Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) has been tearing up the World Cup circuit for more than a year on a new Scott Scale carbon fiber hardtail with 27.5-inch wheels. Scott has now announced the consumer release of that same bike – in extremely limited quantities – and BikeRadar brings you an exclusive first hand preview.
If you like your speed served up with a healthy side of agility, your time may have come – especially if you've been interested in a Scott 29er but couldn't come to terms with the taller front end that comes with the humongous wheels.
- Pros: Versatile 'tweener wheel size, exceptional ride quality, fantastic handling, impressively lightweight
- Cons: Expensive, only available in very limited quantities, might be too agile for some
Ride and handling: great compromise between agility and speed
Much has been made of the 650b/27.5" wheel size and there are few better vehicles to highlight the differences than a hardtail with no rear suspension to mask the effects. After more than six hours of ride time covering 100km (65 miles) of familiar local terrain with 1,900m (6,000ft) of climbing and heaps of rocks – not to mention plenty of time previously on Scott's 26-inch and 29-inch hardtails – we're comfortable declaring that the new 27.5-inch Scale 700 RC Swisspower indeed strikes a wonderful balance between the two extremes.
For sure the 'tweener wheels don't steamroll over obstacles the way 29er ones do, nor do they carry quite as much momentum on high-speed sections of trail when you're going flat-out. That being said, they don't get hung up on smaller trail features like traditional 26-inch wheels, either, but still retain more of the smaller wheel format's lauded agility.
We discovered some of the most telling distinctions on a fast descent that's strewn with momentum-killing rocks and requires a fair bit of pedaling to keep your speed up. The Scale 700 RC didn't rail through those turns with as much stability as the 29er but on the flip side, it was also easier to flick around obstacles mid-corner instead of just barreling through them. Though it took a bit more work and attention, the 27.5-inch wheels certainly didn't feel much slower – if at all – plus they still carried us over the trail's relentless minefields of babyheads pretty well without getting stuck in every hole.
Another 'a ha' moment came on a different location on a relatively steep but smooth climb where a standing effort was met with a fantastic burst of speed to help close a gap on a riding partner up ahead. Acceleration wasn't quite 26-inch-like but it was mighty close and definitely more immediate than a 29er's slightly more deliberate personality.
The seat stays are very flat but also quite broad, lending comfort to the back end without sacrificing handling precision
Comfort-wise the Scale 700 RC again hits a good middle ground. Just as we noted on the 29-inch Scale, we again wished Scott had graced this latest model with a more flexible 27.2mm-diameter seatpost instead of the 30.9mm one fitted here. But in fairness, Scott's 'SDS' (Shock Damping System) seat stays do a remarkably good job of filtering sharp impacts coming up through the rear end and maintaining a planted feel. Of course we got bucked around a bit on the nastiest bits of trail but again, it was still better than on a similarly equipped 26-inch machine.
More to the point, we had few issues keeping pace with a friend on a Santa Cruz Nomad ahead of us on a twisty, moderately technical descent while also dispatching another friend behind on a Cannondale Scalpel 29er.
Otherwise, Scott has carried over the features we've come to love on its other Scale hardtails, including a brilliantly efficient rear end and precise-handling front triangle.
Potential buyers should be aware, though, that Scott has built this true replica model specifically to Nino Schurter's quicker-handling specifications.
Changes include a 70-degree head tube angle instead of the stock 69-degree one, a 73.5-degree seat tube angle instead of 73 degrees, 4mm less bottom bracket drop, and an effective top tube length that's been shortened 5mm to 595mm. Racers looking for extra agility will probably feel right at home but other interested parties will probably be better off with the standard version. Both use 427mm-long chain stays.
Frame: forward thinking with thru-axles front and rear
Scott's new Scale 700 RC Swisspower is lght and snappy yet far more comfortable on rough terrain than you'd expect from a hardtail
Scott's latest Scale 700 RC frame is a close cousin to its 26-inch and 29-inch stablemates, including the company's top-end HMX-NET fiber blend, chunky chain stays paired with flat-but-wide seat stays, carbon fiber dropouts, a tapered front end, and well executed internal derailleur cable routing with carbon housing stops.
