017 Scott Spark has been filling our heads with thoughts that maybe we missed our calling in life as fit and powerful cross-country racers.

Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.
Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.

So, this is a brand-new Scott Spark for 2017?

Yep! We were lucky enough to attend the launch of the new Spark range earlier this year, and we won’t go into the incredible number of changes and new additions the 2017 frame features here, but check out our recap of the launch to see just why the new Spark is perhaps the most desirable cross-country bike on the planet right now!

An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark's many weight saving revisions.
An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark’s many weight saving revisions.

It looks like there’s some top of the line kit on the Spark- is there anything on this bike that you can upgrade? 

Our large sized Spark RC 900 World Cup weighs in at ten kilograms on the dot without pedals, and the only components that aren’t top of the line are FOX’s Performance Line suspension, a set of alloy Syncros wheels and SRAM’s XO1 Eagle groupset rather than the flagship XX1.

Fox's Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.
Fox’s Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.

Despite this, we’re pretty much of the opinion that if you’re on this bike you instantly relinquish any bike/weight/equipment related excuse that you may have used in the past.

The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.
The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup sits one model below the top of the line SL model, which comes decked out with factory level Fox suspension, a full complement of Syncros carbon finishing kit and some super light carbon wheels made for Syncros by DT Swiss.

The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.
The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

What sort of geometry numbers are we looking at?

The Spark is an out and out cross-country race bike, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t received some of the ‘modern’ geometry touches that have increased the capabilities of bikes in all travel categories. The new Spark has moved from a 70-degree head angle to 68.5 degrees; the reach has been lengthened in every size (for example, our large sized bike has gone from 438mm to 456.8mm) and the chainstays have been shortened across the range by 13mm to a very snappy 435mm.

The geometry changes Scott have made to the Spark make it a more lively ride.
The geometry revisions have made the Spark a more lively ride.

What’s the lever on the left hand side of the handlebar if there’s no front derailleur or dropper post?

Scott loves their bikes to be adjustable, and the new Spark is no exception. The bike features a Twin Loc remote that controls both front and rear suspension simultaneously. The system has three positions. Firstly, a fully open position that allows full travel, front and rear. One click of the black lever switches the rear shock to Traction mode, while the fork remains fully active and the shock is switched to a firmer setting. Click again and rear shock and fork both lockout fully. The silver lever returns the suspension to full travel.

The Twin-Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.
The Twin Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.

On trail bikes, we’re not huge fans of lockout levers cluttering the handlebar and creating a bird’s nest of cables adorning the front of the bike, but the Twin Loc system on the Spark makes a lot of sense for cross-country racing and is well integrated. In a recent interview, Nino Schurter commented that he often finishes races with a sore thumb from using the Twin-Loc system continuously throughout a race!

The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.
The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.

What about if I don’t want to race cross-country World Cups?

We’ll point this out now after only a few rides on this rig- it’s not a trail bike. Every single element of the Spark has been engineered to optimise performance on the cross-country race track. You don’t have to be Nino Schurter to reap the benefits of this machine, but unless you’re racing, or your riding consists of flowing, non-technical trails, then perhaps this bike isn’t the right choice.

The Spark wants to go fast all the time.
The Spark wants to go fast all the time.

Despite this bike being a dedicated race bike, look out for a full review soon, where we’ll go into more detail about how the Spark handles the variety of riding we plan to throw at it.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott MTB RC Lace Shoes

We're into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?
We’re into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?

As is often the case, what starts on the road eventually makes its way to the mountain biking industry, and following in the same vein as the opinion dividing Giro Empire, the Scott MTB RC Lace shoe is a cross-country mountain bike shoe that forgoes the fancy closure systems we’ve become so accustomed to in favour of trusty laces.


Hold on, this is a cross-country shoe with laces?

Indeed! Despite most cross-country shoes relying on ratchets and BOA dial closure systems, which undoubtedly have their place, Scott believe there is a market for laced cross-country shoes. Benefits of laced shoes include increased contact points, increased aerodynamics, and most importantly increased comfort.

The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.
The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.

How do the laces compare to ratchets, or BOA dials?

As mentioned above, laces offer increased points of contact over the more commonly seen ratchet or BOA systems, which in theory should result in a more comfortable fit. The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes feel comfortable out of the box, although setting them up did take longer than a ratchet or BOA system, as we took our time tightening and adjusting the laces to ensure optimal pressure across the whole foot. Once you’ve done the laces up, they tuck away neatly into a strap located in the centre of the shoe.

A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.
A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.

Who is the Scott MTB RC Lace Shoe for?

With a rating of nine on Scott’s stiffness index, which means very stiff, and a lightweight design (a US 8.5 weighs in at 350 grams), the RC Lace shoes lean towards the XC side of the mountain biking spectrum. Despite their low weight however, the shoes feature nods to durability and adjustability though reinforced toe and heel boxes, provisions for mounting studs and long cleat grooves. Despite the shoes having mounting points for studs, they don’t ship with them as standard.

Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.
Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.

How’s the fit?

The fit was comfortable out of the box, but should you find the shoes uncomfortable, the insoles feature removable metatarsal buttons and arch inserts. Like the studs, these inserts are additional purchases, but they’re a nice touch to allow you to customise your fit.

The insoles of the RC Lace's feature two points of adjustment.
The insoles of the RC Lace shoes feature two points of adjustment.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.

Are there other colour options?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes only come in black, however the shoe ships with two lace options. We’re big fans of the poppy red laces, but if you prefer a more modest look you can swap them to black out of the box.


What sort of money are we talking?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes retail for $289.95, which we think is a fair price for a carbon soled, lightweight shoe with additional features such as the adjustable insoles. In comparison, Giro Empire VR90’s retail for $349.

The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny.
The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny!

That’s it for now, it’s time to see how these fresh kicks go out on the trail!

N1NO – The Hunt for Glory – Chapter 14 “The Glorious Chapter”

On August 21st 2016, N1NO Schurter completed his collection of Olympic medals by winning Gold in Rio de Janeiro, after winning the Bronze medal in Beijing in 2008, and Silver in London in 2012.

The 5x UCI MTB World Champion had not only set himself the biggest goal, but also put himself under tremendous pressure to succeed in his Hunt for Glory. Now that the hunt has ended in glory, N1NO breaks down the last few years for us.

Flow’s First Bite: 2017 Scott Scale

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The Scale RC SL is the flagship model in the Scale lineup, the challenge to find a lighter bike off the shelf is set.

Check out the Scott Spark too, and our first impressions of the dual suspension brother to the Scale here: 2017 Scott Spark.


New Scott Scale

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This thing is incredibly fast, the responsiveness is superb.

Dropping weight at the same time improving the comfort and handling of a new bike must be quite a tall task to pull off, but from what we’ve seen it’s all about the small gains from every section of the frame, adding up to a final product that leaves the big name brands behind in the race of the lightest hardtail frame.

Nino Schurter raced this bike at the Albstadt World Cup.
Nino Schurter raced this bike at the Albstadt World Cup, he won it too.

“In today’s market it’s getting easier for anyone to go to Asia and release a mediocre carbon hardtail frame and call it good. That’s where we are different. Focussing passionately on every little detail, no matter how small the gain is really sets us apart from everybody else, and puts the new Scale firmly ahead of the competition.” Dan Roberts, Scott Scale Engineer.

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Skinny and bow-legged like an old salty cowboy.

Using a new carbon layup procedure in the frame Scott’s carbon engineers are able to make the most of their latest HMX-SL composite material (found on their high end road bikes) to reduce mass around the larger sections of the frame. Boost hub spacing comes into the Scott range for 2017 allowing for more freedom to push sections of the frame outwards, the wider hub, chain line and the single-ring specific drivetrain version and use of the new Shimano side swing front derailleur arrangement lets the Scale engineers get serious on creating big shapes where they need them. But its the rear end of the frame that most of the weight loss is, er, gained.

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Slenderness meets brawn. The down tube are beefy but the top tube and seat stays are slim.
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Good looking stuff.

SDS2 Shock Damping System: The Scale even looks comfortable just standing there with its wafer-thin seat stays and curvy seat tube, can’t say that we’ve haven’t seen such a slender rear on a mountain bike before. Claiming a 35% increase in seated comfort than the previous Scale, and 27% more comfort when standing, there’s a lot of focus on this area for the new frame. The new frame shapes are said to allow 6mm of flex in the frame at the seat tub and the dropouts can move 2.5mm in the event of a hard impact.

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Two distinct regions of the frame give the Scale its comfort and stiffness.
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The beefy downtube swoops into fat chain stays, while the upper part of the frame remains reactive to impacts.

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Brake Mount: The new Scott Spark and Scale share the clever new brake mount which attaches to the chain stay and rear hub axle, this allows the seat stays to flex more freely, and results in a cleaner and lighter dropout on that side.Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 3.19.32 PM

Note how the brake mount doesn't attach to the seat stays.
Note how the brake mount doesn’t attach to the seat stays.

SW Dropout: The new sandwich dropout is also an area of weight saving, on the Spark also. Available for both Shimano Direct Mount and SRAM it integrates into the thu-axle for a leaner and stiffer section.

New vs old dropouts.
New vs old dropouts.

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Geometry: You may have seen on RedBull TV that the World Cup courses are becoming increasingly gnarly, the technicality of racing has come a long way in the last few years and it is more than just a climbers race. Hence the evolution of frame geometry, and the changes in the new Scale. The 29er is 13mm shorter in the stays on 29er and combines that with a steeper seat angle and a longer reach.

Longer reach, shorter stays and slacker head angles on the new Scale.
Longer reach, shorter stays and slacker head angles on the new Scale.

Three versions of the Scale

Scale RC 700 / Scale 700:

The bike of choice of World Champ Nino Schurter, the 27.5″ wheel version of the Spark is the lightest in the whole class, and combine that with the inherently quick acceleration from the smaller wheels you have a race bike for the punchier and faster courses, or simply a more lively and agile race bike than its bigger wheel brother in the 900 series.

SCALE RC 700 / SCALE 700
Scale RC 700 / Scale 700

Scale RC 900 / Scale 900:

29er hardtail for the longer races, or for riders enjoying the confidence and stability of a 29er wheel. We may even see Nino racing the Rio Olympics on this bike, as the rolling course favours a 29″ wheel.

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Scale RC 900 / Scale 900
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This is the ultimate race bike, no stone left unturned in the quest for the lightest and most efficient bike in the XC/marathon scene.

Scale Plus:

While it may not score all the delicious carbon details of the bikes above, the aluminium frame Scale Plus is the only hardtail you should ride if racing is not on the agenda. This thing is so capable, with laid-back geometry, 120mm travel forks, a dropper post and monster 2.8″ tyres it can handle anything you throw at it.

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Scale Plus
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The new Scale Plus is right on the money with spec for 2017, we’d love to have this bike on test again.

We’ll be getting our grubby mitts on these bikes for a proper review as soon as possible, stay tuned for more ridiculously light carbon from Scott.

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Flow’s First Bite: 2017 Scott Spark

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The insanely light Spark RC 900 SL. 29er frame weight is just 1779g including shock, that is absolutely bonkers. Building up to a sub-10kg complete bike!
Climbing the impossible climbs on the traction machine – Spark Plus.

“Engineers don’t like design compromises. Splitting the Spark family into three models allowed us to create bikes with a shared DNA and distinct purpose. The Spark RC is a 100% race dedicated full suspension bike – by designing a 1x specific platform and using HMX-SL fibres for the first time on MTB we’ve set a new benchmark in terms of weight. The final bike is the result of hundreds of careful design decisions which combine to create the perfect racing tool for our racers to keep on winning.” – Joe Higgins, Chief of MTB Engineering.


Check out the insanely light 2017 Scott Scale hardtail in our first impressions piece here: 2017 Scott Scale.


The New Spark

First spotted in the hands of World Champion Nino Schurter, the new Spark sent the internet forums into a whirlwind. What was this crazy looking thing, visibly so different to the current Spark!? Let alone that it was in fact a 29er (sorry 27.5″ fans, Nino will choose to race a 29er Spark or Scale at Rio).

Well, firstly the lightest configuration of the new Spark SL frame is a ridiculous 1779g for the 29er and 1749g for 27.5″. Taking 217 grams out of the already category leading 2016 frame was a result of hundreds of marginal gains. For 2017 the R&D gurus at Scott drew upon a deep wealth of expertise in carbon, and especially road bike technology to take their Spark and Scale frames to the next level.

The weight loss comes down to more intelligent shapes for the new carbon composite layers, simplifying the frame with 1X and 2X drivetrains, a new pivot-free rear triangle, a new brake mount, and a lighter rocker link. And a lot of this can be attributed to the emergence of a few new standards, like Boost hub spacing and the new Trunnion Mount rear shock.

Frame geometry and suspension curves also score an overhaul, bringing it up to speed with the modern demands. Scott’s excellent Twin-Loc suspension adjustment system carries forward, the tw0-position air volume adjustment controlled at the handlebar is key to the Scott range’s impressive versatility choose between Descend Mode, Traction Mode and locked out.

New Rear Triangle: The new pivotless swingarm allows the rear triangle to be moulded in just two continuos carbon parts, where the older version was made up from 18 seperate parts. The 130g saving is where most of the weight has been taken from the frame. The rear end will now give a few degrees of flex to allow the suspension to do its thing, instead of a bushing pivot and all its hardware.

Old vs new. Now that's what we call simplifying!
Old vs new. Now that’s what we call simplifying!

To allow the frame to flex freely a new brake mount was designed, anchored around the axle and chain stay, this allows the seat stay to move the way it needs to. A 160mm and 180mm disc rotor size mount is available.

New vs old brake mount area.
New vs old brake mount area.

