Scott's Genius concept is still unusual in bicycle full sus terms - four years after its launch - because it's designed as a complete system around a purpose-built shock. While this makes sense from an engineering view, it's a brave decision for a manufacturer to take. The £2,700 MC-20 continues the Genius line with a carbon mainframe and a list of chichi componentry.
The MC-20's frame boasts a full length seat tube so the saddle can be dropped out of the way, and strong, light and stiff monocoque dropouts, but the really interesting stuff is in the suspension design. The four-bar system - with a chainstay pivot a few inches ahead of the rear dropouts - gives the Genius a 'floating' pivot point that's as close to pedal neutral as possible, shifting from close to the granny ring deep in the shock's stroke to nearer the big ring as the suspension extends. With little or no chain growth and an effective pivot point that stays as close as possible to the chainline in a range of riding situations, the idea is to give the Genius hardtail-like responses.
The Genius's pull-shock has a piggyback positive air chamber, so the piston spends more of its time compressed than extended, which helps keep everything out of the muck and increases bearing overlap for better rigidity and durability. The large negative chamber controls the breakaway point at which the shock reacts to bump forces, effectively neutralising pedal-induced feedback and reducing bob to the point of irrelevance. A cable connects the shock to a thumbshifter on the bars, so the rider can choose from three positions - locked out, all travel, or traction control, which raises the spring rate slightly for more efficient sprinting and climbing.
A rear suspension system this sophisticated deserves a similarly competent fork. The travel-adjustable Talas RL fork delivers in spades, offering up to 140mm of adjustable travel and rebound adjust along with a lockout.
You'd expect the most costly bike in this test to offer something special in the spec department,
and Scott have delivered. A full complement of Shimano XT hydraulic discs and gears provide the seamless functionality and slick feel that screams, 'Expensive but worth it', while the XTR rear mech and DT Swiss wheels make sure everyone knows this bike is a cut above most. All that high-end kit helps keep the all-up weight down too.
There are two factors that dominate the Scott's character on the trail. One is its geometry, the other is the unique way that the rear suspension works. We'll take them in that order...
We've said it before and we'll say it again: for our money, the Genius range is slightly too short in the top tube department. You might not feel it as you settle in, but the comfortable reach to the bars is down to a stem that makes up for the top tube's missing half inch or so. And that has an impact on front end handling, as you'll find when things get tight and twisty. With more weight over the front wheel than most of the competition, the Scott can feel less lively when quick reactions are called for. It's a subtle effect that's fairly easy to get used to, but it's there nonetheless.
Now, the good news. Once you've dialled in the rear suspension to suit your weight, the Genius system starts to live up to its name. Few bikes can match the Scott for controlled suppleness at all speeds, on any trail. Switch the rear shock to lockout for bob-free sprints and climbs, leave it in the traction control position for ground-hugging control, or nudge it to all travel for boulder-swallowing descending. Combine all that confidence-inspiring travel with low weight and the precise, tactile feel of the MC-20's high-end components, and it's hard not to feel a bit smug as you blast through the countryside.
But it's superb for eating up the miles in comfort. Not quite genius, but pretty damn clever.
Clever and very effective suspension system with light build and top- notch components
The short top tube and overly long stem compromise the Genius's handling