Back in July I got a chance to spend three days riding bikes from Scott’s 2015 lineup. I began writing up my observations while there, and then in one of those intersections of right-brained-creative and busy, the post got backburnered right into the sink. Fortunately, while this is late, it hasn’t lost its relevance; Scott is just beginning to deliver some 2015 bikes to dealers and in my experience, this is their strongest overall lineup since, well, ever.
I spent my time focused on riding the mountain bikes for a couple of reasons. The first was the location. We were in Park City, Utah, and were positioned right on the mountain. Lift-served riding couldn’t have been easier. Or smarter. My room was at 9000 feet and all the nearby roads either went up or down and rather steeply at that. While the combination of road and pitch made road riding a challenge, the bigger issue was the near impossibility of riding a road bike between 15 and 25 mph. I was going either six or 45.
With so much singletrack available, and with lifts to alleviate us of the need to suffer through the altitude and maximize the time spent descending, I did what any fun-loving cycling would do: I concentrated on the mountain bikes.
I decided to start shorter travel and increase over time. My first two runs were on the Spark 900 SL. Scott has typically taken knocks for some of the suspension they spec. This bike, like many in their line, sports Fox shocks front and rear (Float 32 in the front and a Nude in the rear), but uses a completely heretical build: SRAM XX1 drivetrain and Shimano XTR M9000 brakes. If there’s a universally held truth among mountain bikers, it’s that Shimano’s brakes offer improved modulation and braking power compared to SRAM. But mixing Shimano and SRAM? Well it used to be that Shimano wouldn’t allow a product manager to buy just part of a group. The upshot is that this bike is built the way many riders would do it, were they choosing every part individually.
The Spark is full-suspension cross country race or marathon bike, and features 100mm of travel in front and thanks to the Twinloc (I’ll get to that in a second), rear travel of 100mm while descending, 70mm while pedaling over rough terrain or no travel if pedaling out of the saddle. It is available in both 29-inch and 27.5-inch wheel versions. I’ll talk more about Scott’s philosophy on wheel size a bit later.
Bike companies have come up with a variety of different ways to eliminate pedal bob and leave suspension active. From the Specialized Brain to the various shock levers, there have been a bunch of efforts that have met with varying success. Twinloc is easily my favorite, having ridden it on multiple Scott rigs. Press the big black lever forward once and the suspension travel shortens and the BB rises a bit for maneuverability while pedaling over rough terrain. Push it a second time and the suspension locks out completely. The little silver lever returns the suspension to its other settings. So three options with one lever, and those options are user selectable on the fly without having to remove a hand from the bar. Perfect.
The Spark allowed for the best climbing performance of the bikes I rode and I was speedy enough on one section of singletrack that I startled a buck when I chose to deviate from all the straight down trails. Oops.
Charging over rises out of the saddle with the suspension locked out at close to 11,000 feet of elevation was, fundamentally, a mistake. Biologically, I couldn’t make it more than a couple of times.
My next ride was on the Genius 900 Tuned. The Genius is Scott’s trail platform and like the Spark, it is available in both 27.5 and 29 versions. Scott has chosen to view wheel size as less an absolute of speed, agility and rolling resistance and more a function of sizing. Smaller people don’t really belong on a bike with 29-inch wheels. You have to compromise the frame design to get someone under 5′ 8″ on the big wheels. The Tuned is Scott’s top-of-the-heap for its various builds and they all go 1x. I could do 1x if I were living, well, almost anywhere that isn’t mountainous. I don’t climb well enough to get away without the little ring and I need a big ring for some fire road descents. A bike that goes to 11 just isn’t quite enough for me.
The effort that Deer Valley crews have undertaken in cutting trails that make imaginative use of the terrain was impressive. This was the first time I ever called a day because my knees were tired. I’m going to have to take Mini-Shred and the Deuce there some day.
One change for this year is that all the Genuises (Genuii?) got dropper posts. The power of the dropper post on a descent still amazes me. Dropping the saddle an inch on a technical descent can do wonders for maneuverability, not to mention confidence.
On the Genius 900 travel is set at 130mm. The Twinloc makes the mid position 90mm of travel. One challenge with all this suspension gear is that you can end up with a bunch of buttons to push. The combination of dropper post and Twinloc was plenty for my left hand. The addition of a front derailleur would have required mounting the button for the dropper post on top of the bar on the right side. Seven buttons, which is exactly the set-up of the next bike I rode.
Next up was the Genius 710. Two chainrings, 11 cogs, three shocks, seven buttons and a partridge in a … forgive me.
Scott differentiates between the 27.5-inch and 29-inch wheels not just as a matter of sizing, but also as a matter of travel. So while the 29er has 130mm of travel, the smaller wheels leave room in the frame for more travel, so the 27.5 version gets 150mm of travel, taking the Genius more toward the range and interest of the enduro rider. On this bike, the Twinloc makes the mid-position 100mm of travel. And while the bike I rode didn’t have it, the 2015 spec for the Genius allows Twinloc to adjust travel and damping on both the rear shock and the fork so you don’t end up with a rear end that tracks nicely out of the saddle but a wildly bobbing front end.
The Spark, Genius and Genius LT all share this nifty little device shown above, which is called the “Shock Mount Chip.” Undo the Torx bolt and reverse the oval chip in the linkage and you change the head tube angle by a half a degree and the bottom bracket height by 7mm. Riding a fire road you’ll never notice it, but the moment you get into familiar technical terrain you’ll pick up on the change in the bike’s character. For lift-served mountain biking, the low position was absolutely the way to go.
Even with three days of riding, Scott had so many bikes to choose from, it was hard to narrow down just which bikes to ride. Had we been in LA, I think I would have spent more time on road bikes, but given our circumstances, it seemed the only reasonable answer was to avail myself of some very well-cut trails.
My last few rides were reserved for the Genius LT Tuned. The LT stands for “long travel” or in my particular usage, “lots of trouble.” The Genius LT, due to its ability to soak up anything short of a school bus means the bike is available only with 27.5-inch wheels. This bike may be one of the more fascinating enduro rigs out there. With 170mm of travel, this thing would have once been considered a full-on downhill bike, but it pedals very well in the saddle. Use the Twinloc to tighten the ride up to 110mm of travel and you can climb anything you’re not too breathless to consider. And should you find yourself sprinting to the line, the Twinloc allows full suspension lockout even on a bike like this.
If I lived near a ski area, I’d absolutely have to purchase one of these. I still struggle with the full-face helmet and goggle thing just because it makes me feel like I’m driving a tank, and while a bike like this can get you into the proverbial thermal springs faster than you can manual, it has the ability to extend the reach of your ability, like that wand your GoPro is mounted to.
I’ll be doing a back-to-back review of the Addict and the Solace, so you can expect more info on Scott’s road line soon.