Scott’s XC whippet of a full-suspension bike, the Spark, is available with either 650b or 29in wheels, and comes with enough build options (10 650b models, nine 29in bikes) to suit every budget. We took the top-of-the-line Spark 900 Premium big-wheeler out into the hills to see if it would ignite the trails.
Frame and equipment: appealing simplicity and top-line spec sheet
It’s hard not to like the smooth, flowing lines and uncomplicated look of the Spark’s HMX carbon frame. The base of the lower shock mount houses a reversible chip that allows you to switch between high and low geometry settings, altering the head angle by just over 0.5 degrees and the bottom bracket height by 7mm. We decided to leave ours in the lower setting throughout testing, giving us a head angle of 69.8 degrees.
Scott’s TwinLoc system lets you toggle between three shock and fork settings using the bar-mounted lever. Open mode gives you the full 100mm (3.9in) of rear wheel travel, the second click actuates traction mode, which reduces rear travel to a more pedalling-efficient 70mm (2.7in), and the final click locks out both shock and fork.
The bar-mounted twinloc lever adjusts both the shock and fork: Russell Burton
The bar-mounted TwinLoc lever adjusts both the shock and fork
As you’d expect at this jaw-dropping price, Scott hasn’t cut any corners on the spec. A full complement of Shimano’s latest (mechanical) XTR kit in 2×11 guise keeps things moving, paired with the latest XTR Race brakes. The transmission hasn’t skipped a beat after some lengthy stints on the trails, though the cranks look pretty scruffy.
Ride and handling: supreme efficiency and climbing velocity
Every ounce of energy you put into the pedals is spat out from the back wheel, thanks in part to the stiff mainframe. There is some suspension bob when cranking hard but this is easily tamed with a push of the TwinLoc remote. We found ourselves using the remote almost constantly when transitioning between different parts of the trail, thanks to its ease of use and effectiveness, even if the bar is a little cluttered.
A super-accomplished climber, it’s capable of attacking descents too:
A super-accomplished climber, it’s capable of attacking descents too
Engage traction mode and the pace at which you can tackle an awkward ascent is really quite arresting. Though there’s only 100mm of suspension front and rear, the balance between the two units is impressive – there’s more to the Spark 900 than its super-light mile-munching credentials suggest.
Even with the relatively narrow 700mm bar, long stem and shallow-treaded Rocket Ron treads, hit a technical trail and you’ll be surprised just how capable this bike is. The balanced suspension and big wheels soon have you screaming down root-infested sections at longer-travel trail bike speeds. It’s not until you hit a tight, high-load turn that you feel the flex through the wheels and realise you’re getting close to its limit. Still, that’s not what this bike is all about – it’s about covering singletrack miles at pace with a smile on your face, and it does that very, very well.