Metric Trunnion Shock Mount: Two new standards of the rear shock is found on the new Spark, metric shock sizing and the shorter sized Trunnion Mounting arrangement. The stout and short shock allows greater freedom for the frame design, sitting lower and wider in the frame, and also more stroke length with the same eye-to-eye length.

The new downward pointing rear shock allows freedom with frame sizes too, removing the shock from fixing to the top tube (which grows as the sizes do) is an obvious benefit and more economical.

New vs old, the Trunnion Mount is wider and allows for a very compact shock arrangement.
New vs old, the Trunnion Mount is wider and allows for a very compact shock arrangement.
Old vs new Spark BB area. Note the wide and central Trunnion rear shock mount.
Old vs new Spark BB area. Note the wide and central Trunnion rear shock mount.

New Sandwich Dropout: The new dropout is also an area of weight saving, on the Scale hardtail also. Available for both Shimano Direct Mount and SRAM it integrates into the thu-axle for a leaner and stiffer section.

New vs old, the new pivotless rear end saves a huge 130g.
New vs old, the new SW dropout clamps onto the axle and allows a one-piece moulded carbon section for both stays.

Suspension and Geometry: A criticism we had with our review of the 2016 Scott Spark 900 Premium recently was the frame geometry was a little out-dated, we wanted shorter stays, and slacker angles to let the bike ride better. So we’re stoked that the new Spark is all that and more.

For the 29er the chain stays are 13mm shorter than before, now a respectable 435mm. Reach is longer, head angle slackens off 1.3 degrees and the whole standover is a huge 28mm lower.

Scott have worked on developing a more sensitive suspension curve too, and coupled with the Twin-Loc dual air chamber of the rear shock, this is one seriously adaptable bike.


Three Sparks.

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Taking the Scott Spark Plus to places 120mm bikes wouldn’t normally go.

While we are sure to admit the Scott range is overwhelming and a little confusing at times, the result is excellent choice and options for the rider. Here’s a quick overview of the Spark range coming to Australia.

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The Spark range is divided three ways, in multiple wheel sizes.

The new Spark platform comes with three different wheel sizes and different travel options. The frame of the 27.5″ wheel Spark RC 700 SL weighs in at only 1749 g (including shock and hardware). The frame of the 29″ frame Spark RC 900 SL weighs in at only 1779g (including shock and hardware).


Spark RC 900 / Spark 900: The all-out 29er race bike.Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.31.07 AM

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Hitting the ‘A-line’ on the Lenzerheide XCO race loop on the Spark 900 RC SL.

First impressions: You want to race? This is your weapon, there are few bikes as successful on the race circuit as the new Spark, and the new version cements itself at the top by shaving serious weight. Hitting the trails on the Spark 900 RC was quite an experience, the acceleration and rolling speed is outstanding. Your power goes straight to the rear wheel, and the perfectly ergonomic Twin-Loc lever is there for the sprints and climbs, lock it or switch to climb mode and you’re so well supported to mash on the pedals in anger.


Spark RC 700 / Spark 700: Lightweight 27.5″ wheel race bike.Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.30.55 AM_LOW3519The 120mm trail-ready version of the Spark.

First Impressions: This is the Spark for the trail rider, with both wheel size options, the ‘regular’ spark feels so much more neutral than it’s racey RC brother. With meatier tyres, dropper posts, 34mm leg forks this is a seriously progressive bike from Scott.

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Spark 700 Plus: Super fun and capable trail bike. So much traction!Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.31.18 AM

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Big rubber, short travel, light frame, a seriously good combo!

The Plus is a 130/12omm travel bike with 2.8″ Maxxis tyres for a completely different character to the racey Spark range but sharing the same incredibly light frame.
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First Impressions: For those who are yet to experience a plus bike, we urge you to try one. This Spark Plus is a completely different bike, while it shares the same lightweight frame, the extra fork travel and 2.8″ Maxxis plus tyres transform it into a capable and fun bike to blast through trails in confidence. 2.8″ tyres can climb up harder, steeper and looser ascents, and turn the bike into a descent and you’ve got control in spades.

Maxxis make an appearance on the new Scott range, previously very involved with Schwalbe, testing proved them not to be durable enough, and Maxxis are much more affordable too, all good from our end.

We could bang on about plus bikes for ages, they really are great fun to ride. Check out review of the Scott Genius Plus here: Scott Genius Plus review.

New the concept of plus? What’s it all about? Click here for a little more on Plus. 


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Comfortably laying over the Spark Plus.

Tested: Scott Genius 710 Plus

Like any gate crasher, some just wanted it to go away. But then others were happy to have this rowdy new character join the crowd, with its unconventional approach. A year on from its arrival, the mountain bike party is still divided about the intrusion of Plus (or 6Fattie, Mid Fat, or 27+, or whatever the hell you’d like to call it), with ongoing murmuring about whether it can stay, or if everyone should chuck it back out into the cold night.

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As far as we’re concerned, we’d like it to stay. And our time on board the new Scott Genius 710 Plus just reinforced that feeling for us once again.

The Plus format is an option. No one is forcing you to ride it.

Before we get into the guts of the review, let’s touch quickly on what should be an obvious point. The Plus format is an option. No one is forcing you to ride it. It’s clearly not going to be ideal for every rider, or every trail. That said, in the world of hardtails, we do think it has the potential to really take over. It makes perfect sense: Unless you’re looking for a full-blown cross-country racing machine, you’re better off on a hardtail with 27.5+ wheels/tyres. You’ll crash less, get fewer flats, have more fun. When it comes to dual suspension bikes, then the matter is a bit murkier and it becomes more of a horses for courses kind of issue.

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The success (or failure) of the Plus sized format is going to depend entirely on two things: working out which markets (right down to a regional level) are best suited to this format, and then getting people to try the damn things. Test fleets are going to be essential, because there are a lot of incorrect assumptions about this format that can only be corrected with a test ride. But let’s leave that all to one side for now, and take a look at this bike.


Frame and Build

Robust pivot hardware. The rear shock mount incorporated a small amount of geometry adjustment.
Robust pivot hardware. The rear shock mount incorporated a small amount of geometry adjustment.

As a fellow rider said to us when we had this bike out for a test ride, “Scott do know how to make them look good.” This carbon stealth blade is so sharp, we felt compelled to have a haircut and shave before we took it out. Given the extra cabling faff associated with Twinloc, Scott have managed to make this whole bike look surprisingly clean, and the fluro and black finish is like lightning for your eyeballs.

Given the number of cables up front, it's all neatly managed.
Given the number of cables up front, it’s all neatly managed.

The Genius platform is now available in three wheel sizes – 27.5, 29 and 27.5+.

The Genius platform is now available in three wheel sizes – 27.5, 29 and 27.5+. If you can’t find a version to suit you, you’re a very unique individual indeed. Visually, the three frames are similar, but there are travel and geometry differences obviously. The 710 Plus shares the same travel as the 29er version, with 140mm up front and an adjustable 130/90mm out back, but the geometry is quite different. The 710 Plus is significantly slacker, a 67.5 degree head angle versus 68.9 degrees on the 29er, and the stays are a tad shorter. That said, the rear-centre is still a bit of a handful, at 445mm, which is close to 10mm longer than most of the competition.

Wide, curvy stays make room for big rubber.
Wide, curvy stays make room for big rubber.

The dramatic curving of the seat stays opens up huge amounts of tyre clearance, so there’s masses of space to spare, even with 2.8″ rubber. Heel clearance wasn’t an issue for us either.

Good looker!
Good looker!
Can you see the Twinloc cabling? Just barely, it's very neatly done.
Can you see the Twinloc cabling? Just barely, it’s very neatly done.

The extra compliance of the big volume rubber makes the shorter travel mode more usable in rough terrain

As with all Scott duallies, the suspension system is built around Twinloc, Scott’s unique on-the-fly travel adjustment system. The bar-mounted lever lets you select either 140mm or 90mm travel modes, or you can lock the rear end out completely. The fork’s compression is activated in tandem – open, firm or locked – completely changing the character of the bike at the push of a button. Really the Twinloc system and Plus tyres are a perfect match – the extra compliance of the big volume rubber makes the shorter travel mode more usable in rough terrain.

The rear brake caliper is tucked away, making adjustment a bit fiddly.
The rear brake caliper is tucked away, making adjustment a bit fiddly.

There’s loads of room for a water bottle, thanks in part to the slick integration of the Twinloc cable routing, and we welcome the mechanic friendly external gear and brake lines. Both gear and brake lines do hang low beneath the bottom bracket though, which could be a clearance/damage issue on scrappy trails. The placement of the rear brake calliper tucked in close between the stays is fiddly to adjust, but looks neat.

Believe us, stiffness is important on this bike, as you can put plenty of force through the rear end with so much grip on hand!

Scott give you the option to tweak the geometry, with a flip chip style adjustment at the rear shock mount. We left it in the slacker position, as we’re sure most people will. The rest of the suspension construction is neatly done, with large pivot axles that keep the rear end nice and rigid. And believe us, stiffness is important on this bike, as you can put plenty of force through the rear end with so much grip on hand!

The Suspension

The neat Twinloc lever puts the bike's personality at your finger tips.
The neat Twinloc lever puts the bike’s personality at your finger tips.

The single pivot with a linkage driven shock is the Toyota Camry of suspension layouts, but it’s given an new layer of interest by the Twinloc system. In Open mode, the suspension feel is super buttery, with a really lively feel, that ramps up nicely. There’s no pedalling platform, and with very little anti-squat in the suspension configuration, it’s very responsive.

The FOX 34 just works like a charm, hence the fact we've neglected to talk about it in this review. It just plain works!
The FOX 34 just works like a charm, hence the fact we’ve neglected to talk about it in this review. It just plain works!

Hit the lever and engage Climb mode, and the feeling is very different – the bike sits up higher in its travel, raising the bottom bracket, and the suspension becomes much firmer. As we’ve noted above, the Plus tyres still take the edge off, so the ride is surpisingly smooth even with only 90mm of travel. The full lock-out is really only useful on the road, so we rarely utilised it.
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Setup

Tyre pressure is critical with this much air volume at play. Too high, and you’re not going to get any advantages from the big tyres, just a bouncy, jumping castle kind of ride. Too low and you risk a vague, slow feel. For us, the sweet spot was about 14/15psi, or even a smidgen lower. A digital pressure gauge is essential, don’t trust your track pump. Of course, you’ll want to go tubeless too, and this process is no different to with a regular tyre.

With such high volume tyres, getting the air pressure right is more critical than ever.
With such high volume tyres, getting the air pressure right is more critical than ever.

We’re still getting our heads around how Plus sized tyres affect suspension setup, or whether it really does at all. There’s definitely a bit more bounciness to the bike, with all that extra undamped suspension from the bigger tyres, so we added an extra click more of rebound damping than usual.


The Bits and Pieces

It’s still early days for Plus tyres, so there’s no real consensus yet on what is the optimum rim/tyre width ratio. The Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie we tested not long ago had 29mm rims, with 3″ tyres. In comparison, the Genius Plus has 40mm rims and 2.8″ tyres. As a result, both have quite different tyre profiles, the Specialized being more rounded, with the Genius’s tyres having a more square shape. The super wide Syncros X-40 rims give the tyre a huge amount of support, which is reassuring when you start dropping the pressures to the low teens.

The low-profile Rocket Ron scoots along very quickly. Increased drag is such a minor issue that we'd happily overlook it.
The low-profile Rocket Ron scoots along very quickly. Increased drag is such a minor issue that we’d happily overlook it.

The tyre combo of a Rocket Ron and Nobby Nic works amazingly well. The beauty of such a big contact patch is that you can run a firmer compound without losing much in the way of grip, so both tyres are the quick-rolling Pace Star compound.

A 30-tooth ring and chain guide is ideal. Low gears for the climbs, some security when things get rowdy.
A 30-tooth ring and chain guide is ideal. Low gears for the climbs, some security when things get rowdy.

SRAM’s GX drivetrain is a giant slayer. Honestly, there’s so little performance difference between GX and the more expensive SRAM 1×11 groupsets, we’re sure SRAM are kicking themselves! The 30-tooth chain ring is a good idea; the grip on this bike is like a trials moto, so it makes sense to give it the gearing to climb up a wall.

Our bike's post was very slow to return.
Our bike’s post was very slow to return.
Shimano's SLX brakes have a light, accurate lever feel.
Shimano’s SLX brakes have a light, accurate lever feel.

Shimano’s SLX brakes aren’t glamorous, but they never miss a beat and work brilliantly. Less awesome was the Rockshox Reverb, which seemed like it was damped with golden syrup and returned back to full extension with all the enthusiasm of a teenager on a Saturday morning.


The Ride

Surely we’re grappling with a boat here, a real pig of a bike, right? Incorrect. The Genius Plus is fun, fast and will change the way you look at the trail. Confidence is the key attribute, the feeling is akin to the first time we rode a dual suspension bike, there’s an air of invincibility. Less regard needs to be given, to anything.

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We’re lucky in that many of our regular test trails are ideally suited to the Genius Plus, littered with rubble and loose sandy surfaces. It’s here that the Genius shines, it floats over sand, it refuses to get skittish when the trails turn to loose rock.

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We struggled to get our head around the cornering abilities of this bike. Even with its long rear end, the way it flings into a corner is ridiculous. On trails that we’ve ridden a hundred times, we needed to unlearn our usual braking points, and on corners where we’d usually unclip our inside foot, we could ride with both feet up. You just carry more speed through turns, and that makes for a faster ride overall.

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We did clip a lot of pedals on the Genius, but that’s because we were pedalling more – the extra compliance and grip means you can continue to lay down the power where it just wouldn’t have been viable before.

Rubble, no trouble.
Rubble, no trouble.

