Scott Spark 30 £2573.99

Light, trail-friendly racer

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Scott’s Spark is now in its third year but it’s still one of the lightest full-sussers around even in its new, more trail-friendly trim. Add unique shock controllability and you’ve got an outstandingly fast race or everyday ride bike.

Despite the extra travel the Spark is not the smoothest bike here, and it suffers a little on kit comparison. However the Spark’s combination of excellent handling, tight feedback, remote shock control and insanely low weight creates an outstandingly responsive combination for racing or high-velocity riding. Its value is boosted further by its lightness, toughness and phenomenal potential for upgrading.

Ride & handling: This could be the lightest, most controllable and efficient marathon bike available.

While the frames are unchanged, this year’s Sparks get a real trail capability boost from the addition of 120mm travel forks on every model but the top RC racer.

The RockShox Reba SL on the Spark 30 isn’t quite as well damped and composed as the Fox 32s commonly found at this pricepoint, but it’s noticeably stiffer and the extra 20mm makes a big difference when you’re charging flat out into a rocky technical section or serious descent.

While the rear shock is also slightly asthmatic compared with the Fox equivalent, it’s a tight, trail taming unit that catches fair-sized drops and shrugs off random black run boulder sections without spitting you into the bracken.

Add reasonably relaxed steering, a trail-length stem and mid-width riser bar and you’ve got a poised, predictable and very capable singletracker that’ll keep most bigger bikes in sight on longer, faster descents too.

Despite the minimal weight and long unbraced stays, it’s remarkably stiff. Its proper carving edge is a real bonus on off-camber sections or sketchy high-speed corners alike and overall feedback accuracy is impressive.

Where the Spark really sets any ride on fire though are the climbs. Not only is it a light bike but the ability to instantly toggle between shock modes is a big advantage, whether you’re racing your mates or chasing a podium place.

Fully open delivers a relatively smooth, traction-rich ride at the expense of slight pedal-related movement. This disappears as soon as you partially close the air chamber in ‘traction control’ mode, leaving a reduced and rapidly ramping stroke for tight pedalling over technical terrain.

Flicking to ‘locked’ creates instant hardtail speed for exploding up short steep pitches or pulling other riders’ tripe out up long fireroad climbs.

Having the push release just under your left thumb means you won’t be trapped in a locked out mode if you forget to flick your shock on before you dive into a screaming descent.

Frame: Ultra-light chassis with trail-friendly angles

Scott have been pushing the carbon fibre construction envelope for years. The Spark mixes a crazy sub-1800g frame and shock weight with serious strength and stiffness.

Big tubes mould seamlessly through the multi-bladder-blown mainframe, with shock and linkage mounts moulded into the top tube. The asymmetric chainstays, straight seatstays and even the dropouts are all big carbon pieces too.

Unlike many superlights, the Spark is loaded with practical features. The gear cables are fully sealed and run under neat combined cable clips and bottle cage mounts. The seatpost can be dropped without interruption and the braceless stays leave loads of mud room out back.

The DT Swiss/Scott shock with its unique open/half chamber/fully locked remote control sits on side-load-reducing rose joints. The remote lever itself is now the same metal unit as the Genius, not the old plastic one.

Our long-term Spark has only recently needed new bearings after nearly a year of continual hammer.

Equipment: Relatively hefty kit means bike has plenty of upgrade potential

The Spark’s weight is all the more surprising when you look at the kit you get. The Reba fork isn't the lightest in its class, and while it’s great gear, super-lightweight isn’t a hallmark of the Shimano SLX selection. Even the Mavic Crossride wheels are fairly chunky, but happily this is mitigated by the light Rocket Ron tyres.

While it’s no waif, everything is fine from a performance standpoint – but the itch to explore the Spark’s genuine sub-20lb potential will be hard not to scratch with your wallet.

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