We expected to see plenty of 650b+ bikes launched for 2016, but it seems Scott is one of the few companies to really be pushing the new wheel/tyre size. We took the Swiss firm's top-flight Genius 700 Tuned Plus into the hills to see just what the pluses really are.
Tweaked 29er frame, custom shock and serious kit
The Genius Plus bikes use the same carbon front triangle as Scott’s high-end Genius 29ers. Here though, offset headset cups are in place to slacken the head angle to 67.3 degrees (in the low setting).
The Kashima-coated Fox 34 fork features the latest FIT4 damper
The new alloy rear end has the latest 148mm Boost axle spacing and clearance for 3in rubber, but Scott has kept the chainstays in check at 445mm. Other key measurements on the medium bike include a 600mm effective top tube, 425mm reach and 73.9-degree seat angle.
A custom Fox Nude DPS shock controls the 130mm (5.1in) of rear travel, and Scott’s innovative TwinLoc Downside remote (which is designed to sit under the bar on single-ring bikes and controls both the shock and fork) makes it easy to toggle between the suspension modes. One push of the lever selects Traction Control, which firms up the rear and reduces travel to 90mm (3.5in), while a second locks out the shock for efficient pedalling.
If you’re tempted to shell out the hefty asking price for the Genius 700 Tuned Plus, rest assured that you’re getting some great kit bolted to the impressively light frame. The Kashima-coated Fox 34 fork features the latest FIT4 damper, the 1x11 SRAM transmission provides simple, reliable shifting, and Shimano’s top-of-the-line XTR Trail brakes provide plenty of stopping power, though ours had an inconsistent bite point even after they were bled by a Shimano technician.
Scott and Schwalbe have said 2.8in tyres are the optimum size for ‘plus’ bikes, but our pre-prod sample shipped with 3in rubber
Interestingly, despite both Scott and Schwalbe having explained in detail why 2.8in tyres were the optimum size for this type of bike, our sample arrived with 3in ones fitted. We’ve been assured this will change for production bikes though, and that the PaceStar compound Schwalbe front tyre will be switched for the grippier TrailStar version.
Feeling the pressure
Worries about excessive drag from the wide tyres went out the window as soon as we got the Genius Plus rolling. What the PaceStar compound lacks in tackiness it makes up for in speed, and we never felt held back.
We did need to experiment with tyre pressures though. The usable range in 3in tyres is far narrower than in 2.1 to 2.4in rubber, with just a couple of psi either way having a dramatic effect on handling. Our 68kg tester ended up with 14psi up front and 15psi in the rear.
A 1x11 SRAM transmission provides simple, reliable shifting
What do these lower pressures mean on the trail though? Point the Genius uphill and you’ll be surprised by just how eager this machine is to get moving. The 12.7kg (28lb) weight helps, but it’s the traction on tap – even with a shallow-treaded Rocket Ron rear tyre – that makes this thing climb like a mountain goat with a firework up its backside.
Loose, rocky climbs and technical, root infested sections can be tackled out of the saddle and on the gas. Add the easy-to-use TwinLoc lever and climbing becomes even less of a chore.
When it comes to descending, the Genius 700 Plus provides a surprisingly lively ride and can be thrown all over the place. Scott has done a good job with the geometry, sitting the rider in a fairly neutral position that allows for easy weight shifts and instils confidence on steeper sections. Providing you’re within that pressure sweet spot, there’s enough support from the wide (40mm internal) rims to carve turns hard, with no real squirm from the tyres.
The Genius Tuned Plus makes for a playful yet traction-rich ride
It’s when it comes to tackling particularly dicey obstacles or sections of trail that the pluses of the Genius Plus really come to the fore. The well-balanced suspension and rollover confidence and overall boost in traction from the girthy tyres make you feel invincible when carving root-covered cambers at speed.
It’s here that the rear tyre finds its limit though, especially when faced with gloopy mud patches where it just doesn’t have enough tread to dig in. The extra width still means you can brake later into turns and get away with careless line choices, but something with a little more bite would be a welcome addition.
So would a tougher carcass, because we suffered numerous punctures during testing. Unfortunately 650b+ tyre choice is currently very limited.