When it comes to mountain bike manufacturers, few have a more race biased image than Scott, which has been developing and marketing its machines through top-level wins for as long as we can remember. Few bikes come close to being as poised and punchy yet still an absolute riot to ride on the trail as its Scale hardtails either.
Frame and equipment: in control, up to speed
Scott racers like Nino Schurter are the epitome of European tight Lycra, weight obsessive XC stereotypes, but the Scale is nowhere near as hysterical and uptight when it comes to handling setup as you’d expect. While Nino might run a long inverted stem for a super-low stretched out position, the production 700 RC here comes with a relatively short – in cross-country terms at least – 80mm tiller.
The Scale's tapered headtube sits at a relatively forgiving 69-degree angle
More surprisingly, the fork it’s bolted to sits in the frame at a relatively relaxed 69-degree head angle. That’s hardly enduro slack, but certainly a lot more stable and ready to hold a line than twitchy 71-degree setups that still dominate most pure race bikes. That’s because their racers have told them that a bike that looks after them on the final, flogging a dead horse lap or lets them attack or relax (or both depending on the race situation) on descents is far more useful than something that starts as instantly responsive but rapidly becomes needy and nervous.
The lightweight SID fork is also linked to Scott’s neat grip mounted Twin Loc remote lever to actuate the firmer ‘pedal’ mode or total lockout on the fly for perfect sprinting and climbing manners. Meanwhile outrageous acceleration is aided and abetted by the super-light, never-miss-a-beat SRAM XX1 transmission and minimal mass Ritchey finishing kit including the racer’s favourite single rail Streem saddle.
Ride and handling: target fixation
The Scale’s sorted handling is backed up with absolutely outstanding poise and precision. While the Scale frames are some of the few to crack the sub-kilo benchmark in a significant way, they’re also super-stiff in terms of tracking and power delivery. Through a combination of ultra-high quality HMX carbon lay-up and direct tube-on-tube IMP5 construction techniques, Scott’s frames ride like they’ve come out of the freezer not just been chilled in the fridge.
Having ridden and raced this same frame all year long on super-stiff Mavic wheels, it’s actually a relief to ride a slightly more forgiving pair of Syncros. It’s not quite as in your face with its power transfer but it still tries to tear chunks out of the trail with every pedal stab.
The Syncros wheels we tested this Scott with tamed some of its more brutal characteristics
Those 650b hoops also mean less deflection and delay in handling response compared with a 29er, so the impeccable handling balance hooks turns and slots gaps between rocks with unerring accuracy lap after lap after lap.
Ultimate responsiveness does come at a price. While the shaped rear seatstays take some sting out of the ride it’s definitely not a soft tail and rear end chatter can affect traction and comfort. Its refusal to acknowledge your fatigue by fumbling lines or diluting drive also tricks you into absolutely exhausting yourself without even noticing, until you’re still stone dead days after a race.
If you’re looking for a slightly more forgiving and smoother ride than the Scale 700, then bikes from the Scale 900 series are effectively identical in terms of surefooted swagger and relentless rapidity. The less edgy character of 29er wheels definitely reduces fatigue and increases speed sustain on longer, rougher rides and the sub-kilo frame and diet conscious kit means complete bike weights are still shockingly low.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.