By Adam Newman
Scott unveiled its 2014 mountain bike lineup this week at Deer Valley, Utah, and as notable for what was there was what wasn’t: 26-inch wheels. Aside from some entry-level hardtails and the gravity bikes, the bigger 27.5 and 29-inch wheels have steamrolled over the range and secured their stay.
Scott gave the assembled media a lot of technical rationale for why the larger wheels work better, including charts and numbers and graphs and stuff, but the important thing to remember is that they just work, with no brain recalibration necessary.
One reason Scott was so quick to adopt the wheels was at the request of its dominant XC racer Nino Schurter. At only 5-foot-8, he was struggling to get comfortable on a 29er, but still wanted the advantage of larger wheels. In 2012 he starting winning World Cup races aboard his Scott Scale and never looked back, racking up an Olympic Bronze, World Cup overall, a Swiss National Championship and the World Championship. Clearly the wheel work fine. Even in Europe where 29ers were being accepted more slowly, Scott looked at the sales numbers and knew the bigger wheels were here to stay.
The most significant change across the board this year is the introduction of the Fox Nude CTCD rear shocks. No, it’s not a typo, though it seems confusing. After a number of years of working with DT Swiss to design and build the Nude shocks, the switch to Fox was initiated after Scott—as well as some customers and press—were less than enthusiastic about its performance.
The Fox version has been completely custom tuned for Scott and each wheelsize of each model uses a specially valved version. The Twin-Loc control lever is still there, but the actuation has been improved. It activates the shock’s three modes: Climb (almost locked out, but still active), Traction Control (smaller air volume inside the shock, reduced travel), and Descend (extra air volume, full travel).
The shocks are built in two spec levels: Evolution and Boost Valve, and are unfortunately not reverse compatible with last year’s frames because of clearance issues. The "twin" in Twin-Loc activates the corresponding Fox fork and its corresponding CTD setting.
All of the full suspension frames share many features, including the geometry adjustment chips that can adjust the head tube angle by up to half a degree and raise or lower the bottom bracket by 6mm, new down tube shapes and slimmer shocks that allow for increased room for water bottles, and replaceable dropouts that can work with 142×12, 135×12 and 135 QR axles. All of the frames feature the widest-possible BB92 standard. Also new is improved internal cable routing that lets individual derailleur cables be replaced without having remove and replace both. Also all the pivots, bearings and hardware are shared throughout the line.
All of the 2014 bikes and accessories are in production now and should be available in dealers in September or October.
Spark 700 and 900 series
We reviewed the Scott Spark last year in 29er format, (For the long-term review, see Issue #166) but the 29er has been reworked for 2014 to accommodate the Fox CTCD shock and the 26-inch version is gone. The new bikes adopt the 700/900 series naming convention for the 27.5 and 29er versions, respectively. The 29er features 100mm of travel front and rear while the 27.5 has 120mm.
Designed for light trail and marathon racing, it could also make for a good general-purpose XC bike. The Spark 700 SL was the first bike I rode at Deer Valley and though the stock Schwalbe Thunder Burt tires were a bit mismatched for the loose-over-hard and rocky Utah trails, it still showed that it can get up and move. This is the shortest travel 27.5 bike I’ve yet ridden—hell it was the shortest travel bike of any kind I’ve ridden in a while— and it is incredibly quick and aggressive. At just 21.12 lbs. it should be!
Though each of these bikes is equipped with the geometry adjustment chip, this is the only model that I had an opportunity to ride in both modes. Though the change is small, it still produced a noticeable calming effect on the bike at high speed and it felt much more stable. The change is made with a T25 Torx tool and can easily be handled on the trail.
There are nine trim levels of the Spark, each in 27.5 or 29er versions, in carbon or aluminum, with prices ranging from $1,900 to $9,200 as well as two women’s versions available in 27.5 only at $2,650 and $4,850.