As is becoming increasingly common these days, the enormous tube shapes are nominally round or oval throughout and shape transitions are smooth and gradual. Securing the seatpost is the company's trick 5g clamp that's molded directly into the frame structure – it holds securely but proceed with caution – and the front derailleur is bolted to a stout aluminum structure anchored into the base of the seat tube.
In addition to the altered geometry, this Swisspower team replica frame is built around a PressFit 30 bottom bracket shell. Standard in-line production bikes will come with Scott's usual PF92 setup for use with 24mm-diameter crank spindles.
New on the Scale 700 RC are thru-axle rear dropouts to go along with the 15mm thru-axle front ends that have graced other Scales. Unlike the convertible setup on Scott's short-travel Spark models, though, these are exclusively thru-axle with the 142x12mm format and DT Swiss's stout RWS skewer coming stock. Interchangeable chips will allow for 135x10mm and 135x12mm fitments, too.
What isn't new is the frame's mouth wateringly low weight. Our medium-sized frame posted an actual figure of just 990g including the rear derailleur hanger, water bottle bolts, and seatpost clamp.
Equipment: carbon, carbon everywhere
Scott supplied our test bike with a full SRAM XX group
Given such a light chassis, it's no surprise then that the complete bike built up as a certifiable featherweight. As tested, our medium sample was just 8.71kg (19.20lb) without pedals – yowza.
Scott plans to sell the Scale 700 RC Swisspower as a frame-only so buyers will be able to build according to their own desires and budget. While we originally sought to build this one up as an actual Schurter replica complete with DT Swiss suspension and carbon tubular wheelset, we ended up with a more straightforward setup that included aSRAM XX group with Grip Shift shifters, RockShox's outstanding SID RCT3 27.5 fork, and fast-yet-grippy Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires – about all of which we've covered in the past so we won't bother to rehash things here.
We'll make an exception for the Avid XX brakes, though, which we unfortunately had to bleed before testing.
Nearly everything else came from the high-end collection of Scott component brand Syncros, such as the carbon fiber TR1.0 Carbon tubeless wheels, FL1.0 carbon-wrapped forged aluminum stem, the FL1.0 Carbon Zero seatpost (with that oh-so-familiar clamp design), an XR1.0 Carbon saddle, and a refreshingly wide FL1.0 Carbon 740 T-Bar handlebar.
We didn't log enough saddle time to judge the long-term performance of any of the Syncros bits but the bar and stem were notably stiff when it came to muscling the front end around on dicey descents, the saddle's flat shape was highly reminiscent of Selle Italia's popular SLR model, and the seatpost seemed nearly as secure as a Thomson head but with shorter cradles for the rails.
Syncros uses DT Swiss star ratchet internals in the rear hub of its TR1.0 Carbon wheel
The DT Swiss-supplied rear hub internals have been rock-solid and the carbon rims have held up fine so far, too, which is fairly impressive given that we've bottomed out the rear on rocks at least three times with no damage to speak of. We can't say the same for the tires, though, one of which suffered a fatal cut on our second ride. On the upside, that did provide a convenient opportunity to test how easily the rims set up tubeless – in short, make sure to have a compressor handy.
Scott will only be producing 200 Scale 700 RC Swisspower frames for sale worldwide this year and just 25 of them are slated for the US – and all of them only in Schurter's modified medium size. As you'd expect, pricing is at the high end with a suggested retail cost of US$2,300.
Alternatively, you'll have your choice of two complete bikes: the Scale 710 with the same frame (but standard geometry) built with a Shimano Deore XT group, Fox 32 Float 27.5 CTD fork, and Syncros XR2.0 wheels for US$4,300; and the aluminum framed Scale 740 with a Shimano Deore XT/SLX mix, Fox 32 Float 27.5 Evolution CTD fork, and Syncros XC-44 wheels for US$2,400.