After Specialized, the long-time most popular Cape Epic bike brand, SCOTT was the highest climber in terms of brand popularity for the 2014 ABSA Cape Epic. We rode the SCOTT Spark 920, one of the most favoured stage race models, to find out what attracted 15 percent of the field to the Swiss brand.
– Photos: Dino Lloyd
It’s been two years since we last tested a SCOTT Spark 29er. There have been some refinements ahead of the current model range.
The most significant change is the introduction of the Fox Nude CTCD rear shock. After a number of years of working with DT Swiss to design and build the Nude shocks, the switch to Fox was initiated to improve the performance of a system that allows for simultaneous remote front and rear suspension adjustment.
The Fox version, which offers 100mm of travel on the Spark, has been completely custom tuned for SCOTT and each wheel size of each model uses a specially valved version. The Twin-Loc control lever is still there, with improved actuation. It activates the shock’s three modes: Climb (almost locked out), Traction Control (smaller air volume inside the shock, reduced travel), and Descend (extra air volume, full travel). The frame also has SCOTT’s geometry adjustment chip, which can switch the headtube angle up or down by half a degree and lower or raise the bottom bracket by 6mm. Doesn’t sound like much, but the more you push it’s limits, the more evident this difference becomes. There’s a new downtube shape and slimmer shock, which makes for better water bottle clearance. There’s also updated internal cable routing that lets individual derailleur cables be replaced without having to remove and replace both.
The wheelset comprises Syncros rims mated to Shimano SLX hubs, wrapped in Maxxis Crossmark tyres. The fork is a Fox Nude with 100mm of adjustable travel and the groupset is a mix of Shimano XT (rear derailleur and triple crankset) and SLX (shifters, front derailleur and hydraulic disc brakes). The cockpit is, not surprisingly, all aluminium Syncros, which SCOTT owns. Colour-wise, it’s largely charcoal with citrus green and white accents – everywhere, including grips, cables, fork, rims, saddle and seatpost. Very well presented!
At first look, the Spark 920 didn’t exactly fill any of our testers with anticipation. There’s nothing really outstanding or unusual on this bike. And therein is probably the formula that makes the bike somewhat of a gem. All the parts are proven in terms of reliability and, as a combination, just work. Shifting was superb, braking was precise (this is SLX level remember!) and there was a high level of responsiveness when you put power down on the pedals. Our stronger testers never found a need to use the granny ring, but one of our newcomer testers said he was grateful for it…
At a touch over 12kg, the Spark 920 is reasonably light. We decided the wheels were little on the heavy side for a R40 000 bike, but they did prove to be strong, as many of our rides involved negotiating rocky terrain but without even a slight wiggle. Descending was predictable but hitting tight turns on fast descents wasn’t as sure as we’d have liked. A handlebar with less backsweep and a wider front tyre with a more aggressive side-knob tread would probably change that.
We felt notably comfortable on the Spark 920 on long rides. Perhaps the fact that you tend to flip between shock settings because it’s so convenient ensures the appropriate comfort when you need it.
With a carbon fibre front triangle and an aluminium swingarm, the Spark 920 offers a combination of light weight and strength with a reliable parts spec. The Fox Nude suspension is certainly next-level and a superb feature on a R40 000 bike. As it comes, the Spark 920 is ready for marathon or stage race action with all the required elements of comfort and control firmly in place.
SIZES: S, M (tested), L, XL
TOPTUBE LENGTH: High BB 598mm; Low BB 600mm
SEATTUBE LENGTH: High BB 350mm; Low BB 350mm
HEADTUBE ANGLE: High BB 70.1 degrees; Low BB 69.5 degrees
SEAT TUBE ANGLE: High BB 73.1 degrees; Low BB 72.5 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: High BB 448mm; Low BB 448mm
WHEELBASE: High BB 1112mm; Low BB 1112mm
PRICE: R40 999
COLOURS: Charcoal with citrus green/white accents
FRAME: Spark Carbon IMP tech/Alloy swingarm
WEIGHT: 12.10kg with pedals
FORK: Fox 32 Float Evolution with 100mm of travel, Nude CTCD remote adjust and 15mm thru-axle
SHOCK: Fox Nude, CTCD with 100mm of travel and rebound adjust
SHIFTERS: Shimano SLX Rapidfire
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano SLX
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT Shadow Plus
CRANKSET: Shimano XT Hollowtech 2, 40/30/22
BRAKESET: Shimano SLX hydraulic disc with 180mm rotor (front) and 160mm rotor (rear)
WHEELS: Syncros XC rims and Shimano SLX hubs
TYRES: Maxxis Crossmark Lust 2.20 x 29
OTHERS: Syncros Alloy 7050 handlebar, Syncros stem, Syncros seatpost & saddle
CONTACT: www.scott-sports.com; 011 201 4000
TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 29, 2014 – All rights reserved