First-look review: 2016 Scott Foil

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With the Tour de France just around the corner, many of the major bike manufacturers are in the process of releasing their latest and greatest road bikes. Scott is the latest to join the party, today revealing an all new design for its second-generation Foil.

CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef was in Salzburg, Austria for the launch, to learn about and test ride the new aero frame.


Before the ride

Since first being revealed in 2011 and then introduced to the WorldTour peloton in 2012, the Scott Foil has been ridden to an impressive 115 victories at the sport’s highest level, including 16 GrandTour stage wins and three Spring Classics victories.

But given how far the aero road bike market has come since development on the Foil began back in 2009, it was time Scott gave its flagship racer an upgrade.

The first Scott Foil is a bike known for its low weight, its aerodynamic properties and, most famously, its race-ready stiffness. It is also known for being a harsh ride on rougher road surfaces, as a result of its stiffness. With the 2016 Foil, Scott set out to create a bike that was lighter, more aerodynamic, stiffer and, importantly, more comfortable than the previous version.

The new frameset is the result of more than two years spent working to refine the Foil’s truncated teardrop tubing in an effort to improve the Foil’s performance across the board, while ensuring a balanced end result.

The Scott Foul Team Issue, the second-tier option behind the Premium edition.
The Scott Foil Team Issue, the second-tier option behind the Premium edition.

Where the original Foil preserved much of the traditional road bike shape — it’s defining feature being the introduction of subtle aerodynamic tube shaping — the new Foil has seen Scott make a more committed attempt at aerodynamic efficiency, noticeably altering the shape of the frameset.

But in keeping with Scott’s aim of making a ‘balanced’ Foil — with aerodynamics being only of four important factors — the new Foil appears to forego further possible aero advantages, such as by hiding all cables at the front of the bike, and repositioning the front brake.

Here’s a summary of the most notable and most obvious changes to the Foil’s design for 2016:

The new Syncros integrated cockpit — This is a trend we’re seeing more of — flatter handlebars and stems replacing traditional, rounded options, all in the name of aerodynamics. The underside of the Foil’s cockpit hides the Di2 controller (from sight and from the wind) and provides a connection point for an out-front Garmin mount.

The seatstays connect further down the seattube — This is another trend we’ve seen in aero bikes in recent years, having first appeared in time trial bikes before being introduced to the aero road bike market with the BMC TMR01. Scott claims that reducing the distance between the seattube and seatstays reduces the amount of turbulence near the rear wheel.

The seatstays are noticeably thinner — Thinner seatstays allow greater flex in the back end of the bike, increasing compliance and making for a more comfortable ride. Scott has been using thinner seatstays in the CR1 for many years for this reason.

Note the thinner seatstays and more rectangular-shaped chainstays.
Note the thinner seatstays and more rectangular-shaped chainstays.

The downtube joins the headtube lower down — This is to reduce the gap behind the fork which, Scott says, reduces the turbulence in that area, therefore providing an aerodynamic advantage.

The rear brake is now mounted underneath the bottom bracket — This isn’t for aerodynamics (Scott suggests there’s little aero advantage to be had by having the brake down low); it’s to improve the comfort of the bike. How?

Mounting a brake in the traditional position apparently requires more material in that area to support the weight of and force from the brake. More material leads to a stiffer frame which reduces comfort. Reducing the amount of material in the area allows greater flex from the frame and, therefore, a plusher ride.

It’s worth noting that underneath-mounted rear brakes create extra challenges for mechanics and the lack of a convenient quick-release lever for the brake can be frustrating when trying to remove the rear wheel quickly.

The cables are now routed through the top of the downtube — Scott places its stiffest carbon on the outer edge of the downtube. Cutting through that to route cables into the frame would, Scott says, reduce the bike’s stiffness.

IMG_0618

Among the other, more minor changes are:

– a flatter top tube (reportedly to allow greater flex and, in turn, comfort)
– a beefier bottom bracket/seattube connection (for greater stiffness)
– more rectangular-shaped chainstays (for greater stiffness)
– a reduced seattube cross-sectional area (for greater flex)
– greater spacing between the headset bearings and steerer bearings (to allow for a smoother, more aerodynamic front end)
– an internal Di2 battery (housed within the seatpost)

So what difference do all of these changes make? Here’s what Scott claims for the new Foil, with all comparisons made against the previous Foil:

– the top-end Scott Foil HMX frameset is 70g lighter than the first version, weighing 1,295g for a painted size M/54 (945g for the frame, 335g for the fork). Scott claims this puts the new Foil among the lightest aero frames on the market.

– a 13% stiffer bottom bracket, a 13.5% stiffer headset and a 6% stiffer front fork.

– an aerodynamic advantage the equivalent of saving 6 watts and 27.2 seconds over a 40km time trial at 45km/h.

