Scott’s popular Genius has been in the lineup for no fewer than 14 years now, occupying a position smack-bang in the middle of the range between the XC-oriented Spark, and the DH-focussed Gambler. There have been numerous Genius models over the years built with varying suspension platforms, some of which were built around a unique pull-shock design. Scott seems to have put every mainstream wheelsize into the Genius along the way, and there’s even been a long travel model too.
Things have been simplified for the 2018 Genius range though, which has been revamped with an entirely new frame, a fresh suspension design, and radically different geometry. The latest Genius is balanced out with 150mm of travel front and rear, and the one frame is now capable of accommodating both 29in and 27.5in wheels. A small chip in the upper shock pivot allows you to alter the BB height and head angle as required when switching between wheelsizes.
Scott kicks off the Genius range at £2,499, and it tops out at a frankly ridiculous £8,999 for the Ultimate model. The bike I’ve been testing is one step down from the top, and it’s called the Genius 900 Tuned. Next to the Ultimate model, it’s a relative bargain at £6,999. The ‘900’ in the name refers to the big 29in wheels, which in this case are bulbous 2.6in Schwalbe Nobby Nics. If you prefer smaller wheels, you can get the same bike in a ‘700’ version that comes with 27.5×2.8in Maxxis Rekon tyres.
Scott lent us this bike as a longterm test rig, which I’ll be using to review various other components, including 27.5+ wheels and tyres. I’ve been riding the Genius for a couple of months so far in stock form though, so for part one of the review I’ll be looking at just how well the bike has performed as it arrives on the showroom floor.
Scott splits its Genius range into alloy, hybrid, and carbon frame options. The 900 Tuned gets the top-end HMX carbon fibre frame, which features a gorgeous full carbon mainframe, sub-frame, and one-piece rocker link.
The Swiss bike company has become highly proficient in working with carbon fibre, and the engineers have clearly been able to flex their muscles on the Genius. It’s a very sleek and light-looking package, aided by the integrated head tube, flattened top tube and internal cable routing. Likewise, the large and boxy downtube, enormous PF92 bottom bracket junction and shapely seat tube provide a solid anchor point for the trunnion rear shock, which has been flipped upside down to better integrate it into the frame. Along with the compact rocker link, this has freed up space so you can comfortably fit a full-size water bottle even with the dropped top tube.
The rear shock mount does form a pocket for water and mud to accumulate, though there is a wee drainage hole moulded in for that very reason. I’m still a little concerned by the proximity of the shock’s remote lockout cable, though time will tell if enough moisture makes its way down through the rubber port to become an issue.
Likewise, with the exception of the main pivot and central rocker link pivot, all the other pivot points are rolling on bushings. Bushings aren’t a new concept for suspension pivots, and when executed correctly, they can be lighter, simpler, stiffer and more durable in low-rotation applications. It’s only an issue when they’re not well sealed and become contaminated though, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on those too.
The bushings do contribute to a very, very lightweight frame though. Scott claims a medium-sized Genius HMX frame weighs just 2249g including the rear shock. That is mind-bendingly light for a 150mm travel 29er that’s pitched as being EWS-worthy. To put that weight in perspective, that’s actually lighter than Yeti’s new SB100, which is an XC bike with 100mm of travel.
The new carbon frame is impressive for sure, but perhaps the biggest change to the new Genius comes from its geometry, which has been thoroughly radicalised over the previous model.
How radical? The head angle is nearly four-degrees slacker, sitting at 65° in the Low position. Reach has been increased too, with a medium now sitting at 439mm long. Those two changes mean that the total wheelbase length is a whopping 50mm longer, which is impressive given that the rear centre has actually been shortened to 438mm. Doubly so when you consider the Genius is comfortably accommodating 150mm of rear travel and a huge 29×2.6in tyre. Though these changes might indicate just how outdated the geometry was on the old Genius, there are no doubts that the new version is about as up to the minute as it gets for a long travel 29er.