- Head tube angle: 70.1/69.5 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 73.1/72.5 degrees
- BB height: 12.8/12.5 inches
- Chainstay length: 17.6 inches
- Head tube angle: 68.3/68.8 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 73/73 degrees
- BB height: 13.0/13.2 inches
- Chainstay length: 17.0 inches
Genius 700 series
Unveiled last year, the Genius line was one of the first big salvos in the 27.5 battle. We put one through its paces earlier this year for a long term review that appeared in Issue #169. While the basics of the bike have remained unchanged, one new highlight this year is the 27.5-only Tuned version, which is Scott’s take on an in-house works edition built for pro-level enduro racing. Think of it as an AMG Mercedes or an M-Series BMW. Not only are all the high-zoot parts included, every gram is counted, most notably evident by the lack of a dropper seatpost—usually considered a must for enduro. The reasoning is that enduro races are so technical in Europe that the timed sections have almost no pedaling, and racers often trade the convenience of a dropper for the lighter carbon seatpost with QR for the transition stages.
On the trail the 150mm travel Genius 700 Tuned is an incredible machine, at just 23.32 lbs. it can hustle like an XC bike when you want it too. The Twin-Loc lever was really in its element on this platform, giving it a real Jekyll and Hyde personality at the flick of a switch.
I’m not going to lie—I missed having a dropper post. It’s amazing how quickly you come to rely on one, but if you’re shopping in this price range you can likely afford the dropper of your choice. I also thought the 150mm Fox 32 fork was a bit overmatched by the bike’s capabilities. I would have expected to see a Fox 34, especially in the presumably race-ready Tuned version, but Scott said that weight was a priority and the introduction of the Genius LT for heavy-duty terrain lessened the load on the Genius 700.
The Genius 700 series is available in six trim levels, in carbon or aluminum, from $3,150 to $9,500 as well as two women’s versions at $3,800 and $5,250.
- Head tube angle: 67.9/68.4 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 74/74.5 degrees
- BB height: 13.6/13.8 inches
- Chainstay length: 17.3 inches
Genius 900 series
I spent several months aboard a 2013 Scott Genius 920 that we reviewed alongside it’s 27.5 sibling. I had trouble getting the suspension to play nice so I was eager to see how it compared to the previous DT Swiss version. All I need to say is the difference is night and day.
Even in the Descend mode, the bike pedals extremely well—a significant improvement over the previous version. A flick of the Twin-Loc lever, with a much-improved action, engages the more progressive shock setting and drops the travel from 130mm to 90mm. Though I’ve really been enjoying 27.5 wheels lately, the Genius 29er felt much more capable on the fast and chunky trails at Deer Valley.
The Genius 900 series strikes me as a stay-on-the-ground type of bike, prioritizing efficiency and capability over gettin’ rad. Maybe it was the larger wheels, the longer wheelbase, or just my familiarity with the geometry, but I would not hesitate to recommend it as a single-bike, do-it-all option.
The Genius 900 series is available in five trim levels, in carbon or aluminum, from $3,150 to $9,200. There is no women’s version.
- Head tube angle: 69/69.5 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 74/74.5 degrees
- BB height: 13.2/13.4 inches
- Chainstay length: 17.6 inches
This is it—this is the bike I had been looking forward to. Since photos of it trickled out online after Scott’s global launch in Switzerland last month, I had been curious to see how the 27.5 wheels would play with such long suspension travel.
But first, the details: gone is the 26-inch Genius LT and its pull-shock. It has been replaced with an all-new frame that is 400 grams lighter and shares the same basic architecture and Fox suspension as its stablemates. The 170mm of travel front and rear is reduced a bit over the old version’s 185mm, but the larger wheels help make up for the difference. It’s also outfitted with Scott’s Twin-Loc and CTCD systems and an OE-only 170mm Fox 34 CTD fork. Could a 27.5 fork with 36mm stanchions be in the cards? Only Fox knows for sure.
