Racers are a demanding lot, so when Thomas Frischknecht asks for a fully-suspended version of the Scale with a frame weight of 4.5lb, if you’re Scott, you get it sorted. Frischi’s new dually (as the Euros call them) is full carbon — by that we mean the front triangle, swingarm and dropout, shock mounts and cable mounts; only the swinglink is alloy. The carbon parts are made in different ways but the most interesting is the front triangle — it’s built using an IMP (Integrated Moulding Process). There is a load of secrecy surrounding this process because we’ve been told Scott is currently waiting for a patent to be granted on the technology. What we do know is that half of the top tube, the head tube and a portion of the down tube are made as a unit. This is laid up in the usual way but Scott doesn’t inflate a bladder inside the structure when it’s cured but uses something else instead — we suspect it’s an elastomer or fluid. The result is a very smooth inner surface and because it also has a more consistent wall thickness it can be made thinner, lighter, and stiffer for a given weight. The bottom bracket and seat tube are then bonded on using Scott’s CR1 process, which is similar to Az1.
Down the back Scott opts for an asymmetrical swingarm with carbon-fibre dropouts. At first we were a bit skeptical about their durability because they do come in for plenty of abuse, but so far they’ve proved solid. We’re really worried about the chainstay because on our test bike there was nothing protecting the carbon against chain suck, and it’s already sporting several gouges.
Cable routing is really tidy; it always has been on Scotts. With this frame there’s room for a bottle, battery and cruddie. On the mbr scales the Spark weighs 23.94lb.
To create space for the front derailleur, Scott offsets the main pivot on the seat tube. This is in line with the middle ring but slightly further back than the Tomac. A bolted together swinglink activates the shock and, while there’s not that much flex in this area, we noticed some flex in the chainstays around the bottom bracket.
Scott developed its Nude TC shock in conjunction with DT Swiss. A handlebar-mounted, dual lever, Trac Loc remote allows you to toggle between Full Mode (110mm), Traction Mode (80mm) and a straight lockout without even having to take a hand off the bars. It’s been reported elsewhere that the geometry changes with the settings — it doesn’t.
Up front there’s yet another Fox 32 F100 RL fork but this one developed a worrying knocking noise at the top part of the rebound stroke — it almost felt like a loose headset.
Scott goes with Shimano across the board and it’s been flawless apart from the brakes, which I think we’ve bled about half a dozen times. Like Tomac, Scott fits a 180mm rotor on the front wheel, which is overkill on a marathon bike.
With a 26in riser bar, 90mm stem, 2.25in tyres and a 7in front rotor the Scott definitely has a trail bias. The head angle is as slack as the GT tested here and slacker than some 120mm trail bikes we’ve ridden. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing because the Scott rides better than the Anthem on steep terrain and, while it isn’t as lightning fast through the singletrack, the geometry allows you a bit more time to make changes in direction.
We can’t fault the fit, weight or price of this bike but what lets it down is the suspension. In full travel mode the rear end feels harsh rebounding off roots and square-edge rocks, and up front the fork just banged away noisily. There’s obviously a problem with the latter but the bike didn’t feel controlled or balanced.
With the short chainstays a lot of rider weight is over the rear-wheel weight bias, which caused the front to go light on climbs and pull up when hammering out of the saddle. The back end also tends to squirm slightly under power, but we’d expect that from such a lightweight frame.
We’re not convinced marathon riders will actually use the travel adjustment or lockout on the Spark; we think they’d rather lock the fork for sprints and tarmac. A question mark still hangs over the durability of all those mini bearings and carbon parts, but there’s no doubt the attention to detail is fantastic on the frame, and as a package it’s a good 2lb lighter that the Giant. The reason we’ve dropped it a point is due to the suspension, speccing and the fact that it didn’t feel as inherently quick as the Anthem.
MBR RATING: 8/10