Scott Scale 40 review£1,099.00

Seriously race-worthy hardtail mountain bike, but its superlight frame costs dearly

BikeRadar score4/5

The aluminium incarnation of Scott's line of pure race bikes, the Scale 40 is a featherweight, go-faster machine. The sheer performance on offer is stunning and it looks the part too, but the price is hefty compared to similarly-equipped bikes from other manufacturers. Is it worth the extra?

Ride & handling: 

The Scott is not only gorgeous to look at, it rides beautifully too. There’s a blindingly immediate response when you press on the pedals. It feels far faster than other bikes in its class, despite a smaller weight advantage than we would have guessed from riding.

This real race-winning zip is obvious whether you’re surging forward up a steep climb with every pedal stroke or skimming field-side singletrack in the big ring. In fact, every test ride on the Scale seemed to unavoidably turn into a lung-searing, take-the-longest-climb-at-every-opportunity thrash-fest.

It’s the ride quality that shocked us, though. With its uncompromising flat bar, head-down position, relatively skinny 2.0in tyres and the ultralight boxy frame, we were expecting a harsh ride that prioritised speed before comfort. What we actually found was a bike so smooth and buoyant that we stopped several times to check we hadn’t punctured. But no, it really did suck out the sting, shrug off the hits and hang onto traction round the corners and rattly root sections that well with 35psi in the tyres.

Despite a relatively long (105mm) race-style stem and narrow bar, the steering felt steady and well balanced rather than ponderous. It certainly can’t chase fading traction or whip round trees as well as, say, the Kona Kula, but the Scott has a confident, assured feel. Even on what we’d planned as ‘social’ rides, it begged us to stay off the brakes, drop our knee and rip through stuff at race speed.

Add the fact it feels both smoother and more rabidly rapid the harder you launch it out of corners or mash gears up climbs, and it’s no wonder most Scale sessions ended up with us alone way out front, exhausted but gagging for the next excuse to go out again.

There's a downside to such unashamed speed-biased handling and the Scale 40 was a nerve-wracking, hesitant, plinky-plonky apology down steep step sections or slow technical rock-fests. Give it a bit of smooth, though, and the frame float and Fox fork made it a real skimmer down anything safe enough to be expected on a race course.

Frame: braced up superlight aluminium

The seamless welded Scale takes its design and styling cues from its carbon stablemates with a big box-section front end and other hollow bracing boxes at chainstay and seatstay tops.

The tapering, squared-off tubes are subtly fluted and profiled along their length. This adds vital surface stiffness to a tin skin that’s so thin you can actually squeeze it inwards with your fingers in places.

This is an unashamed race bike, so mud clearance isn’t great – you’ll struggle to get a chunky 2.2in tyre through a clay race field. The bolted clamps for the continuous outer cables under the top tube keep your control lines weather-sealed, albeit at the expense of shouldering comfort. Twin bottle cages are fitted.

There’s the same big leap between medium and large frame size as there is with the Trek, though.

Equipment: sensible compromises, but lighter wheels would be nice

With a frame this good, you’re bound to expect either kit compromises or serious price hikes. To be specific, had we been testing the £750 Scale 50, we’d have been talking about a heavy, clunky Tora fork, not the sublimely smooth Fox F100. That’s not a budgeting move we can recommend in terms of stifling overall potential, and even at £1099 the Scale is begging for a lighter set of wheels to fully release the potential of the frame.

On the plus side, we’ve no complaints about the Shimano transmission or hybrid Juicy 5 lever/ Juicy 3 caliper Avid brakes, while the Scott Ozon tyres impressed us.

The Scott finishing kit is good, too, with the narrow diameter bar definitely helping to reduce sting and hand ache on longer test rides.

Summary: satisfy your need for speed

If you’re looking for a bike that’ll blow your previous race pace and overall enthusiasm for speed to pieces, the Scale is one of the best fast frames we’ve ever ridden. It’s no singletrack swerver, but the beautifully floated ride and velocity of its character makes it perfect for long, fast, flat-out fun. We recommend you save up for the 40, though, because the 50 has too many component compromises to let it shine like it should.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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