Climbing on the Genius is not about how fast you get up, but what you can get up. If you enjoy a technical climbing challenge, then the Genius is almost cheating. With the Climb mode engaged, it doesn’t get bogged down, and there’s unreal amounts of traction, so you can just keep churning away at the pedals.

Instant confidence.
Instant confidence.

So what about downsides? Certainly, there are some. On smooth, flatter trails, there’s a small increase in rolling resistance, but it’s hardly perceptible. There’s also a little more weight to cart about, but again not a lot. When you compare the Genius 710 Plus to its 29er equivalent, there’s about 600-700g in it. But it’s not weight for weight’s sake, it comes with huge benefits in terms of traction. We know what we’d choose when it comes to trade off between weight or grip.

A rather long rear-centre measurement doesn't dampen the Genius's enthusiasm for cornering.
A rather long rear-centre measurement doesn’t dampen the Genius’s enthusiasm for cornering.

Perhaps the most noticeable drawback is the occasional feeling of increased ‘bounciness’. At high speeds, or upon a really heavy landing or compression, or a fork bottom out, you can feel the tyres ‘ping’ back, with an extra fast rebound that can be hard to tame. It caught us unawares more than once. We’re also not sure how this format would perform in the mud, but we so rarely get to experience those conditions on our trails, that we’re not willing to really comment on this.


Overall

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We’ve talked a lot about this bike’s performance in terms of how the tyres impact it, rather than the bike as a whole, so we apologise. But the reality is, the Plus wheels/tyres just dominate this bike’s behaviour on the trail – if it had regular rubber, it would be a completely different experience. The Genius 710 Plus is supremely good fun, it’ll make you laugh out loud as you blast through corners that once felt awkward or sketchy, and as you hammer into rocky chutes with all the confidence of being on a downhill bike.

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This isn’t a bike for every trail surface or every rider, but if you’d dismissed this bike out of hand because of its wheel size, then pull your head out of the sand and line up a test ride. It might suit you, it might not, but you’d be silly not to give it a try.

Tested: Scott Spark 900 Premium

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Awwww yeah!

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What is it, and who is it for?

We know riders win races, not bikes, but you still can’t ignore the fact the Scott Spark is one of the most successful World Cup cross-country racing bikes on the planet. There are now two versions of the Spark to choose from (29er or 27.5″) across a broad range of price points. The 900 Premium is a 29er, and it’s the second top tier model in the Spark range. But no matter which wheel size or particular model you opt for, you’re getting a bike with real racing intentions.

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You can get the Spark with either 29″ or 27.5″ wheels, across a huge range of alloy and carbon variants. It’s a super popular bike, and we can see why.

With a weight figure (10.3kg) and spec list that befits its $8999 price tag, the Spark 900 Premium is obviously pitched at the serious (or seriously well-off) cross country or marathon racer. It’s a wheels-on-the-ground, foot-on-the-gas kind of bike. Roll it off the showroom floor, put a bottle cage and a number plate on it, and get to it.


The frame

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The laid back seat tube is a real hallmark of the Spark frame. It looks slack, but with your seat at the right height, you’re no further back than usual though.

With its strikingly swept back seat tube and schmick graphic highlights, the Spark frameset is a gorgeous, lightweight wedge of a thing. It’s constructed from Scott’s HMX carbon throughout, which they claim is a unique blend,  yielding 20% more stiffness and 9% more statistics than other carbon. It’s light, and it’s plenty stiff for its intended use. Ignoring the clump of cables around the bars, the frameset is remarkably clutter free; the way the upper link kind of envelopes the seat tube is beautiful, and the seat stays are sleek and minimalist.

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The linkage neatly encompasses the seat tube.

We praise Scott for resisting the temptation to make the pivot assemblies weedy and overly light. They’ve opted for tough and properly sized hardware instead, with 8mm Allen key fittings, which helps give the rear end more stiffness than we expected, especially given the bike’s weight. The dropouts are 142x12mm, but you can swap them out for 135mm if have some absurdly light set of Euro tubular wheels with old-school hubs.

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All the pivot hardware uses robust axles with 8mm Allen key fittings.

The rear brake mount is squeezed into the tight space between the chain stay and seat stay. It’s tucked out of the way but at the expense of ease of adjustment – we found it quite fiddly to line up properly. There’s more room up front, with plenty of space for a full-sized water bottle.

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You can flip the chip on the rear shock mount to tweak the Spark’s geometry. We never moved it from the slacker setting, as it’s still fairly steep.

Unlike the paint job, the Spark’s geometry numbers are pretty traditional. You do have some geometry adjustment via the rear shock mount, but even in the slacker setting the bike is still more edgy than a drug mule passing through customs, with a head angle of 69.5 degree.

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Gorgeous, thin seat stays. The location of the brake looks neat, but can be a little fiddly to adjust.

The chain stays are longer than a West Wing binge, at 448mm, which has a real impact on the bike’s handling as you’ll read below. We can’t help but feel this is where Scott will tweak the Spark next – going to a Boost rear hub would afford Scott’s engineers a bit more room to move and perhaps shorten it all up. By way of comparison, the rear-centre on a Specialized Epic is 439mm, a Trek Top Fuel is a tight 433mm.

It’s interesting to note just how different the Spark 27.5’s geometry is – the head angle is more than a degree slacker and the chain stays are 433mm, plus it has more travel (120mm). We’d love to try one of the 27.5″ models out as a comparison.


The suspension

Scott’s approach to the Spark’s suspension is pretty different to that employed on most other cross country race bikes. The suspension configuration is unremarkable – it’s a traditional single-pivot, with the link driving the shock – but the approach to damping and adjustability is unique. We’re talking about TwinLoc, which is not a wrestling manoeuvre, but a holistic suspension and geometry adjustment that allows you to change the Spark’s character on the fly via a well constructed, bar-mounted lever.

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The TwinLoc lever has been refined over a number of years now. If you run a single-ring, you can purchase the DownSide TwinLoc to position the levers where you’d normally find your shifter.

You’ll either love the TwinLoc system for its effectiveness, or you’ll hate it for the complexity, but it’s intrinsic to the Spark’s performance. Push the main lever to move to a firmer suspension mode, the silver lever drops you back down a level.

 

In the ‘open’ mode, the Spark has 100mm of rear travel and the suspension is fully active, and we mean ‘fully’ – there is no pedalling platform, slow-speed compression damping and minimal anti-squat chain tension forces at play, allowing the shock to work to maximum effect. Scott figure you should be able to get the full benefit of the suspension, without compromise, when you want it (e.g. descents or rough climbs).

The TwinLoc system engages both fork and rear shock - it's really a complete transformation.
The TwinLoc system engages both fork and rear shock – it’s really a complete transformation.

Push the lever one click and you’ll engage Traction mode. This simultaneously stiffens the fork compression, as well as reducing the rear travel to 70mm. The reduction in travel firms up the suspension considerably, which means a huge leap in suspension pedalling efficiency. Traction mode also has less suspension sag so you get a higher bottom bracket height and steeper angles, which is perfect for climbing.

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The low-profile lockout pulley on the shock is unobtrusive and leaves plenty of space for accessing a water bottle.

The third position is a proper lockout. The rear end becomes almost completely locked out, and the fork is stiffened even further. Essentially it’s a mode for tarmac, sprints or super smooth fireroad only.

Of course, all this adjustability is only useful if you remember to use it! If you’re coming from a bike that has a more set-and-forget suspension system, all the button pushing might seem infuriating. But it’s worth persevering as it has a huge impact on the bike’s abilities.

While we didn’t need to carry out any maintenance on the TwinLoc system during our testing, it is still a cable system, so don’t neglect to give the cables a little bit of lube love to keep it all working smoothly if you ride in dusty, wet or muddy conditions a lot.

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Many cables. Maybe humans will evolve to have more thumbs if we keep riding enough ?

If you decide to run this bike single-ring, it’s good to know that there’s a neat ‘under-the-bar’ DownSide TwinLoc lever available. We like the sound of this as, as it’d be nice to have access to the TwinLoc lever without having to lift your thumb above the bars.


Parts report

Scott have gone to town with some of the lightest racing kit out there for the 900 Premium, so banish any thoughts you had about hucking this bike off a drop of any considerable height, ok?

Syncros bits: Scott acquired legendary component brand Syncros not long ago, and some of their lightest components are found on the 900 Premium. It’s good kit; the 720mm-wide FL1.0 carbon bar has a comfy sweep and is zero-rise to help keep the front end racy. We initially had some misgivings about the stem, but it turns out to be just a carbon-wrap, not full carbon, which we think is sensible.

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The Syncros finishing gear is all very light and sleekly finished. We found the 720mm bar spot on.

Narrow rims: Syncros also provide the xR1.5 wheelset, which is a scant 1630g. The rear hub has a 36-point engagement with a light, crisp feel. We’re not overly fond of the narrow 20mm internal rim width, which is certainly on the skinny side. We understand this is a race bike, but even XC racers can benefit from a slightly wider rim to provide more tyre support. We never felt comfortable dropping the tyre pressures to the degree we’d have liked on such narrow rims.

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Schwalbe’s Rocket Rons are greatly improved over the previous version. The Syncros rims are narrow however, so you can’t drop the pressures too low.

XTR mechanical: There is a Di2 version on the 900 Premium available if you’re up for the full XTR experience, but the mechanical shifting is sensational too. The 900 Premium has a twin chain ring (24/34) with an 11-40 XTR cassette out back. If this were the Di2 bike, we’d leave both chainrings in place and use Shimano’s cool Syncro Shift mode (one shifter, two derailleurs) but as a mechanical setup our preference would be to run a single ring to declutter the bars and simplify things. The rear shifting is superb; for the first 30km or so on this bike, the drivetrain was a tad noisy, but it seemed to quite down soon after and delivered flawless performance.

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If a front derailleur is your preference, you cannot get crisper performance than XTR. The shifting is perfect.

XTR Race brakes: As noted above, we found it tricky to properly align the rear brake on the Spark, which meant our rear brake always felt a tiny bit spongy in comparison to the front, which had a light, snappy feel. The power certainly wasn’t effected though, and we found the 180/160mm rotor combo served up a huge amount of power.

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The XTR Race brakes don’t have the Servo Wave lever of their Trail counterparts, but there is still plenty of power. The I-Spec brake/shifter integration is very neat too.
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180mm rotor up front.

Fast Schwalbe rubber: The name ‘Rocket Ron’ says it all – these tyres are super quick – and they’re a great improvement over their predecessor (which seemed traction-phobic on most surfaces). The 900 Premium has the firmer Pace Star compound front and rear, we found them good on loose or loam surfaces, but still a bit nervous on roots or anytime things got off-camber. Maybe a Nobby Nic up front could be a good idea?


The ride

The 900 is pure-bred; its window of intended use is narrow, but it excels in that domain. It’s an accomplished mile-eater, a race winner, with riding position that is easy on your body and a weight that is easy on your legs. That said, you’ve really got to make sure you’re using the TwinLoc to full effect to get the most out of this bike.

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Climbing in Traction mode is fast and efficient. Leave it on Open mode if you require more slow speed grip.

Climbing: With the Traction mode engaged, the 900 absolutely motors along smooth fireroads, the light wheels and fast tyres are easy to prod into life, accelerating with just the lightest stab on the pedals. We were blown away by the ease with which this bike sailed up smoother climbs, and we found ourselves holding our cadence and gear, where we’d normally be slowing down and clicking for easier gears like mad. If you do need to drop into the small chain ring, you’ll find the shifting to be flawless – we never worried about a mis-shift or dropped chain with the XTR drivetrain. With the roomy 720mm bar, you’ve got plenty of leverage to engage your upper body in the climbing efforts too, sharing the load with your legs.

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Forget to engage Traction mode, however, and the climbing is less effortless. Because the shock doesn’t have a pedalling platform, choppy, tired pedalling will set the bike bobbing. That’s not to say we didn’t sometimes use the Open mode for climbing, but we limited its use to those times where we really needed maximum traction, on loose, rock-strewn climbs. The Rocket Rons aren’t the greatest on really scrambly rocky climbs either, so having the extra suppleness of the Open mode helps get the most grip possible.

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The Spark is happiest in fast, open trails where it just flies along.

Descending: Flick the bike into Open mode, and point it down the hill and you’ll find the 900’s descending abilities are a mixed bag. On fast, sweeping descents it’s like a comet blazing out of the sky, stable and smooth. The long rear end and supple suspension (in Open mode) keeps it all planted and calm, and in a straight line at pace it’ll skim over rough terrain. The FOX Float 32 might have slender legs, but it’s a good pairing for this bike and the slick Kashima coating on both fork and shock mean that the bump performance in Open mode is near frictionless.

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Long stays mean the Spark isn’t the most playful ride out there, but it’s so light that popping it around is pretty easy.

Slower speed descents or those with steep ledges that require a lot of body language are the bike’s nemesis though. The rear wheel trails along way behind you, and without a dropper post to let you get lower on the bike, you sometimes get the feeling of riding a bucking horse – you can’t get much weight over the rear axle with such long stays, so the bike tends to dive onto its front wheel, which can be a nervous experience!

100mm isn’t a lot of travel, and we feel the Spark 900 does a fine job of delivering its bounce for the job at hand. You don’t need a particularly bit jump or drop to bottom the fork and shock out, but nor should you – this bike is built for wheels on the ground riding primarily, so it should be able to deliver full travel without being thrashed.

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Cornering: Once again the Spark’s performance in this area isn’t one-dimensional. With the long stays, to get the bike through tight whippy turns, you’re either going to have to do a lot of steering or get used to sliding the back wheel in (much more fun). You can’t steer it off the rear wheel easily, and it’s near impossible to manual, so if that’s how you like to corner you’ll be frustrated. Thankfully, even if you do lose a bit of speed on the tight turns, it takes the blink of an eye to have the bike back up to full speed.