Unlike the Genius 700 Tuned, the LT Tuned does include a dropper post—the excellent RockShox Reverb Stealth. Though not pictured, each LT ships with a pair of chainguides that mount to the chainstay and can be used with either single or double chainring setups.
Built for enduro—or what used to be called all-mountain riding—the LT was a perfect match for the rocky, bermed and fast gravity trails of Deer Valley. The 34 fork helped front end stability, and the new Syncros handlebars with a 35mm stem clamp kept the front wheel pointed in the right direction when deflecting off rocks at speed. While I naturally spent most of my ride in Descend mode, a firmer pedaling platform was just a flick of the switch away. Despite the larger wheels and the longer travel, it actually seemed to be the most playful bike of the lot. Sadly I only had one good run on it before an afternoon thunderstorm closed the lift and sent riders scattering for cover, but I’m really hoping to get another chance to give it a workout.
The Genius LT 700 series is available in two carbon versions at $5,550 and $7,600 and the alloy version pictured above at $4,000.
- Head tube angle: 66.3/66.8 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 74/74.5 degrees
- BB height: 13.6/13.9 degrees
- Chainstay length: 17.3 degrees
Everyone here on the Dirt Rag staff seems to have really embraced the new style of flexible, "walkable" mountain bike shoes, usually with a rubbery tread, that trade a bit of performance for all-day comfort. Scott offers an impressive line of race-ready shoes, but what caught my eye where these four models aimed at all-mountian, trail, and yes, enduro riding. Each is built around Scott’s "sport" last, the largest volume of its three shapes (the others being "performance" and "racing"). They also register a 6 out of 10 on Scott’s stiffness scale and each is available in men’s or women’s versions.
MTB Elite BOA
The $150 Elite BOA features the popular BOA closure system (natch) and the tread features Scott’s Sticki rubber compound for increased traction on rocks or even pavement. The outsole is a fiberglass reinforced nylon and the outer is a high-quality synthetic leather that conforms to your foot but will not stretch or loosen over time.
The $110 Elite is essentially the Velcro version of the Elite BOA shoe, designed for riders who still want great fit and performance, but are willing to trade some stiffness for durability.
The $150 A.T.R. is the heavy-duty trail shoe, built for backcountry excursions or all-mountian riding. The BOA lacing is paired with a Vibram sole for the best in fit and traction. The toebox is also reinforced and protected with a rubbery outer.
Trail BOA EVO
In a similar style, the $125 BOA EVO looses the extra Velcro strap and swaps the Vibram sole for a Sticki rubber.
There’s also a huge number of riders who are looking for a little extra protection and don’t need the lightest possible helmet since they’re not racing and they’re just… you know… mountain biking. Scott has two new helmets that bridge that gap between XC and gravity: the Stego and Mythic.
The Stego uses the latest in helmet tech: MIPS. Traditionally, helmets are certified by passing an impact test directly on their top. However in the real world, helmets usually strike the ground at an angle and the skull and brain rotate inside them. The MIPS technology mimic’s the body’s own protection system, a layer of fluid between the brain and skull.
It works by having an extra layer between your head and the molded foam that can break away and slide on impact. The $160 Stego is one of three helmets in Scott’s lineup that use the technology and it is available in black or green in three sizes.
The Mythic is essentially the same helmet, without the MIPS system. Notable are the extended coverage at the base of the skull, the large flat spot on top for mounting lights or cameras (no specific mount is included) and the shape that accommodates goggles as well as glasses. The $125 Mythic is available in black, white, blue and orange in three sizes.
One bike that wasn’t unveiled was the 27.5 version of the Gambler downhill bike, despite seeing it in the pits of the Gstaad-Scott team at the Fort William World Cup. Since Fox is now on board with a 27.5 version of its 40 dual-crown fork, I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before 27.5 sweeps the gravity scene as well. Will it become a production model? Guess we’ll have to wait for next summer to find out!