Scott offers a bewildering array of options based around the super-light Scale hardtail piloted by reigning XC world champ Nino Schurter. 29er? No problem, sir. Prefer the emperor’s new wheel size, 650b? There’s a range to suit.
We plumped for the mid-range, mid-price Scale 730. The ‘7’ indicates it’s a ‘27.5in’ wheeled model, the 2x10 SRAM transmission has ‘race’ written all over it, and it’s all hung on a carbon chassis. Is it a podium contender?
Frame and equipment: all about the flow
Scott’s carbon-framed 7-series Scale range starts with the 735 and ends at the 700SL, which is about as close as it’s possible to get to a World Cup bike straight off the showroom floor. Component spec aside, the main difference is in the type of carbon used – the more expensive bikes get lighter, stronger material tagged HMX by Scott. The 730 shares its HMF (it stands for “high modulus”) frame with the 735, but gets better parts.
The 730’s smooth tube intersections echo the ‘flow’ of its carbon yarns
Carbon’s ability to be built up in layers makes it a bike designer’s dream. Like many carbon hardtails, the 730’s smooth tube intersections echo the ‘flow’ of the yarns as they’re laid up in the container to build the frame. Scott claims to have reduced the amount of material in the head tube area by more than 10 percent without sacrificing strength, and massive ovalisation at the bottom bracket gives the down tube the kind of torsional rigidity that’s needed in a race bike.
The rear end is where things get interesting. The slender seatstays form Scott’s proprietary Shock Damping System (SDS) by building in a hint of vertical compliance at the rear axle to improve comfort – something not to be sniffed at, even on a race bike. The 'naked' finish’s lack of paint is a further weight-saving measure.
Plugged into the tapered head tube is Fox’s capable 32 Float CTD Evolution fork. Though it lacks a thru-axle to back up the head tube’s inherent stiffness, it’s one of the better mid-range forks, particularly when combined with Scott’s well-designed RideLoc remote. This bar-mounted lever facilitates cycling through the fork’s three low-speed compression settings (Climb/Trail/Descend) one at a time in both directions, making for bob-free sprints and climbs.
Fox’s 32 Float CTD Evolution fork is a competent performer
Transmission-wise Scott has opted for a SRAM X7 and X9 based setup. This means a different feel – SRAM shifting is snappy and direct-feeling, while Shimano’s shifter action is softer and feels more “damped” – and also has implications for durability. It’s beyond the scope of a test like this to measure transmission components’ ability to stand up to wear and tear, but our UK testers' long-term experience is that Shimano transmissions tend to stand up noticeably better than SRAM (with the exception of its 11-speed drivetrains, which are faring better so far). For a bike that’ll see a lot of use, it’s a factor worth bearing in mind.
Elsewhere on the Scott, the Syncros finishing kit looks good and works well. The white saddle won’t stay clean for long though, and the disc rotors won’t handle sintered pads.
Ride and handling: come out to play
After years of jumping through hoops trying to make big-diameter 29in wheels handle well, the ‘new’ 650b size must be a breath of fresh air for bike designers. Scarcely bigger in rolling diameter than ‘old’ 26in wheels wearing chunky rubber, the 730’s ‘tweener wheels don’t make any great demands on geometry or frame clearance. The result is a bike that has all the liveliness of an old-skool race bike and none of the common drawbacks of a big-wheeler.
Right from the first turn of the pedals, the Scale wants to play. The weight distribution is spot-on and pick-up from the very stiff chassis is impressive – there’s a feeling of connectedness to both wheels that’s positively inspirational. Few race-orientated bikes manage to be both fast and fun – this is one of those few.
The price is little more than that of many alloy hardtails, but the 730 has a big weight advantage that can be felt in better acceleration and sprinting
There’s another aspect to the Scott’s ride that we haven’t explored yet – weight. Or, more accurately, the lack of it. Though Scales further up the range are even svelter, the 730’s lack of heft is seriously impressive, whether compared with considerably chunkier tin-framed competitors that aren’t much cheaper or more costly carbon contenders that are only slightly lighter. The weight savings are balanced too, borne fairly equally by the frame, fork, wheels and components.
Those smaller-than-29er wheels accelerate noticeably better than most price-equivalent big-wheelers too. Combined with the Scale’s snappy handling, it’s impossible not to want to put the hammer down at every available opportunity. This bike will wring every last ounce of energy from you and leave you exhausted, but begging for more.
The icing on the cake is that acronymed rear end, which delivers exactly what it promises. Torsionally stiff but surprisingly comfy, the skinny stays help keep the rear wheel planted and tracking straight in situations where stiffer bikes are skipping off into the weeds. Even standing sprints over choppy trail sections are easier because the rear wheel stays planted and driving forward.
If it sounds like we’re smitten with the Scale 730, that’s because we are. It’s light, affordable, fast AND fun. Our only reservation is over the longer-term durability of that SRAM transmission, but so far, so good.