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Get on the gas out of a corner and the Spark is at full speed right away.

The flipside of the ungainliness in the tight turns is the performance at speed, which is where are race bike will spend most of its ride time. It slots into a long corner beautifully. The tyres aren’t the world’s most aggressive, but in a fast turn they’re super consistent and offer no surprises as you crank it over from centre tread to side knobs.


Overall

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The Spark 900 Premium is a true cross country bike – fast, sharp and light, a race winner. If you’re after a trail bike/race bike, perhaps the 700 (27.5″ wheels) will be a better option, with its longer travel and slacker angles. But if hunting down the rider in front, powering over the crest of a climb and flying through fireroads of a marathon race is your game, then you’re not going to be disappointed.

The Spark’s weight, TwinLoc system and sharp handling make it one you must put on the shortlist.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark 900 Premium

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29″ wheels, on-the-fly compression and travel adjust, and so, so light.

For the past few seasons, the Spark has been available in both 27.5 and 29er formats. We’ve opted to test the 29er version, which has slightly less travel than the 27.5″ model (100mm vs 120mm). In this category of bike we’re still inclined to prefer the larger wheel; when you’re hammering along a fireroad or hanging onto the bars at the end of a five hour marathon, we find the big wheels really help cover ground and cover up mistakes._LOW0635-2

 

24/34 dual rings.
24/34 dual rings.

Coming in at 10.3kg, the 900 Premium is lighter than an angel’s fart. Scarily enough, there are even lighter models in the Spark range – the frameset is one of the lightest on the market, which is part of the appeal these bikes possess for racing.

A full XTR drivetrain and brakes, super light Syncros carbon bar, post and stem, and some very racy Syncros wheels all help to keep this bike incredibly lean. Needless to say, we were diligent about using a torque wrench when it came to building this bike – a carbon stem is a weight saving we’d happily forego, tightening that sucker up is terrifying!

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The FOX Nude shock isn’t an item you’ll find on other brands’ bikes. The TwinLoc system lets you drop from 100mm to 70mm travel at the push of a button.

The TwinLoc suspension system is well-proven and extremely effective, giving you simultaneous control over the damping (and travel) of both fork and shock. The handlebar-mounted lever has three positions: open – the fork and shock are fully active; traction mode – the fork is toggled to a firmer damping setting and the rear travel drops to 70mm, which firms up the suspension and raises the bottom bracket slightly; lock out – the fork and shock are fully locked out. This system is incorporated into a FOX Nude shock, which you won’t find on any other brands’ bikes.

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Yes, there are lots of cables, but they’re all well managed.

Because the Spark 900 Premium has a twin chain ring in addition to the TwinLoc system, there are a lot of cables to keep an eye on! It’s executed very neatly all things considered, but we’d probably be inclined to run a single chain ring, then get a TwinLoc ‘Downside’ remote which positions the TwinLoc lever under the bar in place of the front shifter.

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The Spark gets a 32mm-legged fork and filthy light wheels. This is a proper XC bike, and the balance between weight and robustness is definitely tipped towards saving grams.

Set up has been simple – the TwinLoc system doesn’t require any funky shock pumps or use two rebound dials like the Cannondale Jekyll’s DYAD shock which also has travel adjustability. We’ve opted to leave the Spark’s geometry adjustment in the lower/slacker of the two settings, and we’ve gone tubeless with the wheels of course too. Now all that’s left is to go hunt down our mates and leave them in our dust!

24/34 dual rings.
24/34 dual rings.

Tested: Scott Scale 720 Plus

We’ve had a ball riding this thing, one of the few bikes that actually makes you laugh out loud as you blast about the trails with a grin on your face, so forgive us is we repeat ourselves here, we may be using the word ‘fun’ quite a bit.

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Big on bounce.
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Getting dirty on the Scale 720 Plus.

What’s Plus?

In a nutshell it’s just a 27.5″ wheel bike with bigger tyres, like this one with a voluminous 2.8″ of width. It’s not a fat bike as such, not even close, they handle more like regular bikes in our experience. The best plus bikes are a result of finding the sweet spot between all the wheel size factors like diameter, width, volume and tread and combining them into a great handling frame.

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2.8″ of rubber and air.
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Not really a hardtail with this much rubber beneath you.

Scott are well and truly at the forefront of the new plus thing, we’ve learnt that one already.

The outer diameter of the whole wheel is close to that of a 29er, but the actual rim diameter is a regular 27.5″. So the rolling benefits of the large diameter is apparent, but you still get a lively and agile feeling bike with loads of cushion and a tyre that conforms to the trail surface like nothing else. They aren’t here to win races, they are just a seriously good option for anyone who wants to enjoy riding trails, especially if they are loose and rocky.

The tyres are best run at low pressure, with a good tubeless setup we were running around 13-15 psi in the tyres, that may sound low, but with the super-wide 40mm rims the tyre doesn’t squirm around like you’d expect with low pressure.


Our experiences with Plus bikes:

Plus bikes are not new to us at Flow, we reviewed the Scott Genius Plus and bigger travel Genius LT Plus and the Scale 710 Plus hardtail (not an Australian model) last year. We LOVED them, why? Read this – Scott Genius and Scale Plus review.

We’ve tested a couple Specialized 6 Fattie bikes too, the Fuse hardtail is a comparable option to this Scale, an extra $700 but we loved riding it. Specialized Fuse Expert 6 Fattie review.

And the Stumpjumper 6 Fattie was one of the most fun tests we’ve ever done. Review here: Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 6 Fattie review.


The parts:

What’s with the alliteration here guys? Scott, Schwalbe, Syncros, Shimano, Suntour… Someone really likes the letter S.

Our first experience with the Suntour Raidon fork was pretty good, with 120mm of air sprung travel working with such a low pressure front tyre the fork felt more supple than it would be if fitted to a regular wheel bike. We found it best set up with less sag than usual to help it ride higher in the travel during descents, and never touched the remote lockout button. Their unique Q Loc quick release axle is a winner, fast and simple.

Syncros is Scott’s in house component brand, and it’s excellent kit. The rims may be 40mm wide, but they feel light and lively for their size. The saddle is a Flow favourite, and the cockpit is dialled. Just a set of lock-on grips would be handy when riding in the wet.

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Suntour, Syncros, Shimano, Schwalbe, Scott, Super, Sweet.
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Shimano brakes and shifters.

Shimano handle the brakes and drivetrain with stellar results. The brakes feel so light under the finger, the long levers do require you to slide them inboard on the handlebars for proper one-finger braking technique, but the power is ample for pulling up the big wheels at speed.

Drivetrain wise the double chainring and 10-speed cassette provide a wide range of gears so you can nail the steepest climbs, making the most out of the boundless quantity on traction available to you. We would have liked to see a Shadow + rear derailleur though, with the clutch mechanism it would stabilise the chain slap and also a conversion to a single ring drivetrain (everyone is doing it, a great upgrade) would require changing the rear derailleur too.

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Shimano XT rear derailleur, but the older non-clutch style version.

The Scale Plus comes in at $2299 which makes it one of those price points where you could go either way when choosing between a dual suspension or hardtail, so this hardtail has to be worth it. It’s all great kit, but for the dollars we do think it misses the mark slightly. Plus bikes need tubeless ready tyres to realise their full potential, and without a dropper post you’re just not able to let it fly. While we had zero issues or complaints with any of the parts during testing, we just hoped for a little more for the money.


The frame:

The Scale 720 is a tidy looking bike, with the smooth welds and a svelte matte finish dripping in bold green and blue graphics. There’s internally routed cables, and a neat set of dropouts with the Shimano direct mounting for the rear derailleur.

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Neat and smooth, the frame finish is classic Scott.
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Rad graphics.

There’s provisions for a dropper post and you can see how the engineers have been able to manage a short rear end despite having to fit such a big rear tyre in the frame, the chainstays and seat tube are very different in shape to any of the regular Scale frames.


The Ride:

We knew what we were in for with a plus hardtail, so it was off to the diciest trails for a good test. The Scale is simply fun, with so much traction you can ride like a complete idiot and it’s going to be ok.

Cruising along the flatter sections of trail with the whirring of the low pressure tyres requires patience, make the most of that time to relax and get ready for the fun bits. And when they came it was time to ride with reckless abandon, blasting through the rubble and mowing down the trails the Scale brought big smiles to our faces. We started riding hardtails, it’s where bikes began. They are grounding, engaging and just good fun.

The tyres grab ahold of the earth and don’t let go, it’s quite entertaining.

Sadly the Scale 720 is lacking in the only two areas that would make any bike that’s meant to be fun, really, really, really fun – tubeless tyres and a dropper post. With inner tubes in the tyres we couldn’t get the tyre pressure low enough for our liking, for fear of pinch flats, and couldn’t make the most of it. Schwalbe’s Performance range of tyres ride very well, but when converted to tubeless with sealant it’s not an ideal setup. We’d swap them out for a tubeless ready version for better air retention and protection if the bike were ours. And with a dropper post we would really be able to let it hang out there a lot more, so much more.

Where there is little traction you’ll find it, and when there is good traction you can lean it over until your elbows drag in the dirt.

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Wooohooooooo! Plus hardtails are a hoot.

Where the Scale 720 Plus shines. 

– Corners. Think about it, the number one deal breaker in a corner is traction. So if you take your regular bike and multiply its traction by five times you have this.

– Climbing up anything. It’s about traction again, so put a 2.8″ tyre on the back and go return to that tricky ascent that usually has you beat. You’ll win.

– Control. Double your skills, you’ve got this! The Scale won’t hit rocks and ping back at you or glance off roots. And there’s a whole lot less risk of crashing too, yay!

– Comfort. for a hardtail it’s not that hard, the big cushions below you do wonders in conforming to the uneven surfaces making the ride quite comfortable.

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Let 2.8″ of rubber lead you, it’s a very different feel.

Where it doesn’t. 

– Buff trails. You wouldn’t take your hopped up Susuki Sierra to the race track, this thing will only slow you down if you don’t need it.

– Keeping up with your mates on long travel bikes. When the speeds get high and the impacts grow in ferocity you need to remain calm and keep a lid on it, there’s only so many hard hits you can take before you begin to bounce off line. Catch up to your mates on 150mm travel bikes in the turns or when they can’t get up a climb.


Verdict:

Scott are really putting their weight behind plus bikes, for great reason. When we ride them we can’t help but wonder if these bikes had been around a lot longer, that the majority of trail bikes and especially hardtails would have big tyres too. It’s a no-brainer, the control that these bikes have makes mountain biking more accessible, and opens up more possibilities for riders that may only have steep or slippery trails available to them.

Our time testing the Scale was fun, throw in a dropper post and tubeless tyres and we’d keep it.

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Try one out for yourself.

The Scale 720 Plus is a great bike for the rider who simply wants to competently ride everything on the trail and have a good time doing it.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Scale 720 Plus

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2.8″ is a whole lot of rubber, in a really good way.

On review we have the $2299 Scott Scale 720 Plus, the only plus hardtail from Scott coming Down Under, let’s take a look at it before we get rowdy.

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She’s a real looker, with brilliant colours and finishing we’ve grown to love from Scott.

What’s Plus?

What is a ‘plus bike’ you’re asking? In a nutshell it’s just a 27.5″ wheel bike with bigger tyres, like this one with a voluminous 2.8″. No it’s not a fat bike, they ride more like regular bikes in our experience, and the best plus bikes are a result of finding the sweet spot between all the wheel size factors like diameter, width, volume and tread.

Scott are well and truly at the forefront of the new plus thing, we’ve learnt that one already.

The outer diameter of the wheel is close to that of a 29er, but the actual wheel is a regular 27.5″. So the rolling benefits of the large diameter is there, but you still get a lively and agile feeling bike. They aren’t here to win races, they are just a seriously good option for anyone who wants to enjoy riding trails, especially if they are loose and rocky.

The tyres are run at low pressure, with a good tubeless setup we were running around 13-15 psi in the tyres, that may sound low but with the super-wide rims the tyre doesn’t squirm around like you’d expect with low pressure, the support is ace.


Our experiences with Plus bikes. 

Plus bikes are not new to us at Flow, we reviewed the Scott Genius Plus and bigger travel Genius LT Plus and the Scale 710 Plus hardtail (not an Australian model) last year. We LOVED them, why? Read this – Scott Genius and Scale Plus review.

We’ve tested a couple Specialized 6 Fattie bikes too, the Fuse hardtail is a comparable option to this Scale, an extra $700 but we loved riding it. Specialized Fuse Expert 6 Fattie review.

And the Stumpjumper 6 Fattie was one of the most fun tests we’ve ever done. Review here: Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 6 Fattie review.

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Imagine what you could do with tread like this!?
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40mm wide rims, a key factor in supporting the low pressure tyres.

The frame.

This Swiss brand’s aluminium frames often look better than many brand’s expensive carbon ones, and this Scale 720 is no exception, it’s a real beauty.

Bold green and blue graphics drip all over the smooth matte black finish, with internally routed cables, smooth welds and a neat set of dropouts with the Shimano direct mounting for the rear derailleur.

There’s provisions for a dropper post (phew) and you can see how the engineers have been able to manage a short rear end despite having to fit such a big rear tyre in the frame, the chainstays and seat tube are very different in shape to any of the regular Scale frames.

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Stumpy little headtube, handy if you want to dump the stem down low.
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Internal cabling done nicely.

The parts.

The Scale 720 is the entry level Plus bike from Scott and the most affordable Plus bike we’ve ridden, at this price point the challenge is set to keep the bike’s weight down whilst still speccing it with the parts that will let it realise it potential on the trail.

