Scott’s longstanding Spark range saw a radical overhaul for the 2017 model year, primarily with the aim of giving cross-country team riders Nino Schurter and Jenny Rissveds a solid crack at gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
As history proved, that turned out extremely well, with both of them ending up on top of the podium and showering Scott's new bike in instant glory. However, cross-country racing isn’t the sole focus of the new Spark. For anyone that gets their pleasure from laps with friends rather than lactic acid you’d do well to look beyond the 29er wheeled race bikes in the range and take a good hard look at this 27 Plus tyred model instead.
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While it shares the same frame layout and suspension design of the rest of the Spark range, this bike is built from the ground up to use mid-fat rubber. It also sports 130mm of travel up front paired to 120mm at the back.
The frame itself is a masterpiece of design, with the new trunnion mount shock mount now repositioned from the downtube to the bottom bracket area and a pivotless back end which, when combined with some other extremely neat frame features, manages to shave a serious amount of weight from a bike that was already seriously lean.
As you might have guessed from the pictures and price tag, this 700 Tuned is the top-end model of the Plus range and thanks to a bit of help from a kit list that would impress an oligarch, it tips the scales at just 11.4kg. In case that number doesn’t speak for itself and your jaw hasn’t dropped, that’s seriously light for a full suspension bike, nevermind a trail focused Plus one.
What’s more impressive is just how capable the bike is. Thanks to those cartoon-like truck tyres, the Spark rides like a bike with far more muscle behind it. It might not look enduro bike tough, but trust me it can lay down some strong Kung Fu when the trail gets fighty.
The geometry figures are longer and slacker than the previous bike, but not extreme by any means. I rode the Medium frame and felt that a Large might have offered a bit more space to move, but despite the reach not being vast at 426mm, a reasonably slack seat angle opens up the effective top tube to a respectable 607mm — so it’s not cramped when you’re sat and spinning.
The rear suspension is now much more progressive despite plenty of initial sensitivity, and thanks to Scott’s Nude system it’s possible to switch from full travel to a 85mm ‘Traction’ mode — or a full lockout via a bar mounted remote that also stiffens up the Fox 34 fork to match.
The lever itself isn’t pretty and once you’ve chucked in the remote for the Fox Transfer dropper on the same side the bar starts getting busy. Despite not usually being convinced by such travel adjusting systems I found myself using it a fair amount as it allows you to set the suspension to maximise grip on descents without being a soggy mess on the climbs.
Thanks to fairly neat integration with the lock-on grip clamp, all the levers and toggles play nicely together, though there is a special circle of hell reserved for whomever though it’d be a good idea to use a tiny Torx T10 fastener to clamp it to the bar. Very few multitools have such a key so it’s easy to find yourself in a spinny grip horrorshow if it backs off on the trail.
Plus and minus
Like any Plus tyred bike there are some compromises to be made. Tyre pressures need to be set extremely accurately because going a couple of psi too far either way can be the difference between them sicking up sealant on fast corners or pinballing all over the place. Even so, they still suit a riding style that’s more about calling in the airstrike and carpet bombing your way down the trail rather than picking off lines with sniper accuracy. Either way, it’s hugely entertaining.
On one of my first rides out I was left hooting with glee as the bike held an almost improbable high line across a section of high speed, off-camber roots. Okay, the 2.8” Maxxis Rekon tyres are less impressive when it comes to the sloppy, muddy ruts that make up a good proportion of natural UK trails in winter, but they’re simply astounding on almost every other surface, especially in the dry.
Thanks to the EXO casing, they’ve also been surprisingly good at keeping punctures at bay, though I have had issues with cut casings in rocky terrain under heavier and harder hitting machines. I’d be hugely interested to see how the bike handles in slop with some more aggressively treaded tyres such as the Minion DHF 2.8”, but they’re currently rarer than hen’s teeth in the UK, which seems like a huge oversight.
Any such grumbles really are trifling in the grand scheme of how impressive this bike is. It’s a huge amount of fun and thanks to the prodigious grip and low weight it’s hugely flattering whether you’re riding up, down or along.
The attention to detail of the frame is staggering, the kit list flawless, the ride sublime. Look upon Scott’s works ye mighty, and despair — and if you want to experience it, probably best to start saving too.