2022 Scott Spark Review | An all-round XC ripper with a split personality


The not-so-minor details

Product

2022 Scott Spark 910

Contact

Scott Sports

https://www.scott-sports.com/

Price

$7,699 AUD

Weight

12.43kg

Positives

- Clean, high-tech carbon frame
- TwinLoc system offers genuine split personality performance
- Stupendous technical climbing proficiency
- Beautifully balanced handling
- Shock hidden away from water, contaminants & degreasers
- Clever adjustable headset cups

Negatives

- TwinLoc lever ergonomics could be better
- Not sold on routing cables through the headset
- Noisy on rough trails
- Less flexibility with long-stroke droppers

Wil reviews the 2022 Scott Spark

There are no doubts that the arrival of the new Scott Spark has been one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated launches of the year. The latest Spark follows a long lineage of wildly popular race bikes from the Swiss brand, dating all the way back to the original model that was unveiled at Eurobike in 2006. Now entering its 4th generation, the 2022 Spark has been completely overhauled with a brand new chassis and a concealed shock. It’s certainly distinctive, though the highly integrated approach has also caused division, drawing praise from fans and scepticism from detractors. Putting its polarising looks to one side, does the performance live up to all the hype? We’ve been testing the new Scott Spark 910 for the past few weeks to find out!


Watch our video review of the Scott Spark here:


2022 scott spark 910 buxton
The Scott Spark dashing through the ferns of the Buxton MTB Park. This place has every shade of green you can think of!

Along with the increase in suspension travel and the highly integrated approach, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that the Spark has evolved into one of the most striking and progressive XC bikes currently on the market.

2022 scott spark 910
The Scott Spark enters its 4th generation for 2022 with a brand new chassis that hides the rear shock inside the frame.

Ride High Country Test Sessions

Having already gotten well acquainted with the new Scott Spark on our local trails, we decided to take full advantage of recently eased travel restrictions by taking the Spark to the Buxton MTB Park as part of our Ride High Country Test Sessions. A perfect excuse to celebrate our newfound freedoms and the pleasure of travelling to ride!

Just under two hours drive from Melbourne, and 10 minutes from the quaint tourist town of Marysville, the Buxton MTB Park is home to around 23km of purpose-built singletrack. There’s everything here from kiddie-friendly green trails, all the way through to a black diamond jump trail called The Cathedral. Mostly though, Buxton is best known for its meticulous sculpted berms, smooth elevator climbs, and flowy singletrack that weaves its way through towering eucalypts and lush tree ferns. You could ride it all on an XC hardtail, though we reckon Buxton is ideal for a short-travel bike like the Scott Spark.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
The rivers around Buxton are popular for fishing. Alternatively, you could swan in to the Buxton Trout & Salmon Farm like us and catch your lunch in a far more timely manner!

Scott Spark overview

As the Swiss brand’s flagship XC bike, the Scott Spark boasts an all-new frame for 2022 that comes loaded to the hilt with high-tech details. Curiously, it also receives an increase in rear travel from 100mm to 120mm, making this the longest travel bike on the World Cup circuit.

Suspension is still delivered via the IST FlexPivot design, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a linkage-driven single pivot with a carbon flex stay. What is fancy though is the fact that the rear shock is now tucked away inside the seat tube – a design made possible thanks to Scott Sports’ acquisition of fellow Swiss brand Bold in 2019.

2022 scott spark 910
The rear shock is placed lower down inside the seat tube, providing more space in the front triangle for two bottles.

As with the previous Spark, Scott continues to produce two distinct models out of the same chassis;

The Scott Spark RC is the race bike, equipped with a 120mm travel fork, fast-rolling Maxxis Rekon Race tyres, a 100mm stroke dropper post, and a 740mm flat bar. The Spark RC is designed to slug it out between the tape alongside some of the other pointy XC race bikes we’ve tested, like the Cannondale Scalpel, Canyon Lux, Merida Ninety-Six, Orbea Oiz, Specialized Epic and Trek Supercaliber.

The Scott Spark 900 is the trail bike, with a bigger 130mm travel fork, chunkier Schwalbe Wicked Will tyres, a 125-150mm dropper post, and a 760mm low-rise handlebar. Additionally, the rear shock features a higher volume air can to improve sensitivity. All of that elevates the Spark 900 into a similar zone as the Canyon Lux Trail, Pivot Trail 429, Specialized Epic EVO and Trek Top Fuel.