Not here to win cross country races, the Plus bike just wants to have a good time, so the fork is 120mm, bars are wide and the stem is short, and of course the tyres are meaty. But there is no dropper post or tubeless ready rims or tyres.

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A Suntour fork Raidon fork is fitted up front with 32mm diameter legs, 120mm of travel and a remote handlebar lockout. We’ve not ridden any recent forks from Suntour, but from where we sit there seems to be plenty of development and high end riders on Suntour suspension, so we are very curious as to how they feel.

The Raidon is an air and coil sprung fork with adjustable rebound and their unique Q LOC quick release axle. We’ve seen RockShox and FOX master their take on the QR axle, but Manitou’s dismal attempt on the Specialized Fuse 6 Fattie drove us mad, so let’s hope this one goes ok.

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Shimano brakes and shifters.
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Shimano throughout.
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Shimano XT rear derailleur, but the older version without the clutch. Bugger.

Shimano take care of the brakes and drivetrain, with a mix of Deore and XT but there’s a distinct absence of a clutch mechanism on the rear derailleur. The clutch cuts down the noise and chain slap via a clever tension resistance switch on the derailleur cage. It’s not the biggest issue, but it’ll surely make the bike feel a little outdated in terms of noise and chain security.

The double chainring setup will ensure you’ll be able to climb anything and never run out of gears, and the gear cables are sealed and out of way from the elements so it’ll be a great all-weather bike for sure.

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Double chainring for maximum range!
Testing the Scale 710 in Dear Valley last year at the 2016 launch.
Testing the Scale 710 in Dear Valley last year at the 2016 launch. Now it’s time to test the Scale on home soil.

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Righto, let’s ride!

Stay tuned for our full review.

Evolving Fatness: Why Scott Bikes went with 27.5+

Sheppards 2016 30

Name please! And where you’re from.

Nat Campbell, I’m the export sales manager for Scott Sports. I’m based in Switzerland, but I’m from the inner mountain region of the US – Colorado, Idaho, moved around the Rockies a bunch.

What do you miss most about that place?

Wide open trails with nobody on them! And I miss Mexican food. Though I look after the Latin-American market as well, so I get a chance to get my hit sometimes.

Do you like that raclette thing the Swiss do? 

Oh man, fondue? You’d starve in Switzerland if you weren’t into cheese. If you’re not used to it it’ll crush you. Blockagé fromage we call it.

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The Genius Plus is one of two plus-sized lines in the Scott range for 2016.

Now, tell us a little bit about the advent of 27.5+, from your perspective. 

Sure. A lot of people are calling it a new standard, but I see it as an evolution and an adaptation of the frames that we had yesterday for the direction that everyone was going. Everybody I ride with has been going wider with their tyres, wider with their rims for years, going as wide as the frame would accept. And now with Boost and everything else, we can continue that evolution, and allow the use of a 2.8 or 3.0 inch tyre. We can really maximise those traction benefits people have been looking for.

But in terms of all the elements coming together that were needed for us to really test the concept, that all happened quite quickly and not that long ago, back at the end of last year, when forks finally became available.

From a consumer perspective, and a media perspective too, 27.5+ seemed to come about very quickly. When did it become a serious consideration for you?

Yeah, well it takes a lot things to come together to make it work. Before you can really put the concept to the test you need the forks, the tyres, the rims. I mean there was a bit of a buzz around plus-sized bikes last year at Interbike, but they were mainly rigid bikes and obviously that’s not what where the market is. But in terms of all the elements coming together that were needed for us to really test the concept, that all happened quite quickly and not that long ago, back at the end of last year, when forks finally became available. We got a fork from FOX and then it was like, ‘now here we go!’ and we could really test the concept out and make a call.

Plus-sized forks were the final piece in the puzzle that enabled Scott to test 27.5+ and make the call to give it a run.
Plus-sized forks were the final piece in the puzzle that enabled Scott to test 27.5+ and make the call to give it a run.

In terms of your first experiences, did you come to concept with much scepticism? How did it go for you? 

I was really intrigued by the whole concept. I was thinking about it from the consumer standpoint too – would this allow a person to have a one-bike quiver? Could you run it with 27.5+ wheels for general trail riding, then have a set of lighter 29er wheels too? But then my first ride on it had a 30-minute climb in it, and what I found was that there really isn’t any extra rolling resistance compared to my usual bike, so the idea of having a second set of wheels blew out the window pretty quick. It’s just not necessary – there’s an imperceptible difference in rolling resistance. But then when you go downhill, there is just bowls of traction, huge amounts, lots of confidence.

 Stock to stock though, the Genius Plus is a few hundred grams heavier than an equivalent Genius 29, so there’s not much in it.

On my personal bike, I would normally run a heavier casing tyre, so the Genius Plus actually saved weight for me overall. If you’re someone who usually runs heavier tyres for flat prevention, you’re going to save weight and get better flat prevention with a Plus sized tyre. Stock to stock though, with the standard tyres, the Genius Plus is a few hundred grams heavier than an equivalent Genius 29, so there’s not much in it.

In terms of adapting, it took a few rides to really get the tyre pressure right too, and I think that’s something that people are going to have to get their heads around. Too much pressure and you don’t get all the benefits.

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And you have the additional bounciness of a big un-damped air spring! 

Yeah, that’s right. For me, went down as low as 1 BAR in my testing, that’s like 14psi, but ended up at around 19-20psi.

My wife was sold on the concept pretty quickly though too, which was interesting. On her first ride she was riding lines she’d never done before, just crushing it. She’d taken down a beast.

There’s definitely traction benefits, but then how light can you make the casing and still get away with it in downhill racing?There’s a lot of testing to go there.

Scott have two quite different 27.5+ bikes, with the Scale Plus hardtail and the Genius Plus. Do you see 27.5+ being adopted across the whole spectrum of bike categories, or just some areas?

On paper the Scale and Genius Plus are very different bikes, a hardtail and a 140mm trail bike. But the Scale Plus is definitely designed as a trail bike, even though it is a hardtail, it’s got a 120mm fork, it’s designed to be ridden aggressively. The way I see it, every bike, every tyre choice, every suspension choice – they all come with certain benefits and compromises. It’s about matching the options to your riding and your trails.

Can you see Plus-sized format going to downhill? 

I mean it’s definitely being talked about by a few people, though perhaps not broadly yet. There’s a lot to be explored; what are the limits of the tyre? There’s definitely traction benefits, but then how light can you make the casing and still get away with it in downhill racing? What will the tyre weights be if there is a need to go to heavier casings? There’s a lot of testing to go there.

We hear a lot of people telling us that we don’t need this in mountain biking. Obviously we hear this a lot – anything new, we don’t need it – but particularly with 27.5+ because it seems to have come about in a real hurry, suddenly it’s everywhere. What would you say to people who say ‘we don’t need this’?

Maybe they don’t! But I would encourage them to try it. I haven’t talked to anyone who has ridden it who really knew what it’d be like when they first got on. Maybe they’ll love it, maybe they’ll want to stay with where they’re at, but you should try it first.

 

 

 

 

 

First Look: Scott and Avanti 2016 Range Highlights

One of the benefits of living in Australia, besides riding to school in the pouch of a kangaroo, is that each year we get to see the new range from Scott and Avanti bikes a little ahead of the rest of the world. On a sunny Melbourne winter’s day (an anomaly) we took a look at much of the 2016 lineup from Scott and Avanti, and here are our highlights.


Please note, many of these bikes are super-early samples, so parts spec isn’t always 100% correct and they’ve been assembled hastily, so things might be a little screwy. If in doubt, consult your bike shop, and if pain persists, please see a doctor.


Scott

[divider]Genius[/divider]

Sheppards 2016 20 On the whole, Scott’s super adaptable, long-travel trail bike is largely unchanged for 2016. It continues to employ Scott’s super effective (if slightly tangled-looking) Twin Loc on-the-fly suspension control, which is at the heart of this bike’s do-it-all abilities.

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The Genius 710 gets a FOX 34 fork this year, not a 32. We do wish all Genius models got the same treatment, but it’s a good move.

There are, however, two extremely notable additions to the Genius platform; the Genius Plus (27.5+ wheels), and a new Contessa Genius (women’s specific).

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Not obese, just a little chubby. At first glance, you could overlook the size of the rubber on the Genius Plus, with its 2.8″ tyres. They’re not nearly as in your face as some plus-sized offerings we’ve seen. The Genius 720 Plus weighs 13.8kg with an alloy frame.

The Genius Plus is, for want of a better word, a ‘sick’ looking piece of kit. With its 2.8” Schwalbe tyres on 40mm rims and stoutly proportioned FOX fork, it looks pumped up to laugh at all the trail abuse you can dish out. Only the Genius 720 Plus ($4499.95) was on hand at this showing, but the higher specced 710 ($5999.95) will also be coming to Australia.

 

The frame uses the same basic architecture as the rest of the Genius line, but the rear hub spacing is 148mm wide (the new Boost standard) to accommodate the huge rubber. Compared to the Genius 29, the chain stays are 3mm shorter, and the head angle is half a degree slacker, at 67.5 degrees. Travel is 130mm out back and 140mm up front, though with the Twin Loc system you can shorten the rear travel to 90mm with the press of a button, or lock it out entirely.

 

Theoretically, you could run a set of standard 29” wheels in this bike, if you wanted to have lightweight set of hoops as well for cross-country use. It’s an interesting idea, but not one that we’d bother pursuing.

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40mm rims with 2.8″ tyres should make for amazing tyre stability.

What’s really intriguing is how small the weight penalty is for all this extra traction. The tyres are sub 900g, which is only a smidgen heavier than a 27.5” trail tyre in 2.35”, yet the volume difference is tremendous. The rims themselves have a small weight penalty too, when compared to a narrower rim, but having had the pleasure of running 40mm rims already for the past six months (we’ve been using the Ibis 741 rims non-stop – read our review here) we know the extra weight is a small price to pay for the extra support.

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The width of the fork legs, more so than than the tyre, is what really stands out on the 27.5+ Genius.

All up, the complete Genius 720 Plus weighs in at 13.8kg, and the higher specced Genius 710 Plus is only 13.2kg (lighter once you go tubeless). That’s pretty respectable.

We have to say, we’ve really changed our thinking about this new wheel/tyre size. When we first heard of it, we wanted to scream, but now that we’re learning more, all we can think about is riding faster and faster and faster with more control.

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The Contessa Genius 700. 12.6kg, $6399. Note, this bike will come with a RockShox Reverb dropper post.

The women’s trail bike market in Australia has been neglected for a long time, but Scott are doing their bit to rectify things with two models of the Contessa Genius coming to Australia in 2016.

 

To be fair, the Contessa Genius is a far cry from the all-out women’s specific efforts we’ve seen from the likes of Specialized recently. Rather than being an entirely new bike, differences between the Contessa and the regular Genius are limited to component choices (shorter stem, narrower bar, different grips and saddle) and aesthetics.

What is cool about the Contessa Genius is that has the same 150mm-travel as the regular Genius – it doesn’t skimp on travel, because plenty of women like to shred too.

[divider]Scale and Spark[/divider]

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So light we had to tent-peg it to the turf. The Scale 900 is under 9kg. Yes, it’s very expensive at $7549, but this thing is a World Cup race bike in every sense. For 2016, the Scale RC will only be available in 29er in Australia.

 

Scott’s World Champ and World Cup winning rocketships don’t receive any overhauls this year, but they do gain a grippier counterpart, with a new 27.5+ Scale Plus joining the ranks. Unfortunately the Scale Plus wasn’t on display, but the catalogue tells us it’s a more trail-oriented bike with a 120mm fork, shorter stem and generally radical attitude. It’s also keenly priced, at $2299.

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There are precious few single-ring drivetrains in the Scott range, which is a pity, as having no front shifter allows for optimum placement of Twin Loc and reduces bar/cable clutter.

 

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The Spark 700 Premium. 10.35kg of singletrack destroying fun.

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Contessa Spark 700. Pretty flash colours – it looks like my wife’s Nikes.

[divider]Voltage FR[/divider]

When Scott launched the Voltage a few years ago, it was met with mixed reviews. On the plus side, it was versatile bike that could be adapted for everything from all-mountain, to slopestyle to downhill use. Unfortunately it was pretty free and loose in the rear end and its chameleon-esque nature left people unsure of what to actually do with it.

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Refreshed and ready to shreddy.

For 2016 the Voltage makes a return to Oz. There are a few similarities with the Voltage of yesteryear; you can still adjust the travel (170-190mm) and the bike is suitable for either single-crown or double-crown forks. Like the Gambler, it’s also designed for either 27.5″ or 26″ wheels, the smaller wheels giving you the option of dropping the chain stay length to a sneeze-and-you’ll-wheelie 410mm.

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There are two Voltage models coming to Australia. The 710, pictured here, is $5499 and weighs in 16.7kg with a FOX 36 RC1 with 180mm travel up front. For $3599 you can pick up the 720, which has a cheaper FOX/Marzocchi suspension package.


 

Avanti

Hailing from across the lake in NZ, Avanti have been producing some outstanding, no-nonsense workhorse bikes lately. We recently reviewed Torrent Carbon, and earlier in the piece we tested their Ridgeline cross-country 29er duallie. For 2016 Avanti have added a whole new model to their dual suspension range, and made a well-considered change in the Torrent line-up.

[divider]Competitor Full Suspension[/divider]

The new Competitor S (is it just us, or has Avanti had a Competitor since Adam was a boy?) is a 120mm-travel, 27.5″ wheeled platform that represents extremely good value. With two models, priced at $1999 and $2499, it’s a simple range to get your head around, which is ideal given it’s aimed at the consumer buying their first serious mountain bike.

