Scott Spark 35 review£2,499.00

Split personality carbon singletrack screamer

BikeRadar score4/5

The Spark is a naturally super-fast, super-light, remote lockout-equipped semi-carbon speed machine that epic cross-country racers will love. Don’t pigeonhole it as a race-only ride or mark it down on spec, though. It’s the alternative slack and low, rip-the-singletrack-apart alter ego that really gets us fired up. It’s a great upgrade investment too, and the 29er version is equally as good.

Ride & handling: Epic-ride efficient but still a riot on technical trails

With its remote control front and rear suspension lockout, stiff framed power delivery and fast rolling Schwalbe tyres, the Scott Spark 35 is a proper rocket ship. Not just in 120mm-travel trail bike terms either, but one that’ll leave all but the best 100mm race bikes standing.

While the DT Swiss shock isn’t as smooth as Fox alternatives over bigger, high speed hits, the relatively relaxed handling even in the ‘steeper’ setting makes it a naturally speed stable ride. That makes it a great choice for the epic cross-country rides and marathon style events that were the staple diet of the previous Spark.

Undo a 5mm Allen key bolt and flip the shock mount ‘chip’ and you unleash a totally different beast that sent our enduro downhill loving testers daft. The low-slung bottom bracket and slack 68-degree head angle mean that even with quick-release rather than screw-through fastened wheels and average rather than aggressive cockpit dimensions it rips round corners like it’s on rails.

It’s a peach to manual and the light weight means it lifts, launches and charges out of slow speed situations in true ‘ride it like you stole it’ style. The slack and low setting creates a truly radical technical trail machine.

Frame & equipment: Stiff, light semi-carbon chassis with state-of-the-art features and great upgrade potential

Scott have always been at the cutting edge of composite frame development and the new-for-2012 Spark is no exception. The carbon fibre front end is state-of-the-art in terms of construction and features. It gets a big tapered head tube, oversized frame tubes with internal cable routing, and a press-fit bottom bracket.

The shock driver linkage wraps almost invisibly round the kinked seat tube too, and the alloy back end tucks the Avid brake out of harm’s way on a chainstay post mount. The frame is made from Scott's cheaper HMF carbon blend and while it's still very light at 1,930g, it’s 100g heavier than the top-spec HMX carbon Spark and only 20g lighter than the alloy frame of the Spark 40.

Scott have worked really hard with a SRAM 2x10 transmission and super-light SID-chassis RockShox Reba fork to keep weight down to just 11.38kg (25.1lb). The lightweight DT Swiss S210 rear shock isn’t as smooth or sweetly damped as the benchmark Fox Float cans more commonly found at this price. That means suspension control is nearer to a good 100mm bike than the best 120mm competition. We were surprised how much we used the neat metal Twin Loc fork and shock lockout lever even on technical singletrack.

If you want the same super-light for its class, split personality, tight riding character, but with more traction, smoother small bump rollover and better rough terrain speed sustain then check out the Spark 29ers. We’ve been massively impressed by their ‘turbo diesel’ style performance when we’ve tried them.

This bike was tested as part of What Mountain Bike magazine's Bike of the Year shootout. You can read the full feature in this month's mag, in shops now, and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Trail Bike of the Year preview

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The testers reflect on this year's crop of bikes

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Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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