Scott overhauls the Spark: 120 mm is the new cross country
It was two years ago that Scott Sports acquired Bold Cycles, a niche Swiss-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 much-anticipated overhaul to the Spark, its full suspension cross country racing platform. And what’s immediately obvious is just how much this new flyweight mountain bike borrows from the acquired company’s unique approach.
There’s a lot to cover here, but the key takeaway is that this new Spark signals significant change for cross country race bike design. With the race version offering 120 mm of travel front and rear, 29 x 2.4″ wide tyres, and trail-like geometry numbers, the sport is clearly changing.
An intro to the 2022 Spark
Thanks to eight-time world champion Nino Schurter, Jenny Rissveds, and more recently Kate Courtney, the Scott Spark has been seen at the front of World Cup races for over a decade. Over the years each iteration of the Spark has been at the cutting-edge of the cross country world, whether it be the lightest frame on the market, the first to combine front and rear lockouts into a single remote, or helping bring progressive trail bike geometry into the racing scene. And through all of that the brand hasn’t been shy to stick with its own proprietary rear suspension components.
In 2017, Scott reacted to a changing cross country market and split the Spark range in two. The race-focused machines with 100 mm of travel earned the Spark RC title, while the Spark 900 bumped up the suspension travel to 120 mm.
And that brings us to 2022. Cross country racing has changed. The technical courses of today are a world apart from the courses of a decade ago. The Scott-SRAM team is now often seen running 29 x 2.4″ tyres, and you’ll now find them racing on 120 mm travel bikes, too.
The new race-focussed Spark RC now features 120 mm of travel front and rear. The Spark RC is only available with a full carbon fibre frame, for which there are three levels of the layup. The top-tier HMX SL frame is claimed to be the world’s lightest 120 mm frame at just 1,870 g with the rear shock.
Then aimed at the masses is the Spark 900 series which is a little more trail in its ways. The frame is the same as the RC, but it features 130 mm travel forks on the front, larger capacity rear shocks, burlier tyres, and wider bars. Also, the 900-series offers lower-cost alloy frames with all the same features as the premium carbon options – an impressive feat when you consider the intricacies of the rear shock mounting area.
Both versions of the Spark continue the long-running use of Scott’s TwinLoc suspension remote. Mounted on the left side of the bars, this remote lever has long simultaneously controlled the three compression (and travel for the rear) settings of both the front and rear shocks. And while this new version still does that, it also adds in a third lever for the dropper post.
A look at geometry charts will reveal that the Spark 900 series’ 65.8º head angle is massively slacker than the 67.2º found on the RCs. The extra 10 mm of suspension travel plays a small role in this, while the rest of the change comes from the Syncros-Acros Angle adjust headset. This ZS56 top and bottom headset allows for +/- 0.6º head angle adjustment and is said to be switchable without having to cut or undo any cables.
Speaking of the cables, they’re now internally routed through the above-mentioned headset. The rear brake hose, rear suspension lock-out, dropper post remote, and shift housing (if applicable) all enter below the stem and are guided along the fork steerer tube and into the frame. It’s not too dissimilar to what we’ve seen with the likes of Canyon’s Exceed hardtail, but Scott’s sheer number of cables ups the ante greatly.
Integrated Suspension Technology
According to Scott, the “Integrated Suspension Technology” allows for a frame design with superior lateral stiffness while retaining a low weight. It’s also said to allow a lower shock placement for a lower centre of gravity. And the internal design has opened up space for two water bottles to be mounted within the front triangle. And perhaps most importantly, it looks cool.
Fundamentally the new Scott Spark is still a single-pivot design. And where the original Bold Cycles used a pivot at the rear axle, the new Spark relies on material flex in the seat stay.
Cut the frame open (or just remove the bolt-on hatch cover) and you’ll find a rather normal-looking trunnion-mount rear shock within. The shock’s adjusters and valve for the air spring sit at an easily reached point. And adjusting sag is simply done with the indicators marked next to the top pivot point.
Other small details that matter
Most of the new Sparks feature a new one-piece handlebar and stem from Scott-owned component brand Syncros. This new Syncros Fraser IC Combo is designed to work with the integrated cabling and to smoothly capture and guide the cables onto the headset. The bikes can be used with a normal stem and handlebar, but of course they’ll look cleanest with the stock setup.
This one-piece bar also features mounting points similar to what the Addict RC offers and allows computers, lights, or even a GoPro to be mounted to the bar.
The new Spark RC and 900 feature a wider 55 mm chainline that places the chainring about 3 mm further out than most Boost set ups. According to Scott, this allowed them to gain tyre clearance, while also providing the option to run up to a 40T chainring. And if you’re wondering who in the hell would want to run a 40T chainring on a modern mountain bike, the answer is Nino Schurter (course dependant).
Also at the back of the bike is SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger, and a clever tooled thru-axle where the handle features a T25, T30, and 6 mm hex that will not only undo the thru-axles, but adjust all the pivot hardware on the bike, too.
Scott has stuck with the BB92 press-fit bottom bracket format. This system works well with Shimano cranks, but it leaves little room for large bearings when paired with SRAM DUB or 30 mm spindle cranks.
As we’ve mentioned with other bikes before, the internal routing is certainly going to cause headaches if a headset bearing ever needs replacing, but Scott has worked on preventing such a repair. The headsets, along with all frame bearings, feature an additional seal to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
And unlike road bikes that route the front brake hose through the fork, this design still allows the fork to be dropped out without having to disconnect anything finicky (although getting the fork back in place amongst the cables is surely going to be far trickier than a bike with a regular headset).
Sadly dropping the rear shock out of the frame for servicing won’t be as easy given it’s connected with an internal remote lockout cable, but Scott claims it’s been built with ease of servicing in mind. And the fact it’s protected from the elements should hopefully help to reduce the frequency of this repair.
As with previous iterations there are a staggering number of model options on offer. According to Scott, the model count is 21 once you add up the variations of Spark RC, Spark 900 (carbon, alloy, and variations of both), along with the women’s-specific Contessa models.
Pricing can be found at scott-sports.com. Availability is expected for August/September.