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The $2499 Competitor S7.2.

Both Competitors share many of the construction elements found on the bomb-proof Torrent frame, but get a quick-release rear end to keep costs down. It’s small costs savings like that which have allowed Avanti to put more money into the areas which are more likely to be appreciated by a newer rider, things like a reliable drivetrain, good brakes and decent, tough wheels.

$2500 will get you the Competitor S7.2 with Shimano XT/Deore 2×10 drivetrain and RockShox throughout, while the cheaper S7.1 gets X-Fusion suspension and full Deore with down-specced brakes. Either way, these are a really dialled looking pair of bikes and we’re going to aim to review one in the coming months.

[divider]Torrent S7.2[/divider]

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The bombproof Torrent S7.2, $3999.

We really like the look of this one. The S7.2 is the premium alloy offering in the Torrent line, and it’s got the kind of no-stuffing-about component spec that we like. It’s good to see a 1×11 XT drivetrain, along with SLX brakes, and a Pike is a unbeatable choice up front. The new Kenda Nevegal X tyres look pretty aggro too!

N1NO – the Hunt for Glory – Chapter 2 – On the Go

Being on a professional MTB team, there is a lot of travelling involved- before and during race time. Nino Schurter and SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing spent a decent amount of time in South Africa and California preparing for the upcoming World Cup season, which starts this coming weekend in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic..

South Africa is where the team heads every year to start their season. Unlike recent years, Nino Schurter kicked-off the pre-olympic race season at the Bonelli US CUP and the Sea Otter Classic in California. “At Sea Otter, my team mate Jenny Rissveds and I competed in four races, and it resulted in 4 podiums. It was a very cool experience to race in California and definitely felt good to bike where MTB was born,” Nino says.

Chapter 2 gives an inside view into the team`s life and all the preparation professional racing requires. “Everything we do in 2015 has just one goal: to be the most fit possible for the Olympic Race in Rio in 2016.”

The Ultimate Claudio Caluori Wild Ride

One of the must-see events of any UCI World Cup weekend is the inimitable GoPro Course previews from the Gstaad-Scott manager and veteran downhill speed demon Claudio Caluori.

Anyone who has watched one of Claudio’s course previews over the past three years will understand why the bubbly Swiss national is our go to man for such clips. Claudio is just pure box office when he gets motoring on that downhill bike. You just don’t know what comments or sounds are going to come out of his mouth next as he describes his ride down World Cup courses.

You always tell us you want more Claudio so we’ve put together some of Claudio’s funnier moments from last season’s GoPro runs for your enjoyment. Sit back and be prepared to laugh like you’ve never done before.

 

Flow’s Freshies: Products We’re Using, Testing and Loving

Flows Freshies 5

Shimano M200 shoes

www.shimano.com.au, $229

‘Designed for the way you ride’ is Shimano’s tag line for their new trail/all-mountain/enduro shoes. What this actually means when you strip away the marketing speak, is that these shoes are built for the kind of riding that more and more people are getting into; the kind of riding where you might do a bit of walking up tricky slopes, where all-day comfort is a priority, where you’re more worried about the descents than the climbs. We’ve long been fans of Shimano’s AM45 downhill shoes, but they’re really a bit heavy and bulky for most rides, likewise we’re big fans of Shimano’s XC shoes but they generally don’t provide much grip or comfort when you’re walking or you miss a pedal entry. The new M200 shoes (and the less expensive M163) aim to hit a middle ground; they use Shimano’s new Torbal (Torsional Balance) system, which gives more flex through the toe and outsole, but plenty of stiffness under the ball of your foot. The aim is to make them more suitable for walking and offer more feel for aggressive riding, but preserve pedalling efficiency. The M200s also offer a great range of cleat positioning than previous Shimano shoes, and there’s loads of protection with raised ankle padding and a tough toe box.

Flows Freshies 19

Flows Freshies 20

Reynolds 27.5 AM Carbon wheels

www.reynoldscycling.com, $2099

Reynolds may have more of a name for themselves on the road than in the dirt, but they do make a great range of hoops for mountain biking, including these carbon 27.5″ all-mountain fellas. We’ve been riding a lot of carbon wheels lately, and while the Reynolds AMs aren’t quite as wide as some at 31mm, they’re well up to spec in every other regard. We actually rode these same wheels on a Focus SAM last year (read the full review here) and loved them. Reynolds claim this is the strongest rim they’ve ever made, and the wheels are tubeless read with the addition of the supplied rim-tape. The modular axle system will fit any dropout combo conceivable too and the complete weight is just on 1660g on our scales. We’ll be popping these onto our Norco Range long-term test bike for a real flogging.

Flows Freshies 13

Contour ROAM 3 camera

www.contouraustralia.com.au, $299.95

Contour have had a bit of an up and down ride in the market. Their sleek camera was one of the first to really challenge GoPro, but then things went a little quiet with rumours that the brand had gone belly-up. Not so, apparently! Contour are back with the ROAM3, a competitively priced and well-featured unit. We’ve always liked the slim, low-profile design of the Contour, and the slide-to-record button is easy to use with gloves on a bumpy trail. It does lag a little behind the latest GoPro in terms of frame rates, but the pricing is sharp, and that will appeal to many. We’ll be reviewing this fella shortly.

 

Flows Freshies 2

Flows Freshies 4

Scott ARX Plus MTB MIPS helmet

www.scott-sports.com, $149.95

The real highlight of this new helmet from Scott is what lies beneath its black low-key exterior – the MIPS Brain Protection System. See the yellow liner? That’s MIPS – it’s a low-friction liner that is designed to allow your head to rotate relative to the helmet shell upon an angled impact, reducing the amount of shock transmitted to your brain. You can read more about MIPS here. Even if you don’t plan on head planting, this is a great helmet; our initial testing sitting in front of the computer reveals it to be very comfy and Micro Rotary Adjustment System doesn’t have any tight spots or pressure points like some. The pricing at $149 is a real bargain in our (MIPS protected) mind.

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Genius 710

When the Scott Genius was launched, it really was a pioneering machine. Exceptionally lightweight, long travel, with a propriety rear shock that looked like a jetpack and which gave riders the ability to adjust the amount of rear wheel travel on-the-fly. Since then, this market segment has grown tremendously, but the Genius has remained an exceptionally popular bike. Taking a look at our latest test bike, the Genius 710, it’s easy to see why this bike still sits on top of the pile.

Scott Genius 710-2

There are now two variants of the Genius, with 29″ and 27.5″ wheels. We opted for the 27.5er, which has proven to be the more popular option in the Australian market. It has slightly more travel that the 29er version (150mm vs 130mm), and we’ve become big fans of the mid-size wheel in the past few months so we wanted to keep the 27.5 vibe running.

Scott Genius 710-11
The FOX made shock can be adjust on-the-fly to serve up 150 or 100mm of travel.

The whole suspension configuration has been changed since the original Genius. Gone is the funky DT-made pull-shock, with far more conventional single-pivot/swing-link system now used. The shock is manufactured by FOX, but it retains the on-the-fly travel adjustment that gives this bike its brainy versatility. Hitting the Twin-Loc lever on the bars engages Traction mode: the rear travel is reduced from 150mm to 100mm, stiffening the suspension rate and therefore the amount of suspension sag, to aid climbing. Push the lever to its second stop and the rear suspension is locked out entirely, along with the fork, making for a rock solid pedalling machine.

Scott Genius 710-5
The gloss on matte black finish is superb.

A by-product of the Twin-Loc system (along with a dropper post and the fact this bike has a left-hand shifter) is that the handlebars do look like a bowl of udon noodles – there are cables galore. Whether or not this will bug us in the long run remains to be seen, but we’re sure some will find it off-putting.

Scott Genius 710-17
The geometry is adjustable simply by reversing a chip on the rear shock mount.

While the Genius does feature adjustable geometry, even in its slackest setting the bike is definitely a lot sharper handling than most of the current crop of 150mm-travel machines, with the head angle at 67.9-degrees. In this respect, the Genius is more of a trail bike than an all-mountain / enduro machine, and this reflects the bike’s original intentions. It was always designed as the bike that could bring longer travel into a the realms of super low weights and meld this with geometry that was conducive to climbing performance. A lot of the spec choices also reinforce this aim – for example, the use of 32mm fork rather than a 34/35mm. Of course the question remains whether the Genius can really achieve this balancing act of cross-country-esque efficiency, weight and climbing performance without sacrificing too much on the descending front. There’s only one way to find out!

 

Scott 2015 Range Highlights

Flow got a glimpse of the future last week when we were invited to take a sneak peek at the Scott 2015 range. This global giant of sport (not just cycling) always delivers a staggeringly broad and deep range, with incredibly light flagship models, exceptionally refined carbon frames and some of the most versatile bikes out there. Next year’s line up looks set to do it once again. Is it just us, or does the product cycle gets faster every year – it’s not even tax time yet! Here are some of the range highlights.

Of the bikes we had access to, it is only the Gambler which has undergone serious revision for 2015. This is no surprise, as the Spark, Genius and Genius LT have all had significant overhauls in the past few years. Nonetheless, Scott has pulled together a seriously stylish looking lineup, with some stunning lightweight cross country and trail bikes in particular.

SPARK series – 27.5″ and 29″

Scott 2015-7
The Spark 900 RC, $7999.

The world-beating Spark line continues to be available in two wheel sizes, with a 27.5″-wheeled 700 series, and the 29er 900 series. It’s not just the wheel size that differs between the two variants – with the smaller wheels the travel is increased to 120mm front and rear, while the 900 series runs 100mm. This makes a lot of sense, for many reasons; 100mm of travel helps keep the big-wheeler more responsive, allows a lower front end height, and the greater roll over of the big wheels requires less travel to rumble on through.

With 120mm, the 27.5″-wheeled Sparks have the capability to play double duty as a cross country race bike and as a trail bike too, which will ensure they continue to be a super popular machine for occasional racer. Add to this Scott’s killer ‘three-bikes-in-one’ Twinloc system, and you have a very versatile machine. This system (found across the Spark, Genius and Genius LT lines) reduces and stiffens the travel at the flick off a switch, and can lock the suspension out entirely if you push the lever through to its second position.

As in previous years, the Spark is available in a range of frame material configurations too. There’s the full IMP carbon frames, carbon front / alloy rear for the mid-priced bikes and then full alloy framed bikes are the lower end of the range. In a trend that we’re confident will become increasingly common, the 29er bikes are only available from size medium to x-large, while the 27.5″ 700 series runs from small t0 large.

We couldn’t take our eyes off the bumble-bee inspired Spark 900 RC, which looks stunning and weighs in at 9.9kg. The SRAM XX1 / Shimano XTR build kit is perfect. As with the other 29er Sparks, travel is rear travel is adjustable from 100-70mm on the fly,

One bike that was not on show (but which will be available in Australia) is the Spark 700 Ultimate Di2. As the name implies, it gets the full XTR Di2 treatment, plus a custom FOX iCD electronic lockout which runs off the same battery as the shifting. Even with all the electronics, this bike is said to weigh only 10.1kg, and it’ll be 27.5″ only.

Scott 2015-63
Spark 700SL. You’ll get 5c change out of 10 grand for this puppy.
Scott 2015-76
The Spark 910, $5799.

 GAMBLER series – Scott’s downhill beast makes the jump to big wheels

Scott 2015-52

The big news on the downhill front is bigger wheels. It’s no secret that Brendan Fairclough and the rest of the Scott contingent have been experimenting with 27.5″ for some time now (we remember seeing test shots from at least 12 months ago), but now the larger hoops have made it onto the production bike.

While visually the frame looks pretty much identical, it has been re-engineered around the larger wheels to still facilitate some very short chain stay lengths even with 27.5″ rubber. Interestingly enough, the frame is ‘backwards compatible’ with 26″ wheels, though we can’t imagine too many folk will go down that route.

The Gambler retains its massive range of adjustability too, with the head angle alterable from 61-65 degree, 10mm of bottom bracket height adjustment and 19mm of wheelbase adjustment (from 421-440mm). Another subtle tweak has been made to the Floating Link suspension design. It still deliver 210mm of travel, but the kinematics have been tweaked to significantly reduce pivot rotation for better durability and less friction.

Two variants of the Gambler will be coming to Australia. The 710 here will retail for $7299. We don’t unfortunately have pricing on the 720, which comes with Shimano Zee and slightly cheaper suspension items.

 

Genius LT – more models available in Australia

Scott 2015-25

Previously available in only very limited numbers, the Genius LT will finally brought into Australia in a fairly considerable manner for 2015. This is music to our ears, as we think this bike is a real gravity enduro weapon. With 170mm travel front and rear, the has enough to take on just about any trail. With the Twinloc system dropping the rear travel to just 110mm at the push of a button it’s a very versatile machine.

There are three versions of the LT making their way to Australia, from the incredibly light ‘Tuned’ version which is said to weigh just 12.1kg, through to the all-alloy 720 which we have featured here ($4799). Even the LT 720, kitted out with some fairly weighty parts, comes in at just on 14kg.

All three models feature the newly updated FOX 36 fork, Shimano brakes, stealth dropper posts and some of our favourite tyres on the market, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf.

 Genius series – 27.5 and 29er options once again

scott 2 2015-16

For a number of years now, the Genius has been one of the leading long-travel trail bikes on the market. It doesn’t try to position itself as a really hard-charging bike, but instead focuses on bringing longer travel into the realm of lightweight, all mixed in with geometry that is evenly balanced between climbing and descending.

