The 2018 model year SCOTT launch, South African edition, was held in Durbanville, near Cape Town from 1-3 September. During those three days, SCOTT Sports Africa engaged with media and retailers in boardrooms, on bicycles and over beers about the Swiss brand’s plans and product line-up for the coming year.
By Sean Badenhorst
Why Durbanville you may ask, why not Karkloof or Jonkershoek or the Garden Route Trail Park, all iconic South African mountain bike trails venues. Well, in my opinion Durbanville IS one of the country’s best mountain bike trails venues. Just because the trails network isn’t in a forest or on a mountain; and just because it’s a network that zigzags through vineyards, residential and commercial land, doesn’t mean it’s not highly varied and stimulating.
Majik Forest, Bloemendal, Meerendal, Contermanskloof, Hillcrest and Hoogekraal. These are the trails loved by over 3000 members of the Tygerberg MTB Club and appreciated by anyone else visiting the area that’s committed to mountain biking. So I knew the riding would be good. But what about the bikes and gear?
Well, there wasn’t really any gear to try out, but a number of samples were on display. Joggie Prinsloo, SCOTT Sports Africa Brand Manager, did tell us that there are over 1000 SCOTT items available to South Africans, all of which can be found on SCOTT’s main website (links are further down).
“If one of our items of SCOTT gear (helmets, shoes, clothing and more) grabs your attention, you can have it within two weeks. It’s impossible for us to know what styles, sizes and colours are going to be popular, so we have gone this route to ensure South Africans get access to our whole range, the only thing being a short wait once it’s ordered,” explained Prinsloo.
We’ve only ever seen a tiny part of the SCOTT gear range in South Africa. The brand is a prolific designer and producer of premium quality helmets, socks, shoes, shorts, jerseys, gloves, eyewear, jackets, rainwear, protective gear, backpacks and luggage for men, women and children across performance, trail and casual wear categories. The SCOTT 2018 Summer Apparel & Equipment catalogue is 352 pages thick – more pages than a 1980s Port Elizabeth phone directory! I may have drooled on some of the pages. The good news is that all of the range is online – and purchasable. So take a bit of time and have a look at the following links:
EQUIPMENT – helmets, eyewear, protective wear, shoes, backpacks and bags.
APPAREL MEN – Jackets, vests, shirts, jerseys, shorts, bib-shorts, pants, gloves, socks and casual wear.
APPAREL WOMEN – Jackets, vests, shirts, jerseys, shorts, bib-shorts, pants, gloves, socks and casual wear.
APPAREL JUNIOR – Shirts, jerseys, shorts, gloves.
In terms of bikes, well, the very successful Spark category that was launched last year has received some fine-tuning, such as a refined carbon layup and neater cable routing. The high performance 100mm-travel RC range now also has no front derailleur mount on the carbon models as they’re all built for single chainring drivetrains. We rode the RC 900 Comp and loved the sheer responsiveness of this lightweight full-carbon thoroughbred race machine.
We also rode the more comfort-orientated aluminium Spark 930, with 120mm of front and rear travel, a 2x drivetrain and a dropper seatpost. Both our testers (a fit, fast male and a less-fit, less-fast female) loved the comfort and control combination this bike delivers, with not much weight penalty (it also comes in five carbon models). Yes, Nino is winning everything on a RC version Spark, but most South Africans will find their mountain biking happy place on the regular Spark… This is a very under-rated, over-looked model. Test ride one when you get a chance to feel what we mean.
The E-bike category has also been refined, where the battery is better integrated to the downtube, making it look less like a mountain bike with a battery and more like a mountain bike with a large downtube. Aesthetically, this takes a bit of getting used to but then so did 29-inch wheels initially…
There were some impressive looking super-light road bikes, trendy gravel bikes and a very aero looking time-trial/triathlon bike too. And of course a range of Scale hardtails. But all of these blurred out of focus when the hero model was wheeled out – the new Genius. Actually, for the media it was wheeled out; for the 35 dealers who attended the launch a day later, it was floated out on the swimming pool, spotlit like the main act at a rock concert.
