The Ransom 20 is the cheapest way to get Scott's rock-devouring all-mountain carbon fiber frame. Its components are still good enough to preserve the Ransom's famed do-everything capabilities.
Ride & handling: ability-challenging fun
The Ransom is a fascinating blend of cross-country and all-mountain capabilities. Six inches of travel either end, upright position and big brakes says all-mountain, but it turns out to flow beautifully through singletrack.
That makes the Ransom an all-day bike with some superbly useful extra top end for those moments when things get fast.
As a card-carrying cross-country wuss I initially found it on the scary side of exciting when the going got steep. The Ransom bounds away from you quickly, unaffected by trivia like rocks, boulders and small cars. A fast, steep descent immediately becomes an exercise in hanging on and praying.
When you get used to it though – wa-hoo! Flip the Travel Control lever on the bar to full-travel 'sled mode' and awaaaaaay you go. I was thankful, time and again, for the smooth control and huge power of the Avid Juicy brakes.
Being able to limit the travel to 3.5 inches for dirt climbs and zero for tarmac is a boon. With the suspension locked in short-travel mode, the bike sits up and pootles pleasantly uphill. It's never going to be a lightweight cross-country bike on the climbs – not even a fully suspended one – but its plenty tolerable for the payback.
Where the Ransom struggles is steep, technical climbs. Faced with a sequence of steps and ledges its heft and long front end make it less than sprightly. It's fine if you can rush the problem and muscle through it, letting the suspension soak up the edges, but it lacks low-speed finesse.
It's an amazing package though, and perfectly suited to a cross-country rider who wants to play in the steeps but still ride back up.
Chassis: long-travel carbon loveliness
The Ransom's carbon frame is the most visually and technically startling aspect of the bike. Carbon is seen as the material for super-light, flighty cross-country hardtails, not all-mountain trail tyrants. But Scott's execution in the Ransom has proven robust; there's something like 300g of extra material in there beyond what Scott thinks is essential to make sure its tough.
Nestling low in the frame is Scott's Equalizer triple chamber shock. This custom air-sprung unit offers seven different adjustments, and its vital to take the time to get it dialled in. Once you do, it combines with the linkage-activated, low-pivot to provide suspension travel with that bottomless feel that's nevertheless tightly controlled: it never bounces or wallows, just soaks up the bumps.
We ended up running the pressure a bit softer than Scott recommends. That increased the sag and made the back end feel deep, plush and absorptive of everything.
Equipment: decent midrange gear
The Ransom 20 sports a carefully chosen selection of parts that complement its abilities and tread the fine line between durability and excessive gram count.
Our only gripe with the gears is that we'd like an 11-34 cassette instead of the fitted 11-32. The Ransom climbs well for a 6.5in travel bike, but you still need all the help you can get to haul its 15.4kg (33.9lb) heft upslope.
Own-brand wheels can be a bit of a red light, but Scott's SOS P1 rims have handled my lack of finesse and shrugged off at least one rib-bruising crash.
They're shod with Schwalbe Nobby Nicks, which everyone loves in moist conditions, but which we found a bit skatey on loose, dry Australian trails. Getting the tyre pressure exactly right helped: too soft and they fold, too hard and they skim.
Avid Juicy Five brakes may not be as light or as tweakable as their more expensive stablemates, but they have plenty of stopping power. Initially a bit grabby, they bedded in to
The Maverick Speedball high-adjustable seatpost quickly becomes addictive. Steep drop? Flip the saddle down, and roll off. Riding along? Flip it back up and away you go. If there was a 27.2mm version available I'd be reaching for my credit card to fit one to my main bike. (Speedball design licensee Crank Brothers says the 27.2mm version announced at Interbike last year is coming in 2009.)
We were less impressed with the rather clunky Scott own-brand saddle and swapped it for something less over-padded and in the way.
Conclusion: push yourself
The Ransom 20 is the perfect bike for a cross-country rider who wants to extend his or her skills into bigger stuff, and Scott's done a good job of speccing it to get the price halfway reasonable, for a carbon fiber suspension bike. It's still far from cheap, but you get a hell of a lot of bike for your money.