Scott’s swift handling and light Comp 29er is fast on groomed trails, but a lousy fork, wooden brakes and a stiff frame make off-piste work painful.
Ride & handling: Sorted handling, but poor fork exacerbates frame harshness and brake numbness
The Scott's Suntour fork was okay to start with but things were notchy by hour two of our initial test ride, and went rapidly down hill. Granted snow and ice aren’t your average trail conditions, but within a few kilometres the tidemark of fork travel was sinking ever lower on stanchions covered in grey, gritty metallic spew from the seals.
Movement was minimal over small stuff whether we had the lockout lever switched on or off, and over bigger hits the stroke was jarring and violently unpredictable. A couple of hours later and the bike limped back to the car park effectively fully rigid and stayed that way for the rest of the test.
The random ricochet reaction also meant that despite the slack head angle and short stem agility we love on Scott’s other 29er platforms, keeping the rigid, race-focused frame of the Scale on track on narrow, rocky singletrack was a real ﬁght. As a ﬁnal blow the Tektro Draco brakes are wooden and unco-operative, demanding serious pressure to give reasonable stopping at the point your battered forearms are crying out for respite.
Keep the Scale 29 Comp to smoother trails and its low weight makes it very responsive and altitude eager for its price, showing other bikes in this price range a clean set of heels on anything smooth and strenuous. There’s certainly the potential to create a great race bike too if you upgrade the fork enough to let the naturally agile handling breathe.
Given how much we enjoyed last year’s bike we thought the Scott might be the price underdog that ended up on top. It’s an impressively light and potentially agile package for the money, with some of the best 29er geometry around. Sadly, the disappointing fork and brake performance highlights the frame’s relative harshness.
Frame & equipment: Lightweight chassis is worth upgrading for hard and fast riding
Scott’s Scale alloy 29er frame is largely unchanged from last year apart from new rear dropouts with post-mount brake ﬁxtures to keep things tidy. This also means the Delta seatstay bridge can be dropped as stopping torque is more efﬁciently handled.
The same short 44mm head tube keeps the ﬂat bar front end low. While it comes rigged for a straight-gauge steerer, a tapered fork can be used if you ﬁt a larger diameter external bottom cup. Generous top tube length offsets the swift handling short stem choice, while its steep slope means decent straddle space despite big wheels. The curved seat tube tucks the rear wheel in tight for a reasonably short back end.
Scott were the ﬁrst mainstream brand to go for a slacker-than-70-degree head angle for extra steering stability, and that geometry carries over for 2012. Own-brand cockpit kit is well shaped, with a very short (in cross-country terms) 70mm stem syncing well with the more relaxed steering angle. The 680mm wide ﬂat bar gives a reasonable amount of leverage.
The rest of the spec looks adequate for the money, with a Shimano SLX rear mech brightening up the Alivio transmission. It’s an Octalink splined crank and bottom bracket rather than external cup, which you can feel as ﬂex when you put the power down.
Alex rimmed wheels are par for the course at this price and the Active compound Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres balance rolling speed and grip as well as we’d expect for a basic model of tyre at this price. The Tektro Draco brakes are bottom drawer hydraulics and the non-rebound adjustable Suntour fork isn’t up to the job.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.