In addition to the different length forks, modular headset cups allow the front-end geometry to be tuned for each platform. The head angle sits at 67.2° for the Spark RC, and slackens out to 65.8° for the Spark 900.

Along with the increase in suspension travel and the highly integrated approach, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that the Spark has evolved into one of the most striking and progressive XC bikes currently on the market.

2022 scott spark 910
Adjustable headset cups offer slack and steep settings, without affecting the BB height or seat angle.

Scott Spark price & specs

As an indication of its widespread popularity, there will be no fewer than 12 Scott Spark models coming into Australia for 2022. You’ll find carbon frames, alloy frames, and even a hybrid frame that pairs a carbon front triangle to an alloy swingarm.

Prices start at $3,999 AUD for the Scott Spark 970, and go all the way up to $15,999 AUD for the Scott Spark RC SL EVO AXS. For all the specs and prices of the full lineup, check out our Scott Spark first look article.

The bike we’ve been testing is the Scott Spark 910, which sits somewhere in the middle of the range. And with its carbon frame, Fox suspension and Shimano XT groupset, we expect this will be one of the most popular options of the lot.

2022 scott spark 910
The Scott Spark 910 features an appealing spec with a Shimano XT groupset, Fox suspension and a Transfer dropper post.

2022 Scott Spark 910

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
In the green room at the Buxton MTB Park.

On the trail, the allure of the Scott Spark is the way that it combines the low weight and responsive performance of an XC bike, with the progressive geometry and supple suspension feel of a burlier trail bike.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
We spent a few days riding the trail network around Buxton, followed by a trip up Lake Mountain to ride down the brilliant Cascades trail. Marvellous!

Scott Spark sizing & fit

At 175cm tall I’ve been testing a Medium size in the Scott Spark. It’s a bigger bike than its predecessor, though the change isn’t dramatic. The 440mm reach measurement hits the sweet spot for an XC bike, and I’ve found the Spark to fit beautifully out of the box with the stock 60mm stem and 760mm wide bars.

For those eager to upsize, be sure to take note of the Spark’s long seat tube, particularly on the Large and X-Large frames. Seatpost insertion is limited due to the shock and linkage occupying much of the space inside the seat tube, and that means long-stroke droppers may be trickier to fit. For example, I’ve got a bit of room to play with the 125mm Fox Transfer dropper, but I wouldn’t be able to upsize to 150mm. That’s not a big deal for me personally, as I think the stock size is appropriate for an XC bike.

2022 scott spark 910
The 125mm dropper suits the Spark just fine, though riders who desperately want to go longer may encounter issues with the limited seatpost insertion depth.

Thanks to the modular headset cups, the geometry change between the Spark RC and Spark 900 models is mostly isolated to the head angle. This differs to some of Scott’s competitors that employ a flip chip, which see both the seat angle and BB height also affected when changing between geometry settings. In the case of our Spark 910 test bike, the seat angle remains nice and steep at 75.9°, though it does get a bit steeper again on the larger frame sizes.

As for touch points, the Syncros Tofino saddle offers a flat and relatively neutral profile, and the lock-on grips are comfortable enough, if somewhat prone to wearing out quickly. However, the left-hand clamp is no longer integrated into the TwinLoc remote, so it’s an easier process to fit your preferred grips.

2022 scott spark 910
The Spark’s Sag-O-Meter sits on the non-drive side linkage.

Suspension setup

With the shock hidden away from view, the Scott Spark features a handy external sag meter on the non-drive side link arm. There’s also a hatch on the underside of the downtube, which can be removed by hand in order to access the shock’s air valve and rebound adjuster.

Scott recommends 25% sag for the Spark’s rear suspension, so I started with 150psi in the Nude 5T shock to support my 70kg riding weight. I’ve set the rebound damping one click faster than halfway (9/16 clicks).

I setup the Float 34 as per Fox’s recommendations, with 78psi and two volume spacers inside the EVOL air spring, and the rebound damping one click faster than halfway (11/20 clicks).

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
Weight for our Scott Spark test bike is a reasonable 12.43kg. Light enough for a limp-armed bicycle journalist to lift above his head.

Scott Spark weight

While our Scott Spark 910 came out of the box with tubes fitted, the rims are wrapped with tubeless tape and valves are also included in the box. After adding some sealant and setting the wheels up tubeless, confirmed weight for our Medium sized Scott Spark 910 test bike was 12.43kg (without pedals).

