Perhaps the best test of a bike is to see how it performs when pushed past its point of intended use. At this past week’s Scott Bikes global press launch in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, that moment of boundary crossing came near the end of the second day, when myself and few fellow journalists dropped into an expert-rated bike park trail that’s a mix of high-banked flow, lippy tabletops, and occasional rooty-rocky chunder.
Underneath me was the revamped 2017 Scott Spark 900 Premium, a 2x Shimano XTR-equipped 120mm 29er with Fox Transfer dropper post that’s designed to bridge the gap between racing and railing. I won’t pretend it was the perfect bike for the occasion. I’m sure I could have gone faster on a slacked out all-mountain rig with 30mm more travel. But in this moment of challenging circumstance, the new Spark handled the situation with composed confidence, maintaining traction and control in the rough stuff, soaking up several short landings without complaint, and whipping in and out of turns with tight precision.
Check back to Mtbr in the coming days for full details on the new Scott Scale, plus beta on three new helmets, and new lightweight components.
The big difference is that since the chairlift wasn’t running that day, we had to conquer a near 1000-foot fire road climb to get to the entrance of the trail. And here the Spark was right at home, too. Thanks to a ~26-pound complete bike weight and new suspension layout that’s more sensitive at the top of the stroke but more supportive past the sag point, the Spark zipped uphill with the ruthless efficiency you’d expect from a bike that’s been Scott’s dedicated full suspension XC racer since 2007.
The new Spark’s change in suspension linkage set-up if the big news this year. Following a 24-month development process, Scott ditched the top-tube mounted shock design on the previous Spark for one that’s mounted vertically, pivoting on what’s called a trunnion mount near the bottom bracket. Gone is the slender swing link, replaced with a seat tube-mounted rocker that on the higher end bikes is made of carbon fiber.
The driver behind the wholesale change was to better separate the frame’s stiffness zone (lower half) from the comfort zone (upper half). Now instead of beefing up the top tube area to accommodate the shock linkage, the extra girth is relocated near the bottom bracket, an area that already requires stiffness to maximize power output. At the same time the kinked top tube has a sleeker, and purportedly more compliant shape. It all adds up to a more efficient structure. Or at least that’s the idea.
“Feedback on the old Spark was that it had a lack of support at the top of the travel,” conceded Joe Higgins, Scott’s chief of mountain bike engineering. “We tried to fix that within the confines of the old set-up but it just didn’t work.”
Instead with the new single-pivot rocker link design, Higgins says Scott was able to increase the leverage ratio early in the stroke, making it easier to compress the shock, which in turn means more small bump sensitivity. But thanks to a more consistent overall leverage ratio, the bike has more support from the sag point onwards, so you get good mid-stoke support and better bottom out resistance.