Scott was the first to prove that an aero road bike could slice swiftly through the air without compromising in other ways. Gone was the unwanted flex found on some early aero profile machines.
Also inherent in Scott’s DNA is the need for light weight, following on from the game changing CR1 and super svelte Addict. Whereas early aero bikes added mass to counter the slimline aero tube profiles’ lack of rigidity, Scott cleverly shaped its bikes’ tubing like an cut-off aerofoil. It retains the slippery action through the air without the need for an extended tail (which would also contravene the UCI’s rules).
Highs: Fast and sharp handling – this is an aero bike for speed freaks
Lows: Mediocre wheels and poor braking
So this middleweight spec Foil tips the scales at an impressive 8.26kg. It’s good for a bike at this price; exceptional for one with proven aerodynamic prowess.
The Foil shapes up as a truly admirable speed machine. On the flat its silent acceleration through the gears is mightily impressive. It skips across the road surface, piling on the mph at an imposing rate.
While this Scott isn’t as plush as the likes of Cannondale’s Synapse and Giant’s Defy, it’s never too firm or stiff to hinder progress on broken surfaces. However, after a few hours in the saddle the firm front end and all-aluminium cockpit does leave you with the onset of tingling fingers. We haven’t had the same experience from pricier Foils so can only put it down to the stiff Syncros aluminium bar and stem.
The full-on racing geometry means responsive handling. The Foil darts through corners and, aided by an impressive set of Conti rubber, always felt confident whatever the weather. We’ve loved the responsive reactive ride of the Foil; this isn’t a bike that you’ll simply want to cruise along on. The sharpness of its front end will take you by surprise if you take your eye off the ball for even a moment.
The frame and fork combination is impressively light at under 1,400g for the combination. It’s very nicely detailed too, with carbon dropouts at both ends and neat touches such as an integrated chain catcher to protect the bottom bracket shell.
Hit the slopes and the good range of gearing (12-30,50/34) makes short work of steep inclines. That said, it can feel somewhat stunted by the extra mass in the wheels. Like the Cervélo R3, the Foil has opted for Shimano’s R500 hoops; while we respect them as a tough, budget wheelset, there’s no getting around the fact that a frameset of this calibre deserves something much better.
The R500s are here because of the high cost of the impressive Foil frame (it’s just 980g, with the fork a light 390g); savings have to come in somehow. It’s just a shame they happen to be made somewhere so noticeable: with a higher-grade set of wheels the Foil 20 would be beast of real pedigree.
The same can be said of the brakes. Shimano’s BR-R561 units are well made, neatly finished and smooth operators. Disappointingly though, they come with solid pads that lack significant bite, the hard compound feeling dead in the dry. On wet days, moreover, the pads’ meagre performance is a real letdown. It takes full fistfuls of lever pull to get any real reaction – pulsing, dragging, and even hauling full-anchors on has far too little effect.
A bike as fast as the Foil needs to be able to stop much better from speed – we recommend an immediate switch to some quality pads to get the best out of this fast frameset. And that, sadly, is the Foil in a nutshell: in the right trim, it could easily be a true podium contender – but as it stands it’s a firm ‘could do better’.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.