Scott’s Genius 700 Tuned was weapon of choice for the Breck Epic XC stage race.
Choosing the right bike for Colorado’s Breck Epic cross-country stage race depends a lot on what your goals are. If you’re racing to win — or at least go as fast as your body will allow — opt for a wispy 29er hardtail or lightweight, short-travel 29er full-suspension rig. There’s just so much climbing, much of it on buff singletrack or smooth fireroad, that you can’t beat the efficiency of a full-bore race machine.
In 2012, I rode a 19-pound custom carbon Kirk Lee 29er hardtail. While I wont say it was the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, it certainly made the Everest’s worth of accumulated ascending more bearable. Not an ounce of pedal power was wasted. I even won a stage in my 40-plus old guy category.
The obvious flipside is that you pay a price for all that efficiency when the trails turns downward. The Breck course isn’t overly technical, but there are plenty of rough and rocky downhills (especially stage 5’s long decent off Wheeler Pass pictured below) when riding a hardtail is akin to operating a jack-hammer with locked-out elbows.
This year, I took a completely different tact, saddling up the Scott Genius 700 Tuned (MSRP: $9,500), a 27.5-inch trail bike with 150mm front and rear suspension. Did it climb as well the 29er hardtail? Of course not. A quick exam of corresponding Strava climb times showed a drop off of about 1-3 minutes depending on length and gradient. The longer and/or steeper the climb was, the slower I was.
The Breck Epic combines miles of long ups, with some amazing high alpine downs. That’s Copper Mountain in the distance. The trail heads all the way to the base. Photo Courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark
Part of this was due to the inevitable degradation of fitness that comes with older age (and a little less training). Part of this was due to a ~4-pound increase in bike weight (claimed weight for the size Large Genius is around 24.5 pounds). And part was due to my inability to consistently spin the bike’s 11-speed SRAM XX1 30t-chainring equipped drivetrain on really steep climbs. Last year, I ran a 2×10.
(The Genius 700 Tuned actually comes spec’d with a 32t, which I replaced with the smaller ring after struggling through the first stage of the race. If I had to do it again I might even go down to a 28t since there’s so little flat terrain in this race, and I do better when I can spin.)
That lack of flat terrain means there’s a ton of downhill. And that is where this playful tweener trail bike was the perfect weapon for negotiating tight switchbacks, and ripping down rocky trail or rough fireroad. The six inches of progressive squish is a great way to experience the truly Rocky Mountains around Breckenridge, especially with Scott’s three-position Twinloc handlebar-mounted lever, which allows you to toggle between Climb, Trail and Descend mode for both the Fox 32 Float Factory CTD fork and Fox NUDE CTCD boost valve shock that is custom made for Scott.
Climb mode all but locks out the travel, Trail (or Traction Control for the shock) reduces suspension to 100mm, and Descend offers the full 150mm. This new Fox shock is a big improvement over last year’s DT Swiss offering, which suffered from stiction problems and was almost universally disliked by testers.
Left: The all new Fox NUDE CTCD shock is a major improvement over last year’s set-up. Right: The Twinloc travel-adjust lever was put into regular use, as were the flawless Shimano XTR brakes.
This new Genius 700 also has a forged rear shock linkage with adjustable geometry via a shock mounted chip. Simply flip the chip to effect bottom bracket height (6mm up or down) and head tube angle (67.9 degrees or 68.4 degrees). Since the Breck Epic course isn’t particularly technical, I left the bike in the more upright setting throughout the race, but it’s a cool feature that’s unique to Scott.
Remaining spec highlights include super stiff Syncros TR1.0 carbon wheels with DT Swiss-manufactured hubs, a Shimano XTR braking system (notable, considering the drivetrain is full SRAM), an E13 XCX chainguide (a nice touch, though kind of overkill on a 1x system), and Syncros carbon bars, stem, seatpost and saddle.
If you’re wondering why no dropper post, the Scott PR folks says the Genius Tuned 700 was built up to be a race-ready enduro bike, and since seat height is often a set-it-and-forget proposition on the super technical enduro tracks in Europe, they opted for the lighter weight of a fixed position post, which could be adjusted up for the transition stages with a QR. I don’t necessary agree with that logic and personally would rather have the flexibility of a dropper post. But the bike is lighter this way and it has internal dropper post routing ports so you can make the swap after the fact.
Left: No dropper post here, but the saddle was comfortable. Right: There are a whopping 42 teeth on the large cog of SRAM’s XX1 cassette. Shifting was crisp and precise all week.
Our test bike also arrived with a 2.25 Schwalbe Nobby Nic tire on the front, and a 2.25 Racing Ralph in the rear. But the front tire didn’t have EVO protection, so I replaced it with a beefier Maxxis Ardent and suffered no flats. For pedals, as usual, I ran the ever-reliable Shimano XT SPDs, which for my money are the best in the business.
During five hard days of racing (I had to skip the final day due to a prior commitment) the Genius 700 Tuned climbed well enough to keep me respectably ensconced in the middle of my 40-plus race category (no stage wins this year). The revamped suspension was bog-free in the mid-stroke and there was no noticeable pedal feedback.
Sure the extra weight slowed me down a tad, and I missed the rolling momentum of the bigger wheels on shallower climbs. But the reason to test this bike in these conditions was not to prove that one bike can do everything great. Instead it was to test proof of concept. And indeed, if you can only afford one bike, and want a bike that can do a lot of things fairly well, then this bike fits the bill.
On descents it performed just as advertised, chewing up rough trail and keeping me safely in control even when I was completely cross-eyed from having just summated yet another 12,000-foot summit (Breck Epic has several). Bottom line, the combination of light overall weight, flick’abile 27.5-inch wheel platform, and plush suspension with on-the-fly travel adjust make the Scott Genius 700 Tuned a bike that is truly blurring the lines between play and race. I might have been faster on a different bike, but there’s no way I would have had more fun.
Left: War wounds for the author. Photo Courtesy Breck Epic/Liam Doran Right: Best to also bring some comfortable shoes. Photo Courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark.
The entire Scott Genius line includes six bikes: the 700 Tuned ($9,500), the Premium ($9200), 910/710 ($5,800), 920/720 ($4,750), 930/730 ($4,100), and 940/740 ($3,150). All models are available in 27.5 or 29er except the 700 Tuned, which is 27.5 only. More info at www.scott-sports.com
Take a look at the extended photo gallery below for more shots of our test bike, plus get a look at some of the other new mountain bikes in Scott’s 2014 line-up, and see more amazing shots from the 2013 Breck Epic. More info at breckepic.com