Scott Spark 700 Ultimate Di2 review
I was so concerned about my lack of ability that I almost forgot to write up about the abundance of ability shown by the Spark. Firstly the frame works, it is exceptionally light, tough as old boots and the angles work. So, whilst on this occasion I lacked the cajones, I know from previos rides that the Spark can turn a boring descent into a berm-strewn mega fest. It suffers from only one thing: marketing. It is presented as an XC/Marathon bike and Nino Schurter has even won a World Cup race on it but we mere mortals should not let that reputation cloud the fact that it is an awesome trail bike with a slack 68.3 head angle, plush suspension and 120mm of travel. Round here what more could you need? Maybe a Whyte T-130….. I know that you might find this boring but despite being tired the bike hauled ass (mine) up some tough climbs with very little effort. The bike works up & down.
So what about the electronics?
I thought that this would be all hype but it works. Obviously you can change gear at the push of a button, you can push through the block up or down but the real benefit comes from the tuning back in the workshop. You plug the bike in and set it to work for you. For example you may know that on the key corner on your ride/race you have to go from big down hill mode to small ring three from lowest. Simply program it and just slam the right hand shifter and the bike will set you up in small to third (or whatever you choose) instantly ready for your grueling climb. It could have been a race winner at the Gorricks (I did get three second places…)
Naturally the Shimano XTR trims all so that there is never any chain rub just like their road version. The feel is just a button but the action is very precise and the engagement more like Sram than the super light action of mechanical Shimano. I found myself making quite aggresive shifts which is most unlike me but if there is one this about Shimano, you can bet you life that they have covered every issue.
One final thing, there is a screen showing you what gear you are in. That is a novelty and I haven’t used a shifter with a gear indicator for years. This will appeal to the techie and he, I am sure most women would rather just concentrate of the ride, can link it all with their Garmin so they can see the gear used on each climb….. Yawn!
Forks and shocks at the push of a button
Fox have CTD: Climb, Trail, Descend where as Scott have Climb-Traction Control-Descend. Fox custom tuned the set up for Scott so that the fork and rear should could be linked at the push of a button on the Ultimate or at the push of a lever on all the other suspension bikes.
Of course it works perfectly but I must confess to some user error. I assumed that it worked the opposite way and so locked out when wanting to loosen it up. Not until I took my sunglasses off and soon saw that there was and easy to read colour coding in the shifter did I get it right. Once sorted I had no issues. Usually with Fox’s CTD I just ignore it, set my bikes up to work in Descend and make no changes. However, with the Spark I have always gone for lots of sag to enhances it trail capabilities and so do use the Traction Control. I never did so with the 29er but this 27.5 version really is fun when soft.
All Kashima coated but I am not sure that I could tell. I need to ride it again to be able to report as to whether the FOX 32 Float Factory iCTD Air / Kashima fork is as good as my Rock Shox SID World Cups. It did save me on more than a few occaisions on this ride nose diving like a novice off several jumps.
Syncros XR1.0 carbon wheels with centre lock (this is important as XTR brakes are ten times better with the XTR rotor which is only available C/L). I have these hoops on my Scale: perfect especially tubeless. We fit Maxxis Ardents the ultimate alround tyre as happy on a free ride bike as they are on a XC rig like this.
Everything else is Syncros and carbon which is basically the same as Ritchey’s best carbon except for the saddle where Syncros (Scott) have done their own thing, very stealthy with a racy profile and carbon rails but very comfortable. I’d keep it.
Here’s how I got on and my lack of ability….
You have good days and you have bad days. I am lucky in that in my glass half full world most of my days on a bike are good days. Sometimes though nothing works out. I was really looking forward to this morning’s ride. I had been stressed leading up to our demo day so what better way to unwind than on the hill.
A generous customer had offered me a ride on his bike, his Scott Spark 700 Ultimate. Not just any Spark, a bike that I already know and like, but a 22lbs bike oozing technical innovation. First up XTR has no rival, add to that the IMP5 HMX superlight carbon frame, Di2 electronic shifting and even an electronic micro shift for the Scott’s traction control (Fox did a custom set up of their CTD for Scott).
Previously another customer had lent me his Santa Cruz Solo, now the 5010, and I had
found it one of the most confidence inspiring bikes that I had ever ridden. I hammered the hell out of it on the Steyning trails and planned to do the same with the Spark, after all one of the magazines recently described the Spark as having the same geometry and awesome trail capability as the Santa Cruz. Blue and Red run here I come… or so I thought.
It was pleasantly mild and damp as I headed up the hill. I played with the electronic shift and enjoyed the set that I had sorted the night before. All seemed good for my test to see if the Scott matched up to the Santa Cruz. I was taking it easy and enjoying the ease of pedalling that you have when you are in good shape and riding easy but it wasn’t going to turn out well.
I was going to warm up on the Blue run but something was wrong. I wasn’t focused. I kept locking up the rear wheel, it was slippery and the bike was sliding. The more it skidded the more I imagined the front end sliding. I had Maxxis Ardents with the pressure low so there should be no problem. Last time out in the wet I was throwing my bike around like a lunatic with only the micro pimples of Racing Ralphs to save me from oblivion. Sometimes you need to talk yourself into being brave but at other times, like today, you have to accept that you don’t have it and injury is the most likely outcome, worse still possible damage to someone else’s eight and a half grand dream machine. Crapping myself on the Red run and sliding into the main bowl like an absolute beginner despite riding one of the better handling light weight trail bikes I decided to pack it in and head home. I was really knackered: mentally not physically. Riding up the Cissbury down hill was a breeze with my legs easing up the slope with the help if the electronic shift and shock control. But riding on the limit on our loveable slippery chalk and clay requires mental toughness and supreme self belief. I had neither and returned to ride another day. I had not been fazed by the slippery South Downs all winter. Today I was.
Justin, please, please, please let me borrow your bike again.