For the gram counters out there, it’s worth noting that the Spark 910 is built around the HMF carbon frame, which is claimed to weigh 2,150g including the rear shock. Higher-end Spark models adopt fancier fibres to drop weight further, while cheaper models get an alloy frame that is significantly heavier. You can see all the claimed weights for the five different frames in our first look article.

Featuring alloy rims and straight-pull hubs, the Syncros Silverton 2.0 wheelset isn’t overly light at 1,956g (confirmed). And you’re looking at around 830-870g each for the Schwalbe Wicked Will tyres. These do feature the supple and lightweight Super Race casings though, so I fitted a CushCore XC tubeless insert into the rear wheel for some added pinch-flat protection. Tyre pressures were set at 21-22psi on the front and 24-25psi on the rear.

2022 scott spark 910 fox 34 float fit4
Up front is a 130mm travel Fox 34 Float fork with a soft-compound Schwalbe Wicked Will.

What does it do well?

On the trail, the allure of the Scott Spark is the way that it combines the low weight and responsive performance of an XC bike, with the progressive geometry and supple suspension feel of a burlier trail bike.

Scott has ensured the carbon frame is stiff where it needs to be, from the enormous downtube through to the 92mm wide press-fit BB and boxy chainstays. Yes there’s a big hole in the underside of the downtube, but internal reinforcing ribs purportedly gain back any lost stiffness. Additionally, the seat tube flares out to accommodate the trunnion-mounted shock, creating a cavernous junction in this high-load portion of the frame. Funnily enough, more than one person has asked me if the Spark was an e-MTB.

The hidden shock also helps to lower the overall centre of mass, and the BB hangs very low with a 43.5mm drop. That’s lower than a Santa Cruz Tallboy.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
The Spark hovers low to the ground with its generous BB drop and supple suspension.

Sit on the bike and it creeps even closer to the trail. The Spark isn’t as active as a multi-link bike like the Pivot Trail 429 or Trek Top Fuel, but it does have excellent sensitivity in the first third of its travel. The supple suspension delivers excellent traction and comfort, helping to achieve an involving in-the-bike riding position.

With the stiff chassis, sensitive suspension and low-slung bottom bracket, the Spark rips through corners like it’s on rails

There’s also minimal interference from the chain, with the Spark’s anti-squat level hovering around 80% at the sag point. That is very low for an XC bike, and it remains low throughout the travel, reducing the effects of pedal kickback.

While there’s plenty of shock activity early on, things ramp up quite quickly. The progressive leverage rate delivers great mid-stroke support, and ensures it remains poppy and agile despite the extra travel and slacker front end.

The rear suspension is also nicely balanced with the Fox 34 up front, allowing you to ride it pretty hard for a 120mm bike. The FIT4 damper isn’t as supple or as ground-huggy as the Fox 34 GRIP2 we’ve been testing lately, but is still very good and it’s also vastly simpler to setup and tune.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
The stiff frame and responsive handling allow the Spark to carve through turns effortlessly.

With the stiff chassis, sensitive suspension and low-slung bottom bracket, the Spark rips through corners like it’s on rails. The 437.5mm rear centre length isn’t the shortest out there, but it is stiff and direct. There’s a near 50/50 ratio between the rear centre and the reach on our Medium test bike, which delivers a balanced feel to weight distribution that makes it easy to modulate tyre pressure mid-turn.

While drifty across loose rocks and in slick conditions, the Wicked Will tyres generate excellent grip on hardpack trails and softer, smoother surfaces, with a slightly rounded profile that leans side-to-side effortlessly. They’ve been a great match for my local trails and the sublime singletrack of the Buxton MTB Park, and kudos to Scott for spec’ing the ADDIX Soft compound up front for additional damping and grip. Still, for the more varied terrain of the Cascades trail on Lake Mountain, I did end up subbing in a soft-compound Nobby Nic for some extra bite up front.

2022 scott spark 910 twinloc remote
The TwinLoc remote is new for 2022, adding a third lever underneath for the dropper post.

TwinLoc personality

Being the trademark feature of the Scott Spark, the TwinLoc system continues to be as divisive as it is compelling.

The overarching ethos of the system remains the same. The handlebar remote activates both the fork and shock simultaneously, offering three distinct suspension modes at your thumb’s disposal – Descend, Traction Control & Lockout.  The lever design is new for 2022, with the two upper paddles controlling the suspension, and a third lever placed underneath for the dropper post.

