When I think about what makes a great road bike, I tend to like the same qualities on the flat, going up a hill or going down a hill. So long as the bike handles well and responds the way I want it to, I don’t want a substantially different bike on the way up a hill than on the way down.
But with mountain biking, the bike I want on a climb is significantly different on the uphill than the one I want for the drop. And for tearing across flat ground, that’s a different bike. If it gets rockier, that’s still another bike, though it’s similar to that first bike. It’s a preposterous thought, right? That you’d swap bikes out like Alberto Contador at the foot of an Alpine climb just so you could rip some climb and then—poof!—your team vehicle shows up in some meadow and hands you a bike entirely more appropriate to the coming descent.
Here on planet earth we do things a little differently.
It’s amazing to me that as dynamic a sport as road riding is, one bike can pretty well serve all your needs, provided you stick to pavement. However, in mountain biking, the same cannot be said. I’ve not encountered another activity that is as dynamic, that needs a greater range of skill and a bike that can do more different things than I have in present-day mountain biking. The best bike to get you up the hill bears nothing in common with the best bike to get you down the hill. I must grant that part of my sense of the sports dynamism is due to the nature of the terrain on which I ride. It is, shall we say, diverse.
Which brings me to the Scott Genius 700 Plus Tuned. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but it’s not just marketing speak; each of those terms stand for something. The “Genius” is Scott’s trail series of bikes. The “700” denotes that it runs 27.5-inch wheels. The “Plus” refers to the fact that this bike has clearance for plus-size tires. And the “Tuned” refers to the Kashima-coated Fox suspension components that have been tuned for the bike’s particular suspension. So this is a trail bike that runs plus wheels and features Scott’s best suspension setup.
Let’s just jump right to the heart of the matter. Scott Sports has taken heat for its TwinLoc suspension system. The refresher: it’s a three-position switch that allows riders to switch between a fully open suspension, a locked out rear with some fork travel and, in the middle, a restricted “traction mode” setting that offers somewhat limited travel front and rear. In raw numbers, that’s 140mm of travel front, 130mm rear when wide open. In traction mode it’s 90mm of travel front and rear. In the third position, the rear is locked out and the fork retains its 90mm of travel.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why this isn’t completely dominating the market.
Consider that riders are willing to reach down between their legs or down to their fork to restrict travel and improve pedaling dynamics. Consider also that riders have utterly rejected any dropper post that can’t be controlled from the handlebar. No, we all want the dropper lever within easy thumb reach, nowhere else.
I recently encountered a trail that was new to me within my nearest riding area. I’m being deliberately vague for reasons related to certain transgressive issues that could result in civil citations.
Following an initial drop, the trail traverses across a hillside, losing altitude only to cut sharply back uphill briefly. It’s wildly dynamic riding. After G-ing out at the bottom of a turn, the rise is quick and if you’ve carried enough speed, you’ll pass through the gauntlet of trees without tagging your bar and with a few pedal strokes you’re back into the pitched descent. This rhythm is repeated a number of times before a left-hand turn announces a complete change of pattern. During that sequence the TwinLoc and the dropper post were entirely more important to my progress than either of my derailleurs were.
I’d rip into the descent with the suspension wide open and the saddle down, make the bottom turn and as I began to lose speed going back up, I’d lift the saddle and pop the TwinLoc from wide open into traction, reducing the travel and firming up the response for better pedaling. Over the top I’d upshift a couple of gears, open the suspension and drop the saddle.
I effectively had a heavy cross-country bike for pedaling uphill and a completely capable trail bike for the down. In changing the valving and response of the rear shock, TwinLoc even causes the bottom bracket to rise, increasing pedal clearance and calming the handling some.
Later on that same ride, as a buddy and I ascended a steep and somewhat loose climb in the back forty of the park, I reached a ramp that was going to require more grunt than finesse to get over. I popped the TwinLoc from traction into the third position, locking out the rear shock entirely, and stood up to growl over the final punch.
Stay tuned for Part II.
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