There’s nothing quite like having the right tool for a job. I have several Bondhus Allen drivers with the rounded tip for getting into bolts from odd angles. It occurred to me the other day as I was installing a water bottle cage that those drivers have saved me hours—perhaps a whole day—in the 25 years I’ve been using them. I don’t use them for everything, but when I need to spin a bolt a number of turns, I own nothing better.
That’s the thought that occurred to me as I was riding back to the demo van last weekend on a Scott Scale. The bike industry has begun to push back against the increasing sub-categorization of mountain bikes. You’ve got cross country bikes, trail bikes, dirt jumping bikes, downhill bikes, enduro bikes, all-mountain bikes and more. I know most of us would prefer just to buy one bike and use it for everything, but how much of a problem is it, really?
Of the many bikes in Scott’s stable, the Scale is one bike I hadn’t previously ridden. It’s their hard tail 29-inch cross country bike with a 100mm fork. And it weighs less than some gravel bikes I’ve ridden, thanks in part to a claimed frame weight of 847g for a medium frame.
For my day out, I was riding the Scale RC 900 Pro. A bike this light (~22 lbs., depending on size) with no rear suspension and with the front suspension locked out (via Scott’s RideLoc system) feels like a flat bar road bike except for the buzzing of the tires on pavement. Acceleration with the Scale was instantaneous in the way I’ve come to expect from high-end carbon road bikes. And despite the fact that the it was shod with 2.25-in. Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires, the bike offered the detailed sense of the surface I was riding on that I’ve come to expect from great carbon fiber bikes. I have to admit, this was a surprise.
Having a fine sense of the trail surface becomes especially handy when you’re on a hardtail and don’t have suspension to help with traction. It’s easier to feel a tire breaking away, and traction was something I pushed to the absolute limit on my ride.
The Scale RC 900 Pro benefits from a Deore XT 1x build, a Fox 32 fork and Syncros wheels. It’s a bike anyone could ride or race most anywhere. And yes, climbing on this thing felt like I’d increased my FTP by 30 points and dropped 10 pounds. Wow.
You see many of the features found in high-end carbon road frames in the Scale. The down tube is wider than it is high at the bottom bracket and the seatstays have been flattened to minimize the amount of shock transmitted to the rider with each bump. The bike is built with the same HMX carbon fiber blend that Scott uses bike bikes like the Addict and Solace, and it provides a bigger benefit here than I expected.
Naturally, you lose something when you surrender rear suspension. The bike bounces around more and you have to unweight yourself more for rocks, roots and other undulations. However, with a bike this light, because the bike is that much easier to heft and accelerate, it’s easier to finesse through rocks.
It was obvious that I was climbing above my weight class considering my ability to stay with younger riders when we went uphill. I’ll be honest; my ego enjoyed that. However, on the descents, especially on some narrow singletrack in the eastern part of Annadel State Park, I simply couldn’t stay with riders on full-suspension bikes. Nope. Couldn’t do it. And believe me, I was trying.
A dropper post would have helped, but it wouldn’t have made the difference in what I needed for cornering, so while I could come out of the turns hotter, the way the rear wheel would break away in all but the smoothest bermy turns meant I was braking more before entering them. Of course, if this was the bike I was riding every day, I’d have a more nuanced approach to cornering on it. That’s the fundamental problem with reviewing a bike in just a single ride. There’s only so much you can uncover.
The Scale RC 900 Pro comes in four sizes and has a suggested retail of $4999.
I’ll say that I was impressed by my ability to ride terrain that I don’t think of as hard-tail friendly. That said, this bike will continue to be better on more prepared surfaces. Man, this thing would be great fun at our summer dirt crit series, but honestly, I’ll continue to prefer full-suspension trail bikes for the riding I do.
Final thought: Just add pain.