The difference on the trail is enormous, with the Spark transitioning from comfortable trail cruiser into a sharp and purposeful race bike at the flick of a lever.

Now if you’re not a fan of remote-activated suspension and the additional cables that come with it, the TwinLoc system will be hard for you to look past. And to be honest, Scott is probably not the brand for you. For those willing to embrace the concept though, there are serious performance gains to take advantage of.

The primary reason for this is the Traction Control mode. In this setting the compression damping in both the fork and shock are firmed up. At the same time, part of the shock’s air chamber is shut off, drastically shrinking its volume and making the rear suspension more progressive. In fact, it becomes so progressive that it actually limits rear travel from 120mm to 80mm.

2022 scott spark 910 fox nude 5t shock
Manufactured by Fox, the Nude 5T shock features a clever dual chamber design that can be adjusted on-the-fly to reduce rear travel to 80mm.

In this Traction Control mode you’re delivered a vastly firmer feel underfoot. The shock also sits higher in its stroke, lifting the overall ride height of the bike. This provides you with significantly more clearance underneath the cranks, along with a steeper effective seat tube angle that places your hips into a more powerful pedalling position. It also shifts the suspension kinematics into a higher anti-squat zone, improving pedal efficiency further.

The difference on the trail is enormous, with the Spark transitioning from comfortable trail cruiser into a sharp and purposeful race bike at the flick of a lever. The suspension is still able to claw at the trail for grip, but it’s quite firm and there’s zero wallow from the rear shock even on wickedly steep gradients. The extra clearance means I’ve rarely caught a pedal when climbing over awkward features, and the additional drive encourages you to leap out of the saddle and dispatch each ascent with vigour.

Indeed on the undulating singletrack around the Buxton MTB Park, my left thumb was using the TwinLoc remote as much as I my right thumb was shifting gears. Turns out all those years playing Nintendo 64 weren’t a waste of time after all, Mum.

With Traction Control up its sleeve, the Spark is a remarkable technical climber, and without doubt one of the best I’ve ever ridden. In fact, with some lighter and faster-rolling tyres, I would happily front up to an XC race or multi-day event on the Spark 910. In that application, the dual lockout becomes mighty handy for tarmac sections, smooth fireroads and finish line sprints.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
In Traction Control mode, the change to the Spark’s pedalling performance and dynamic geometry allows it to scoot uphill like a purebred race bike.

What’s also neat about Traction Control mode is that it allows you to bias the suspension settings towards descending performance. Partway through testing I lowered the shock’s air pressure by 10psi and increased sag to around 27%. This provided a smoother feel and more traction in Descend mode, while still giving me access to that efficient climbing performance of the Traction Control mode. It’s an impressively effective system, forming the key piece in the Spark’s dual personality puzzle.

What does it struggle with?

As good as it may be, if you prefer a more passive approach to your suspension, then the TwinLoc system on the Scott Spark is still likely to be a turnoff. Those riders who dig the automated efficiency of a Specialized Epic, or a Live Valve-equipped Giant Anthem, will find the active approach to the Spark’s TwinLoc system to be too demanding.

Indeed on the undulating singletrack around the Buxton MTB Park, my left thumb was using the TwinLoc remote as much as I my right thumb was shifting gears. Turns out all those years playing Nintendo 64 weren’t a waste of time after all, Mum.

The smooth Buxton trails saw few flaws in the Spark’s suspension, but on my much rockier local trails, the suspension can feel harsh in that Traction Control mode. This is particularly the case for the fork, especially if you’re plodding rather than charging at the trail.

2022 scott spark 910 fox 34 float fit4 fork
The FIT4 damper isn’t as sensitive as the GRIP2 damper, though it is quite a bit easier to setup and tune.

It is possible to disconnect the fork entirely, and only have the TwinLoc remote activating the shock. If you went down this route, the modular design of the Fox 34 means you could also upgrade to a GRIP2 damper if you were chasing more control and sensitivity.

In my case, I’ve been approaching some of these rockier sections in Descend mode. The pedalling performance is fine on shallower gradients provided you remain seated, but watch the pedals as it’s quite easy to catch them due to the low BB.

