Scott’s name has always been very closely linked with racing, but while the Spark has some unique speed suspension advantages it’s also a great fast trail bike.
Frame and equipment: the best of both worlds
Like many ‘carbon’ bikes at this level, the 710 actually uses an alloy rear end mated to a composite front but that’s just cost effective wisdom rather than a corner-cutting con.
Essentially the carbon rear end of the top-line Spark 700 adds a ton of cost, is more vulnerable to crash damage and doesn’t save much weight. The same weight/price exchange rate is true when comparing the HMF carbon mainframe with the high-end HMX frames – making the 710, 720 and 730 carbon impressively cost effective. In kit terms the 710 justifies its higher cost with significantly lighter wheels than the 720.
Scott has been using remote controlled twin chamber shocks for a decade and the latest Fox/Nude units are the neatest and most consistently controlled yet
While that establishes the reason to buy a 720, the reason to buy a Spark comes down to one of two potentially contrasting things. For flat-out racers, climbers or sprint fanatics the TracLoc suspension is another best of both worlds situation. Cruise along on 120mm of – for the first time ever this year – properly smooth and controlled Fox suspension travel. Push the TracLoc thumb lever one click and the rear shock becomes stiffer and travel drops to 85mm for a more positive feel under power. Click it twice and both fork and shock lock totally to launch you forward in a fully rigid frenzy that’s perfect for smoother summits or finish lines (real or imaginary).
Ride and handling: trail-happy thrills
What’s easy to miss given the race focused suspension is that the Spark has geometry that’s more like a short travel aggressive trail bike than an uptight racer. In fact, in the lower bottom bracket/slacker angle setup its angles and dimensions are almost exactly the same as Santa Cruz’s benchmark 5010 chassis.
Narrow bars and flexy wheels mean the Spark doesn’t carry quite the same authority on the trail in this build but you can easily add broader bars, especially as the full Fox Factory suspension, Shimano XT and those same super-light wheels mean there’s nothing else obvious left to buy to really bring the best out of the bike.
The 650b wheels of the 710 boost acceleration and agility but its 910 29er wheeled brother would be our choice on longer, rougher missions
The whole package is extremely potent on the trail too. The stiff mainframe and screw-thru fork mean impressive power delivery and steering precision as far as the wheels and handlebars allow. Running the suspension in the mid setting as a tight and responsive default you can click the lever to instantly add efficiency or extra plush control too.
If you are willing to trade a bit of acceleration snap for some smoother rolling and increased traction then the Spark 910 is essentially identical to the 710 tested here but with 29er wheels underlining what is a truly stunning high speed mile eater, but whichever Spark you choose, you will be onto a winner.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.