Scott make no mistakes when it comes to picking trends, the industry giant has put their weight behind emerging wheel sizes in the past and haven’t looked back. The same thing couldn’t be said for many other big players.
27.5+ is the next big thing in the development of mountain bikes, and we can guarantee that over the next short while we’ll see just about every bike brand, tyre and wheel manufacturer getting behind it too.
We weren’t without frustration when the news of a new standard broke, and are happy to admit that initially we didn’t give a toss for all this fuss. But looking back we can safely put all that behind us now. It’s a hard story to tell in words, you need to ride one to make it crystal.
We spent a few days in Deer Valley, Utah on new bikes from the 2016 Plus bikes – Genius and Scale – we wanted to know exactly where these ‘diet fat’ bikes fit in and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. For more on 2016 Scotts, take a peek at our quick look at the range here – Scott 2016 bikes.
What’s it all about, what the hell is a ‘Plus bike’?
It’s all about really big tyres. To benefit the experience of mountain biking by enhancing the control of the rider through increased traction and stability, Plus bikes use 27.5″ diameter wheels with wider rims and bigger tyres.
– The Scott Plus bikes are from the new category of 27.5+ bikes.
– 27.5+ will use a 40mm wide (internal width) rim and a specifically developed Schwalbe 2.8″ width tyre. Typically the average trail bike uses a rim between 21-27mm wide and a tyre between 2.0″ and 2.4″.
– Scott and Schwalbe worked to develop the best tyre size for the job, initially beginning testing with a 3″ width prototype, then down to a 2.8″ and ultimately residing with a 2.8″ with lower profile tread. The third generation tyre wasn’t ready for our media launch, all the bikes we rode and are pictured here with the second version with taller tread.
– Scott will have the 2.8″ Schwalbe Plus tyres to themselves for one year before other brands can spec them.
– The tyres will weigh around 800-850 grams.
– Genius Plus is 250g heavier than a comparable spec Genius 29er.
– All the main tyre manufacturers will have 27.5 Plus tyres soon.
– Genius Plus uses the new standard Boost 148mm wide rear hubs and 110mm front hubs.
– The Scott Genius Plus uses a 29er front triangle, with a new aluminium rear end to compensate for extra tyre clearance.
– The bigger tyre gives you a larger contact patch on the ground, for a huge increase in traction.
– The rider can run low tyre pressure without the tyre rolling around on the rim.
– With such a large air volume, the risk of flat tyres is significantly reduced.
– Scott’s Plus bike range will consist of three bikes for 2016 in various models. The Genius with 140mm travel, it’s bigger brother the 160mm travel Genius LT (unfortunately not a model distributed into Australia for 2016) and the Scale Plus hardtail. More details on the range here – Scott 2016 bikes.
How does it ride?
Our first impressions were not clear, nor was our mind after a numbing flight to Utah from Sydney. In all honesty we were a little unsure whether we liked it or not, the Genius Plus felt so different to anything we’ve ever ridden here at Flow. The closest we’d ridden was testing the Specialized Fuse Expert 6Fattie hardtail, but this was our first time on a dually.
The sheer amount of traction on offer really does take some getting used to. But in this case it wasn’t just the foreign bike that threw us into a spin, being at altitude in Deer Valley the trail conditions were a world apart from a cold and wet Sydney, the bike park trails were open, super-fast, loose, rough and bone dry. We found the tyres to sit on top of the trail surfaces, rather than biting into it and on loose gravel the big bag would swim across the surface somewhat, we can only imagine that this is how it would feel in deep mud.
It was at that point after a couple laps of the trails that we couldn’t help but suspect this could have been an over-hyped and unnecessary new fad, but we were wrong.
To paint a clearer picture in our minds, we swapped back to the standard 27.5″ wheel Genius with 2.35″ width tyres for a few laps. After a whole day riding the chunky Plus bike switching back gave us the feeling like we’d just thrown a leg over a skinny cyclocross bike! The ‘tiny’ 2.35″ tyres were certainly very zippy and quick, but felt too sketchy and nervous on the trails we were only just getting the feel for. We’d grown used to the feeling of the Plus bike without really knowing it. So it was time to jump back onto the big 2.8er, really give it some and open the throttle wide open. Our ambitious riding went to another level and we loved every minute of it!
When pushed harder and harder, the big tyres held on to the ground like nothing we’ve ever ridden. We braked later coming into turns, and generally braked less across the board, holding more speed and blasting around the trails with a brave sense of renewed ambition.
We’ve spent plenty of time on downhill bikes over the years, but to find the limits of traction on big DH bikes you need to be going really, really fast. The Genius Plus was so much more agile than that, and twice as playful.
