Scott introduced their Spark 29er last year, and the potentially ultra-light, remote lockout-equipped machine only continued Scott’s deserved popularity among racers. The tyres and shock don’t make the most of the bike’s surprisingly hardcore trail riding character.
Ride & handling: Naturally fast and fun
With a reasonable all-up weight and immediate shock lockout, the Spark spins up fireroads and tarmac well and the ‘high’ chip position gives it a more perched cross-country feel. The middle setting is essential for stopping back-end bob and morale sapping suck-down in high torque/low rev situations on rougher climbs, however, and that in turn makes it more prone to spilling traction and momentum over the bigger lumps.
It never felt as dynamic as the best marathon bikes under power; prodding at the shock remote more than the shifters can get really wearing when your head, legs and lungs are about to explode on a typically knobbly big country climb.
With the geometry chip in low and the shock fully open, the Spark feels like a proper badass. The rollover effect of the big volume tyres offsets the twin chamber-compromised feel of the rear shock, so while it doesn’t enhance the ride it doesn’t undermine it too badly either.
Add impressive mainframe stiffness and that smooth-riding Fox fork and the Spark’s downhill and tech trail attitude is all about minimum braking and maximum speed. The downhill trails were definitely the Scott’s time to shine.
The low centre of gravity and relaxed head encourages you to properly throw it through corners too, but the budget Schwalbe rubber means you won’t always end up where you expected (or still on the bike) in wet and slippery conditions. New rubber is an essential upgrade.
Frame & equipment: Decent kit on an excellent frame, shock aside
The seriously light 930 is the cheapest carbon front/alloy rear Spark frame. The skinny quick-release rear axle means some tracking flex, but shifter and shock cables are internal and the bottom bracket is a very stiff, light press-fit design. The neat bar lever toggles the twin chamber shock from open to reduced volume to lockout, and tallies with similar settings on the synced Fox fork.
The SRAM transmission is light, the Shimano Deore brakes are excellent and the Syncros finishing kit includes decent wheels and saddle, plus a well-shaped short-stem, mid-width flat bar cockpit. The Schwalbe tyres are cheap plastic versions, though.
We love the Scott’s mix of low weight and high stiffness, as it helps create surprisingly playful and descent-dialled handling. The Spark’s kit levels are good for the price too. But it’s the usual Scott story of whether you like the idea of the remote shock switching – or not – that will ultimately decide if the Spark ignites your riding enthusiasm.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.