My only beef with the Genius’ frame is the kinked seat tube, which limits dropper post insertion. It’s a touch long too, so though the medium frame comes with a 125mm travel dropper, I’m not sure I could get away with fitting anything longer. The bent seat tube also puts the seatpost at a slack angle, which means to get the saddle nose positioned comfortably, the saddle clamp on the Fox Transfer dropper is at its absolute limit – I actually broke one of the bolts trying to angle it further down.
One constant of all Genius platforms has been the use of remote-controlled suspension. Scott has always marketed the Genius with a “two bikes in one” tagline, and the theme carries on to the new model with the updated TwinLoc system.
Like the Spark RC I reviewed last year, the Genius comes with a spring-loaded handlebar remote that offers you fingertip control of your suspension settings. The remote links up to the fork and shock, adjusting both of them simultaneously. There are three pre-set positions: Descend, Traction Control, and Lockout. For the fork, this is a simple damping adjustment, changing the compression settings on the FIT4 damper between Open, Medium and Firm. For the shock, it’s a little more complex.
Made by Fox Racing Shox to Scott’s specifications, the Nude rear shock is essentially a Kashima-coated DPS shock with a standard Schrader valve for adjusting air pressure, and a red lever for rebound adjustments. And in Descend mode, the shock performs exactly the same as a regular Fox DPS shock would.
In Traction mode however, a valve cuts off part of the main air spring chamber, shrinking the total air volume down in the process. This instantaneous change in volume drastically increases the shock’s ramp-up, which by default, also limits the usable travel to 100mm. The damper settings otherwise remain untouched in this mode. The idea is that the suspension remains usable and active, but with a much firmer feel to help benefit climbing and pedalling. If you want more platform again, pushing the lever until it clicks into its third and final position locks out both the fork and shock to turn the Genius into a fully rigid mountain bike. Pretty clever eh?
Of note is that despite the twin air chamber system, the Nude shock is compatible with standard volume reducers. The stock setup features a custom 0.1in volume spacer inside, though there’s scope to fit bigger spacers up to a 0.95in spacer if you’re after more progression.
The 29in hoops are from DT Swiss, and they’re built with straight-pull spokes and Centerlock hubs. Confirmed weight on our scales was 1910g for the set, meaning there’s room to drop some weight with a wheelset upgrade. Then again, you’re probably not thinking about spending more cash after waxing seven grand on a new bike. Likewise, the 3-pawl freehub mechanism offers a nice buzz to it, but engagement is slow at 24 points. Given the bike’s price, I’d expect to see DT’s Star Ratchet system.
The alloy rims themselves are nice and wide with a good shallow profile, and they come pre-taped with tubeless valves supplied with the bike. Unfortunately the lightweight Schwalbe tyres are a nightmare to setup tubeless, since the beads are so loose on the rim. I managed to get them up eventually, but it was far more difficult than it should have been. On the note of the tyres, I weighed them at 940g and 960g respectively, which is impressive given how big they are. The 127tpi casing and SnakeSkin sidewalls are pretty thin however, so bear that in mind before you go hacking into an EWS stage.
You’ll have little to complain about elsewhere in the component department though. There’s a superb SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, a set of well-controlled Guide RSC brakes, and a smooth-sliding Fox Transfer post. I dig the Syncros saddle with its trick carbon rails, and both the micro chainguide and Syncros bolt-on mudguard are great touches.
Then there’s that one-piece bar and stem. Made entirely from carbon fibre, the Syncros Hixon iC SL handlebar measures 760mm wide, and has an effective stem length of 50mm. Because the bar sweeps out and back though, it appears much shorter than that. The front hub, fork lowers and tyre are weirdly in plain view when you’re cruising along.
The obvious downside of the design is that you can’t adjust the roll of the bar, but to be honest, I found the sweep really comfortable anyway. The bar also has good vibration qualities, and at a claimed weight of 290g it’s pretty darn light.
Speaking of, the Genius is no doubt one of the lightest 150mm travel 29ers going, coming in at just 12.37 kg (27.21 lbs) for our medium test bike (without pedals and set up tubeless).