On flowy high-speed descents, the Spark is competent and eager – a direct result of its progressive geometry approach and stiff chassis. This competence means it’s possible to get sucked into heading down rougher enduro-style trails a few clicks faster than you probably should. As the hits get bigger and faster though, the Spark will soon remind you that there’s only 120mm of travel at the rear wheel. The suspension ramps up considerably, which is great for bottom-out support, but also means it struggles to remain active deeper into the travel.

While the Spark was great fun on the Cascades trail at Lake Mountain, I’d generally prefer to ride that trail on a bigger 140-150mm travel bike. In comparison, the Spark was more fatiguing on some of the rougher and extended descending sections, where feedback is passed up from the ground and into your feet and hands.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
You get a solid platform for out-of-the-saddle mashing, though the suspension can be a little harsh in Traction Control mode when climbing up rougher trails.

What could be improved?

It took my brain and left thumb a while to work out the lever configuration of the new TwinLoc remote, though I’ve since gotten used to it. I like that all three paddles offer a nice and light lever feel, with the slim Jagwire cable housing providing smooth and low-friction performance. And the dropper post lever is arguably in the best position it could be.

Still, I think there’s room for improvement. All the paddles are quite skinny, and the suspension levers point back sharply towards the rider. That meant your thumb needs to wrap around the lever before pressing it, and each paddle requires a long throw to engage.

You can adjust the lateral position of the TwinLoc lever, as well as its angle via the integrated Shimano I-Spec EV mount. However, I’d like to see the ability to adjust the rotation of the levers – a bit like a SRAM X01 shifter, which would help to refine the ergonomics of what is otherwise a highly functional remote system.

2022 scott spark 910 twinloc remote
The two suspension paddles point back sharply towards the rider, requiring more thumb articulation to engage.

That aside, I can’t say I’m thrilled with having all the cables and rear brake hose routed through the upper headset. This is a growing trend in the road bike world, and is steadily creeping into mountain bikes too. This will mainly be a frustration for bike shop mechanics, as while the system appears to be well designed, it does make changing a cable or replacing the upper headset bearing a more labour intensive process. Regardless of what I think, the Spark’s internal cabling solution drew much praise on the trail from fellow riders, who loved the integrated look.

Cable management could definitely be better though, as I discovered the Spark was quite a noisy bike on rough and rocky descents, with the huge hollow carbon downtube and seat tube junction amplifying vibrations. I also encountered a persistent squeak, which turned out to be the white foam insulating tubes rubbing against one another up around the headset. Pushing those back into the downtube has settled the squeaking for the most part.

On the topic of integration, it’s worth noting that you can run a regular bar and stem on the Spark, though you might not get the same clean look with the supplied headset spacers and cable shroud. Syncros does offer different length stems to suit, though only 50-70mm lengths will be available in Australia.

2022 scott spark 910
The integrated cable routing is neat, but we’re not convinced by putting all the cables and rear brake hose through the upper headset bearing.

Component highs & lows

Otherwise the Scott Spark 910 has performed exceptionally well as a whole package. It’s priced reasonably well too – not quite as sharp a Merida Ninety-Six, but significantly better value than a Specialized Epic EVO.

We’ve had flawless performance from the Shimano XT groupset, Fox suspension and Transfer dropper post. The Syncros finishing kit isn’t particularly flash, but it all works absolutely fine. And despite the overall weight and slow-engaging freehub, the wheels have proved to be fast-rolling and responsive, with a smooth ride quality owed to the low-profile alloy rims.

2022 scott spark 910
While the Small frame will only fit a single bottle, the Medium and larger sizes will accommodate two.

With the new-school 55mm chainline and bridgeless seatstays, the Spark frame offers a huge amount of mud clearance around the stock 2.4in wide tyres. And for the Nino fans out there, you can also run up to a 40T chainring. Yikes!

I’m a big fan of the dual bottle capability, which is a welcome feature for tackling epic rides like the Cascades trail. However, it’s worth noting that the Small frame size will only fit a single bottle. There’s also not a lot of clearance for the seat tube-mounted bottle on our Medium sized test bike, with a 600ml Camelbak Podium just fitting in there.

Other neat features include a Universal Derailleur Hanger, and a clever tool that’s integrated into the rear thru-axle. Tug the lever out, and you’ll find T25 and T30 torx keys, and a 6mm hex key. This is handy, because the Spark is lathered in torx hardware.

What about the internal shock?

I’ll admit I was initially skeptical of the internal shock design, and it seems plenty of Flow readers feel the same way.

