There are a whole range of iterations of Scott’s all new Spark full suspension platform, but this RC model is the only one that’ll matter to hardcore cross-country racers. With an all-composite construction that uses extremely expensive specialist carbon fibres to maximise stiffness to weight, aggressive geometry and less travel than the standard Spark at 100mm, it’s a no holds barred, razor-sharp race weapon.
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Scott Spark 900 RC SL Highlights
- A medium sized frame with shock and hardware, which weighs just 1,779g
- 1x specific frame to maximise stiffness and minimise weight
- Steeper and sharper handling geometry than a standard Spark
- 100mm travel at either end with 29er wheels
- HMX-SL carbon fibre construction
- Nino Schurter will be battling for Olympic glory on this platform
We’ve covered the technologies packed into the new Scott Spark and Scale elsewhere, but it’s safe to say that this has been a three-year labour of love, with no stone left unturned to make the Spark the ultimate full-sus cross country race bike.
Novel construction techniques minimise the number of separate moulded parts that go into making the frame, which shaves grams from pretty much every area of the bike. More complex carbon layup patterns allow for less carbon to be used overall, while this top-end RC frame uses a mixture of different high-grade carbon fibres called HMX-SL to shave even more weight without impacting stiffness.
The back end no longer has a pivot on the seatstay, instead relying on engineered flex in the carbon. It’s also made in just three pieces, rather than the 18 pieces needed to make the old one, allowing them to save 130g from this assembly alone.
Repositioning the front triangle’s shock mount from the top tube to the bottom bracket takes advantage of the fact that this area needs to be overbuilt anyway. This has allowed Scott to drop a lot of weight from the top tube without a huge penalty for mounting it at the bottom bracket junction. The bike I rode was the absolute tippy-top spec 900 RC SL, so weight is something there isn’t a lot of and the complete bike barely touched the scales at 9.86kg for a Large frame.
Razor sharp handling
Altering the suspension layout has also made it possible to create a shock curve, which would have been impossible on the old design, with a more supple initial stroke that ramps up more towards the end of the travel. The old bike had a rather trapdoor-like suspension feel with a tight initial stroke that lacked support once it got moving, so this is definitely a good thing.
With just 100mm of travel the bike is never going to be a bucket of plush, but there’s decent grip over roots and rock despite running a taut 20% of sag and I took it off some fair sized drops without an issue. In fact, it’s impressive how hard you can push the Spark, only limited by the fast rolling Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres.
Scott’s tame XC racer Nino Schurter is well known for his love of a very low front-end, part of the reason he’s always stuck with 650b wheels in the past. The new Scale has an extremely short headtube, so the stack height is low. It’s part of the reason that he’s now on a 29er as this allows the rider to weight the front end sufficiently while still making the most of smoother rolling big wheels.
The Spark 900 has an aggressively, arse-up-head-down riding position as you’d expect from a race bike, but the slacker head-angle means that this doesn’t get too precarious when you point it downhill. It’s a fine balance between sharp handling and stability which allows you to hustle the bike both up and downhill.
Admittedly, it’s no lazy trail machine, but it’s impressive what you can get away with when you start to push on — something that’s an essential requirement for a race bike as World Cup XC courses get ever more technical.
The frame is stiff and precise too, with little discernible flex from the back end or the front triangle, even when hauling out of the saddle or getting the bike loaded up in the berms. You half expect a bike this light to be a spindly nightmare that requires constant attention to keep it pointed where you want, but the Spark tracks true and just lets you get on with the business of putting the hurt on yourself and anyone unlucky enough to be racing you.
The bike now uses a metric sized trunnion mount Fox Nude shock, which helps drop weight over the old model as it has a shorter eye-to-eye length despite a slightly longer stroke. It retains the remotely adjustable three settings however, with your pick of the full 100mm, a 70mm ‘Traction’ mode or a full lockout. The underbar remote also actuates a trio of matching compression damping settings on the Fox 32 Step Cast fork to keep things balanced up front.
I must admit that I didn’t make a huge amount of use of this feature, even with the new 1x specific underbar remote, but riders looking to preserve every Watt they put out likely will. Ergonomically, it’s easy enough to live with, but on my brief test ride using it never became an effortless extension of the controls, though I suspect time would improve this.
The damping gives much better support than previous iterations of the design throughout the stroke however and the bike is able to take some pretty big hits without giving up all the travel unnecessarily. It is possible to add in volume spacers to the rear shock, should you wish to make it even more progressive.
Most of the contact points are provided by Scott’s in-house brand Syncros and that’s no bad thing. Decently wide bars are paired to a stem that allows you to seamlessly integrate aero-looking stem spacers and a Garmin GPS mount should you wish. Syncros also provides carbon fibre rimmed wheels, which are impressively stiff without being unduly harsh.
The carbon railed Syncros saddle is minimalist but comfortable and there’s a carbon post to boot. I’m still praying for the day that there are more super-light dropper posts available as I suspect that for all but the most weight focused there’s a huge benefit to be had, even on the race course, but this dream is yet to be a reality despite there being cable routing for one.
The Spark does have a somewhat slack effective seat angle however, though the offset is magnified on the smaller frame sizes. At 5’8 tall I rode a large, in line with my preference for a larger reach, but running the saddle further forwards easily counteracted this and provided a good balance of climbing efficiency and downhill stability. If you prefer a smaller reach, and thus a smaller frame, then the more rearwards weight bias when seated may become more of an issue on steep climbs.
The RC frame is single ring specific, with the lack of front derailleur allowing for a much stiffer bottom bracket area and deeper section chainstays. A SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain with its huge 10-50T range means that’s no disadvantage however, providing crisp, clean shifting and enough gear range to take care of everything a race course can throw at you.
SRAM also provides the stoppers in the form of the Level Ultimate brakes, which offer decent feel and bite with sufficient power to haul the bike up cleanly.
The king of cross-country?
Overall, the new Spark is hugely impressive. In this top-spec, race-specific RC model it’s a no compromise machine that seriously undercuts all other rivals on weight, but manages to deliver a precise and confident ride. As you’d expect for the finery lavished on this top-end bike, there aren’t any weak points in the spec either.
If racing is your thing or you just like going up, over, down and around all day long as fast as possible, then the Spark has got to be on your shortlist. That said, if you’re more into riding for fun than racing for glory, then the Plus tyred version of the Spark is a much more versatile machine with a surprisingly small weight penalty.
Pricing and availability is still to be confirmed, but it’s likely to be a case of ‘if you need to ask, you can’t afford’.