Cockpit & Setting Up
With the hammerhead-shaped handlebars, TwinLoc remote and a total of six cables sprouting off the front of the bike, the Genius’ futuristic mission control cockpit feels like you’re piloting a space station.
Some clever integration has gone into the left-hand grip, which sees the locking collar shared with both the mount for the TwinLoc remote, and the Fox Transfer lever. It’s a neat space-saving trick, though because the TwinLoc levers sit underneath the bar – in exactly the same position that many dropper post levers sit – for the first few rides I found myself adjusting suspension settings rather than dropping the saddle down. Though it takes a while to remap the path between your brain and your thumb, after a couple of rides and a few accidental high-posting moments, it didn’t prove to be a problem.
The execution on the TwinLoc remote could do with some refinement though. The bolt that holds the whole assembly to the grip and bar is bizarrely hidden underneath the cable noodle for the dropper post lever, which is a total ergonomic oversight. So if you want to adjust the rotation of the controls, in theory you have to pull the seatpost out of the frame, unhook the cable from the base of the post, then loosen the cable noodle at the lever end, and use a torx key to get to the clamp. Ridiculous right? The first time I had to make adjustments on the trail, I just jammed a torx key around the cable noodle and tightened as best I could – not ideal, and something that could be easily solved.
Despite the clever remote and the extra cables, setting up suspension on the Genius is thankfully no different from any other Fox-equipped full suspension bike.
For the 36 Float fork I messed around with air pressures and volume for a few rides, though as per usual, I ended up pulling out the two stock volume spacers in order to free up the end of the travel. For my 70kg riding weight, 74psi got me to about 29% sag (whilst standing up on the pedals), and I set the rebound one click slower than halfway, and added 10 clicks (out of 22) of low-speed compression damping.
The Nude shock does afford you a little more setup flexibility due to the TwinLoc system, since you can optimise the suspension setup to be as plush as possible in Descend mode, knowing that you’ll have a pert pedalling platform in Traction Control mode. With that in mind, I gradually dropped down air pressures until I hit 33% sag with 180psi, and setup the rebound just slower than halfway at 7 out of 15 clicks.
In the couple of months I’ve had the Genius, I’ve ridden it across a fair variety of singletrack from our local steep trails in Calder Valley, to a trip up Helvellyn, through to several days shuttling some fast and furious Italian Riviera riding around Molini. Aside from a swap to a more robust set of 2.4in Bontrager SE4 tyres for that Molini trip, I’ve otherwise left the Genius entirely stock.
Compared to the old Genius’ single pivot suspension design, it must be said that the Virtual 4 Link platform is a significant improvement in every way. Even in the Descend mode, the Genius pedals well, with very little bob present when you’re meandering along. It feels lightweight and easy to get up to speed, which isn’t the norm for a bike with this kind of travel.
Along with its low overall mass and fast-rolling tyres, the Genius climbs remarkably well, but it climbs even better in Traction Control mode. As well as limiting travel and providing a firmer platform underfoot, the most noticeable benefit of Traction Control is the effect it has on the bike’s dynamic geometry. By lifting up the BB by 5mm and steepening the head angle by 0.4°, I found I could pedal through rough, washed-out climbs with less fear of catching a pedal, helping the Genius to clear trickier, more technical ascents. To that effect I’d say that the TwinLoc system is no longer a compensator for a bad pedalling bike, but rather a superb climbing aid that has unlocked the Genius’ true all mountain potential.
One thing I’m already not a fan of with the Traction Control mode though is the added compression damping on the fork, which makes it feel overly firm and unresponsive to small bumps. On steep and rocky climbs where you’re trying to put as much weight on the front wheel as possible, the firmer fork has a tendency to deflect rather than absorb. My plan is to unhook the fork from the TwinLoc lever, so that only the rear shock will be controlled remotely.
The Genius has a similarly light feel on the descents, and it’s able to make short work of tight and twisty trails thanks to its nimble steering and responsive chassis. Last minute corrections and directional changes are no problem thanks to the minimal amount of mass you have to push around. And though the suspension remains active, there’s still a decent amount of support through the pedals, giving it sufficient pop when you need to skip over a pile of rocks rather than plough right through them.