While it does take a little more time, it turns out it’s actually pretty straightforward to remove the shock from the frame. The recommended service intervals are the same as a regular Fox shock, which is 30 hours for an air sleeve service and 100 hours for a full spring and damper service. However, with the shock hidden inside the frame away from water, dirt, mud, dust and degreasers, the seals and lubrication oil are likely to last longer between services compared to a conventional design. The advantage is not unlike an internal gear hub versus an external drivetrain.

2022 scott spark 910 fox nude shock
The shock is kept away from dust, dirt, mud, water, cleaners and degreasers, which should see it maintaining performance for longer in between services.

Although the Nude shock does use a proprietary design, it is manufactured by Fox. The concept behind the dual-chamber configuration has been well proven over the past few years, and so far it’s proven to be wholly reliable on our test bike.

The shock does use a standard metric size, so you could potentially fit a regular Fox Float DPS or RockShox Deluxe in there if you really wanted. It’d likely be tricky to access the air valve though, and you’d also be giving up the Spark’s adaptable performance, which is a big reason why you’d be considering this bike in the first place.

Scott Spark vs The Competition

There are a number of bikes that compete with the Scott Spark 910, including the Cannondale Scalpel SE, Orbea Oiz TR, and Specialized Epic EVO. However, there are three bikes we’ve tested recently that we have plenty of experience with, which offer an interesting comparison to the Spark.

Pivot Trail 429

pivot trail 429 team xtr 2021
The Pivot Trail 429 is a brilliant 120mm travel trail bike, built around a premium carbon frame and the dw-link suspension design.

In its standard guise, the Pivot Trail 429 features the same amount of suspension travel as the Spark, with a 130mm fork and 120mm of rear wheel travel. However, it is also offered in an ‘Enduro’ spec, which straps on a piggyback shock and a 140mm travel Fox 36.

Geometry is fairly similar between the two bikes, though Pivot does produce the Trail 429 in an additional X-Small size, and each frame is built with a much shorter seat tube that provides greater flexibility for upsizing.

Unlike Scott, Pivot only produces the one carbon frame for its Trail 429 range, which is beautifully finished and sits firmly at the boutique end of the market. Its dw-link suspension design delivers impressive pedal efficiency, with great stability while climbing and no need for a remote lockout.

The multi-link suspension also offers superior sensitivity and reactivity over the Spark, and it’s also more progressive with greater big-hit support. The CNC machined links and one-piece swingarm achieves masses of lateral rigidity, which gives it more stability for aggressive trail riding. It also gets a shorter rear end with more tyre clearance, though it does use SuperBoost spacing to achieve this, which will be a turnoff for some riders.

Also likely a turnoff is the price. The Team XTR bike we tested sells for over $13K! The closest option would be the Race XT build, which sells for $8,499 AUD and comes with with Performance Series Fox suspension, a Shimano SLX groupset and DT Swiss M1900 wheels. It’s not quite as well dressed as the Spark 910, but it’s really the frame and suspension that you’re paying for with Pivot.

Canyon Lux Trail

2022 canyon lux trail cf 8
The lightweight Canyon Lux Trail offers a more aggressive ride quality with excellent pedal efficiency.

The Canyon Lux Trail sits on the other side of the spectrum to the Trail 429. Pushing more towards the XC vibe, the Lux Trail has slightly less travel with a 120mm fork and 110mm at the rear. It features a slender carbon frame with thin flex stays, and it is very light at just 11.22kg for the Lux Trail CF 9 we tested.

The suspension performance is much firmer than the Spark, with the Lux Trail offering strong organic pedal efficiency that doesn’t rely on using the remote lockout. This gives it a very sporty and energetic ride quality, though it is surprisingly stable due to the long wheelbase.

It isn’t as comfortable as the Spark though. Both the suspension and riding position deliver an aggressive feel like an XC race bike, and that really sees it match up closer to the Spark RC.

Either way, the Lux Trail presents a tantalising package for the money. The CF 9 has a list price of $8,699 AUD, though it comes with a Shimano XTR groupset, carbon cranks, DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels and Fox Factory Series suspension. However, you will need to factor in the extra $200 for shipping, and of course there are the usual pros and cons of buying from a direct-to-consumer brand over a local bike shop.

Trek Top Fuel

2022 trek top fuel 9.8 xt
The latest Trek Top Fuel pushes more towards the trail category, adding frame storage and ditching the remote lockout for a cleaner cockpit.

