The Plus wheel size is still finding it’s feet, but we still believe it is becoming a permanent category because of the advantages it offers. We got to test the Genius 720 Plus in mid 2016 on very familiar trails in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which offered important insight.
By the TREAD testers
Photos: Dino Lloyd
Genius has been SCOTT’s mid-travel trail bike model from some time, evolving as the technology has. The Plus model uses the front triangle of the Genius 29er, mated to a rear triangle that’s obviously been designed to specifically accommodate the Plus wheels, which have wider rims, wider axles and more voluminous tyres. The main reason being better traction, which leads to greater control, which leads to bigger smiles. The 6061 custom butted hydroformed tubing boasts exceptional welding. So much so that you have to look closely to see that it’s not a carbon frame… There’s 130mm of rear end travel courtesy of a Fox Float Performance shock, full internal cable routing and IDS SL dropouts, which accommodate three axle standards – 142x12mm, 135x12mm and 135x5mm.
The fork is a Fox 34 Float Performance model with 140mm of travel. The suspension is adjusted simultaneously by SCOTT’s proprietary TwinLoc system, which has three settings – Full-travel, Traction and Locked. It also has the geometry-adjust chip, which allows you to lower the bottom-bracket by 7mm, simultaneously adjusting the headtube angle from 68 degrees to 67.5 degrees.
The wheelset comprises Syncros X40 Plus rims, which have an inside width of 40mm and Syncros CL hubs, made in association with Formula and with Boost 148mm on the rear and 110mm on the front. The tyres that came on our test rig were Schwalbe’s 2.8-inch Rocket Ron (rear) and Nobby Nic (front), which we later swapped with the Maxxis Chronicle 3.0 width front and rear.
There’s Shimano throughout on the components – SLX Trail with 180mm rotor brakes, Deore 2×10 shifters, front derailleur and crankset and XT Shadow rear derailleur. The cockpit comprises an X-Fusion dropper seatpost, Syncros straight alloy handlebars (740mm), Syncros Alloy Stem and a Syncros XM Saddle.
This model is an all-matte finish in light gray, black and orange, a colour combination that grew on us.
As we’ve discovered before, it takes a little getting used the different feel of Plus wheels. They can comfortably roll over rough or rugged surfaces, but it takes a while to stop being so careful with your link choice and just charging along with an aggression you’re unaccustomed to. With the Genius 720 Plus this was no different. We actually used the long-term test to try out two different tyres – the 2.8-inch Rocket Ron (rear), Nobby Nic (front) Schwalbes it came with; and the 3.0-inch Maxxis Chronicles we were testing. By the end, we decided unanimously that it rides best with a 2.8 on the rear and a 3.0 on the front.
Trying to describe the impressive cornering traction is difficult. It’s something you really have to experience to understand. And only when you understand, do you fully appreciate the value of Plus. Most of what we’ve written so far here is true of all the Plus bikes we’ve ridden. We feel the increased traction is great for both fast riders (to go faster) and nervous riders (to be more confident). Yes, there’s a small rolling resistance penalty to be paid, but because the Plus contact patch is wider, not longer than a regular wheel/tyre combo, it’s only around 1%, according to Schwalbe’s extensive research.
Where there is a more noticeable penalty is weight. That much more rubber isn’t feathery. At 13.8kg it’s not chunky though, more like burley. So it doesn’t climb with speed, but it’s undeniably stable and you’re able to tackle more rugged surface climbs with way more confidence than you’d expect. The 2×10 drivetrain gives you ample climbing gears and the suspension works superbly to ensure consistent surface contact. Think of how a python slithers more effortlessly over rough surfaces than say, a mamba, which needs to be more aware of its direction choice.
We’ve already mentioned the cornering benefits on Plus wheels. The Genius 720 is highly equipped to tackle any corner you want. Wide bars, short stem, and a super capable suspension fork allowed us to attack turns to the point where we were testing the tyre tread to its limit. Scary until you feel the way the bike tracks firmly through corners and you realise you have traction in truckloads… During a night race in Joburg, we managed to open a significant gap on riders on our tail when entering a twisting, gradually descending forest singletrack on a dry, slightly-soft-in-places surface. They were obviously on regular wheel bikes. We put this down to the bike’s impressive cornering traction.
