Name an XC event, and chances are that the unstoppable force that is Nino Schurter has probably won it on a Scott Spark RC WC.
Over the years, the Scott Spark RC WC has evolved with changing standards and race formats, before finally settling exclusively on a 29in format. Through all of the transitions though, Nino and the Spark RC have always managed to remain on top as the best crosscountry mountain bike partnership of all time.
But enough of the history lesson, let’s take a closer look at the latest Spark RC. As we’ve just mentioned, it’s a 29in-only format. It has 120mm of rear travel which is matched on the RC WC AXS model with a 120mm-travel RockShox SID fork. There’s also a Spark 900 series that uses the same frame with a 130mm-travel fork and different parts to give it a more trail-friendly flavour.
Regardless of the focus, the key change on the Spark frame for 2022 is the internal shock format. It’s a bold move, literally, as Scott acquired a majority share in Bold Cycles in 2019. The hidden shock gives the bike a fresh look, allows for the addition of a second water bottle on the medium, large and XL sizes, but fundamentally it’s still a flex-stay design with a linkage-actuated trunnion-mounted shock. The integrated shock is not purely about aesthetics though, it also offers a lower centre of gravity and gains in stiffness have been made with the shorter links and oversized bearings on the seat-tube pivot.
To gain access to the shock for adjusting the spring pressure or rebound damping, there’s a removable cover under the down tube, just in front of the BB. There’s also a port (basically a cut out) on the non-driveside of the seat tube that gives you access to the body end of the shock hardware, and doubles as a window into how much travel you’re using.
But how do you set the sag when you can’t see the shock? Simple, there’s a sag indicator on the rocker-link pivot that can still be seen when riding, which makes it much easier to get an accurate sag setting with the saddle at full height.
When designing the frame around the new suspension layout, Scott took the opportunity to update the geometry and sizing. Size for size the new Spark has a 20mm longer wheelbase where the reach measurement on the size large has grown by 15mm. It also features an angle-adjust headset that offers just over a degree of adjustment by simply rotating the headset cups. Not only does this give the rider a degree of adjustment, it also allows Scott to match the seat angle and pedaling positions on the RC and 900 models. And even though the cables run internally through the headset, thanks to the split headset spacers it’s still possible to slam the stem without having to remove any cables. Why run the cables through the headset instead of the frame? Additional holes require additional reinforcing, which in turn adds additional weight.
Another neat feature on the Spark RC is the rear axle tool which has a T25 for adjusting the stem and seatpost height, a T30 for the pivot hardware and a 6mm Allen key to remove the front and rear axles.
It’s not often that an XC bike over- delivers on suspension, but we measured vertical rear-wheel travel on the new Spark with the RockShox Nude 5 shock at 125mm, 5mm more than claimed. Scott balances travel front and rear with the stiffer 35 RockShox SID and both the shock and fork are connected to the new Twinloc 2 remote. The under-bar remote has three levers, two for the suspension and one for the dropper post. Toggling between the two suspension levers gives you Lockout, Traction Control and Descend modes, which correspond to 0, 80 or 120mm travel. The lever pressure is lower than before, but it’s still easy to get mixed up and drop your saddle height when trying to change your suspension setting. And with what feels like no internal resistance on the Fox Transfer SL post, you fall two for the suspension and one for the dropper post. Toggling between the two suspension levers gives you Lockout, Traction Control and Descend modes, which correspond to 0, 80 or 120mm travel. The lever pressure is lower than before, but it’s still easy to get mixed up and drop your saddle height when trying to change your suspension setting. And with what feels like no internal resistance on the Fox Transfer SL post, you fall
In keeping with the integrated theme, the Scott Spark RC comes with a carbon one-piece bar and stem. The Syncros Fraser iC SL XC is 740mm wide and is seamlessly moulded to the 70mm stem. It looks cool, but if you don’t like the sweep of the bar, or want to change the stem length, both will have to go. That didn’t stop us sliding the lock-on grips out by 10mm on each side, however, increasing the bar width to 760mm, matching the one on the Blur. The Syncros Belcarra saddle has a firm, flat profile and offers plenty of support. It also takes a bolt-on saddle pack to securely carry an inner tube, tyre levers and a multi-tool.
The tubeless-ready Syncros carbon rims have a generous 30mm internal width so you can run the 2.4in Maxxis Rekon Race tyres at lower pressures, with reduced risk of burping. The rims are also Quarq TyreWiz compatible.
Scott Spark RC WC performance
With all of the updates, the Spark RC has lost none of its urgency. Stomp on the pedals and it reacts without hesitation. Even climbing in Descend mode doesn’t elicit the same degree of suspension movement as on, say, a Santa Cruz Blur. Point it downhill and it’s not as plush either, even though it easily has 20mm more travel at its disposal.
It’s noticeably stiffer than the Blur too, the 35mm SID chassis providing the confidence to tackle bigger terrain at a faster pace. The Spark RC even sounds different – rumbling along with a hollow hum like a high-end carbon road bike. For an hour and a half of suffering, we can’t think of a better torture device. Scott could have made the Spark even faster though. As it stands, the 80mm Traction Control setting just feels like a short-travel version of Descend mode, so we’d like a slightly plusher setting when using the full 120mm travel. That way you could save energy on the descents or gap your rivals on the climbs.
Fast, efficient and responsive, the new Scott Spark RC is an outstanding XC race bike. With 120mm of travel it has the suspension to tackle the toughest courses, but reserves a sharpness to its pedalling response that won’t leave you languishing in the finish line sprint. It’s stiff too, so if you’re not under 65kg dripping wet, you’ll still have the confidence to charge hard. Scott has missed a trick with it’s TwinLoc remote though, as we think the Spark RC would be even faster if the suspension was a touch more active in the 120mm Descend mode.