MBA Bike Review: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup
The Scott Spark is a proven race machine many times over. From Olympic medals to World Cup wins, this bike can hang its hat on the successes it has had so far. The Spark has long been known as Scott’s dedicated full-suspension cross-country race machine designed to do nothing more than win races. The combination of an ultra lightweight frame and a TwinLoc remote system gives this bike everything it needs to speed away from the competition. This month we put Scott’s XC speedster to the test on our local cross-country loops. Here’s how the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup fared under our gram-counting, Lycra-wearing wrecking crew.
Scott spared no expense when building this World Cup-ready race bike. Instead of using traditional HMF (high-modulus carbon fiber) to construct its frame, Scott reached deep into its engineering background and developed HMX carbon, a material reserved only for top-notch race machines. HMX is said to be 20-percent stiffer than HMF with the same weight; however, it costs nearly three times as much to manufacture. The end result in our test bike was a fully suspended cross-country ripper with a weight of just 23 pounds. While this space-grade material may draw a high price, what Scott has managed to accomplish with it is impressive.
Additionally, our test bike featured a full-carbon swingarm and a carbon rocker link. A trunnion shock mount was added just above the bottom bracket area, increasing stiffness, and the upside-down shock design allows for better integration of the TwinLoc remote lockout system. A micro-chainguide was added to ensure racers won’t lose their chain when it matters most. Last but not least, Scott integrated a T25 torque tool into the lever on the rear thru-axle. While the Spark means business on the racecourse, Scott made sure its riders would also be prepared no matter what issues they faced.
The first component likely to catch your eye is the color-matched RockShox SID RL3 fork, which not only gives the bike a pro look but features a custom-tuned damper and a three-way remote lockout. The remote system, know as TwinLoc, adjusts the fork and shock among three modes. Propelling this bike is a SRAM XX1, 12-speed drivetrain offering a wide 10-50-tooth cassette and a manageable 32-tooth chainring. SRAM Level TLM brakes were then used to balance weight and braking performance. The Spark features a unique Syncros Fraser iC SL Carbon cockpit that integrates the handlebar and stem into one stiff and lightweight component. This bike rolls on DT Swiss X1675 Spline CL wheels and features a carbon rigid seat-post. An overview of the Spark’s component spec proves it’s a race-worthy XC bike right out of the box.
Twin Loc is more than just a lock-out on command. In fact, the system gives the bike three distinctive feels. The open mode offers plush suspension designed to give riders comfort and control when tackling descents. The middle setting limits rear-wheel travel down to 70mm from its 100mm in the open setting. The middle mode is called traction control, which couldn’t be a better name for that setting, because that’s truly what this mode is for. It excels when the climbs are steep, and standing out of the saddle to deliver power is absolutely necessary. The last setting is a full-lockout designed for pavement sprints or accelerating out of the start gate in a hurry.
Scott simplified the rear end of the new Spark over the previous model, reducing its part count of 18 pieces down to just two main pieces, along with a brake mount. The more simplistic rear end combined with a light and sturdy carbon rocker link helps explain how Scott managed to cut so much weight out of the Spark.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Climbing: Our test crew opted to treat this bike like a marathon race machine, leaving the house right as the sun came up and continuing to ride until lights were required to get us home. Our rides included monotonous sections of dirt and paved roads leading to epic singletrack sprinkled throughout our ride. We essentially left our house with the idea of hitting every trail in a pedal-able distance from home base.
During the climbs, the Spark truly shined, which, to be honest, didn’t come as that big of a surprise. Thanks to its traction-control mode, the bike delivers power to the ground with ease.
The Spark is one of those bikes that lets you feel every bit of forward momentum with each pedal stroke. With that said, the open mode tended to be too plush for climbing, requiring our riders to press the thumb-actuated remote lever every time the trails pointed up. The third setting was used when a true lockout was needed, such as steep climbs where traction wasn’t an issue. All in all, the Spark offers XC riders and racers an excellent platform for powering up climbs.
To our surprise, the Spark was more lively on the descents than our test crew expected. Sure, the rigid seatpost is somewhat limiting when the trails get especially rowdy, but the Spark pushes on, taming rock gardens and switchbacks with the confidence of a trail bike. The open mode soaks up the trails, offering comfort while remaining near the sweet spot in the travel. Even when hitting roller doubles, the bike lands fairly smooth, always avoiding a harsh bottom-out.
The Spark provided us with a stiff chassis, offering the ability to pick a line and charge straight for it. Everything about the Scott Spark World Cup screams race-ready and tricks you into thinking you’re chasing a gold medal during your casual trail rides.
MODS AND UPGRADES
Considering how light the Spark already is, we would consider adding a dropper post to this bike. No, we’re not talking about some over-the-top, 170mm post—just a short-travel dropper around 100-125mm would give riders that extra bit of clearance they might need over rough terrain. Many World Cup racers have adopted dropper posts for this very reason; however, some diehard riders would rather save weight with a rigid carbon post. It we owned this bike, that would likely be the only upgrade we would make, as this machine is truly dialed.
The Scott Spark World Cup is an off-the-shelf race bike capable of conquering local races or competing at the most elite level. The bike demands a high price tag but rewards riders with the ultimate in performance. Whether racing short-track or marathons, the Spark will excel on most racecourses. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the Spark is a purebred race machine that requires close attention at all times. Sure, it flies down the trails with confidence, but small mistakes can escalate quickly. If you’re in the market for a true race bike capable of putting you at the top of the podium, the Spark just might be your weapon of choice. www.scott-sports.com
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