Descents were a blast. Obviously. You can’t not go fast down any descent on a bike with Plus wheels, the dropper seatpost (which worked without fault), relaxed geometry and a masterful cockpit combination. We collected a few unexpected Strava trophies on descending sections of trail. Highly rewarding. The TwinLoc suspension control worked really well. It’s a definite improvement over its predecessor and a delight when you’re in a state of ‘gnarl’ wanting to adjust it, but not able to let go of the bars with one hand… It does all come at an aesthetic price though, with a somewhat calamitous cablefest on the handlebar.
The larger sidewall does open the Plus wheel size wheels to being more vulnerable to sidewall cuts. We didn’t experience any during the six weeks of regular riding, even on rocky trails, but have heard this is a reason for the low number of Plus wheel size bikes racing on the Enduro World Series.
Interestingly, it’s possible (and encouraged) by manufacturers of Plus model bikes, to also fit a set of regular 29er wheels to the bike (with Boost width hubs of course). This is obviously an additional cost, but along with the geometry-adjust chip could well transform the bike into a more svelte marathon/stage racer. We can’t vouch for this as we’ve only tested Plus bikes with Plus wheels so far…
We’ll just start by saying that almost everyone we know that’s ridden a Plus wheel size bike has raved about it. One or two complained of sliding out in turns, but we’ve decided they just lacked the confidence to really push the limits of the wider wheels and panicked (rookie error; skills clinic required).
The Genius 720 Plus offers a super stable handling bike that gives the rider, no matter what his/her level, a higher level of confidence and control. From the adjustable geometry, to the dropper seatpost, to the Twin-Loc suspension control, to the multi-axle/wheel-size compatibility to the 2×10 drivetrain, there’s so much bike for this price. If we were told we could only have one bike for under R50K, the Genius 720 Plus would be at the top of our list. It’s that versatile.
SIZES: S, M (tested), L, XL
TOPTUBE LENGTH: 600mm
SEATTUBE LENGTH: 440mm
HEADTUBE ANGLE: 67.5’ degrees (low); 68.0 degrees (high)
SEATTUBE ANGLE: 73.9 degrees (low); 74.4 degrees (high)
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 445mm
WHEELBASE: 1165mm (low); 1164mm (high)
PRICE: R49 500
COLOURS: Matt Grey/Black with Neon orange detail
FRAME: 6061 hydroformed and butted alloy
WEIGHT: Approx 13.8kg without pedals
FORK: Fox 34 Float Performance Series, 140mm travel, Boost hub, Scott Remote TwinLoc
SHOCK: Fox Float Performance, 130mm travel, 3-Position Dual Piston System, Scott Remote TwinLoc
SHIFTERS: Shimano Deore 2×10
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano Deore 2×10
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano XT Shadow Plus
CRANKSET: Shimano Deore 36/23T, Boost
BRAKESET: Shimano SLX Trail, with 180mm rotors
WHEELS: Rims – Syncros 27.5″, 40mm wide / 32H, Spokes – DT Swiss Champion, Hubs – Syncros/Formula, 32h, Boost
TYRES: Schwalbe – Front: Nobby Nic EVO / 3.0×27.5, Rear: Rocket Ron EVO / 3.0×27.5, Tubeless Ready. Added, Maxxis Chronicle 3.0, Tubeless
OTHERS: X-Fusion Dropper Seatpost, Syncros Straight Alloy Handlebars (740mm), Syncros Alloy Stem, Syncros XM Saddle
Note: There are some component updates and modifications to the 2017 model which are listed in the link below.
CONTACT: www.scott-sports.com-Scott Genius 710 Plus; 011 201 4000
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 40, 2016 and can be found on Zinio – All rights reserved