Bike Test: The Scott Scale RC

Scott takes cross-country racing seriously. They offer ten models of their Scale hardtail and nine models of their Spark dual-suspension cross-country race bikes. That’s 19 models specifically designed for cross-country racers. Many bike companies don’t offer that many choices in their entire lineup.

Cross-country racers. Period. That’s it. There is no gray area with this bike. Ride it for anything other than cross-country racing and you are using the wrong tool to get the job done.

The Scale RC frame is made from carbon fiber. Scott has a number of proprietary material blends and manufacturing techniques that are claimed to allow the company to hit their weight goals while still offering a ride that is compliant and laterally rigid. This includes CR1 Technology, the SDS Shock Damping System and HMX-NET carbon fiber.

The most unique feature of the frame is its integrated seat tube. This tube does not accept a seatpost. Instead, the seat tube is cut to fit the rider, and a saddle clamp supplied by Ritchey clamps to the outer diameter of the seat tube. 

The white Rocket Ron tires catch your attention, but it is the XX components.

Ergonomics: The Scott Scale RC centers its rider so that subtle shifts in riding position are all it takes to get your weight exactly where it will most benefit the bike’s performance for climbing, descending or powering along the course. All cables are fully housed and routed perfectly along the frame to stay clear of all rider contact.

Pedaling: An experienced professional racer or a brand-new rider will come to the exact same conclusion after dropping the hammer on the Scale RC: “This thing is a rocket!” This bike doesn’t just accelerate, it blasts off. The XX drivetrain seems to have been designed and engineered just for this bike, because everything works so well together. There always seems to be just the right gear, and all your energy goes into forward momentum.

Cornering: The Scale RC has textbook cross-country race steering. It is quick to the point of being nervous. The meaty Rocket Ron tires help calm down this nervousness, but the rider still needs to keep a light touch on the handlebar. The upside of this quick steering is the way the bike can be whipped around trail obstacles and slower riders. It also makes the bike a real weapon should your race end in a sprint, where lightning-quick directional changes can be the difference between gold and silver.

Climbing: The short chainstays tuck the rear wheel up under the racer, and that forces the rear wheel to dig in and drive the Scale uphill. The fork has a remote lockout lever for intense climbing efforts out of the saddle (and sprinting). Since the fork showed minimal suspension movement while climbing, we seldom used the lockout feature. Finally, a 20-pound bike that has the lateral rigidity of the Scale RC feels more like a 15-pound bike. Just amazing.

Descending: Cross-country racers know the most important opportunities to either close a gap or open up a gap are on the climbs, rolling hills and flat-out hammering sections. When it comes to descending, a hardtail racer is happy to keep losses to a minimum. While the Scale RC doesn’t offer a lot of downhill advantage, the fork withstands harsh hits at speed without bottoming, and the quick steering allows the smart rider to pick the best line and again, limit losses. The large front brake rotor is overkill.

Think of the XX drivetrain as a 12-speed rather than a 20-speed in this application. Racers need to get the bulk of the race done in the 39-tooth chainring where the superior chain line of the XX system shows zero effects of cross chaining, whether choosing the 36-tooth cog or the 11-tooth cog of the cassette. Dropping to the 26-tooth chainring needs to be reserved for steep climbs where it will be paired with the 36-tooth cog or 32-tooth cog cassette. If you don’t have the power-to-weight ratio to pull this off, don’t expect to be winning many races.

The fork’s remote lockout lever has a very sensitive adjustment. One-tenth of a turn on the barrel adjuster is the difference between a functioning and non-functioning lockout. The DT Swiss fork developed play in the bushings after a few rides.

If you are serious enough about cross-country racing to buy a $6600 hardtail, you need to consider an upgrade to a tubular wheelset like the Reynolds MTN T and tubular tires. This upgrade would jack up the price an additional $1500.

Understand that the Scott Scale RC is a total commitment. The frame is cut to fit your body, so forget an easy resale. It has a riding application about the width of looking through a gun sight. Its 26-inch wheels may be close to outdated for hardtail race bikes. It does not coddle its rider. It expects you to be as serious as it is. And at $6600, there are still ways to upgrade it.

The Scott Scale RC is not the right choice for the majority of mountain bike riders. But if you are a racer looking for a bike that doesn’t leave you with any doubt about reaching the zenith of your abilities, this is it. After all, the Scott Scale did notch the world championship last year.

Trek Fuel EX, click here.
Titus FTM Carbon, click here.
Felt Virtue Two, click here.
GT Carbon Fury downhill racer, click here.
MSC Hunter RR, click here.

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