Scott are the only major player to have totally invested in the in-betweener (650b) wheel size. Their new Genius trail platform is only available in 650b (150mm travel) or 29er (130mm travel) sizes.
Ride & handling: 650b wheels give genuine rollover and grip advantages
In contrast to the new approach demanded by 29in wheels, and their immediately obvious rolling advantages, 650b wheels only occasionally betray themselves; an unexpected turning circle, for instance, or a low speed steering flop. With the tyres at our default 30psi base pressure, the reinforced snakeskin carcass was very wooden and harsh, giving the bike a disappointing feel.
Dropping the pressure nearer to 20psi let them roll and mould to the trail, and the advantages became clear. Speed sustain, blunt-edge rollover and traction are boosted, to the extent where the smoothest 26ers we rode it alongside felt ‘bumpy’ in comparison.
Scott’s input can’t be underestimated, either. Despite the low weight, the oversized IMP tube junctions, 34 fork and screw-thru rear axle give no obvious shimmy, flex or twang however hard we ripped it through corners and boulders. With the chip in the low position it’s well planted in corners, and even with a narrow 700mm bar the short stem and sorted geometry ensure it never feels nervous or short on authority.
The climb-friendly, multi-mode performance of the Scott/DT shock comes at the expense of ultimate smoothness and control. There’s nothing particularly bad about the suspension feel, and the 650b wheels help mask insensitivity to small bumps, but we still can’t help wishing for a conventional shock to suck up the trouble more smoothly as things get hard and fast. Currently, this stands for us as an innovation too far.
Frame & equipment: IMP5 carbon fibre frame is light but still seriously stiff
While the Genius 700 series chassis changes travel and wheel size, it shares technology with Scott’s existing Spark 120mm trail racer. This includes the open monocoque tapered head (it’s not a glued-on tube, it’s one shape, so there’s no extra material in there) with internally routed cables, the geometry adjusting ‘flip chip’ in the rear shock mount, and the interchangeable dropouts that fit 135mm quick release, 135x12mm or 142x12mm screw-thru axles.
The twin-chamber DT Swiss Nude 2 shock continues the Genius’s tradition of three settings: a full travel ‘Open’, a progressively hardening semi-travel ‘Traction’ and the fork and shock disabling ‘Lockout.’ A TwinLoc bar switch takes care of the changes.
A carbon-rich 2x10 SRAM X0 drivetrain, SRAM XX shifters and carbon-levered brakes bring it all in under 26.5lb (12kg), despite 4.5lb (2kg) of Kashima-coated Fox 34 fork in its 120-150mm TALAS guise.
Regardless of your views on the pros and cons of the remote shock, the Genius is a sensational performer. The frame is as light as most race bikes but stiffer than most all-mountain machines. That and its sorted geometry make it a great showcase for the advantages of 650b wheels, and given the carbon-saturated spec list the price could actually – yes, really – be seen as good value.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.