As with the Spark and Scale, the Genius is available in both 27.5″ and 29″ wheel sizes, with 150mm and 130mm travel respectively, though it’s the 27.5″ bikes grabbing the lion’s share of sales. Again, there are full carbon, full alloy and alloy/carbon mix frames in the line-up too, depending upon the model. Topping the range is Tune series Genius, which is a sickeningly light 10.6kg out of the box, but it’s the 710 and 910 models that we think are the real meat and potatoes of the Genius range, with their reliable XT drivetrain and Rockshox Reverb posts.

The $3999 Genius 740 (below) is the entry level steed in the Genius 27.5 range. All that’s missing is a dropper post and it’s set! If 29″ wheels are more your thing, the Genius 950 is a very reasonable $3499 too.

scott 2 2015-10
The Genius 740, $3999.

 

Scale series – amongst the lightest on the market 

scott 2 2015-24
The Scale 700RC, $6999.

For the racers, the Scale is a hard one to look past, if only for the amazing off-the-shelf weight of some of the models. Again, there are 700 and 900 series bikes ( 27.5/29 ) available at a number of price points.

It’s Nino Schurter’s bike of choice, the Scale 700RC team replica, that grabbed our attention, for obvious reasons. It looks truly amazing, and at 8.6kg it’s crazy light too. Scott actually do offer an even lighter version, with the 700SL claimed to shed another 100g (for just another $2000 ).

 

 

 

 

Course Preview: Claudio Caluori Tames Fort William World Cup DH

It’s that time of year again here at the UCI World Cup; the course builders have been out in force, the midges have been starving themselves and we’ve taped a microphone and a GoPro to downhill rider Claudio Caluori.

The guys at Aonach Mor have been busy too – vast swathes of the top section have been filled in and the taping in the woods is incredibly tight. Anyway, enough from us, over to the master.

Tested: 2014 Scott Gambler 20

Take a gamble on our full review here.

Country and Western star Kenny Rogers has a very famous song about The Gambler. Essentially the song is a metaphor for life; dealing with what you have been dealt, and knowing when to walk way from trouble. It has nothing to do with this bike as you can change what you’ve been dealt and should never need to be walking away from anything that may trouble you on the trail.

WEB_TEST_Scott_Gambler_20-1-2

The Scott Gambler is a very slack, very capable and adjustable downhill race machine that can be easily dialled to suit you and/or the terrain you’re riding. Add to that a pretty good suspension platform, and some pretty capable spec, and you have a downhill machine that fits very nicely in its price-point.

Thredbo was the perfect testing track for the Gambler, especially as it was nearing the end of the bike season and the downhill track was at its best (roughest). Also, the rain gods sprinkled the hill with water the night prior so we had that ultimate testing environment to sink our tyres into.

Build.

The Scott is a beautifully built and solid bike that stands out amongst the crowd. A full aluminium bike with welds and neat hydroformed tubing with almost a carbon look to it.  Everything is beefy and burly with large pivots and hardware, the whole rear end is obviously very stiff.

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The Gambler was at home at Thredbo.
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No matter how you look at it, we think it looks great.

The suspension is what stands out. Scott call their design a “Floating Link” and to paraphrase of their own marketing: “There is a subtle dual progressive curve to achieve the goals, but not too exaggerated to avoid shock tuning limitations. The floating link creates a progressive feeling suspension with an almost direct compression of the shock, minimizing DU bushing rotation. This increases shock bushing life and improves small bump sensitivity.”

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The engine room of the Scott. Don’t let all this links and pivots fool you, it’s pretty simple and really stiff.

Basically all those links and pivots are there to support the suspension curves and feel, for what is a single pivot bike; which pivots on the seat stay, directly above and in-line with the bottom bracket. The Gambler uses a long 3.5″ shock stroke that ramps up progressively (slightly rising rate) as the shock compresses. Given that the travel of the bike is 210mm this also means a leverage ratio of around 2.3-2:5:1 (leverage ratio can change through the stroke). That’s a low number and the advantages of low leverage ratios are increased small bump performance and a wider range of shock tunability. The downside can be too much bob and action on the rear-end when you don’t want it but seeing as the Gambler is designed for super steep downhilsl then this should be less of an issue.

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Everything pivots on the one main pivot just above the bottom bracket (on the right), The rest helps maintain the curve the to the shock.

The Gambler’s geometry is super adjustable. The head angle can be adjusted in two different ways, the first is with the adjustable bottom bracket height. This little chip near the bottom of the shock can be flipped to raise the height of the bike (from 345mm to 354.5m) also sharpening the head angle by +0.7°. The second method to adjust the head angle was to play with the Syncros headset (either integrated or via a separate cup) for a change of either +/- 1°, or +/- 2°. The permutations of headset adjustably were massive however we left ours at the factory default of 62° – pretty damn slack already.

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By playing with these three elements you can really adjust the Gambler for all your needs.

The other bit of adjustably was the bike’s overall length, which you can adjust by 15mm via another chip around the rear wheel axle.  At the stock length of 425mm the Gambler is nice and short with an overall wheelbase of 1185mm (size tested). We did push the rear-end out to the longest setting but it did feel a little too long for us, especially considering the slack head angle. We also think there’s a chance to fit in a 27.5″ wheel at the longer setting however we didn’t try this ourselves.

The Gambler is also full of other neat and nice design features. Bumps stops on the down tube to prevent denting from the forks in a crash is a nice touch, as to is the rubber protection at the bottom of the down tube to protect against those hard rocks flinging up at the frame. The cable routing is also quite neat and we loved the little trick of routing the shifting cable through the chain stay. You will however need a few zip-ties when it comes time to change the cables.

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A little peek at the rear shifting cable before it disappears again. And a nice simple and nice touch – a bump stop to protect the frame from the forks .

Finally, you’re either going to love or hate the bright green colour of the Gambler 20 but but the looks and the questions we got when riding it sure made us feel popular.

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Yep, it’s bright green (and blue).
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Some additional rubber to reduce chain slap noise.

Spec.

The Gambler sits at the lower end of downhill bikes when it comes to price. The $4499 price tag does net you a very decent build kit though, with highlights being FOX 40 fork, a FOX Van RC rear shock and a Shimano Zee drivetrain.

The drivetrain is taken care of with all Shimano Zee parts. The Zee is the more affordable cousin to Shimano Saint. The rear derailleur uses a clutch mechanism to reduce the whole thing flapping around and worked perfectly, it’s just that it looked a bit plastically and we wonder how well it would hold up to a few hits. Chain retention is taken care of with a E.thirteen chain device (with bash guard) and during our test we noted no issues with shifting or chain loss.

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Shimano ZEE, weird name, great solid kit.

The FOX 40 is a good entry level fork from FOX, however basic pre-load and rebound (and spring changes) are your only options for tuning. During our testing we found the fork to be fine, we only having issues with spring noise. The rear shock is also the more basic unit; FOX VAN RC with adjustable rebound and low-speed compression. The rear shock felt pretty good for us and the spring was pretty much spot on for our weight. It would be great again to have a little more adjustability but the lack of it is the norm at the this price-point.

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Preload and rebound up front.
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Low-speed compression and rebound dials out back.

The brakes are a lower spec single piston stoppers, Shimano Deore with big 203mm rotors. This would probably have been the low-light of the spec. Sure, the brakes did work well, but at Thredbo we were wishing for a little more. By the end of such a long run you were wishing for something with a bit more bite when your hands were tiring. A great upgrade to the bike would be a set of ZEE brakes.

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Probably the only really big let-down was the brakes. Sure they worked, but the Gambler is made for high speed so you need high speed stoppers.

Syncros rims with Formula hubs were all fine, and held up well to our testing. The Schwalbe Magic Marys are a great tyre and when Thredbo was a little wet they are exceptional. We actually ran tubes in the test (which is almost unheard of for us) and didn’t flat once. That’s a good sign but of we had the bike for the long term we would have converted it to tubeless.

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If you read the fine print the rims are actually made by Alex.
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Big hubs with sealed bearings.
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We like the Magic Mary.

The cock pit was comfortable and the 800mm Syncros bars were actually wider than we would normally run, however we got used to them pretty quickly. The quick release on the seat post clamp was a weird one as a downhill bike is a set-and-forget type of thing when it comes to seat height.

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800mm is pretty wide but we got used to it.
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??? Not sure if this is needed.

Ride.

The Gambler is stable, and even more stable at speed. The slack head angle, low bottom bracket, and long front end all add up a very stable bike at speed, especially on the steeper sections of the track. The bike really does want you to go faster.

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The other notable was the bike felt better when ridden a little further back, with your weight over the rear wheel. This would let the rear suspension shine as the rear suspension was a highlight, small bump performance was great and we never felt like we were bottoming out at all. If you see Scott world cup downhiller Brendan Fairclough ride you will see he is often hanging right off the back, and we can see why this bike suits him.

While the Gambler was really good at high speed and rough straight lines, it was a little harder to get around the tight stuff. We also found it a little harder to jump than other downhill bikes we had ridden.

All that slackness and lowness though does have its downside and it’s when the trails get a little less steep. If it’s flat, or you have to work a little more for your speed, the Gambler is a bit more of a slug. If you’re thinking about buying this bike, really think about how steep your riding will be. The steeper the better your experience will be.

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The bike also rode pretty quiet, which is a nice thing. Some people have mentioned noise issues however we noted none.

Just like the FOX 40 on the Giant Glory 1 test, we had issues with the spring clanging around inside the fork. While where on the subject of the forks, the price you pay (or don’t pay) for a lower spec fork is lack of adjustability. The FOX 40 was good at it’s designed job, it’s just that we feel a better fork would have made the riding package a whole lot better as the rear did outshine the front.

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Verdict.

We liked the Gambler and think you will too. It’s a bike that makes you feel very comfortable at speed and across the tough and rough stuff – as long as the terrain is steep and fast. We did find it a little harder to manoeuvre on the tight stuff, and it was a little harder to be playful and jump about on. However, we’re pretty confident that if we had more time to get more aggressive  and comfortable with this beast it would have taught us a different way to ride.

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Even brighter than moss.

We also dug the adjustably of the Gambler. 60 degrees is probably too slack for most Australian riding but if you’re heading off to the steeps of Europe then this beast can be pointed straight off Mt Blanc without any fear. The Gambler does 20 weighs in at 17.8kg, which is admittedly a smidge heavier than some of its competitors, but this is a bike designed to have plenty of gravity on its side.

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Kenny Rogers didn’t sing about this Gambler bike but maybe if he had of ridden it he would have changed the words to his most famous song to: “You’ve got to know when to smash it, know when to jump it, know when to let off the brakes, and know when to have fun…”.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Gambler 20

With a head angle slacker than a yokel’s jaw, the Gambler 20 is a serious gravity beast.

Scott Gambler 20-14

This is the first time we’ve been up close and personal with the new Gambler and it’s a pretty heavy duty piece of machinery. The Floating Link suspension system dominates the frame; the whopping 3.5″-stroke shock is housed centrally, in an arrangement that compresses the shock very directly, with a minimum of rotation at the DU bush that should increase durability and small bump compliance.

Scott Gambler 20-1

Adjustability was always a hallmark of the old Gambler platform and that trait continues with the new version too. Chain stay length, bottom bracket height and head angle are all independently adjustable – you can drop the head angle to an absurdly slack 60-degrees should you want to ride down a cliff.

gambler frames

The $4499 price tag nets you a very decent build kit, including FOX 40s and Van RC rear shock (dishing up 210mm travel), a Shimano Zee drivetrain and Shimano brakes. The Gambler 20 weighs in at 17.8kg, which is admittedly a smidge heavier than some of its competitors, but this is a bike designed to have plenty of gravity on its side.

We’ll be logging some summer shuttle runs on the Gambler soon.

Tested: Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned

Scott have thrown their big bones behind the 650B wheel size with the introduction of their long-travel all-mountain/enduro bike, the Genius LT.

 

Last year, the original Genius – the bike that for years has pushed the boundaries of adjustable, adaptable and lightweight long travel – added 650B and 29″ wheels to the line. Now it is the 170mm Genius LT (long travel) that gets a serious makeover. From the ground up this is a whole new type of Genius.

Flow attended the 2014 Scott media launch, and took the new Genius LT up into the Swiss Alps above Gstaad!

This sums it up - a bike that can bring the current World Cross Country Campion Nino Shurter and World Cup Downhill phenomenon Brendan Fairclough together on one ride is the future!
This sums it up – a bike that can bring the current World Cross Country Campion Nino Shurter and World Cup Downhill phenomenon Brendan Fairclough together on one ride is the future!

Note: The Genius LT will be available in Australia as a special order only, the lesser travel Scott Genius (non-LT) model will on Scott dealer showroom floors to touch and feel.

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Construction:

With a full reconstruction comes the ability to start fresh and implement elements of frame design that have proved successful in other models in the lineup. In this case, Scott have brought the Spark, Genius and Genius LT together and there are many shared construction features and styling. It may not look that unique from a distance, but it is, each and every bit.

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Scott know a thing or two about manufacturing carbon, just take a look at their massive range of carbon mountain bikes, road bikes and triathlon bikes. In our dealings with the brand over the years, we’ve found them to be regulars in the realm of the ‘lightest available’ club, with a refreshing European flair and colourful style that makes them distinctively Scott.

The Genius, along with Spark are single pivot suspension designs, with the pivot located on the seat stay.

The Genius is available in two carbon material variants, HMX and HMP. The Genius LT 700 Tuned we rode was built out of the premium HMX stuff.

Fine-tuning the head angle (by 0.5 degrees) and bottom bracket height by swapping around the lower shock mount is quick, effective and very easy.

What really surprised us was the move from long time partner DT Swiss to FOX for the rear shock, whilst still retaining the system that makes a Genius such a genius; the Twinloc suspension system. Twinloc allows you to control the rear travel quantity and compression lockout via one very nifty thumb lever. The three modes – Climb, Traction Control, and Descend – don’t just change the compression damping, but also the travel, between 170mm and 135mm travel.

