KTM changed its Scarp frame radically last year and for 2017 it's tweaked the carbon lay-up inside the same mould to lose mass from the mainframe. What it lacks in gung-ho bottle, it makes up for in bottle mounts and other ‘far and fast’ features.
It’s a neat-looking mainframe too, with the short, tapered head tube flowing back into a curved box-to-flat oval-section down tube for full-width support of the press-fit bottom bracket.
In contrast, the top tube starts as a steeply-sloping flat oval, then swells to form the front mount of the rear shock, staying broad to handle the backswept single-piece carbon ‘Straight Line Link’. The seat tube then uses a skinny centre section and driveside offset to make room for the side-swing front mech.
The alloy chainstays start with massive, offset, seat-tube-anchored ‘jawbone’ sections to allow decent tyre clearance before tapering back to 142x12mm dropouts. Rather than using a rear pivot, the seatstays are essentially full-length, flat leaf-springs, which only fatten up to make room for the linkage pivots.
There are bottle cage mounts above and below the down tube as well on the seat tube, and guides can be bolted on for a remote-control rear shock cable. Gear and brake lines run inside the mainframe and a direct-mount rear mech keeps shifting extra-tight.
KTM Scarp 29 Elite 22S XT kit
Speak to anyone from a global bike brand and they’ll tell you that nothing excites the German-speaking mountain bike world more than a Shimano XT transmission with lots of gears. No surprise, then, to see a 22-speed set-up with fast-acting side-swing mech.
It’s not quite collar and cuffs, as the brakes are SLX. They’re OE versions without the finned pads you’ll see in shop sets, but you’re unlikely to need that extra cooling this side of an Alp, and we like the fact you get a 180mm rear rotor for plenty of power.
The DT Swiss-based wheels wrapped in fast-rolling, triple- compound Schwalbe Rocket Ron LiteSkin tyres are the lightest on test (though only by 40g) and make getting up to speed and up hills very easy. The cockpit is more about climbing than maximising control, with the stem pointing downwards (and logoed so it only reads that way up) and foam grips with a metal locking collar on the outside.
KTM Scarp 29 Elite 22S XT ride
Even if you reverse the stem and grips (to stop the lockrings bruising your palms), this is still definitely a race-orientated bike. While the steering is a degree slacker than the Epic’s and the stem 10mm shorter — which makes it significantly less precarious in feel — it remains quick rather than stable. But there’s enough stiffness in the frame and grip in the tyres to communicate what control you have clearly and concisely, while the 720mm bar gives at least some leverage to fight the trail with.
The pivotless back end gives a firm ‘skin’ for pedalling efficiency, but collapses easily under impact to give up most of the 90mm of rear wheel travel with little provocation. That’s fine on the flat for erasing the momentum-killing effect of smaller roots and rocks, and gives a lively, whippy feel to the bike under power.
More significant blocks and drops will have it on the ropes too often though and rebound can get random as the rear stay leaf-springs unload. Luckily, it’s easy to pop the shock can open to add volume reducer rings to give a more supportive mid stroke and leave some travel for emergencies and corners. Alternatively, leave the shock in closed mode, which lets you leather the pedals as lumpily as you like without back-end bounce.
Head to head with the similar Merida Ninety-Six 9.XT, we did miss not having a remote switch for the rear shock to match the fork lockout. If you want a bike that’s still naturally swift and uses the same SSL suspension but in a 125mm travel, 68.5-degree head angle format, then there’s a parallel range of Lycan trail bikes from KTM.