Sitting just above the midway point of Scott's Aspect hardtail hierarchy, the 30 is a tempting combination of Shimano Deore and SLX-based transmission, rim brakes and a hydroformed alu chassis. Great geometry and superb handling give a fun ride, but it lacks disc brakes and the stiff chassis and performance geometry won’t suit beginners.
Ride & handling: Great mix of stability and agility, but not ideal for newbies
Scott says the Aspect range has ‘performance geometry’, but that doesn’t mean you’ll go any faster. Instead, it’s clear that the 30 has been designed without any concessions to newer riders in mind. Roughly translated, that means two things. Firstly, the weight distribution is more front-biased than some of the competition. Secondly, the steering has a pleasingly direct feel that puts sudden changes of direction just a dropped shoulder or elbow away.
For newbies these characteristics can initially feel ‘wrong’, but the Aspect 30’s setup is worth persevering with, because it’s a more than willing companion in just about any scenario you care to throw its way. From fast, tight and rocky singletrack through to slow, nadgery climbs, it’s stable and assured when you need it to be, but nimble and sure-footed when obstacles are coming at you thick and fast.
There’s a small price to pay, but it comes courtesy of those chunky frame tubes rather than their geometry. Generously profiled tyres and a competent fork do a decent job of filtering out most of any high-frequency buzz before it reaches you, but bigger hits quickly make their presence felt via that staunchly efficient and uncompromisingly stiff chassis.
Although trail feedback is a good thing in small doses, the Aspect 30 comes perilously close to being too inflexible for its own good. But, rigidity concerns aside, the 30 is both a good bike to grow your skills and a worthwhile upgrade prospect.
Frame: Hydroformed aluminium chassis is stiff and chunky
The Aspect 30’s hydroformed frame belongs to the ‘chunky is stiff, and stiff is good’ school of bike design. The rear end of the down tube occupies the entire width of the bottom bracket shell, while the front is given over to some complex external butting and shaping. That shaping is also echoed in the top tube, particularly where it meets the Aspect 30’s oversized head tube.
Multi-profiled chainstays snake in ankle-clearing fashion from the bottom bracket to the airy, cantilevered dropouts and the seatstays have enough mud clearance to keep the most hardened of slime-surfers rolling in the muck. There’s also a rear disc mount for an eventual upgrade, a set of rack-mounting eyelets and enough room for a pair of bottle bosses.
Equipment: Decent budget fork and slick shifting, but no disc brakes
New for '09 is a Suntour XCR fork up front. We’ve had mixed experiences with Suntour’s budget offerings in the past, but this coil sprung unit is a decent match for the competition, delivering up to 100mm (3.9in) of reasonably smooth, plush travel and an accurate feel when steering. There’s no rebound damping adjustment – which is a shame – but a compression damping adjuster makes it possible to tame (or even lock out) the slightly bouncy stock set-up.
At this price you can’t have it all. Scott’s product managers have chosen to endow the Aspect 30 with a Shimano Deore and SLX-based transmission that’s worth having for its slick shifting, reliability under pressure and rock-dodging, low-profile rear mech. Unfortuantely, that didn’t leave room in the budget for disc brakes. It’s a forgivable omission, given that the Scott-branded rim brakes have a great lever feel and plenty of stopping power in the dry. But the lack of disc-compatible hubs seems a bit stingy, even if it does shave half a pound or so from the weight. We’ve no complaints with the rest of the Scott-branded kit though – it looks good and works well.