Scott has designed its new Gambler range from the ground up, with plenty of input from riders. And with so much new stuff going on it’s hard to cram all the features into this short test.
By using an asymmetric sleeve in the head tube the Gambler has two head angle options. Scott supplies the FR10 in the 66-degree position, but by simply loosening the pinch bolts on the front of the forged head tube you can rotate the insert and slacken the head angle by two degrees. There is also a 1 1/8in sleeve if you don’t fancy running a fork with a 1.5in steerer. Swapping between the head angle settings has a nominal affect on bottom bracket and handlebar height but it does have a noticeable affect on the front centre measurement and wheelbase. Increasing the length at the front of the bike also alter the weigh distribution between the wheels, which is why Scott offers two lengths of replaceable dropouts.
As if that weren’t enough adjustment you can also choose between three travel settings on the rear, 190, 210 and 230mm. It is super easy to swap from one setting to another but you really need to change the spring rate to match the leverage for each travel setting. Our test bike had done the rounds at Dirt Demo in Las Vegas and the preproduction RockShox Vivid 5.1 rear shock was starting to feel a bit ropey. Dust stuck to oil around the bottom-out bumper, indicating that it had been leaking, and when we cycled the shock it sucked and hissed. Keeping it RockShox front and rear the Gambler gets the less sophisticated IS dampened Totem Coil fork, which has compression and rebound adjustment. We ran four clicks of compression damping to reduce fork dive but any more and the fork would get white-knuckle harsh. This was this the only Totem on test not to spill its guts.
Mavic hoops may no longer be product managers’ first choice and we suspect this is more to do with pricing than performance, as the Mavic EX325 rims stayed straight and were the only wheels on test to escape without major dents. Rubber-wise Scott has opted for a 2.5in Super Tacky Maxxis Minion for extra grip up front and a harder 60a durometer Maxxis High Roller on the rear for improved durability — it’s pretty much the prefect bike park tyre combination.
We clipped the e.thirteen bashring more regularly on the Gambler than on any of the other bikes. This is not because the bottom bracket is any lower, it’s just that the bashring is designed to accommodate a maximum 44t chainring even though the bike comes equipped with a 36t chainring. A bashring to match the 36t ring would increase ground clearance by approximately 10mm and eliminate the problem.
Even with a below power shock the high single-pivot design of the Gambler’s suspension handled square-edge hits incredibly well, and combined with the ultra stiff chassis the bike slingshots you out of corners with amazing speed. The only minor drawback to this configuration is that there is a little bit of pedal feedback in the larger cogs on the rear. Though, it could be argued that you only use these gear combinations when climbing and the extra chain torque actually improves pedalling efficiency.
In the stock setting the geometry of the Gambler offers a centred riding position with balanced traction front and rear. If you want to change that bias to better suit your local terrain you have plenty of adjustments to hand. That said, we’d like to see a straight headset sleeve supplied with the bike, as the jump from 66 to 64 degrees is a big one. Just like with the Cove, the 83mm bottom bracket shell and 150mm rear end give the Gambler a good chain line and — while we never dropped the chain or missed a gear — the chain somehow managed to wedge itself between the tyre and the chainstay.
We’ve ridden other bikes with the Vivid 5.1 rear shock and know what it’s capable of. Providing RockShox can iron out the teething problems with the shock the Gambler is as safe as houses if you want to buy a versatile, adaptable Freeride rig.
MBR rating: 9/10