First Ride: Scott Scale

First Ride: Scott Scale

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.

 

7 comments

  1. Dave King

    Finally! A hardtail review! I love my Breezer Cloud 9 29er hardtail. It’s perfect for 95% of the trails I ride in the East Bay hills, Marin and Mendocino. I probably do a few rides in Tahoe and the Sierras every year and even less often in Colorado and Utah: all places where you can really benefit from a boingy bike. And, yeah, my hardtail kinda beats me up. If I moved to one of those places, I’m certain I’d buy one of them sooner or later (probably sooner).

    I love the simplicity of a hardtail and that it still looks like a mountain bike rather than a motocross machine. It can hold TWO water bottles. It climbs well rather than ponderously. With it’s shorter wheelbase I can maneuver it better through twisting single track. And the absence of a rear shock and pivots means one less thing I have to think about maintaining.

    But for the riding that I do, a full suspension bike is overkill, IMO. And yet I see so few hardtail mountain bikes out there when I ride. Sure, there a couple of 200 meter sections on my rides where a FS bike is faster but mostly you don’t need one. And for me, I want to feel the trail beneath me. When I’ve ridden FS bikes it can often feel like the trail disappears beneath me and I’m on a couch. My racing days are behind me – I’m not too concerned about keeping up with people on downhills willing to risk more than more. I’m almost 45 and I’m sure that one day I’ll want to leave the hardtail behind and ride only a FS bike. But that day isn’t here yet.

    Hope to see more reviews on hardtails in the future.

    Oh, and I love the little nuggets in your writing, such as the Bondhus Allen drivers. Going to have to get some. Thanks!

  2. Winky

    I’m a rubbish mountain biker, but a hard-tail fan nonetheless. Having said that, I feel the difference is small early in the ride (with the advantage going to the lighter hard-tail), but 4 or 5 hours in, I’d sometimes really like to be able to just sit for a bit to rest my legs, rather than have to absorb bump after bump. That mountain bikes are no lighter than they were 20 years ago is weird.

    1. dave

      they aren’t lighter but they are more capable and more fun. road disc adoption shows that people will accept higher weight to gain other benefits.

      XC race bikes are MUCH lighter than they were 20 years ago. 1997 a front suspension CAnnondale, say, was probably 26 pounds, no?

    2. Dan

      In 1997 my xc ride was a ’96 Klein Adroit, one of the last Made in Washington, that had a Judy SL, XTR/XT components, and a weight of 19-20lbs (depending on tires) for an XL size. I still miss that bike.

      But I’ll be taking delivery of a MootoX shortly and can’t wait to see what’s changed in the decade or more since I’ve been on the dirt.

    3. Winky

      Dan, I have a Specialized Stumpjumper M4 from the same era. Judy SL, XTR/XT, Avid Ti v-brakes. I might weigh it. I’d be surprised if it is much different to your Klein. New mountain bikes are better for sure, but they’ve traded weight for functionality. Comically oversized wheels, metre-long handlebars and now, pie plate-sized sprockets at the back.

    1. Nik

      An inch was originally defined as the width of a man’s thumb. Later, this was found to be imprecise, so it was redefined as the length of 3 barley corns.

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