Scott Contessa Spark 910 review£3,999.00

A speed-focussed, efficient bike with a premium price tag

BikeRadar score4/5

The Scott Contessa Spark 910 is a trail-ready carbon-framed 29er with racing in its DNA. It’s firm, efficient and above all, fast!

  • The Scott Contessa Spark 910 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

Contessa is the women’s line of bikes from Scott, and the majority of them are based around a unisex frame with women’s specific finishing kit.

The Spark family is broad, with everything from plus-tyred trail bikes to full-on World Cup XC race bikes — as raced by Nino Schurter — and that race-bred feeling can be felt throughout the range.

Cables are routed internally for protection and a sleek look
Cables are routed internally for protection and a sleek look

The Spark 910 combines Scott’s race-focussed design ingenuity and a more trail- and marathon-friendly setup to produce a 120mm-travel trail bike that flies along the trail, eats climbs and dances down descents.

It promises a do-it-all attitude, though the Spark’s heart remains closer to its racing roots than some other trail bikes out there.

Oh, and the listed colour is “black/purple”, but it is most definitely pink, if that sort of thing bothers you.

Finishing kit includes a women's specific Syncros saddle
Finishing kit includes a women's specific Syncros saddle

Scott Contessa Spark 910 geometry

Both the Spark and the Contessa Spark share the same unisex frame which in the case of the 910 consists of a stiff carbon frame with an alloy rear triangle.

The Spark has a 67.2-degree head angle, which is relatively standard on a 29er trail bike, and this is paired with a 73.8-degree seat angle, which, again, is middle of the road.

Scott has engineered a stiff frame, and combined with the efficiency of the suspension system that means that the Contessa Spark 910 climbs fantastically.

Steep uphill switchbacks proved no problem at all with the directness of the power transfer from the pedals and responsive steering.

One slight niggle, and something to be aware of, is that Scott has opted to use Torx headed bolts rather than Hex or Allen bolts on much of the frame and components. So make sure you’ve got a multi-tool with a Hex key if you get this bike.

Scott Contessa Spark 910 suspension

FOX 34 Float Performance forks with 120mm of travel provide suspension up front
FOX 34 Float Performance forks with 120mm of travel provide suspension up front

A key feature of many Scott bikes, including the Contessa Spark 910, is TwinLoc Technology. This offers remote control of the suspension system — both forks and shock — via a lever system on the handlebars.

Scott’s TwinLoc system is paired with a Scott-only Fox Nude EVOL shock, while up front there’s a Fox 34 Performance fork with 120mm of travel.

On a bike at this price I’d like to see at least a Performance Elite fork, or perhaps a Factory version, which benefit from slightly improved damping and feel, over the lower-end Performance series fork fitted here.

There are three rear shock settings: fully open, where you’re getting the full 120mm of travel; a mid setting at 85mm of travel; and finally full lockout. The fork is toggled between open, trail and lock-out compression modes.

At the back there's a trunnion-mounted Fox NUDE EVOL shock
At the back there's a trunnion-mounted Fox NUDE EVOL shock

The 85mm mid-setting is ideal for technical climbs where you want the additional traction that a little travel provides, but want to keep the setup as efficient as possible and also work well on less technical trails.

Scott has done away with a pivot near the rear axle for this year, helping to reduce weight. Instead, Scott relies on flex designed into the seatstays to give them the performance it wants. The result is a taut suspension feel and the ride is feedback rich, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

Put a little work into pumping the terrain and you’ll be rewarded with bursts of free speed and it carries that speed well, flying over the top of roots and rocks without compromising traction.  

The 29er wheels help with this too. The larger diameter means the wheels are less likely to get hooked up and keep their momentum for noticeably faster climbing. In corners they hold their line beautifully, giving a stable and deceptively fast ride feel.

Scott Contessa Spark 910 spec

Maxxis Forekasters are described as an aggressive cross-country tyre and worked well on the dry and damp rooty trails the Spark was tested on. The chunky side knobs give a comforting level of grip when cornering.