It wasn’t really a big surprise because there had been an international fuss made since June – and at Eurobike a few days before, but it was cool to see SCOTT’s new All-mountain bike and get to ride it. All-mountain bike? Surely that should be Trail bike? Well, no. Most definitely not by South African standards. You see the 120mm-travel Spark is more a Trail bike, while the 150mm travel Genius is more All-mountain/Enduro. Holy cow! It’s amazing how segmented mountain bikes have become.
Like any rock star, the Genius doesn’t appeal to everyone. Especially in South Africa where the proliferation of tame trails and stage races has given rise to a burgeoning sub-culture of 100mm-travel 29ers that dance to the more easy-going marathon/XC beat. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), the Genius will not be a big-selling model on the southern tip of Africa. At least not in the current scene.
We got to do a short ride on the Genius 930 and the following day, a solid two-and-a-half-hour ride on many of Durbanville’s finest trails. Not a lot of time to get to know the bike intimately, but certainly long enough for a solid first impression (Overview – SCOTT Genius 2018.) I also had the rare privilege to do a short ride on SCOTT ambassador, Andrew Neethling’s personal Genius 700 Tuned – A (Brief) Stroke of Genius.
From a strategy perspective, SCOTT Sports Africa is committed to continuing the nationwide demo days in conjunction with retailers.
“The SCOTT demo days were very successful for us in 2016/2017. It was the first time we had gone that route and will work on growing the awareness of the demo days for this spring and summer,” said Prinsloo.
“We want South Africans to experience first-hand the innovation and technology which the SCOTT engineers have made use of when designing each product. We’ll also be backing up the industry leading bikes and components with superb after-sales support and can guarantee the consumer all our products for model year 2018 will be priced very aggressively. We sell innovation, technology and design proposition. At SCOTT we believe there are no shortcuts and we look forward to continuing to proudly live that ethos,” added Prinsloo.
A unique SCOTT initiative is the bicycle service book, which anyone purchasing a new SCOTT gets. All SCOTT bikes have a three-year warrantee, but this is extended to five years if the bike is serviced by a registered SCOTT dealer at least once a year with a relevant stamp confirming this in the service book.
SCOTT will also have a highly visible presence once again at the Absa Cape Epic. In addition to being the official technical support partner to the event, SCOTT is also investing heavily in racing teams with the objective of once again winning the Men’s, Women’s and Mixed category titles.
“We had an amazing 2017 Cape Epic and we saw that translate into SCOTT bike sales, especially the Spark models. We intend to grow that influence over the next couple of years at least,” said Prinsloo.
Although it hadn’t yet been finalised, Prinsloo said that SCOTT will also be strongly aligned with the opening round of the 2018 UCI XCO World Cup, which will take place in Stellenbosch the week before the 2018 Cape Epic.
From a pricing perspective, SCOTT intends to maintain its aggressive pricing on certain models, but also ensure the overall range is well placed to give recession-weary consumers some relief.
“We have carefully considered each model we import into South Africa and the pricing of those models to ensure that local cyclists will still be able to purchase SCOTT’s world class innovation, technology and designs at an affordable price. In doing so, and through educating our dealers, we aim to ensure the sustainability of the bicycle stores,” said Johan Nel, SCOTT Sports Africa Managing Director.
Another powerful message was that SCOTT Sports Africa, with the support of its global race ace, Nino Shurter, is getting behind the relatively dormant #iride4burry cycle safety initiative. #iride4burry cycle safety initiative was launched after the death of South African mountain bike icon, Burry Stander in 2013. But it lost much of its impetus, which SCOTT will help reignite with the objective of improving cyclist safety in South Africa.
“Nino always held Burry in high regard as they were arch rivals from a young age and he is keen to ensure the legacy of the great South African remains intact through his support of #iride4burry,” Prinsloo.
We also overheard some hushed tone discussions about some other local initiatives that will be officially announced in due course. Those, along with what was presented at the launch, points to SCOTT investing even more into the South African market, both in the racing scene and the retailer network for the coming year.
To find out more, visit www.scott-sports.com
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