The Scott Ransom is a mould-breaking do-everything bike with a distinct Alpine nutter slant, but it still climbs reasonably well because of its on-the-fly shock adjustment.
This is an agile singletrack machine, whipping in and out of twisty trails with a lightness that’s surprising when you consider its weight. It also climbs reasonably well and excels on downhills. We never noticed the near-ﬁve pounds of extra weight the Ransom carries over our regular shorter-travel cross-country full-susser.
Ride & handling: unstoppable downhill, surprisingly good up
Scott achieved the rare feat of building a long-travel bike that pedals properly while still being able to soak up major terrain with ease. Whichever way you cut the Ransom, it’s a challenging bike, and proves that Scott isn’t afraid to spit in the face of convention.
Take in its butch looks and a weight of more than 30lb, and you’d be forgiven for assuming that climbing on the Ransom is akin to pushing a three-seater sofa uphill. Climbing on the Scott isn’t going to make you feel like an athlete, but if you use the gears provided and give yourself a sensible timeframe to make it up the mountain, you will get there.
And you’ll be able to pedal all the way to the top. Traction is one thing this bike delivers in spades. When you hit those super-slow, slippery, rocky-rooty climbs, just relax, hit the bar-mounted TC switch to set the shock in ‘Traction’ mode, and keep the torque low. With the help of the bitey Schwalbe tyres, the bike will then give you the summit on a silver tray.
Wipe the sweat from your brow – and you will be sweating – and release the TC switch back to the 165mm/6.5inch All-Travel mode. You’re now clear to run amok, pumping and pushing every lump, bump, rock, root, dip and turn. You’ll marvel at the suspension’s ability to eat trail while you hit the gas without feeling like you’re pedalling a jelly.
Some of this excellent trail behaviour can be attributed to the frame’s inherent design, although a good deal must also be apportioned to the Equalizer rear shock and the RockShox Lyrik fork. Both are able to balance the demands for both buttery-smooth travel and efﬁcient hill climbing with the sort of dexterity usually reserved for circus plate-spinners.
With the fork in full 160mm travel mode, the Ransom feels easy to steer even with its 68-degree head angle – you don’t get the ﬂoppy front wheel feeling that some long-travel trail bikes have. Wind the travel down (with the rear to match) and it becomes a more precise climber, but you’re only counting the seconds before you can ﬂick it back to life.
This bike isn’t meant to be tippy-toed around the mountain, it’s supposed to grind it into dust – a job the Ransom does only too well. Hell, it doesn’t even spit out the stones. If you like the sound of this but still aren’t convinced by carbon, then try one of the cheaper alloy-framed versions, with the bonus of a further degree off the head angle for an aggressive ride back down the mountain.
Frame: Why carbon ﬁbre?
That’s the question many people pose when faced with the Ransom – it’s not the material you’d immediately think of for a tough all-mountain bike.
But Scott’s reply is: “why not?” The company has spent more time honing its understanding, design and production skills with carbon ﬁbre than any other bike maker. For Scott, making the Ransom out of carbon wasn’t a risk, at least not in a material sense. The only risk was that buyers might not believe it could cope with all-mountain levels of punishment.
To play on the safe side, though, Scott also offers two Ransom models with an alloy frame – the 30 and 40.
The burly-looking Ransom certainly stands out, even in the butch world of all-mountain bikes. This is largely down to the over-sizing of almost every tube one the frame. The splitting of the top/seat tube brace adds to the Ransom’s ‘meaty’ feeling.
At 6.8lb including the rear shock, the carbon heart of the Ransom is ﬁt and lithe, leading to an all-up weight of an astonishing 14.25kg/31.39lb for this ‘10’ model. Choose the top-of-the-range Ltd model and you break the magic 30lb barrier.
One of the Ransom’s standout features is Scott’s bespoke rear shock, called Equalizer TC. The innovative system, with its triple chamber, comes with a bar-mounted remote lever that allows you to select the optimum shock and ride feel on the move. Choose between ‘Lock-out’ mode, ‘Traction’ mode (with 3.5 inches of rear travel) and ‘All-Travel’ (6.5in of travel), simply by ﬂicking the lever.
Equipment: specced for performance not grams
Any bike which can pack the 160mm travel punch and still make it to within a whisker of 30lb without recourse to unsuitable lightweight shortcuts in componentry deserves a medal before it even turns a pedal.
Better than that, the Ransom 10 – as specced from the factory – comes with everything you need to challenge any alpine trail. From the serious 2.4in Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres on tough DT Swiss E540 wheels, to the full-length fully sealed cables and sweet Maverick Speedball height-adjustable seat post, this is deﬁnitely a case of Scott speccing for ability, not weight limits.
Verdict: for non-technophobes with real mountains to play in
Who should buy the Ransom? Any ambitious ‘real mountain’ rider who also wants to bathe in the warm waters of cutting-edge mountain bike technology. Certainly technophobes need not apply – they’d get a headache trying to understand the Equalizer shock.
It must be said the Ransom needs to be owned by people who ride on rough, tough hills on a regular basis. If you live and ride in Surrey, the Ransom just doesn’t make sense. Leave it in the shop, and buy a Scott Spark instead – you’ll get a lot more use out of it.
The designer says
Peter Denk was responsible for many of Scott’s innovative bikes. He now has his own company, Denk Engineering, but still has a soft spot for the Ransom…
How do you feel about the Ransom now you’ve left Scott?
The Ransom is my baby, and still the bike I love the most. I believe this kind of versatile bike, with its adjustable rear shock, is how mountain bikes will be in the future. Riders will be happy to shift the suspension as well as the gears.
Was the Ransom concept-driven or material-driven?
Absolutely concept-driven. With the Genius shock, we introduced the concept of adjustable spring rates, but the difference between traction and full mode wasn’t big enough for our tastes. Developing the OTS Equalizer gave us the possibility to realise a shock where the spring rate could be doubled.
The Ransom was the platform around which we designed the OTS. That we did it out of carbon as well was because we wanted it as light as possible. However, for us the revolution is not that we saved 500 grams; it’s that the Ransom makes you start riding differently. You’ll head for steeper and more technical hills than ever before, and that’s just pure fun.
Do you think you could have developed the Ransom further?
We could have built it much lighter, but then it wouldn’t have had that aggressive look — and style is fundamental in this category. Also, we sacriﬁ ced a lot of weight because having a seat post that you can lower is a must.
Does it make you proud that no one else has produced a challenger for the Ransom?
Actually it makes me a bit sad that it takes such a long time to bring a multi-travel concept to the market. It was the same when we started developing long-travel XC bikes — it took years to convince people that you wouldn’t lose too much energy.
GT Sanction £2499: The Sanction has a slackened geometry, six inches of travel and a healthy heritage, thanks to GT’s experience of building no-nonsense full-suspension bikes. It’s a solid ride for anyone looking to carve out big lines on any mountain. See www.gtbicycles.com
Rocky Mountain Slayer SXC 50 £2700: The newest Mountain Slayer — the SXC stands for Special Cross Country. A lightened mainframe, carbon seat stays and tweaked shock leverage mean the rear end is more supple than ever. See www.bikes.com
Marin Quake 7.3 £2399: If you’re big or you like to go big, then consider the Marin Quake. It’s right on the cusp of being a freerider, with bolt-through axles front and rear and a frame that makes it one of the strongest and burliest all-mountain bikes on the planet. See www.marin.co.uk