Sitting below Scott’s premium Scale hardtail series, the Aspect range of bikes offers a choice of 29er or 650b rides. The 740 combines sleek, race inspired looks with a 100mm (3.9in) travel fork and a full complement of Shimano’s mid-range stop and go bits. Does race influence have any place on this kind of entry-level trail bike?
Frame and equipment: functional, with some nice race touches
The race influence is most easily seen up at the front of the Aspect’s frame, where the top and down tubes are joined with an extended weld bead. This creates a chunky box section that helps reduce frame twist and increase protection from big impacts. It also keeps the head tube short, and that reduces the handlebar height – not a big issue for trail bike designers, but the kind of thing racers look for.
Elsewhere it’s business as usual, with a tidy, functional frame that’s distinctly lacking in bells or whistles. Scott has opted for traditional split gear cable housings, reducing friction between shifter and derailleur at the risk of increased maintenance due to water ingress – the last loop of housing running between the seatstay and rear derailleur is particularly vulnerable. The upside is that slotted guides make replacement quick and easy. Rear rack mounts show Scott hasn’t forgotten that the Aspect is likely to be pressed into double duty by some riders.
Suntour's journeyman XCM fork performed acceptably on our test machine – though Kenda's Slant Six treads were a scary prospect in the wet
The fork is Suntour’s ubiquitous XCM coil-sprung unit, complete with leg-top lockout and preload adjustment. Our sample was among the better examples of this fork that we’ve tried, though we’d happily trade the largely redundant lockout lever for a rebound adjuster to tame the undamped return stroke.
The finishing kit comes from Syncros – now owned by Scott – adding some of the big-name kudos that’s often lacking at this price. In keeping with the racy image, there’s a flat handlebar rather than a riser. We’ve no complaints with the Shimano gears and brakes, which deliver the reliable changes and predictable modulation you’d expect.
Our only kit related gripe is with Kenda's Slant 6 tyres. The rounded profile, chamfered knobs and cheap, hard rubber compound combine to deliver minimal lateral grip on off-camber surfaces and a scary lack of driving or braking grip on wet rock or roots. We spent most of our (damp) testing time fighting to keep the rear end driving and the front end steering.
Ride and handling: heavy, but nimbler than you might think
The looks might be race inspired, but some of the numbers suggest otherwise. No one’s going to get excited about the Aspect 740’s distinctly average for the price 14.1kg (31lb) weight, and the slack 67-degree head angle doesn’t suggest cut-and-thrust handling either. Throw a leg over the Scott though, and the low front end – helped by the stubby head tube and flat bar – puts you in the flat back, weight forward ride position that anyone with any experience of XC racing will feel immediately familiar with. So what’s going on?
Beginners may baulk at the idea of putting some of their weight over the front of the bike, but the subtly lowered handlebar of the Aspect 740 transfers just enough of the rider’s weight to the front wheel to create a bike that rides a whole lot better than its price or heft might suggest. That’s because the stretched out, low position favoured by XC racers is incredibly efficient, allowing powerful lower back muscles, arms and shoulders to do some of the work of powering the bike forward and steering it over and around obstacles.
The Aspect 740 is great-handling, and unexpectedly willing and rapid on the trail
With the rider’s weight better balanced between the wheels, there’s more grip for steering and braking at speed and the rear end is better able to float over obstacles. Those racers aren’t stupid – it’s just a ride position that takes a bit of getting used to.
Downsides? Those hard-compound Kendas make the Scott a scary handful in the wet – we’d ditch them for something better and pay the difference. The fork can sometimes be provoked into a harsh top-out clunk, which is offputting. And there’s no escaping the weight, though better rubber would shave a chunk off that too.
These niggles aside, the Aspect 740 shows that race influence can translate very well to a trail bike. If cruising and looking at the view is your thing you might be better served elsewhere. But if you want a bike you can ride hard when the mood takes you, the Aspect 740 offers a lot for the cash.