The newest bike of the lot is the Trek Top Fuel, which has been totally overhauled for 2022, becoming much burlier than its predecessors. Stock bikes come with 120mm of travel front and rear, though the frame will comfortably take a 130mm fork.

Selling for $8,299, the Top Fuel 9.8 XT offers a comparable value proposition to the Scott Spark 910. You also get a Shimano XT groupset, though the Top Fuel elects for a RockShox SID fork and Deluxe shock, along with a carbon Bontrager handlebar and wheelset.

Despite the core similarities, and the fact that both bikes look like a chalkboard, there are some clear differences with Trek’s approach to the Top Fuel. It comes with more aggressive tyres, a chunkier frame, and appealing practicalities like a threaded BB and storage inside the downtube. Trek has also ditched the remote lockout entirely, which results in a much cleaner cockpit to the Scott Spark that’ll appeal to certain riders.

The suspension is also more active due to its four-bar linkage and ABP design. It’s quite neutral, allowing the rear wheel to track under heavy braking, and overall it seeks out more traction and comfort compared to the single pivot platform on the Spark. There’s also a bit more weight to it, particularly in the wheels and tyres, and that affords more stability at speed and on rougher trails.

But while the Top Fuel pedals well, it doesn’t feel as athletic on the climbs. In comparison, the Spark is a technical climber’s dream with its TwinLoc remote. Indeed for many riders, the difference between these two bikes will simply boil down to whether you’re into having a remote system, or not.

scott spark 2022
The Spark RC uses the same frame and suspension design as the Spark 900, but it features a 120mm travel fork and a lighter weight build kit that’s optimised for XC racing.

What about the Spark RC?

Since receiving our Scott Spark 910 test bike, a lot of you have been asking about its racier sibling – the Spark RC.

At this point in time, we’re yet to receive a Spark RC for testing, such is the situation with bike availability in this day and age. We’d love to get our hands on one, so that we can compare it directly to some of the other XC race bikes we’ve tested, like the Specialized Epic, Orbea Oiz and Trek Supercaliber.

That being said, I’ve been mighty impressed with the speed and efficiency of our Spark 910 test bike. With some lighter tyres, I’d happily race on it. Sure, the hardcore racers will naturally gravitate towards the Spark RC models, but for riders who are less obsessed by competition and are simply after a fun and versatile XC bike, the standard Spark will likely be the better choice.

Worth mentioning here is that we will be holding onto the Spark 910 for a longer term test. As well as seeing how the integrated suspension approach holds up over time, that also presents the opportunity to dress it up with a more XC-oriented setup. I’ll be trying out some faster-rolling tyres and a lighter race wheelset, as well as flipping those headset cups into the steep position. Throw in a 120mm travel fork, and we’ll basically have a Spark RC on our hands. Curious as to how that affects its performance? Stay tuned for our long-term review!

2022 scott spark 910
The futuristic Scott Spark offers an innovative frame design with plenty of integration, which will appeal to some riders while turning off others.

Flow’s Verdict

The new Scott Spark has been some five years in the making, though we can confidently attest that it has been worth the wait.

Equipped with its high-tech frame, adaptable suspension system and contemporary geometry, the Spark is a brilliant trail ripper. The hidden shock certainly delivers a unique silhouette, but it also offers practical and performance benefits too.

There’s no denying the Spark is polarising though, and not everyone will appreciate the integrated approach with its hidden shock and internal cable routing. And that’s ok, because there are plenty of fantastic options from the likes of Trek, Specialized, Pivot and Santa Cruz that offer a more conventional approach.

If you’re able to accept the TwinLoc remote and additional cables though, the Spark offers genuine split-personality performance that allows it to clock technical climbs like they’re going out of fashion, while offering stable and traction-rich performance on the descents. This really is the bleeding edge as far as modern XC bikes go.

2022 scott spark 910 buxton
If it’s a modern and versatile XC bike you’re after, the Scott Spark is as contemporary as they come.
2022 scott spark 910 buxton
We had a marvellous time at the Buxton MTB Park, which is not only littered with fast and flowy singletrack, it’s also just a really lovely place to be.
buxton chris pivot switchblade
A huge thanks to our pal Chris who brought some big smiley vibes for a fun few days of riding, testing, shooting, eating, drinking, and fishing!
2022 scott spark 910
We’ll be holding onto this Scott Spark for a proper long-term test, and we’ll be making some changes to the setup to see just how versatile it really is.

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