Is the 2018 Scott Genius a piece of intelligent design? Or has it evolved too far from its original form? Over the past 15 years, the Genius has served the needs of trail riders looking for a bike that blended long travel, with singletrack friendly handling and great climbing traits. How does the new version perform in this balancing act?
The not-so-minor details
Scott Genius 920
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Surefooted and willing when it all gets rowdy.
Heaped piles of traction.
Still a very versatile machine.
More lethargic than earlier versions.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!).
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.