If you want a bike with performance pedigree it’d be hard to improve upon the Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus, which has evolved from the bike that won this year’s Olympic women’s cross country race. While Swedish rider Jenny Rissveds took the cross-country RC 27.5 version to victory, the 710 Plus has added features that transform an out-and-out race bike into something that’s a whole lot more trail friendly.
The Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus with carbon frame and Shimano XT groupsetMarkus Greber
Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus highlights
Frame geometry and design has been updated to save weight, and the Spark now has a unisex frame
27.5+ wheels and Maxxis Rekon 2.8 EXO tyres provide grip on loose or slick surface and roll smoothly over rough terrain
Climbs well as you’d expect from a Scott bicycle, but the slacker head angles have improved control and stability on technical descents
Twinloc offers remote suspension control from the cockpit
A custom Contessa tune on the suspension is designed to suit lighter riders
Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus spec overview
Spark Plus carbon frame with alloy swingarm
Syncros XR2.0 Plus rims, plus Maxxis Recon 2.8 EXO tyres
Shimano XT 22-speed groupset
Fox 34 Float Performance Elite Air forks with 130mm travel
Fox Nude Trunnion EVOL shock with 120mm travel and Contessa custom tune
Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus ride impression
There’s a general move in the world of XC bikes towards slacker angles and shorter chainstays, all the better for handling the increased technicality of World Cup courses, and all the better for everyone else looking for a bike to handle their local trails.
The Spark has had a complete overhaul from previous years. A huge amount of engineering and design has gone into shaving off a little unnecessary tubing here and there, and the result is a much lighter frame with a slacker head angle that makes handling more stable and confident on technical descents.
Suspension comes courtesy of 120mm Fox Nude shock plus Fox 34 Float Performance Elite air with 130mm of travel. Both have a Contessa Custom tune, designed to suit the on-average lighter weight for size of female riders. The shock positioning has also been updated for 2017, moving from a top-tube mount to a Trunnion shock mounted near the bottom bracket.
The Contessa Spark Plus comes with a Shimano XT 2×11 gearing set upMarkus Greber
Those 27.5+ Maxis Rekon 2.8 EXO tyres, combined with an additional 10mm of front travel over its non-plus sisters, give the Contessa Spark a serious amount of traction and rolling ability over the most uneven of terrain. Line choice becomes significantly easier and grip in slicker conditions is boosted with the bigger contact patch those wide tyres provide. Add in the slacker head angles and you have a bike that feels confident descending on technical mountain terrain where traditionally you might have opted for a longer travel enduro-focussed bike.
We were a little surprised to see a 2x Shimano XT gearing set up, given the popularity and simplicity of 1x systems for trail riding in the UK. Scott opted for this as it’s favoured in the European market and we did appreciate having a granny ring when motivating ourselves up Swiss mountains during testing.
It has to be said, however, that partly as a result of this gearing the cockpit is a little too busy. Brakes, two shifters, a dropper seatpost control and the Twinloc control are all crowded on, which makes for confused moments when it comes to working out whether you’re locking out the suspension or dropping your saddle — not ideal when coming into technical sections.
While remote controls for saddles and suspension are useful, it does leave the bars crowdedMarkus Greber
The Shimano XT hydraulic disc brakes are a reliable and proven choice, and performed well even on very long, steep and technical descents.
Scott is known for producing bikes that climb exceptionally well, which isn’t surprising for a brand with such a focus on cross-country. The updated geometry hasn’t lessened the climbing ability of the Contessa Spark and the aforementioned Twinloc, a remote control for switching between suspension settings, comes into its own on undulating terrain. A flick of the switch stiffens both the fork and the shock, which helps turn that pedal power into forward drive.
Another essential feature of any modern trail bike is a dropper seatpost and the Fox Transfer dropper post worked smoothly and efficiently. Seatpost height is bike size dependent with small size bikes offering 100mm of movement, the medium 125mm and the large 150mm.
Women’s specific but no compromise on build
Plus-sized wheels with Maxxis Reckon 2.8 tyres made short work of rocky, loose terrainMarkus Greber
Contessa is the blanket name for the women’s specific versions of the Scott product line, and up until this year that’s meant a different geometry for Contessa frames. No longer. The 2017 Contessa mountain bike line has, for the most part, unisex geometry, giving the Contessa Spark Plus the same frame as the unisex version. Scott’s reasoning is that women don’t actually need a different frame geometry for mountain bikes since it’s such a dynamic sport and riders are frequently up and out of the saddle.
Finishing kit and contact points are still important though, and the Contessa Spark 710 Plus features the Syncros XR1.5 Women saddle and a different paint job: black, green and yellow. For the most part, the spec between the unisex and Contessa versions of the bike are like for like; no lesser spec here. The bars are slightly shorter, but still more than adequate at 740mm compared to 760mm on the unisex version. However, the unisex version does feature a built in Garmin mount on the stem which is absent from the Contessa.
The Contessa Spark 710 Plus comes in small, medium and large. Taller riders can opt for the non-Contessa version, which adds an XL size at the top of the range, but it’s disappointing not to see a an XS version for smaller riders.
We’ll be taking the Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus for more comprehensive testing and riding, so watch this space for a more in-depth review.
Scott Contessa Spark 710 Plus early verdict
Capable trail bike that can tackle tough terrain, without sacrificing climbing ability.