– 89% greater vertical compliance, making for a much more comfortable ride. Notably, Scott’s tests show that the new Foil demonstrates greater compliance than the Scott Addict.

Scott is offering the 2016 Foil in five different versions, all of which come with the same geometry as the previous Foil and the current Addict line. Here’s a summary of how each version of the Foil comes built up:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 12.05.10 PM

There are nine different stem/handlebar combinations available, two seatpost setback options (5mm and 20mm), seven options for stem length (from 80mm to 140mm in 10mm increments) but only one option for stem angle: +6 degrees. There is talk of introducing a -17 degrees stem option, first for the pros and then for the consumer market.

In order to get the most out of the new Foil’s aerodynamic properties riders will need to adopt a specific handlebar height, as dictated by the integrated cockpit. There are, however, a series of aerodynamic spacers that come with the bike that will allow some customisation of the stem height.

Scott is yet to finalise the pricing structure for the new Foil range due to the “fluid” economic situation in Europe and the fluctuating price of the Euro. As a rough guide though, the original Foil Premium retailed for roughly AUD$13,000 shortly after launch while the Team Issue was $9,500 and the Foil 10 was $9,000.

The lower-end HMF carbon models of the Foil (Foil 10, 20 and 30) will be available for purchase from October 2015 with the higher-end HMX models (Premium and Team Issue) available from December 2015.

The five Foil options for 2016 in order, with the Premium edition on the far left.
The five Foil options for 2016, in order, with the Premium edition on the far left.

After the ride

It’s always going to be difficult to get a thorough appreciation for the character and idiosyncrasies of a new bike in a single, three-hour ride, but initial impressions do count for a lot. In the case of the new Foil, those initial impressions were certainly positive.

The most pertinent question going into the ride was whether the additional compliance Scott had measured in the lab would translate to comfort out on the road. So, rather than avoiding rough patches on the road, I actively sought them out, testing the bike whenever I could.

The Foil passed those tests admirably. The road chatter didn’t make for an uncomfortable ride; rather, the new frame handled surface imperfections and lower-quality roads more impressively than expected.

One of many beautiful, smaller roads near Salzburg.
One of many beautiful, smaller roads near Salzburg.

The additional stiffness that Scott claims for the new Foil was hard to detect out on the road but Australian national road champion Heinrich Haussler, who joined us for the two-day launch, said he was able to feel that the bike was stiffer, particularly in the front end.

Regardless of comparisons with the original Foil, there’s no doubt the 2016 edition is satisfyingly stiff. As with its predecessor, the 2016 Foil is suited to aggressive riding. It rewards the effort you put into it, giving the feeling that very minimal power is wasted en route from the pedals to the road. The bike can feel a little twitchy at times, particularly on fast descents, but this isn’t anything that can’t be adjusted to.

A bike’s aerodynamic properties are always difficult to assess in the real-world and it’s simply impossible to verify Scott’s claims of a 6W power saving (or 27.2 seconds over 40km at 45km/h) in a single ride. But there’s little doubt the 2016 Foil feels like a bike that excels at higher speeds.

During a hard lap of the Salzburgring race track the bike seemed most efficient when speeds pushed beyond 40km/h, almost willing tired legs to find a little more energy to expend.

Yours truly putting the Foil through its paces on the Salzburgring race track.
Yours truly putting the Foil through its paces on the Salzburgring race track. The bike used for the test ride was a 2016 Foil Premium built up with Zipp 404s, 25mm Continental GP4000 tyres, a 52×36 ‘mid-compact’ chainset and 11-28 cassette.

One concern some people have about chainstay-mounted brakes is the potential for brake rub when the frame and rear wheel are flexing under load. I didn’t find this to be a problem at all during the ride, including during hard sprint efforts out of the saddle.

The Dura-Ace Di2 groupset performed as well as we’ve come to expect, providing clean and efficient braking, with swift, efficient and hassle-free gear changes.

Final thoughts and conclusion

After riding the original Foil for the first time back in 2012, CyclingTips’ tech editor Matt Wikstrom wrote: “If you’re in the market for a comfortable frameset that can be ridden all day without taxing you too much, forget the Foil.” Matt was right — the original Foil was far more suited to the rigours of racing rather than leisurely rides through the countryside.

Scott promises to have addressed these criticisms and initial impressions suggest they’ve done an impressive job of doing so. Of course further testing will be required — and will be done when possible — but if the 2016 Foil lives up to what’s been promised then Scott has managed an impressive balance between stiffness, low weight, aerodynamics and comfort, all in one very sleek-looking package.

Photo gallery

Disclosure statement: Matt de Neef travelled to Salzburg as a guest of Scott. CyclingTips would like to thank Scott for the invite, for their hospitality, and for the opportunity to ride the new Foil.

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