OLYMPIC PEDIGREE: SCOTT SPARK RC WORLD CUP REVIEW
In your face speed with a hidden shock
SCOTT SPARK RC WORLD CUP
There is no denying the mark the Scott Spark made as a purebred race machine when it first came on the scene in 2008. From numerous Olympic medals to countless World Cup podium battles, it has been a staple of success from the beginning. Now in their fourth iteration, the 2022 Spark RC and Spark 900 lines have continued their cross-country heritage on racetracks, blending modern technology and design to suit all levels of riders. How did Scott improve an already impressive mountain bike?
The Spark RC World Cup AXS we tested offers 120mm of suspension front and rear in keeping with the desire to blend racing dynamics with travel for riding in more technical terrain. Keeping things light was also a design priority. The sleek and alluring integrated shock presented some constraints during development; however, with areas on the carbon frame layup noted to be thinner than the thickness of a credit card, Scott was able to develop the lightest 120mm full-suspension frame (with shock installed) currently on the market.
The frame also features an adjustment, so the head angle can be 0.6 degrees slacker or steeper. This is how the Spark can adjust to run a longer, trail-oriented fork (as seen on the 900) or a fork with slightly less travel (like the RC) for a more aggressive position over the bike. While the cabling is for the TwinLoc 2 system and rear brake line that are integrated through the headset, this adjustment can be done without any cutting. All the rider needs to do is disassemble the bar, rotate the headset cups 180 degrees and reassemble.
All of this technology on the carbon bikes can be found on the alloy Spark 950, 960 and 970. The frames also feature a rear axle tool with a T25 and T30 that can be handy for adjusting all pivot hardware trailside. And last, the all-new Spark has 148mm Boost rear hub spacing, clearance for 29×2.5-inch tires, space for a 36t chainring, clearance for two water bottles within the frame, chainstay protection, and linkage bearings with an extra seal to help with performance/longevity.
The latest Fraser iC integrated handlebar and stem combo from Syncros is eye-catching. All cables flow under the bar and around the sides of the stem before vanishing into the headset. From there, an integrated plastic keeps the cables running clean and prevents kinks or bends. This combo features multiple mount options for computers, lights and cameras to go on top or under the handlebar.
The all-in-one remote system, known as TwinLoc 2, adjusts the fork/shock among three modes at the same time with the top two levers. The bottom (or third) lever acts as the remote for a cable-actuated dropper post. Setting our Spark RC test subject in motion is a SRAM X01 Eagle AXS, electronic, 12-speed drivetrain paired with a wide 10- to 52-tooth cassette and a power-ready 32-tooth chainring on carbon fiber crankarms. Thankfully, our favorite Shimano XTR M9100 brakes are used on this build for the ultimate balance of weight savings and braking performance.
Even though this bike has most of the carbon and lightweight bits a discerning rider would want in a $9000 cross-country bike, Scott does offer a build of the Spark RC that comes in at a whopping $14,000. While the sky can be the limit, the Spark family does include a total of 21 models to choose from, starting at $2899 for the entry-level alloy Spark 970 (claimed weight of the medium size is just under 33 pounds complete). The Spark line also includes female-specific versions with the Contessa RC and 900 models. Scott also has an option with a carbon front triangle and alloy rear swingarm, depending on your budget.
The most noticeable change on the all-new platform of the Spark is Scott’s single-pivot suspension with patented integrated suspension technology. The shift to this technology offers several benefits that improve the suspension characteristics. First, the new construction around the shock is designed to be more rigid to help mitigate lateral movements as the shock moves in/out of its travel. Engineers were also able to drop the shock placement, which should help lower the center of gravity. Additionally, the shock is fully protected from any foreign elements and can be accessed through a hatch on the downtube. We rode in very muddy conditions, and no debris entered the shock area. All compression/rebound dials, shock pressure and maintenance for the TwinLoc 2 cable can be accessed when opening the hatch.
Although the system is essentially hidden away, shock bolts are easily accessible from the outside, with the top mounting bolt of the shock accessible behind a rubber cover on the seat tube. Behind this cover, a rider can also see where the shock’s O-ring indicator sits; however, instead of having to try to see inside this small opening, setting the sag has been made simple via an indicator on the non-drive side’s main pivot. This system is designed to only work with either a Fox Nude or a RockShox Nude shock to produce 120mm of rear-wheel travel. Our test bike came equipped with a 120mm-travel RockShox SID Select fork up front.
One of our testers used this latest Spark to get to the trails and partake in all-day adventures. This bike motivated us to leave the house at the crack of dawn, push from mountaintop to mountaintop, and to ride back home under the stars with our lights on. Our rides included a mixture of scenarios, from dirt and paved roads to demanding singletrack terrain; however, in the right hands, this mountain bike is capable of tackling every trail in your local area.
As its looks imply, the Spark RC is all business. It feels like every bit of power put down into the pedals is utilized for forward momentum. It’s fast and, no surprise, it climbs great. Thanks to its Traction Control mode (mid-setting on the TwinLoc 2), the Spark sticks to steep/technical terrain so that a rider can confidently put the hammer down for a KOM. We tried the Open mode, but it was a little too plush for most climbing situations. At the end of the day, the Spark RC’s geometry offered an ideal position for the average cross-country rider or an aspiring pro racer to power up climbs and beat the clock.
The last iteration of the Spark, with 100mm of travel front/rear, surprised our wrecking crew with how lively it could be on the descents. With 20mm of extra travel, a dropper post, a slacker head tube angle and a longer wheelbase, this new Spark is extra “lively.” In fact, in the right hands, the Spark RC was able to handle terrain where we’d typically prefer to ride a longer-travel trail bike. Although surprisingly capable for a 25-pound racing bike, there is a limit to what it can handle, but the Spark RC is predictable with just the right amount of travel on a stiff chassis. Everything about this new platform shouts, “How many podiums can I get?” But, it also performs on casual trail rides where you might be thinking, “I love that this singletrack ends near the new burrito spot.”
MODS AND UPGRADES
Since the 900 and RC models of this Spark share the same frame, one mod could be adding an extra 10mm with a 130mm-travel fork. Keep in mind that with this mod you might want to get the larger shock as well. If we owned this bike, we’d likely opt to run a larger rotor in the front for more stopping power. Tire choice is very subjective, but we found sticking with a 2.4-inch width was ideal for a variety of surfaces. The Maxxis Rekons roll fast, but some riders who prioritize traction will likely switch to a more aggressive tread design.
The Scott Spark RC World Cup is a great example of today’s cross-country bikes that are capable of conquering local or elite races but can also be pedaled comfortably for an all-day epic. Whether you want to race short-track or marathons, chase fire-road KOMs, or upgrade your bike as you progress, the Spark will meet your demands. As we touched on earlier, keep in mind that the Spark is still a precision instrument that calls for keen attention to what is ahead. It bombs down the trails with confidence, but it will be less forgiving on a small “oops” in a technical bit than a trail bike, which is less likely to get out of control quickly. If you’re in the market for a comfortable, high-tech, lightweight cross-country bike, add the Spark to your short list.
WHEEL SIZE: 29″
SUSPENSION: 120mm (front & rear)