The light steering can occasionally lead to oversteer on particularly steep descents, and at really high speeds, the Genius doesn’t feel quite as planted as heavier bikes I’ve ridden within the same travel bracket. In all honesty I’m not entirely sure how much of this is due to the frame geometry, the floaty tyres, or the bike’s low weight. I’d be interested to try out the bike with a shorter fork offset to see what effect that would have – if any at all – although I reckon chunkier, more robust tyres would also make a big difference to the Genius’ straight-line descending tenacity.
As it stands, the voluminous tyres create a huge contact patch with the trail, adding to the bike’s impressive rollover capabilities. I measured the tyres at 2.53in wide, which is pretty close to the claimed width, though it’s also the height that leads to their balloon-like profile. Set up with nice low pressures of 16psi on the front and 18psi on the rear, the Nobby Nics work well with the supple suspension. So far I haven’t managed to cut them open, which surprises me knowing how thin the casing is and how fast this bike wants to go. For a recent trip up and down Helvellyn in the Lake District, I bumped up the tyre pressure to 19/21psi and paid attention to my line choice, which seemed to do the trick. Needless to say though, the Genius is crying out for a more capable tyre on the front at the very least.
While I’m making cliché journo complaints, I’ll be extra predictable and state that the dropper is too short at 125mm (Large and XL frame sizes come with a 150mm dropper), and the bars are too narrow at 760mm. Nope, bigger isn’t always better, and if you’re an EWS-level racer, then a 760mm bar width is probably spot-on for your skill levels and tree-dodging requirements. But the Genius is a big travel bike with big wheels, and for a punter like me, the extra width with a 780mm or 800mm bar would offer welcome leverage for helping to lean the big Genius down through the corners. Syncros has clearly been listening already, because for 2019 the Hixon bar has already grown to 780mm, and there’ll also be an 800mm option with more rise too.
For my first couple of months with the Genius 900 Tuned, I’ve already been thoroughly impressed with the quality of its balanced suspension package and the sprightliness of its lightweight carbon frame. For someone who normally detests remotes, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with just how useful the TwinLoc system really is. As a long travel 29er that’s thirsty for descending very fast and rough trails, the Genius is a remarkably efficient climber.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be playing around with 27.5in wheels and some alterations to the Genius’ cockpit, in order to see how it handles the various changes. I think there’s more performance to be squeezed out of this capable chassis, so I’ll report back with the final review in the not-too-distant future.
2018 Scott Genius 900 Tuned Specifications
- Frame // HMX Carbon Fibre, 150mm Travel
- Fork // Fox 36 Float Factory FIT4, 150mm Travel w/3-Position TwinLoc Remote
- Shock // Fox NUDE EVOL w/3-Position TwinLoc Remote, 185x55mm
- Hubs // DT Swiss M1825 Spline CL, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // DT Swiss M1825 Spline CL, 28h, 30mm Internal Rim Width
- Tyres // Schwalbe Nobby Nic EVO Snake Skin Addix Speedgrip 2.6in Front & Rear
- Chainset // Sram X01 Carbon Eagle GXP w/32t X-Sync 2 Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifter // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed, XG1295, 10-50t
- Brakes // SRAM Guide RSC, 180mm Front & Rear Centrelock Rotors
- Stem // Syncros Hixon iC SL Carbon Integrated, 50mm Long
- Bar // Syncros Hixon iC SL Carbon Integrated, 12mm Rise, 760mm Wide
- Grips // Syncros Pro Lock-On
- Seatpost // Fox Transfer, Kashima Coat, 31.6mm, 125mm Travel
- Saddle // Syncros XM1.5, Carbon Fibre Rails
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large & X-Large
- Confirmed Weight // 12.37 kg (27.21 lbs)
- RRP // £6,999 GBP
|Product:||Genius 900 Tuned|
|From:||Scott Sports, scott-sports.com|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 months|