Scott’s Scale range of 29er hardtails splits into aluminium and carbon sub-ranges, with the alu-frame 940 topping out the metallic offerings. It’s a sign of the times that, though this is a well-equipped bike – with XT and SLX transmission, Syncros finishing kit and a Fox 32 Float 29 fork – if you want better kit you can’t have aluminium. The next step up in spec comes with a carbon frame, and a big price tag.
The 940’s hydroformed aluminium tubes bear an almost uncanny resemblance to the carbon frame – or is it the other way around? Whichever, to the casual observer it’s only the presence of weld beads – and a 1kg weight penalty – that gives the game away.
Most bikes over the past 15 years have been aluminium. The 940’s mid-weight, mid-spec setup represents, in many ways, the ride quality benchmark we’ve become used to – with the added wrinkle of those easy-rolling big hoops, of course. The frame is very stiff, transmitting pedalling directly to the rear wheel with none of the feeling of wind-up or delay that well-built titanium or steel frames give. You stomp and it goes – it’s the very definition of a race bike.
The downside of this direct connection is a constant chatter – from both ends of the bike – that relays every tiny rise and fall to the rider. It would be silly to describe it as harsh, as the 940’s relatively low weight and slender seatstays take some of the sting out. But this bike kicks back over the bumps in a way the carbon version (and the steel and Ti bikes) simply doesn’t. It’s easily countered by hovering over the saddle, but no-one could describe this stiff, power-efficient frame as the more comfortable of the two Scales.
It’s also debatable as to whether directing rider energy away from pedalling (and towards ‘hovering’) actually results in a more efficient bike overall. A chassis is not efficient if it wears out its engine, as without you it’s going nowhere at zero efficiency.
Again, some of the metal’s inherent nature can be designed out, but aluminium is not actually inherently stiff. It’s just that it can’t be allowed to flex like other materials, because it will fatigue and eventually fail.