With how many different mountain bike options exist today, it can seem daunting to pick the right one for you. While we mostly sell road and drop bar bikes, our knowledge base extends to flat bar bikes with some squish.
The Scott Spark platform has proved itself over the years and the latest iteration has been the best yet. Designed with plenty of input from multi-time World and Olympic Champion Nino Schurter, Scott has really come up with something special. The overall design spans their whole line, from the full XC Spark RC, to the slightly longer travel and slacker Spark, to the trail conquering 150mm travel Genius to their new 170mm Enduro bike the Ransom. Each bike is tweaked for the right adjustments for travel, geometry and spec.
Having tried many of the top bikes in the market at NEMBAFest at Kingdom Trails and borrowing a few others locally, I really fell in love with the Spark. I wanted something a bit more plush and stable than a 100mm travel race bike, and I prefer the beefier Fox 34 fork vs. the lighter 32. I do some trail riding as well as some XC racing, so I did not need the extra travel of the Genius. The Spark was perfect for me, not too much travel to slow me down racing or make the local terrain boring, but not too little that I could only race and would not be able to have fun with the bike on more aggressive rides.
I am a huge fan of the black matte/gloss paint job, although some in the industry might consider the look a bit played out. In terms of the build and some of the changes I decided to make out of the box. I would not have minded an XX1 drivetrain for the gold touches, but having ridden both, I honestly do not notice a performance difference between the two. Being a roadie at heart, I still love having a power meter on all of my bikes, and I have never had an issue with any Quarq that I have owned. While I have an SRM on my road bike, I decided to save some money on the power meter to spend in other places. This bike came with 27.5+ out of the box and some very cool Maxxis Rekon Gumwall tires. Having ridden 27.5, 27.5+ and 29, I found the oversize 27.5+ tire to be ideal for fun trail riding. The extra grip is a great safety margin and, up at Kingdom Trails in VT, it made the difference more than once between a scary moment and almost injury and me riding away without a spike in my heart rate. I did opt for a second set of Industry Nine 29er wheels for when I pin a number on.
The two bottom levers on the photo below are one of the main reasons I went for the Scott Spark over other bikes on the market. The ability to control both the front fork and rear shock with the Twinloc lever. For more info, read up on it here:
In a nutshell, it allows you to go from a plush/descend dampening setting to medium stiffness/traction to a full lockout (with a by pass so if you got off a massive drop with it engaged the fork will be allowed to travel, helping the rider on the landing and saving the fork and shock from destruction). Despite not having a DW link or similar rear pivot, I found Scott's solution to be much better than those in my riding. It is something I use very often during a ride and really miss when I get on bikes without it.
The Fox Transfer dropped post lever is very well placed right above the Twinloc, and I replaced the stock grips with ESI 32mm grips. They are soft, dampen the roots and rocks and are the perfect amount of tacky to keep the hands where they need to be.
For reference, here is a lap of Nino at a XC race showing his Twinloc usage,160 times in a lap! While I might not use it quite as much, I do find it to be an awesome feature that provides a real benefit to my riding.
A side view of the rear shock, Quarq power meter, new XTR pedals and Arundel Side Loader cage. You also can see how aggressively profiled the Eagle chainrings are for smooth shifting and purchase on the chain to keep it from dropping even on the harshest terrain.
While I did get a chance to try the new Shimano 1x12 drivetrain, I decided to go with SRAM because I did not want to wait, and I like the firm click of the shifter. I have always preferred the feel of mechanical SRAM to Shimano though, but that is not because one or the other is better, just personal preference. That being said, we are all huge Shimano pedal fans when it comes to offroad. From their entry level pedal to the XTR model, they all work awesome and take a massive amount of abuse. While the mud shedding and engagement gets better as you go up the range, having run almost all of then, I cannot say that I notice a massive difference. But, man, does the latest M91000 XTR look the business. Quarq is also nice enough to include rubber protectors for the crank arms so I do not splinter the carbon crank arms when I smash them into rocks by accident.
While not everyone needs a 10-50 cassette with a 32 chainring, I found I really like having the full range going up climbs at Kingdom Trails and when I am on a recovery ride locally. For those looking for a more compact range, SRAM does offer tighter range options.
One more view of that gorgeous machine work from SRAM. The whole cassette is one piece and threads onto the XD driver freehub. Harder to see are the 4 piston SRAM Guide RSC brakes. So far they have been flawless.
This thing RIPS! I have loved every ride on this bike and I am looking forward to next season already. You also can spot the I9 Trail 240 29'er wheels and race tires below. Now someone just needs to make a 29" tubeless gumwall race tire that isn't a low TPI Ikon and I will be really happy.