While much of the industry has been focused on big travel and baggy shorts, there remains a solid segment of the mountain biking population that obsesses over weight and speed. Although the cross-country market has been taking geometry and suspension cues from the more laid-back areas of the sport, there’s still plenty of room for a record-breaking frame or two bred with speed in mind.
When gravel bikes are just now breaking the 1,000g barrier, for Scott to release an 849g mountain bike frame is pretty darn impressive. The 2017 Scale RC 700 SL (Scale, for brevity’s sake) hits that mark in a size medium with all hardware and no loss of lateral stiffness when compared to the 1,048g 2016 Scale HMX. At the same time, comfort is said to be improved.
The lightest Scale models are single-ring-specific, a decision altogether in keeping with the bikes’ intended use. Not only does this save weight on complete builds, the decision allows for lighter-weight symmetric chainstays and seat tubes that don’t need to be routed inefficiently to clear or mount a front mech. When dropping a chain is not an option, the Spark even includes a 28g upper chainguide. In keeping with recent trends, chainstays have been shortened by 13mm, seat angles increased by one degree, and reaches increased by 17mm, calming the bike at speed.
To hit such a low mark, the Scale has a number of clever and, it has to be said, rather lovely details. Take the rear dropouts: the skeletal Direct Mount derailleur hanger is actually sandwiched between the inside and outside of the drive-side dropout. On the opposite side, the aft end of the post-type disc mount is connected directly to the dropout , leaving the carbon fibre seatstays unstressed, lightweight, and free to absorb vibration. The rear derailleur cable port is little bigger than the housing and fastener it must accommodate.
On the (relatively) bouncy side of the house, the full suspension Spark has seen a thorough reworking- and a 1,749g headline weight. Similarly one-by specific, the lightest Spark RC series 100mm-travel frames are more structurally efficient than would be possible were a front mech accommodated. Doing away with previous generations’ top tube mounted swing link, the 2017 Spark uses a compact rocker link at the seat tube and a vertically-oriented rear shock. The seatstay pivot is gone, replaced by engineered carbon flex stays, removing fifteen parts and 130g. In order to increase stiffness and tyre clearance, Spark dropouts now sport Boost-standard 148mm spacing.
Tucked away at the bottom bracket, Scott’s new trunion-mount Nude shock would be easy to miss but bears mentioning. The lower shock mounting bolt axis (though not the hardware itself) actually pierces the body of the shock, allowing for broader-based mounting and greater shock stroke for a given eye-to-eye length.
Like the Scale, the Spark’s reach has been increased by 17mm. At the same time, head angles have been knocked back by 1.3 degrees, seat tubes steepened, and chainstays tucked in 13mm for a ride that’s more capable in rough conditions. Even so (and no doubt influenced by World Champion Nino Schurter’s trademark inverted stems), the Spark’s head tube has been dropped by a full 10mm.
Given recent geopolitcial events, it’s little surprise that Scott is at this point not providing pricing on model year 2017 products.