Urgency, trail bike geometry and practical efficient suspension.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Scott Spark RC 900 Team is one of the stand out XC race bikes. Trail bike geometry and efficient suspension.
Scott Spark RC 900 Team (2018) review
The latest incarnation of Scott’s evergreen XC race full-susser was built to complete a single task: get Nino Schurter, the world cross country champion onto a 29er for the Rio Olympics. Schurter had always shied away from the bigger wheel size, despite the advantages it can bring, as he just couldn’t get the handlebar height low enough on the previous model. Suffice to say Schurter won gold at the Olympics and continues to dominate on his 29er Spark RC.
The standard Spark is relaxed in terms of geometry and attitude, but the RC (Racing Concept) version tested here is all about speed. this latest ground-up redesign has changed everything bar wheel travel.
The suspension layout was revamped in the process too, with the Spark’s Fox Float Nude shock flipped on its head and inline with the seat tube. With only 100mm of travel to worry about, Scott could also trim the number of pivots down to reduce frame weight. So, similar to all the other XC races bikes, flex in the carbon rear triangle compensates for the missing pivots.
Moving to a trunnion-mount also allowed Scott to run a longer stroke shock without taking up more real estate, while providing the rear suspension with more sensitivity on smaller hits without being overworked on longer descents. To balance the travel the RC 900 Team get a 100mm travel Fox 32 Float SC Performance fork that features the less complex GRIP3 damper.
The defining feature of the Spark’s suspension is the TwinLoc handlebar remote. This isn’t just a lockout system though; it changes the travel and the damping characteristics of the suspension simultaneously. In the open position the full 100mm of travel is available, Traction mode drops things to 70mm but pushes the dynamic ride height up by reducing the volume of the air can, making it perfect for technical trails and climbs. There is also a full lockout for those finish straight sprints. The TwinLoc lever also stands out as being the easiest and most reliable to use. The sprung design clicks easily through the settings with very little force.
There’s no need to hark on about the proficiency of SRAM GX Eagle shifting, but suffice to say, it provides precise, reliable gear changes no matter the conditions. From a racing perspective the only downside is the additional weight of the alloy chainset and massive GX cassette. On the plus side, it means less expensive replacements when the cassette wears out.
Being a Scott, the Spark comes with the healthy smattering of Syncros parts. Including the light and zippy XR 2.5 wheelset. Wide 25mm rims seems to be the new XC oriented width, providing a secure seat for the 2.25in Maxxis Aspen tyres. Boost hub spacing also adds a touch more stiffness.
From the gun, the Spark turns the speed and urgency dial up to 11. It’s like Nino has added a little of his talent into every Spark. No other bike in this test provided the same feeling of efficiency or flattered the rider to the same extent. In almost every situation the Spark proved to be the fastest, losing out only marginally to a Giant Anthem on the most technical descents and a Specialized Epic on fire rode climbs. It’s a better all rounder than both of those bikes though.
At the heart of this performance is the match made in heaven of the stiff chassis and forward thinking geometry combined with the TwinLoc powered suspension. Yes, the rear suspension feels a little too eager to run through its travel in the open setting, but ride the Spark in the 70mm Traction mode and nothing can match it’s ability to turn pedal power into raw speed.
It didn’t take long to realise that the Spark RC 900 Team is a stand out XC race bike. You don’t have to be Nino Schurter to benefit from the blisteringly quick turn of speed or the calm way it dispatches descents. It simply feels more urgent and race ready than its rivals. The ergonomics of the TwinLoc remote encourages more use than any other suspension adjustment system, so you rarely feel like you are in a compromised setting, just optimum performance for the trail ahead. It’s the bike that all privateers should be queuing up to ride this year.