By Karl Rosengarth
The 2011 model-year marks the unveiling of Scott’s carbon fiber Scale 29er. Like its previously-released 26” brethren, the 29” Scale benefits from a major re-engineering that Adrian Montgomery, marketing/PR director of Scott USA, summed up.
“We’ve taken all of our carbon expertise and thrown it at this one project. Every joint and every tube is lighter and stiffer laterally. So there’s virtually no tube on the bike that’s gone unchanged.”
What took Scott so long to climb aboard the carbon 29er express? Montgomery told me, “There was a lot of speculation because we already had the lightest hardtail in the previous [26”] Scale that we would do something along the lines of the 29er even earlier. And we really held off, not only until the market and technology matured, but until we had enough time to test the orientation of the bottom bracket to the axle height, chainstay length and the head angles that we wanted. Sticking the landing the first time was absolutely critical.”
Did Scott stick the landing? And what’s the word from the Russian judge? Read on to find out the answers to those, and many more, questions.
Scott upped their carbon fiber game to create the 29er Scale’s wispy-light 949g frame. Replacing their old tube-to-tube fabrication process with their new “integrated molding process” (that produces the toptube, tapered headtube and down tube in a single step) which shaved weight from the front end and resulted in a stiffer headtube, compared to the old process. The old Scale had an aluminum insert in the bottom bracket. The new Scale has a full-carbon bottom bracket that is lighter, stiffer and uses the press-fit BB-92 standard. The wide BB92 allows Scott make the 29er’s downtube and seat tube intersections as wide as possible, to better manage the loads and provide more tire clearance.
The chainstays, seatstays and rear dropout are now molded as one carbon fiber piece, which uses less aluminum and is lighter that the old Scale. Said stays provide more vertical compliance than before, to better absorb high frequency vibrations (and very small bumps).
One minor complaint: the minimalist rear dropouts made it a little more challenging than normal to get the rear wheel properly aligned and re-inserted. A bent seat tube allows the rear wheel to tuck in, under the rider, and results in a 438mm chainstay length.
The geometry chart reveals a 69.5° head and 72.5° seat angle. Montgomery had this to say about Scott’s approach to 29er geometry: “After testing a lot of different geometries, we found that what most people really want is a similar BB height to what’s on their 26", and as short a chainstay length as possible, while still allowing for a triple chainring and front derailleur. We have the exact same bottom bracket height as we do on the 26”. The chainstays are about as short as you can get and still run a 2.4" tire, have triple chainrings and front derailleur on it. As far as the head angle is concerned, we definitely found that some of the early adopters went really steep, and they were trying to make up for some of the inherent slow steering characteristics of the 29er. You can slacken it out a little bit.”
While the Scale 29 Pro’s $2,700 price tag ain’t exactly chump change, it represents an accessible price for carbon fiber. Dependable, not exotic, components keep the price in check. Highlights include a 100mm Rock Shox Reba 29 RL fork with Pop Loc remote lockout and Avid Elixir 5 brakes. SRAM X.7 shifters activate a 3×10 drivetrain that sports SRAM X.9 rear and Shimano SLX front derailleurs, a Shimano 42-32-24t OEM crankset, and a SRAM 12-36t cassette.
The Scale 29 Pro rolls on DT Swiss 370 Disc IT rear and Scott Disc Pro Disc IT front hubs which are laced to DT Swiss 485d 32H rims and shod with Schwalbe Rocket Ron EVO Kevlar beaded tires. I’m typically on the borderline between medium and large frames, and I opted for a size large Scale 29 Pro, which fit me fine. It’s worth mentioning that the carbon fiber Scale 29ers only come in three frame sizes (M, L, XL), which may present a fitting challenge for some riders.
They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the Scale 29 Pro did not disappoint. My maiden voyage was a trial by fire, trying to keep pace with my Dirt Rag colleagues on our weekly ride at the local park. With no time to think, I just pedaled—and found myself instinctively ripping through a rapid-fire onslaught of fast sweepers, stay-on-the-gas rollers, tight singletrack, and technical descents. It was a fast, furious and fun foray—thanks in large part to a new bike feeling more like an old friend.
The 310mm tall bottom bracket was slung low enough that my center of gravity settled into a comfortable position with respect to the bike, and mostly kept the pedals out of harm’s way. I felt like I was riding comfortably “in” the bike and not teetering “atop” the bike. Factor in the 1,117mm wheelbase, and it’s not surprising that the Scale 29 Pro inspired confidence and felt stable at speed, whether pointed straight downhill or leaned over through the turns.
I felt that the bike really shined when carving high-speed sweepers. Slower-speed steering response was not particularly quick, yet it was crisp enough to make negotiating tight singletrack easy pickins.
I even spent a day sessioning the stunts at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland and felt supremely confident with the bike’s handling in technical situations. Thankfully, Scott did not over-compensate and make the steering too twitchy, nor did the front wheel “tuck under” unexpectedly.
Climbing was a particularly strong suit for the Scale 29 Pro. I chalk that up to: the relatively lightweight build, 29er wheel traction, and short stays that position the rear wheel neatly beneath the rider. Clawing uphill, over wet roots or granny gear grinding up snowy slopes, the Scale scurried up any hill that I had the legs to attack.
Despite its light weight, the frame felt laterally stiff in the hard turns. When mashing the pedals, I felt no flex at the bottom bracket. Yet, I could feel just a skosh of vertical compliance, which damped some of the high frequency vibrations and made for a smooth-feeling ride. However, after a long day in the saddle, my 54-year-old back reminded me that I was riding a hardtail.
By offering a top-notch carbon-fiber frame outfitted with price-conscious parts, Scott packed max value into the Scale 29 Pro. This is a sweet riding trail bike, and it would surely treat a citizen racer well on any given Sunday. I’d have to agree that Scott indeed “stuck the landing” on their carbon 29er launch. Oh, I almost forgot, the Russian judge says: Da!
Country of Origin: China
Weight: 24.1lbs. (w/o pedals)
Sizes Available: M, L (tested), XL
Tester: Karl Rosengarth
This review originally appeared in Issue #155. You can order a copy of this issue here in our online store, and please consider purchasing a subscription to help us keep this great content rolling. Thanks!
You can also read Karl’s first impressions on the Scale 29 here.