Scott overtakes the Spark: 120 mm is the brand new Cross Nation
Two years ago, Scott Sports acquired Bold Cycles, a Switzerland-based mountain bike company with a truly futuristic-looking suspension design that hid the rear shock in the seat tube.
Fast forward to today and Scott Sports has announced a highly anticipated makeover to the Spark, its full-suspension cross-country racing platform. And what's immediately obvious is how much this new flyweight mountain bike emanates from the acquired company's unique approach.
There's a lot to say here, but the most important point is that this new Spark signals a significant change in the design of cross-country racing bikes. With the race version with 120 mm front and rear suspension travel, 29 x 2.4 wide tires and trail-like geometry, the sport changes significantly.
An introduction to Spark 2022
Thanks to eight-time world champion Nino Schurter, Jenny Rissveds and, more recently, Kate Courtney, the Scott Spark has been at the top of World Cup races for over a decade. Over the years, every iteration of the Spark has been at the forefront of the cross-country world, be it the lightest frame on the market, the first to combine front and rear lockouts in a single remote control, or help develop progressive trail bikes with geometry into the racing scene. And with all of that, the brand hasn't shied away from sticking with its own proprietary rear suspension components.
In 2017, Scott responded to a changing cross-country market and split the Spark range in two. The race-oriented machines with 100mm of travel earned the Spark RC title, while the Spark 900 increased travel to 120mm.
And that brings us to 2022. The cross-country race has changed. The engineering courses of today are a world different from the courses a decade ago. The Scott SRAM team is now often on the road with 29 x 2.4 "tires and now also on 120 mm touring bikes.
Kate Courtney has switched to a race bike with 120 mm of travel.
The new race-oriented Spark RC now has 120mm of travel front and rear. The Spark RC is only available with a full carbon frame, for which there are three levels of layup. The top-class HMX SL frame is said to be the lightest 120 mm frame in the world at just 1,870 g with shock.
Then the Spark 900 series is geared towards the masses, which is a little more trail in its ways. The frame is the same as the RC, but with 130 mm of travel at the front, struts with larger displacement, more robust tires and wider handlebars. Additionally, the 900 series offers lower-cost aluminum frames with the same features as the premium carbon options – an impressive feat considering the intricacies of rear shock mounting.
Both versions of the Spark continue the longstanding use of Scott's TwinLoc remote control. Mounted on the left side of the handlebar, this remote lever has long controlled the three compression settings (and travel for the rear wheel) of the front and rear shock absorbers at the same time. And while this new version still does, it also adds a third lever for the dropper post.
Damn it, that's a lot of levers.
A look at the geometry diagrams shows that the steering angle of the Spark 900 series at 65.8 ° is massively flatter than the 67.2 ° of the RCs. The additional 10 mm of travel play a small role, while the rest of the change comes from the Syncros-Acros Angle Adjust headset. This ZS56 top and bottom headset allows the head angle to be adjusted by +/- 0.6 ° and should be switchable without having to cut or loosen cables.
All the numbers.
Speaking of cables, they are now routed internally through the headset mentioned above. The rear brake hose, the rear suspension lockout, the telescopic seat post remote control and the gearshift housing (if present) all run below the stem and are routed along the steerer tube into the frame. It's not too dissimilar to what we saw on Canyon's Exceed Hardtail, but Scott's sheer number of cables adds up to the stakes a lot.
Integrated suspension technology
According to Scott, the "Integrated Suspension Technology" enables a frame design with outstanding lateral stiffness and at the same time low weight. It is also said to allow lower shock placement for a lower center of gravity. And the internal design has space for two water bottles that can be mounted in the frame triangle. And perhaps most importantly, it looks cool.
Basically, the new Scott Spark is still a single pivot design. And where the original Bold Cycles used a pivot point on the rear axle, the new Spark uses material flex in the seat stay.
Cut open the frame (or just remove the bolted hatch cover) and you'll find a more normal looking trunnion mounted damper in it. The adjuster of the damper and the valve for the air spring are located in an easily accessible place. And the slack is easily adjusted using the markings next to the upper pivot point.
Other small details that are important
Most of the new Sparks have a new one-piece handlebar and stem from Scott's own component brand Syncros. This new Syncros Fraser IC Combo has been developed to work with the integrated cabling and to grasp the cables smoothly and route them to the headset. The bikes can be ridden with a normal stem and handlebars, but of course they look the cleanest with the standard equipment.
The new Syncros Fraser IC.
This one-piece bar also features attachment points similar to the Addict RC and allows computers, lights, or even a GoPro to be mounted on the bar.
The new Spark RC and 900 have a wider 55mm chainline that places the chainring about 3mm further out than most Boost setups. According to Scott, this allowed them to gain tire clearance while also giving them the ability to go up to a 40-tooth chainring. And if you're wondering who the hell would want to ride a 40T chainring on a modern mountain bike, the answer is Nino Schurter (depending on course).
Shimano and SRAM already support this wider chain line, which was developed for normal Boost hubs with a spacing of 148 mm. Scott may be the first example of a 55mm chainline on a cross-country bike, but it's not uncommon on new enduro and trail bikes.
On the back of the bike there is also a SRAM universal derailleur hanger and a cleverly machined thru axle, where the handle has a T25, T30 and 6 mm hex, which not only loosens the thru axles, but also all pivot hardware also hires the bike.
Scott has stuck to the BB92 press-fit bottom bracket format. This system works well with Shimano cranks, but when combined with SRAM DUB or 30mm spindle cranks, it leaves little space for large bearings.
As we've mentioned on other bikes, internal relocation is sure to be a headache if ever a headset bearing needs to be replaced, but Scott has worked to prevent such a repair. The headsets, along with all frame bearings, have an additional seal to keep the good in and the bad out.
A digital rendering shows the internal cable routing.
And unlike racing bikes, where the front brake hose is routed through the fork, this design still allows the fork to fall out without having to do anything fiddly (although it is certainly a lot harder to put the fork back in between the cables than a bike with a normal headset).
Unfortunately, since it's connected to an internal remote lockout cable, it's not that easy to take the damper out of the frame for servicing, but Scott claims it was built with serviceability in mind. And the fact that it's sheltered from the elements should hopefully help reduce the frequency of these repairs.
As with previous iterations, there are an amazing number of model options on offer. According to Scott, the number of models is 21 when you add the variations of Spark RC, Spark 900 (carbon, alloy, and variations of both) together with the women-specific Contessa models.
The prices can be found at scott-sports.com. Availability is expected in August / September.