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May 16, 2012
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
The Foil is Scott’s new dedicated race chassis that continues the company’s reputation for producing lightweight frames however the new model also promises the benefits of aerodynamic tubing.
Update: Scott overhauled the Foil for 2016 with sweeping changes to the design of the frameset. Take a look at our review of the 2016 Foil Premium to learn more about the latest version of this bike.
Editor’s Note: Matt was so excited when telling me about his ride on the Scott Foil Team Issue that I had to try it myself. I took a Foil 10 equipped with Dura-Ace and Mavic Cosmic wheels out for a test ride and pretty much echo all of his thoughts. Unfortunately the GreenEDGE paintjob is not available until August, but this Foil 10 retails at $8995 (exact same frame as the Team Issue but slightly lower spec’d parts). In the photo gallery at the bottom you’ll be able to see both bikes that we tested.
Scott’s Foil started life as the F01 Project where the designers (which included Simon Smart) were charged with the goal of delivering a lightweight frameset that was stiffer than the Addict and offered a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. By employing modified tear-drop tubing that lacks a tail throughout the frame and fork, the design team found that they could save weight while reducing aerodynamic drag. According to Scott’s own studies, the Foil performs as well as, or better than, Cervelo’s S3 and Felt’s AR1 regardless of whether drag, stiffness or weight are measured.
The Scott Foil 10 with GreenEDGE livery (available this August for purchase)
Before the Ride
The Foil Team Issue retails for $9499 in Australia and here’s what you get for the price: a SRAM Red groupset supplemented with Shimano’s Dura Ace chain and cassette; Ritchey carbon bars, stem, and seatpost, plus headset; Fizik Arione saddle and bar tape; Zipp 404 clincher wheels with alloy rims; and Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires. Aside from the shape of the bars and saddle, there is very little to fuss over here. I really appreciate that Scott went to the trouble of substituting SRAM’s light yet noisy Red cassette for Dura Ace and finishing it off with a matching Dura Ace chain. All told, this is a quality build that suits the asking price.
The Scott Foil Team Issue. The new SRAM Red will be on the newly released models from August 2012 onwards
If you visit Scott’s website then you can learn a little about the clever manufacturing processes and materials that are employed to produce the Foil. Of all these features, the one that is easiest to understand is the absence of a cosmetic layer of carbon that saves weight. As a consequence, all Foils (there are seven to choose from plus another for women) are painted and there are no areas of naked carbon weave to show off to your riding buddies. The Foil Team Issue sports a glossy black finish with red highlights on the backside of all the aero tubes (indicating where the pointed tails were carved away during design) that is best appreciated from the rear of the bike. Some might refer to this look as understated; I found it a little dull and unimaginative.
Scott has been using two types of carbon in their bikes for a few years that are designated as HMX and HMF. HMX carbon is stronger than HMF, thus less material can be used, making for a lighter frame. However, HMX is also more expensive, so that is why it is only used in the upper end of the Foil range (ie for the Premium, Team Issue, and Foil 10). By switching to HMF and simplifying some manufacturing processes, Scott can produce a frameset that is a little heavier but maintains most of the traits of the higher-end models for a lower price. Switching to HMF carbon allows Scott to deliver a Foil frameset equipped with electronic Ultegra for $6000 (Foil 15) or mechanical Ultegra for $4300 (Foil 20). All Foil frames are made in China at a new factory dedicated to carbon manufacture.
Taking a closer look at the frame, the Foil requires a standard 1.125” upper bearing and an oversize 1.25” lower bearing while the bottom bracket is sized according to Shimano’s press-fit standard (aka BB86/90/92). In both instances, the larger diameters are used to improve stiffness at the head tube and around the bottom bracket. The rear brake and derailleur cables are routed internally and are virtually hidden from view, though you get a small peak at the derailleur cables when the bike is upside down. Internal cables can complicate servicing, and in this case, I’m guessing the cranks will have to be removed when new cables need to be fitted. Regardless, they make for a very tidy finish.
