Scott’s long-running Spark platform is designed as a cross-country race machine. That’s what the marketing men say, anyway, but with 120mm travel at each end it’s actually far more versatile than the ‘race’ tag suggests.
The 30 isn’t the cheapest carbon option in the range – that honour goes to the SRAM-equipped 35 – but with an SLX and XT-based transmission, the 30 shares the bulk of its running gear with the £700 cheaper alu-framed Spark 40.
Ride & handling: Mixes XC racing with trail fun
A lowish front end with a short stem gives the Spark an unusual combination of cross-country race bike power and trail bike flickability. A lowish 11kg (25lb) weight – for a bike with this much travel, at least – and the powerful flat-back ride position make for rapid forward progress, helped along by Shimano’s slick-shifting SLX kit.
Winding the Scott up to speed is easy and keeping it there is straightforward, thanks to the willingly placeable front wheel and handling that’s more trail bike fun than race bike nervousness.
Despite the undoubtedly neat Twinloc arrangement, we’re not convinced by the DT Swiss rear shock. Set up with the recommended 10 percent sag it’s frustratingly constipated on techy climbs, but gets all too easily overwhelmed on fast, rocky descents. It just doesn’t feel like it’s delivering 120mm of travel, even though it is. It’s by no means awful, but the best of the competition is better.
Frame & equipment: Carbon frame doesn’t convince
On the face of it, nearly a quarter of the Spark’s price accounts for the carbon main triangle (it has an alu swingarm) – which is a big chunk. But it’s not quite as simple as that, because while the bulk of the running gear is shared with the cheaper Spark 40, the carbon 30 scores significant upgrades in the shock and fork department.
The shock is Scott’s proprietary Nude2 with revised innards, while the fork is a tweaked RockShox Reba with a Scott-designed remote compression adjuster.
The rear travel and compression damping for both ends are controlled from the Twinloc bar lever, and give a choice of locked out, 85mm rear travel or full travel at both ends.
The Spark’s clean lines carry over well to carbon fibre, where internal cable routing and an absence of welds emphasise the main triangle’s simplicity. The plain ol’ aluminium rear offers good mud clearance while the tucked-away post mounts for the rear brake keep the lines as clear and clutter-free as the front.
There are many things to like about the Spark, but it would really benefit from a better shock – more than it benefits from a carbon front triangle. As it is, the Spark 30 struggles to justify itself over the cheaper and similarly specced aluminium 40.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.