The Specialized Epic, Cannondale Scalpel, and SCOTT Spark – we’ve heard all about their exploits at grueling Cape Epic stage races and medal hauls on tough XC World Cup circuits (oh, and did we mention the Olympics?), but are they solely the preserve of the world’s watt-crushing elite, or do they have a place on the trails too? Yes, if you ask SCOTT, who have just transformed the new Spark into a platform capable of everything from Olympic-standard mountain biking to tricky days at the bike park. We’ve put the SCOTT Spark 700 Plus Tuned on test to find out if it really can push boundaries.
If the reason you ride revolves around your watts per kilo and VO2 max, then some may argue that your training sessions on the motorways of the forest might be lacking in fun. We reckon you’d be very smug with a svelte, high performance XC bike (minus a dropper post, we should add). But if you’re looking for less grind and more grin (i.e. everyone else in the pursuit of an uncompromisingly solid climber and descender), keep reading.
Aggressive XC bikes haven’t had it easy over the past few years. And not only because the race circuits have got harder, but also because of the demands that their prospective jockeys have for them: efficiency and weight are no longer the sole factors to consider when buying an XC bike. Simplicity and the potential for fun are just as crucial to pre-purchasing ponderings. Modern XC bikes are in a sort of blurry middle ground where – however much you try – you’ll struggle to define them purely by travel and weight. The latest iterations are characterized by progressive geometry, stability, and the right (size) tires. But then along comes the SCOTT Spark Plus, which takes all these elements even further.
130 mm front travel, 120 mm at the rear, 2.8″ tires, 11.9 kg, and a slack 66.9° head angle: two years ago you’d have been laughed off the trails if you’d predicted these would apply to a SCOTT Spark – and that we’d be writing about it here. But as levels of acceptance slowly creep up amongst die-hard XCers and enduro riders alike, the new Spark is proof how those once fairly concrete boundaries between bike disciplines and categories are getting hazy around the edges.
So is XC the better enduro?
If your home terrain is more like mellow fields and rolling woodland, then the super-agile, pocket rocket SCOTT Spark 700 Plus Tuned is likely to be a hell of a lot more fun than a burly bruiser. After all, there’s a fair share of stability on loan to this lightweight 11.9 kg weapon – generously donated by the forgiving FOX suspension, excellent 2.8″ MAXXIS Rekon+ tires, and sorted geometry for plummeting downhills. It rides with precision and surefootedness whether you’re climbing, descending, or in the air. The ergonomic TwinLoc lever lets you switch between the available suspension settings and will get any efficiency fanatic frothing at the mouth.
What else is there to say?
The spec reads like a who’s who of the most exclusive and high-performance products out there. The SRAM Eagle drivetrain will see you up the steepest gradients, and SCOTT’s choice of the latest MAXXIS tires should firmly wave goodbye to the brand’s 2015 season of plus-size tire puncturing left, right, and centre. The Rekon+ are stable and robust while still boosting some serious rocket power on the trails. The integrated spacer below the Syncros cockpit and 760 mm bars is a nice touch, and rounds off the bike’s very cohesive style!
Specifications Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned
Fork: FOX 34 Float Factory Air / Kashima 130 mm
Rear shock: FOX NUDE Trunnion 120 mm
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle
Seatpost: FOX Transfer
Stem: Syncros FL1.5
Bars: Syncros FL1.0 Carbon
Wheels: Syncros TR1.5 Plus
Tires: Maxxis Rekon 2.8
Weight: 11.9 kg
Price: 7,800 €
Geometry Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned
The Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned in Detail
For the pretty hefty sum of € 7,800, you’ll rock up to your once-a-year MTB marathon and a handful of bike park ventures without ruffling your feathers (providing you’ve got the skills dialed, of course). Way ahead of the game, the new SCOTT Spark 700 Plus Tuned isn’t just setting benchmarks when it comes to weight and versatility, it’s also the hands-down favourite amongst our editorial team for 2016. And why’s that? It’s a fun bike to throw around, pick up speed, and carve round corners. By winning the Olympics and the World Champs (albeit without plus-size tires and a bit less travel in the RC model), SCOTT have opened our eyes to the versatility that one single platform can deliver. Should bikes or frames be confined to one discipline? XC or enduro? We’ll be happy with the best of both!
+ Lively, balanced handling
+ Incredibly versatile
For more information head to scott-sports.com
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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Noah Haxel, David Vorkauf