By Eric McKeegan
Scott’s Genius line of trail/all-mountain bikes is now a decade old and after 10 years of design and development, they surprised the heck out of me by dumping the 26-inch wheel size and creating two new platforms from the ground up. The Genius 900 series is the 29-inch bike, and the Genius 700 series, pictured above, is 27.5-inch (650b).
I was almost shocked to see a production 150mm 27.5-inch trail bike for 2013 from Scott. I was expecting the 130mm 29er, but figured the 27.5-inch waters would be tested with a hardtail, not a carbon full-suspension trail bike. That isn’t at all a complaint, the 150mm bike category seems to be the best fit for this wheelsize, which isn’t to say it won’t and shouldn’t end up in other categories.
The Genius looks much more “normal” now. Gone is the twin chambered pull shock of years past. It is replaced with a DT Swiss Nude 2 push shock, and the rest of the frame shows obvious resemblance to the recently redesigned Spark XC bikes. The rear suspension remains a tried and true single pivot with a swing link driving the shock.
The handlebar remote TwinLoc system is at the heart of Scott’s suspension philosophy. The three-position handlebar switch controls both the rear shock and the Fox CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) front fork. In Descend mode the shock and fork are fully open, Trail mode reduces the rear travel and increases low speed compression on the fork, and the Climb mode is the firmest setting.
The redesigned frame also has new oversize pivots and a beefed up linkage for increased stiffness. A BB92 press fit BB, ISCG mounts, internal dropper cable routing, and a tapered headtube update the Genius for modern component standards. A simple rotation of the shock mount chip changes geometry between a slack/low setting and steep/high setting.
Fit is said to be identical between the 2 models, with 4 sizes available. The 900 gets a not-too-slack 69/69.5º head angle, 355/341mm BB height and 450mm chainstays. The 700 is a good bit slacker at 67.7/68.2º, 346/352mm BB height and 440mm chainstays.
I got a chance to do identical loops in Sun Valley on both wheelsizes. Terrain was rolling and dry, with a rocky twisty descent back to the parking lot. Not a bad place for a first ride on unfamiliar trail bikes.
First lap was on the 29er, pictured below. It took me a bit to get everything dialed in, but once the suspension and tire pressure got sorted this bike got busy going fast. Geometry felt dialed, although I admit to being disappointed to see a 32mm fork rather than the 34mm as on the 27.5-inch bike. The ride wasn’t long or rough enough for me to really decide if the smaller fork was a big deal.
This bike felt best getting worked hard. I had some issues with the front end wandering if I was just plinking along in low gear going uphill, but giving it some gas made that flopping feeling go away. I was very comfortable descending, although I found myself in a few arguments with the front end about line choices. Most of the time it didn’t matter much—the big wheels and suspension would just punch over most of the chunky stuff if I was willing to hang on.
The Genius 700 was next. Compared to switching between 29ers and 26ers there was almost no adjustment period other than turning in too far on the first few fast curves. The smaller wheels and longer travel didn’t feel quite as fast as the 29er when climbing, but traction seemed a little better going up—not sure why. No complaints though, it was a very efficient feeling trail bike, even with the shock fully open. Going down was a different story. This bike felt nimble and was much more comfortable breaking traction in turns than the 29er, while losing very little in the way of rollover and rock garden smash-ablity.
Day two of riding involved a gondola and chairlift ride to the top of Mt. Baldy, and then a rip down the Super Duper D race course: almost 4,000 feet of going down with a few short climbs thrown in to keep things honest.
The trails were almost all buff and fast, a good test of the geometry, but not so much of the suspension. After some debate with myself, I managed to grab the last Genius 700 bike, the alloy version of the carbon bike I rode the first day. Using modern forming techniques, the aluminum Genius is almost impossible to tell apart from the carbon frame and is only about a pound heavier (and a chunk less expensive) than the carbon frame.
Overall I was very happy with my bike choice, and careful attention to suspension settings and tire pressure had me feeling much more settled on the bike, feeling pretty confident to let it rip. More than anything else I was left wanted to ride this bike in a setting that would allow me really test its limits.
I can pretty confidently say Scott has fired a serious warning shot across the bow of the trail bike market. I came away from these rides impressed and wanting more, and thinking 27.5-inch trail bike could be the answer to a lot of riders search for a new bike.
Scott tells us the Genius will be on sales floors in December. The 700 will be available in five builds ranging from $3,150 to $9,135 and the 900 will also be available in five builds from $3,045 to $8,820.
Also on hand for fondling and photo-ing (but not riding) was a single 2013 Gambler downhill bike. Another total redesign, the new Gambler looks nothing like the 2012 model. Working with pro rider Brendan Fairclough, Scott set out to make a lighter, stiffer and more adjustable downhill bike that was able to handle the rigors of World Cup level racing and days in the bike park.
The frame is now a much simpler affair, with fewer machined and forged parts and more straight tubing, which dropped the frame weight about 700 grams. A one-piece swing arm, built-in downtube and fork bumpers and a straight 1.5-inch headtube round out the well-appointed frame.
Scott named the odd looking suspension system Floating Link, a dual link set up allowing the shock to be mounted directly to already strong BB forging, saving weight (less need for reinforcements) and keeping the weight centered and low. The dual links also allow plenty of spring curve progression tuning.
Geometry has enough adjustments to keep just about any rider happy on any terrain. The frame has two adjustment chips, one for chainstay length, and one on the lower shock mount for BB and head angle adjustments. Combine this with Syncros inserts for the headset and you can achieve a head angle between 60-64 degrees, chainstay length between 421-440mm and a BB height of 345-355mm.
The main pivot is high by current standards, sacrificing some pedaling performance for better suspension action over square edged hits and less brake induced harshness. The pictures here do not reflect final spec although the bright green finish will be an option. Three models and a frameset will be available in the fall with complete bikes ranging from $3,520 to $6,510.