Specialised tubing necessitates a purpose built seatpost, and that can be a worry if it is difficult to adjust or it doesn’t provide enough adjustment. Fortunately, Scott partnered with Ritchey to provide the seatpost for the Foil, and thus, it features Ritchey’s one-bolt head assembly that is very simple to use. I found the angle adjustment to be quite stiff, and some markings would make setting the saddle angle much easier, but it never slipped. Better yet, the posts are available in three offsets that should accommodate most needs.
The clever seatpost design. We've heard of people having problems with the seatpost slipping, but a little carbon grease should prevent that. I’m a fan of numbers on the seat post to make saddle height adjustment easier.
Scott offers the Foil in seven frame sizes with the following measurements:
One important thing to note about the geometry of the Foil is that the forks have an extra-long axle to crown measurement that adds an extra 10mm to the stack of the frame (for simplicity, add another 10mm to the length of the head tube for each size). As a consequence, the frame is little more relaxed than some race bikes, but the fit is not as generous as a performance-oriented bike such as Scott’s CR1.
After the Ride
Before I offer any of my thoughts on the Foil, keep in mind that I was only able to ride the bike for a couple of hours before it had to leave town. That’s a lot longer than a typical test ride, but perhaps not long enough to thoroughly assess a bike. Regardless, I believe first impressions count for a lot, and my first impression of the Foil was a good one.
The Foil is a hardcore race chassis that demands an experienced rider. The steering is very responsive and in the right hands, allows the rider to throw the bike around with ease, but for less experienced or tamer riders, they may find it too twitchy and demanding to keep up with. Indeed, the Foil may be to cycling what a sports car is to driving. It’s designed to be ridden hard, fast, and aggressively. If you’re in the market for a comfortable frameset that can be ridden all day without taxing you too much, forget the Foil.
I found myself looking forward to getting out of the saddle to experience how responsive the bottom bracket and seat stays were. The more effort I put in, the more I got in return. The frame is stiff and that makes for a harsher ride, but I didn’t notice an excess of road buzz through the saddle or the bars, though all bumps were abruptly felt at the front and rear of the bike.
All the parts worked well on the Team Issue and provided a smooth and quiet ride. The handlebars are shallow with a compact bend that should suit a lot of riders and the Fizik saddle is a popular choice. The Red groupset has been around long enough that there is no need to comment on its performance, though if you’re interested in a thoughtful comparison with Dura Ace and Record, have a look at Red Kite Prayer. Now that Red 2012 is on the market with some significant improvements, I have to wonder how retailers will sell bikes like the Foil Team Issue that are sporting the previous iteration of Red. An attractive discount perhaps?
I also have to wonder about the value of an aerodynamic race bike in the real world where so many other factors can interfere with its aerodynamics? I didn’t notice that the Foil was a fast bike, but as I’ve already mentioned, it seemed to improve with speed. The weight of the Zipp 404 clinchers (Team Issue) and Mavic Cosmic’s (Foil 10) may have reined the bike in a little, accounting for a certain amount of sluggishness at lower speeds, so I’d be very interested to see how the Foil performed with a lighter wheelset.
I didn’t have any trouble climbing on this bike but I couldn’t take advantage of the bike’s strengths in this terrain. I felt better prepared (and inspired) to power up short, sharp climbs than patiently spinning my way up longer ascents. Once on the other side though, the Foil was eager to take on the descent.
The Foil may be named for its aerodymanic tubing, however those familiar with swords will immediately think of the fine blade used in fencing. Scott’s Foil is not so delicate or strategic; it’s more like a broadsword designed for hacking off limbs and spraying a lot of blood about. It is an ideal bike for criterium racing and will suit those riders that like to sit at the head of a bunch and drive the pace. The Team Issue is well equipped with the right gear for this kind of work, but with plenty of models in the range, it won’t be difficult to for any experienced rider to find a package that suits them. For me, it’s the first bike I’ve ridden in the last 5 years that has made me seriously consider buying a new bike.
For more details on the Foil Team Issue, click here to visit their website.
The Foil 10 sits one step below the Team Issue build and features Shimano’s Dura-Ace groupset and Mavic Cosmic wheels.
The Team Issue build offers buyers a combination of SRAM’s Red groupset and Zipp’s 404 carbon/alloy wheels.