You do notice the bigger tyres when making quick direction changes, the added weight on the outer of the wheels creates a gyroscopic effect, and it’s hard to ignore. Throwing the bike around the bike felt slightly slower to react, like you were riding a 29er with heavy wheels. Dropping the bike down onto the side knobs of the tyres into a corner, or quickly smashing a berm required a bit more body language. We did get used to it, and intuitively adapted our riding style.
We found ourselves taking wider lines into turns and staying off the brakes, putting unprecedented faith in the traction of the big tyres. Grabbing a handful of brakes would almost send you over the bars as the bike would bite down into the dirt rather than skimming across the top. And the noise the tyres make is pretty crazy, so much rubber amplifies the sound of the tread grabbing the trail, in a group of riders on Plus bikes it sounds like a traction party at happy hour!
For the fun of it you could also ignore the best line through a berm and go right through the inside, with a confident trust in the big treads. With 445mm chain stays the bike does feel quite long, making super tight corners and popping a manual a bit harder than we’d like, but at speed the stability from the length is well and truly worth a little compromise.
Climbing loose trails is another area that the Plus shines, with more grip under your rear wheel you don’t need to hunt for the best line nearly as much. You’re able to really put more effort into the pedals, rather than dividing your attention between finding traction and laying down strong pedal strokes.
At slow speed the big tyres really conform to the terrain underneath you resisting slipping around, we could ride the steepest sections of trail, controlling your speed easily with one finger on the brakes.
With such a massive volume of air in the tyres, setting your tyre pressure becomes more important than ever. Too high and you won’t benefit from the potential traction, and too low and it’ll feel like pedalling through wet sand. After much experimenting with tyre pressure by going too high, then too low and resting at the sweet spot of 13 and 15 psi for the front and rear tyre. Mick weighs 70kg plus gear and would increase pressure when carrying more gear and water etc.
Next up was suspension, we chatted to Rene Krattinger the head of mountain bike engineering at Scott about how suggested we go about it. With a lighter compression setting and slower rebound the tyre won’t squash underneath your weight as much, and/or bounce and oscillate from repeated impacts like braking bumps or hardpacked ruts.
The Genius has been a Flow favourite forever. Lightweight frames, stable geometry and a category leading suspension efficiency via their long serving TwinLoc system.
TwinLoc is a thumb actuated remote lever that allows you to toggle between three modes offering simultaneous control of rear shock travel and fork lockout.
There’s less travel than the regular Genius line, with a 14omm travel FOX Float fork, and 130mm of travel out back via Scott’s proprietary FOX Nude shock. The open position allows full travel, front and rear. One click switches the rear shock to Traction mode, while the fork receives a light compression setting. One more click and rear shock and fork lock at the same time.
For 2016 the Scott Genius will benefit from the FOX EVOL air can, with the extra air volume the suppleness in the suspension is magnificent. With what is effectively a single pivot suspension design, the Genius isn’t known for being the most supple and grounded bike, yet it has always been very efficient under pedalling action. With the EVOL rear shock the new bikes feel significantly more supple and plush.
The Genius Plus uses a Genius 29er front end, and is also compatible with 29″ wheels using Boost hubs (148mm rear and 110mm front). The Plus uses a 445mm long chain stay and a 67.5 degree head angle. For 2016 Australian consumers will have the choice of two Genius Plus bikes. The Genius 710 Plus for $5999 and the Genius 720 Plus for $4599.
If in the worst case scenario and none of this Plus takes off with dual suspension bikes, you can bet it will with a hardtail. It makes absolute sense, if you’re a hardtail fan or don’t have at least $4k to spend, a Scale Plus would be a seriously good prospect for real mountain biking.
We cut some hard and fast laps on the Scale 710 Plus and had a really good time. Where having no rear suspension would usually make the bike skip around harshly, the low pressure tyres did more than just take the sting out the trail, it really felt like we were riding a short travel dually at times.
The first thing we’d do it it were ours would be to fit a dropper post.
The Scale 720 Plus is coming to Australia and will retail for $2299.
We weren’t into it at first, we really thought that with a standard 27.5″ bike and big tyres we’d be able to have just as much fun without the distraction and introduction of a new wheel standard, but the Scott Plus bikes are a whole lot more than we’d anticipated.
With all the stability and traction you could ever wish for in a package that ride and handles a lot more like a regular bike it’ll let both newcomers and more experienced riders do more. You can go faster and in more control, climb steeper sections, and negotiate steeper descents.
There is less risk of pesky flat tyres, and that’s always a good thing.
Is this progression? Will it replace whole categories of mountain bikes or remain a niche? Time will tell, but our bet is that it will catch on, and if a beginner can benefit from increased control so can a pro.