I’ve been riding on the road for the month or so in an attempt to get back some fitness and strength but today I was riding with my other brother on The Chart near Oxted. It was all tight and twisty single track, some country lanes and fairy tale houses. He told me that there would only be two challenges, a couple of “on the limit” granny and muddy climbs. However, the early pace and tight turns proved to be my first challenge.
We were steaming along and the trails nearest home which were the ones that he knew the best. I was struggling to get through the twists and turns and my natural instinct was to follow his line. The problem was that he had a 26” and my 29er wasn’t turning as tight. I had another problem. Whilst the trails are generally all weather, and these were mostly dry, there were wet patches and the soft mulchy dirt was really slippery. I was suffering and losing confidence. I had to remind myself that I was riding what was likely to be the best handling bike that I had ever ridden in my life. We all know how 29ers will out perform a 26” bike, we know the remarkable reputation of the Scott Scale 29er and so to have a full suspension version I should have been flying. I’m usually pretty comfortable in single track. It just goes to prove the maxim: use it or lose it!
The Scott Spark 29er Expert is the lowest priced carbon Spark 29er. The spec is pretty much the same as the hard tail Scale 29er Expert. The fork is a Rock Shox Reba SL 100mm and the rear shock a DT M210 again giving 100mm travel and both are simultaneously locked out with a single handle bar mounted lock out lever. The transmission it a mixture of SLX and XT 3 x 10 (nice to see an XT chainset). Brakes are Avid Elixir 5s and the wheels DT Swiss XR39. Weight is around 26lbs. The head angle and BB height can be adjusted by changing the shock pivot position, a 2 minute job. I was using it in the low/69.5˚ option, relaxed for a 29er.
As the ride went on I started to feel more comfortable. The bike seemed to be getting smoother and faster through the turns but that was more down to me getting my confidence back. I was soon ripping through the trails and getting that good old 29er “invincible” feeling. The two challenges passed easily enough thanks to the incredible grip from the suspended 29er set up. In the soft mud I’d never have made it with a 26” and, yes, I needed the granny and 36 tooth. As the trails were often linked with short road sections I found the lockout lever a real bonus.
With my single track head back in tune with the trails the Spark 29er was now way out performing Paul’s 26” hard tail and I was able to cut the corners tighter than him with the extra grip. The suspension meant the bike cornered as if on rails, even in the slippery stuff – so much for my early apprehension about being in single track again. I was now taking the lead despite not knowing the way.
Our Spark 29er demo is a large. I put an 80mm stem on and the bike is a perfect fit. So, as I am 1.78m / 5’10” I would suggest that these bikes come up small to size. They probably need a double XL for next year.
Because the trails that I was riding lacked any big or gnarly downhill sections I have to ask whether the extra comfort is worth the extra £700 over the Scale 29er Expert at £2,199. Of course, if I was riding a Welsh trail centre I would expect the Scott Spark 29er to be the equal of any 140mm trail full suspension 26” wheel bike. A great bike, could be raced but really this is an out and out fun, fast, trail bike. Nice one Scott!
Here are some extra notes on the bike.
You will know my passion for the Whyte 29ers, what makes them different to the Scott is the front centre (BB to front axle) on the Whyte 829/29C it is 700mm, the Scott Scale is 685mm. The Scott Spark 29er in Low mode is 700mm too. That it why I felt so invincible. It is a personal preference.
For more detail on the bike click here