Gone is the DT Swiss ‘pull shock’ arrangement. We always found it fine, but it did always raise a little concern in our mind with such a proprietary system – service and back-up can be tricky with non-standard parts. Thankfully all the serviceable parts that the new FOX NUDE shock uses are standard, so any FOX service centre or dealer can help with maintenance and upkeep.

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The TwinLoc lever has undergone many improvements over the years, and this latest one is perfectly ergonomic and the whole bike deals with the two additional cables very neatly.
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From DT Swiss in 2013 to FOX in 2014, the best collaboration for many reasons.
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We love the internal cable routing, which even includes the adjustable seat post. It’s evident that the Scott people have spent a shedload of time deliberating the fine art of cable routing; it’s as neat as it can be, especially as they have two extra cables (controlling fork and shock) to deal with.

The Ride:

With limited time to ride the Genius LT, and sadly not really the type of terrain suitable to push the limits of such a capable bike, Flow set out to find what makes the Genius LT so smart on the lush slopes of the disgustingly lovely Swiss alps.

Genius
The best thing about about a 27.5″ wheel bike is traction! Loads of consistent traction was on hand when you wanted to throw the Genius into a corner – it became a bit of a challenge to break traction, or wash out. That gives you so much confidence to lift the speeds. lay off the brakes and let her rip!

Instantly the cockpit with its roomy 600mm top tube (medium frame size) and natural ergonomics struck us as being spot on for size, and very comfortable. The low overall weight – especially in the wheels despite the mega meaty Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres -made spinning along the road to the trails easier than it should be on a bike of this size.

We could flick the TwinLoc lever to firm up the fork and shock simultaneously, and presto we were flying along like were on hardtail with huge tyres. If you’re the type of rider that commutes to the trails, the easy toggling between suspension modes is really going to win you over. Sure, most bikes have compression adjustment but having it right next to your thumb makes for the easiest and fastest action ever, and hence you end up using it quite frequently to great effect.

Such a lightweight but long travel bike really took some getting used to, there really is a lot you can do when these two elements are combined so well. Milking the most out of this bike would require some bitching terrain, both up and down hill.
Enduro racers take note, this thing can jump forward like mad and cover ground with rapid pace. When using the TwinLoc system, the bike’s efficiency is reflected with pure speed.
It’s a big bike, so to get it off the ground you need a bit of speed and boost. But when speed is at hand, we found ourselves searching for more things to boost off then we’re used to!

One particularly memorable moment about our media test ride session was following Mr Nino Shurter, the current Cross Country World Champion, as he led us down a wildly steep and fast slope littered with cattle tracks (and cattle shit), criss-crossing wet grass, and dodging large holes. We were able to let the brakes off and hurtle down after him  – which was really quite a dangerous concept – but the stability and composed confidence that we found when things got hairy was really impressive. Heavy impacts became curiously manageable and chucking the bike sideways into a turn cleared any doubts in our mind that 650B bikes don’t have more traction than 26″ ones.

The Genius doesn’t descend like a super long, slack and low downhill bike like some 170mm travel bikes do, rather it relies on very balanced and active suspension to keep body and bike from losing control. There is a great balance of geometry traits for uphill comfort, tricky and steep ascending capabilities and a playful descending character.

Scott absorbed the well known component manufactures - Syncros. So expect to see more of the goos stuff from Syncros, even svelte carbon rims and positive hubs.
Scott recently absorbed the well known component manufacturer Syncros, so expect to see more of this good stuff. Even svelte carbon rims and positive engaging hubs will be seen across the Scott 2014 range.

This bike would most certainly be a great choice for a rider looking to tackle some of the emerging gravity enduro events that are growing in size on our events calendars. Luckily too there are a few models available in more attainable price points, this Genius LT 700 Tuned is near to $9000, but you can’t argue where the dollars are spent with such a killer spec and beautifully finished and lightweight frame. This is one super premium bike, holy moly.

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Verdict:

We were fans of the Genius many years ago, for its adaptability and versatility that sets it apart from the others. For 2014 the Genius LT scores the in-between wheel size, boosting its traction greatness and rolling goodness. And with a FOX shock pulling it all together, it has jumped up another level in suppleness and balance.

 

Video: Introducing the 2014 Genius LT

The Genius LT 700 is SCOTT’s new Enduro Bike, designed for rough all mountain terrain and tuned for racing. Equipped with the new 27.5” wheel standard, these bikes have the benefit of better rollover and better traction compared to the old 26” version. TwinLoc allows for efficient pedaling, and thanks to its 170mm of travel, the LT offers the perfect mix of both 27.5 wheel size geometry and suspension to handle all kinds of technical descents.

Introducing the 2014 Genius LT from Ride on Scott on Vimeo.

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Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark 700

Scott have taken the big, bold step forward and for 2014 we will see no more 26″ bikes in the Scott Scale, Spark and Genius ranges. More interestingly is that Scott are now offering a choice of 29″ and 27.5″ wheel sizes with the Spark (120mm travel dual suspension) and Scale (hardtail) with 26” bikes becoming a rarity. Is it a good thing?

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Absolutely LOVE this bike!

On a two-hour head spinning, lung-burning ride with Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel, Flow was having an absolute blast aboard the Scale 700, with 27.5″ wheels and the biggest surprise for us – a FOX rear shock. The bike we rode was about as premium as it gets, with Syncros carbon wheels, XTR brakes, XX1 drivetrain and Schwalbe tyres.

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Retaining everything of what makes the Spark an amazing bike for marathon races, cross country rides and speedy trail hooning, Scott have stepped it up by moving from DT Swiss to FOX for 2014 across their entire range. This was not only a massive surprise to us, everyone attending the launch was really quite blown away by the decision to shift away from the Swiss suspension brand that has been so very close with Scott for many years. FOX have been developing suspension damping systems for much longer than DT Swiss and are moving faster each year with developing industry leading rear shocks. Proprietary suspension is a concern to some consumers, but the FOX Nude shock uses standard parts, and all the serviceable items of the shock are identical to all FOX rear shocks.

Chapeau Scott! FOX Nude shocks are on the Genius and Spark for 2014, and we could not be happier.
Chapeau Scott! FOX Nude cTCd shocks are on the Genius, Genius LT and Spark for 2014, and we could not be happier.

Scott’s well known and well loved travel/geometry adjustment system – Twinloc is integrated nicely into the new FOX Nude cTCd shocks, with the three primary modes staying the same as in previous models. But with a spring curve, sensitivity and balanced feel far above what was capable with the DT Swiss Nude shocks of the past. Choose between open mode, traction mode and locked out.

Self proclaimed carbon experts, Scott are the makers of category leading lightweight frames. 1.9kg frame with shock and hardware, that is very impressive!
Self proclaimed carbon experts, Scott are the makers of category leading lightweight frames. 1.9kg frame with shock and hardware, that is very impressive!

Why would they choose 27.5″ wheel sizes then? Well, it comes down to height of the rider, and style of the rider also. Scott can make a lighter and stiffer bike in the smaller wheels, with less construction restraint challenges that come along with the 29ers. The wheels are also lighter, of course in the smaller diameter, so the bikes acceleration properties are simply outstanding with 27.5”. 29” is still the best option for many riders, with the bigger wheel giving great traction and stability on the more open trails, whilst the 27.5” will appeal to shorter riders or those who play with the tighter, twistier trails a little more.

The Spark uses a low bottom bracket to boost it's cornering performance, but also offer adjustability to lift it up a notch if clearance between the ground and cranks were a problem to some rider and terrain.
The Spark uses a low bottom bracket to boost it’s cornering performance, but also offer adjustability to lift it up a notch if clearance between the ground and cranks were a problem.
We love this guy! World Champion, and so friendly. Riding behind Nino is an honour, and an incredible show of speed and talent. Nino brought his Cape Epic Spark along for the ride.
We love this guy! World Champion, and so friendly. Riding behind Nino is an honour, and an incredible show of speed and talent. Nino brought his Cape Epic Spark along for the ride.

Our time aboard the bike was a real pleasure. Of course a bike so light is an advantage, but the low weight didn’t come with any negative traits, at all. The balanced suspension feel is superb, and when the trails became unpredictable and rough, we held our confidence high and pushed the limits without any problem. Hitting the Twinloc lever constantly, we climbed with the upmost efficiency and would be able to quickly engage the mode to suit the terrain without any effort; the thumb actuation of the lever is so easy.

With the addition of two cables running to the fork and shock from the handlebar, Scott have mastered the art of neat cable routing, and appears very clean.
With the addition of two cables running to the fork and shock from the handlebar, Scott have mastered the art of neat cable routing, and appears very clean.

Both the 27.5” and 29” Sparks will be available in Australia, we feel that the option may confuse some people, but it really makes sense and can’t wait to get them on home soil for a complete review soon!

Scott acquired the long serving component manufacturer - Syncros, and we saw a huge lineup from wheels to components. The high end carbon offerings are very tidy, and ergonomic.
Scott acquired the long serving component manufacturer – Syncros, and we saw a huge lineup from wheels to components. The high end carbon offerings are very tidy, and ergonomic.

 

Flow's First Bite: Scott Spark 700

Scott have taken the big, bold step forward and for 2014 we will see no more 26″ bikes in the Scott Scale, Spark and Genius ranges. More interestingly is that Scott are now offering a choice of 29″ and 27.5″ wheel sizes with the Spark (120mm travel dual suspension) and Scale (hardtail) with 26” bikes becoming a rarity. Is it a good thing?

WEB_Firstbite_ScottSpark7000042
Absolutely LOVE this bike!

On a two-hour head spinning, lung-burning ride with Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel, Flow was having an absolute blast aboard the Scale 700, with 27.5″ wheels and the biggest surprise for us – a FOX rear shock. The bike we rode was about as premium as it gets, with Syncros carbon wheels, XTR brakes, XX1 drivetrain and Schwalbe tyres.

WEB_Firstbite_ScottSpark7000032

Retaining everything of what makes the Spark an amazing bike for marathon races, cross country rides and speedy trail hooning, Scott have stepped it up by moving from DT Swiss to FOX for 2014 across their entire range. This was not only a massive surprise to us, everyone attending the launch was really quite blown away by the decision to shift away from the Swiss suspension brand that has been so very close with Scott for many years. FOX have been developing suspension damping systems for much longer than DT Swiss and are moving faster each year with developing industry leading rear shocks. Proprietary suspension is a concern to some consumers, but the FOX Nude shock uses standard parts, and all the serviceable items of the shock are identical to all FOX rear shocks.

Chapeau Scott! FOX Nude shocks are on the Genius and Spark for 2014, and we could not be happier.
Chapeau Scott! FOX Nude cTCd shocks are on the Genius, Genius LT and Spark for 2014, and we could not be happier.

Scott’s well known and well loved travel/geometry adjustment system – Twinloc is integrated nicely into the new FOX Nude cTCd shocks, with the three primary modes staying the same as in previous models. But with a spring curve, sensitivity and balanced feel far above what was capable with the DT Swiss Nude shocks of the past. Choose between open mode, traction mode and locked out.

Self proclaimed carbon experts, Scott are the makers of category leading lightweight frames. 1.9kg frame with shock and hardware, that is very impressive!
Self proclaimed carbon experts, Scott are the makers of category leading lightweight frames. 1.9kg frame with shock and hardware, that is very impressive!

Why would they choose 27.5″ wheel sizes then? Well, it comes down to height of the rider, and style of the rider also. Scott can make a lighter and stiffer bike in the smaller wheels, with less construction restraint challenges that come along with the 29ers. The wheels are also lighter, of course in the smaller diameter, so the bikes acceleration properties are simply outstanding with 27.5”. 29” is still the best option for many riders, with the bigger wheel giving great traction and stability on the more open trails, whilst the 27.5” will appeal to shorter riders or those who play with the tighter, twistier trails a little more.

The Spark uses a low bottom bracket to boost it's cornering performance, but also offer adjustability to lift it up a notch if clearance between the ground and cranks were a problem to some rider and terrain.
The Spark uses a low bottom bracket to boost it’s cornering performance, but also offer adjustability to lift it up a notch if clearance between the ground and cranks were a problem.
We love this guy! World Champion, and so friendly. Riding behind Nino is an honour, and an incredible show of speed and talent. Nino brought his Cape Epic Spark along for the ride.
We love this guy! World Champion, and so friendly. Riding behind Nino is an honour, and an incredible show of speed and talent. Nino brought his Cape Epic Spark along for the ride.

Our time aboard the bike was a real pleasure. Of course a bike so light is an advantage, but the low weight didn’t come with any negative traits, at all. The balanced suspension feel is superb, and when the trails became unpredictable and rough, we held our confidence high and pushed the limits without any problem. Hitting the Twinloc lever constantly, we climbed with the upmost efficiency and would be able to quickly engage the mode to suit the terrain without any effort; the thumb actuation of the lever is so easy.

With the addition of two cables running to the fork and shock from the handlebar, Scott have mastered the art of neat cable routing, and appears very clean.
With the addition of two cables running to the fork and shock from the handlebar, Scott have mastered the art of neat cable routing, and appears very clean.

Both the 27.5” and 29” Sparks will be available in Australia, we feel that the option may confuse some people, but it really makes sense and can’t wait to get them on home soil for a complete review soon!

Scott acquired the long serving component manufacturer - Syncros, and we saw a huge lineup from wheels to components. The high end carbon offerings are very tidy, and ergonomic.
Scott acquired the long serving component manufacturer – Syncros, and we saw a huge lineup from wheels to components. The high end carbon offerings are very tidy, and ergonomic.

 

Breaking Dawn – There's Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

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Breaking Dawn – There’s Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

[/private]