The Scott Spark has always been a bit of a racer’s favourite in this country — its carbon frame, 110mm of travel and lightweight component spec proving a big hit with the Lycra set. But outside of pure XC racing the bike never really took off, as its focus was too narrow.
That’s all set to change for 2012 as Scott casts the Spark’s net a little wider. The new Spark is still ultra-light, but now sports 120mm travel front and rear: and with a riser bar and a slacker head angle as standard, the focus has clearly shifted into short-travel trail bike territory.
The heart of the Spark is the all-new frame, built with IMP5 technology, Scott’s latest in-house, one-piece carbon-fibre moulding process. The frame features numerous improvements, including a beefier tapered head tube, a stiffer bottom bracket shell with a press fit BB and a burlier one-piece shock linkage. Probably the biggest increase in frame stiffness comes from the new 15mm main pivot axle with much wider set bearings. Even with all of the ‘beefing up’, the Spark hasn’t gained any weight, it’s still an impressive 1,790g, including shock.
A new, more progressive rear shock called the Nude 2 has also been developed for the Spark, once again in association with DT Swiss. It features the handlebar-mounted TwinLoc system where a neat lever switches through three suspension modes: fully open with 120mm travel, TC mode, which steps the travel down to 85mm while increasing the damping at the beginning of the stroke to reduce pedal input, and finally fully locked out.
Working in tandem with the rear shock is the RockShox Sid fork, with a new Motion Control DNA3 damper cartridge. This has been developed with Scott to work alongside the Nude 2 shock and shares the same three suspension modes and handlebar remote — so flicking the lever activates both the rear shock and the fork for a truly integrated suspension response.
Another interesting feature on the new frame is the switchable shock mount pivot, which alters the geometry of the bike. In the steepest position, it offers a 68.7° head angle, and when switched it drops the BB height by 8mm and slackens the head angle by 0.7° to make for a more stable, trail-friendly ride.
On the trail
What better way to give a bike like the Spark a good test ride than to spend the day chasing XC racing legend Thomas Frischknecht and current Scott riders Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter around the hills of Massa Marittima, near Pisa, in Italy. The rolling Tuscan hills are riddled with rocky, hard-packed singletrack that twists its way through the trees; here the Spark proved itself quite at home. With the suspension fully open there was appreciable bob on the climbs, but flick the lever to Traction Mode and the suspension immediately felt more tied down and efficient. This, combined with the lightweight build of the top-end Spark RC, and instant, on-tap acceleration, urged me to push myself harder than my legs could cope. Needless to say, the racer boys had long since disappeared….
It was on the downhill stuff that I had a better chance of keeping them in sight. I rode with the geometry in the slack setting for the duration of the ride, and on the faster singletrack sections it made for a ride that was almost trail bike stable, yet race bike fast. The short (420mm) chainstays gave quick steering, but the bike never felt twitchy or edgy and the Spark positively flew down the tighter sections of trail.
With the 2012 Spark, Scott has created a bike that is not only an easy choice for XC and marathon racers but is also suitable for those wanting a lightning fast, trail-ready singletrack shredder — along the lines of a Specialized Epic or Giant Anthem X. And not wanting to be left out of the new ‘craze’ for 29ers, the Spark 29er is also available (albeit with just 100mm travel), as is a 26in Contessa version for the ladies.
Frame: IMP5 HMX NET carbon, one-piece construction, 120mm travel
Rear shock: Scott DT Nude 2 with TwinLoc system
Fork: RockShox SID RLT3, DNA3 damper, TwinLoc system, 120mm travel
Wheelset: DT Swiss XRRS
Tyres: Schwalbe Rocket Ron EVO
Groupset: SRAM XX, 2×10
Brakes: Avid XX World Cup
Stem: Ritchey WCS, 80mm
Bar: Ritchey carbon WCS riser, 680mm
Saddle: Ritchey Streem V2 WCS
Seatpost: Ritchey carbon WCS
Sizes: S, M, L, XL