Innovative Is Just The Beginning
Great Googly Moogly
Go ahead and gawk, everyone else is. Taking the Scott Genius 10 to the trailhead is akin to showing up to the prom with Jessica Alba or rolling up to the local cruise night in a Ferrari. Other riders stalk and they stare. Some go as far as to approach with skepticism, fear and wonder. Others still dare run a finger along the carbon fiber top tube or push down on the saddle to see if the shock really extends rather than compresses (it does). We might have gotten annoyed had we actually dropped eight large on this black and white beauty but as seeing how we were forced to borrow a demo model from a very generous local shop, we found ourselves joining in on the drool-fest.
We better come right out with the specs before even attempting this bike test as there is a lot of, what’s the word- uniqueness to talk about later on. The Genius 10 comes equipped with a Fox TALAS 32 RL fork (15mm quick release) and Scott’s own Equalizer2 TC shock in the rear. The entire drivetrain (shifters, cranks, both derailleurs, chainrings and cassette) is Shimano XTR as are the brakes. Getting the pedal-power to the ground are Schawalbe Nobby NIC tires wrapped around DT Swiss XR rims. The remaining bits come in the form of Ritchey Carbon (stem, bars and seatpost). Finally, Scott spec’ed the Fizik Tundra saddle.
All told our medium (17.5 inch) test bike came in a shred under 26 pounds.
The Walk Around
We started this review by saying that Scott Genius 10 gains some serious trailside attention and this really is expected considering many of the bike’s unique characteristics. The carbon fiber frame is extremely trick in person and that Scott Branded shock definitely sports a look all its own. To put it simply, the Genius looks expensive and (when you stop to consider that there is a $13,000 version of this bike available)- it is! The sticker hanging off this particular bike’s handlebar read $7395 and that was including a discount since it was used as a demo model! Ouch.
Climbing on board instills a very cross-country race bike persona. The reach to the bars is a bit longer than comfortable and the relationship between the razor thin saddle and the pedals allows for full, extended crank rotations. Even though the bike targets the very hot (at the moment) 6-inch travel all mountain market, there is a rigidity and stoutness about it that screams XC.
Setting the bike up is an exercise in oddity (even for our own in-house mechanic who thought he had seen it all). The Equalizer shock requires a special pump provided by Scott (don’t leave the dealer without it). We quickly discovered that what makes it so special is that it’s equipped to deliver the type of air pressure commonly required to inflate a blimp. We settled on 300 PSI in the positive air chamber and understand that we were running it a little on the low side!
The shock also has a unique system Scott calls OTS (or Oil Transfer System) that allows the rider, via a bar-mounted trigger, to choose from three variations- full six inches of travel, three and a half inches of travel or fully locked out.
Finally and certainly adding to uniqueness theme, that’s no simple single-pivot linkage back there either. Well technically it is, but what makes this system unique is that leverage being fed in from the back wheel actually causes the Equalizer2’s shock shaft to expand like the pneumatic cylinder when you swing open your screen door rather than to compress like a normal shock. Are there any benefits to this configuration? Even after two weeks of testing, we can’t say that we discovered any. In fact because the design requires such outrageous air pressures to function, expect a lot of trial and error before getting the shock dialed in correctly.
Now that we’ve overloaded you with technical details to ponder, you’ve got to be wondering just what it feels like to clip in and blast of on the Scott Genius 10. We know that after a few days of tinkering to get the suspension setup, we were certainly getting anxious. Unfortunately, thanks in no small part to all of the anticipation; the word to summarize the experience would have to be anticlimactic.
The Genius feels a lot like a cross-country race bike. The flat bar and stretched out rider position hint toward this even at a standstill but powering away really seals the deal with spurt-like acceleration and a rigid-feeling chassis. It’s pretty easy to loft the front end with a pedal mash so our testers quickly discovered that to get the Genius flowing the rider needs to stay seated and work an even cadence. This is a bike that requires a lot of shifting to find its rhythm. Fortunately the XTR group was more than up to the task appointed it.
The chassis comes into pretty confident balance when clipping along at a good pace on the flats but we were never fully comfortable with slamming it hard into a corner or powering through a tight switchback. While we’re normally quite enamored with the Fox 32 TALAS’ performance, the Genius chassis tends to overwork the fork. As such cornering is often vague rather than planted and the sensation that front wheel just may wash out was always present.
Fortunately, that same lackluster steering works surprisingly well on the climbs. The front-end nervousness immediately disappears and in fact allows the rider a better ability to stick his lines once the ground starts pointing skyward. Again, we hate to keep coming back to the cross-country comparisons but this area further confirmed our initial instincts that the bike enjoys spurting up-hills rather than zinging down them.
The Genius flows well along tight singletrack but can become an instantaneous handful if the trail turns rough, choppy, or rocky. We’re not sure if the high shock air volume is to blame or if it’s the chassis itself, but the bike exhibits some instability when the conditions turn ugly. The rear tire tends to buck off line if you don’t make a conscious effort to get your weight way off the back. Doing so gets the rear to stay planted but allows for enough chassis flex to get out of shape up front. It’s a shame really as the six inches of travel occasionally show signs of brilliance but never seem to collaborate when called upon.
Braking from the XTRs is, as always, quite impressive and dependable with minimal burn-in required.
We really don’t like to come down hard on products- especially those that have clearly been the result of countless hours of hard work and pride. However, the best way to judge the Genius 10 is to look upon it as a work in progress. With a few years of refinement, Scott can very easily have a world-class All Mountain entry based on this starting point.
Were it ours to keep there are a few simple swaps that could certainly help it achieve its intended purpose. We would drop kick the flat bar in favor of a nice riser and without a doubt, slap a WTB Rocket V where once sat the Fizik Tundra. The Scott Genius’ greatest strength has got to be its weight. The bike is light- not just on paper but it feels even lighter on the trails than its numbers reveal. It’s a real attention getter because of its high-class looks and quite inviting as the choice for all day epics thanks to its wispy persona. With a few tweaks it could easily be a class leader.
We began this review by comparing the Scott Genius 10 to a Ferrari and we’ll end it with that analogy as well. The Genius is a high-class, expensive, exotic of a mountain bike that demands a rider who is willing to treat it with the respect it deserves. Riders who beat their equipment down then put it away wet need not apply. Everyone else should prepare to gawk.
This review brought to you by Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine: http://www.mountainbiketales.com