However, if you want to get the most out of the Spark on more technical trails, a burlier front tyre wouldn’t go amiss. They come ready set up tubeless which allows them to be run at a lower pressure if you want extra grip in wetter conditions.

Shimano SLX brakes provide good stopping power and smooth braking action
Shimano SLX brakes provide good stopping power and smooth braking action

SRAM GX Eagle sorts out 12 gears with a well balanced 10-50t cassette. However, the 32t chainring up front confirms my thoughts that this bike is aimed more at speed than cruising through trails, especially because most of the competition opts for 30t or less, but this is nothing £50 on a new chain ring wouldn’t sort out.

The cockpit setup includes size-specific stems with 50mm on the small, 60mm on the medium and 70mm on the large.

720mm bars are relatively narrow for a modern trail bike and hark back to the Spark’s XC heritage. The downside here is that I found the narrowness gave a twitchy, nervy feeling on some descents.

The Shimano SLX M7000 hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power for trail riding, though they start to feel a little out of their depth on much steeper terrain.

The dropper seatpost has, unusually, a quick release rather than bolt collar
The dropper seatpost has, unusually, a quick release rather than bolt collar

Dropper seatposts are pretty much essential on the modern trail bike, and increasingly on XC bikes, so it’s no surprise to see a Fox Transfer on the Spark at this price point.

The Fox Transfer post provides 100mm of travel on the size small and 125mm on the medium and large. It’s not a huge amount of travel and personally I like to drop the saddle further out of the way on descents, but it’s plenty for the majority of trails and trail-centre riding.

While the TwinLoc system is a great feature, combined with gear levers, brake levers and a dropper remote it does contribute towards a very cluttered feeling cockpit that takes a little getting used to to hit the right control. Once it becomes second nature though, you’ll be switching suspension levels and adjusting gears as you ride without any issues.

SRAM GX X1 Eagle gives a huge 1x11 gear range
SRAM GX X1 Eagle gives a huge 1x11 gear range

Scott Contessa Spark 910 ride impressions

As Scott has put this bike in the trail category, I took it to my local woods, excited to see how playful the short-travel bike would be, but although the bike responded well to my commands, it seemed a touch nervous on the steeper enduro-oriented trails.

The XC-trail geometry coupled with the 120mm of travel can feel beyond its capabilities when the going gets particularly steep and techy, and the big wheels only accentuate a high balance point for throwing the bike around on lively trails. Stick the Spark on level, twisted singletrack and it feels more at home.

The cockpit feels clutered with both lock-out levers for front and rear travel as well as the dropper control
The cockpit feels clutered with both lock-out levers for front and rear travel as well as the dropper control

During high speed cross-country jaunts that slightly nervous attitude towards descending behaved more like the responsive race bike we’ve come to expect from Scott. Do-it-all it may not be, but focused speed machine it is.

While it might have its roots in cross-country racing, the Contessa Spark 910 is an exceptionally fast trail bike that riders who like to push hard will get a hell of a ride out of. Experienced riders, or those who like a feedback-rich ride feel, will really be able to get the best out of this bike.

A slightly grippier front tyre and wider bars would help boost control and confidence in steeper and more technical trails, diluting the slight nervous feel some riders may experience.

The Spark sits very much at the XC end of the trail spectrum
The Spark sits very much at the XC end of the trail spectrum

Don’t let the racy feel fool you though. Pump this bike through the terrain and you’ll find yourself springing over rollers, hopping over logs and flying over drops and jumps. The feel is serious, focussed and composed , but that doesn’t preclude having a whole load of fun.

If soft, cushioned and compliant is your thing, the Spark isn’t for you, but if you like to blast fast, ride far and appreciate an efficient bike, definitely consider the Scott Contessa Spark 910.

Scott Contessa Spark 910 prices, sizing and availability

The Contessa Spark 910 is available in three sizes: S, M and L, and retails at £3,999 / $4,200 / AU$5,000 via Scott dealers and retailers.

Also consider...

If you're in the market for a bike and want to know what else is on offer, have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed options.

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