2022 Scott Speedster 30 road bike review: Form over function ￼
A budget take on premium integration.
A budget take on premium integration.
The Speedster range has long been Scott’s entry-level gateway to cycling. Freshly overhauled for 2022, the aluminium-framed Speedster and Speedster Gravel aim to replicate the sleek profiles of Scott’s premium carbon endurance road and gravel bikes, the Addict and Addict Carbon.
As one of the very first entry-level dropbar bikes to conceal its cabling and bolster tyre clearance, the new Scott Speedster range sure is intriguing. However, such premium looks raise a big question: can an entry-level bike really afford to prioritise form when the budget is already stretched for function?
That’s just one question we found ourselves pondering with the road-going 2022 Scott Speedster 30 at our Field Test in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This review is fairly long, but it details our issues with some concerning trends that we hope the industry can learn from.
Scott employs the Speedster name for two distinct models of dropbar bikes. The regular Speedster, as tested, is designed to be a well-rounded road bike with 32 mm tyres as stock and room for up to 35 mm tyres. Meanwhile, as the name suggests, the Speedster Gravel is designed for gravel cycling and can fit up to a 45 mm tyre.
Regardless of whether you’re looking at the entry-level US$1,300 Speedster 50 or range-topping US$2,500 Speedster 10, you’ll be getting the same shapely and double-butted aluminium frame (the main tubes feature two different thicknesses along their length). However, while the frame itself doesn’t change, there is a difference in the equipped fork. Our tested US$1,700 Speedster 30 and the models above it feature a lighter full-carbon fork, while the two lowest-level models use an aluminium steerer tube.
The entire Speedster range is now committed to disc brakes and offers several features and flourishes borrowed from Scott’s premium carbon range.
Perhaps the most notable example is the wholly hidden cabling at the front of the bike – a sleek-looking feature typically only found on the latest premium-priced bikes (and one that introduces a few notable compromises which I’ll return to). Here the brake lines and gear cables are run beneath the stem, and are then guided internally into the proprietary headset spacers and headset top cap before disappearing into the frame.
Like Scott’s pro-level Addict RC, the Speedster achieves this by running the cables down the front of the offset, oversized and round-shaped 1 1/4″ steerer tube that sits within a 1 1/2″ bearing (the steerer tapers to a larger 1 1/2″ size at the bottom bearing). However, unlike the premium Addict range, the Speedster’s rear derailleur and rear brake cables sit visible from the bottom bracket shell and back.
Scott was one of the founding brands for Shimano’s PF86 press-fit bottom bracket, and while the Speedster 10 and 20 continue that legacy, the frame used with the Speedster 30 and lower feature a threaded bottom bracket. Similarly, both front and rear wheels are held in with 12 mm thru-axles of a standard width. However, the Speedster deviates slightly from its premium cousin by using a regular 27.2 mm round seatpost held by a regular external seat clamp.
Unlike that Addict RC, the Speedster can handle fenders via its subtle mounts that are intended to be a direct fit with a (not-quite-full-length) road fender set sold through Scott’s Syncros component brand. Other fenders can be made to work with adapters.
As tested, the Speedster 30 features the same aluminium frame (except for the threaded bottom bracket), full carbon fork, Syncros touch points, Formula/Syncros tubeless-ready wheels, and Schwalbe Lugano 2 32 mm tyres as the two more expensive models above it. However, helping to bring down the cost is a mostly Shimano Sora 2×9 speed drivetrain with Tektro MD-C511 mechanical disc brakes. Our small/52 cm tester just about tipped the scales to the floor at 10.43 kg / 22.99 lb (without pedals).
Scott has designed the Speedster’s fit to be similar to its Addict endurance-leaning road bike (the Addict RC is the race bike). However, the bike feels a little more stretched out, and with its near horizontal top tube, it just generally feels bigger than many other bikes of the same quoted size. As a result, we found the sizing to run large, with our 52 cm feeling more like a 54 cm.
According to a representative from Scott, the measured reach figures are intentionally on the long side to help reduce toe overlap and improve stability. Scott balances these longer reach figures with marginally shorter stem lengths and steeper seat tube angles.
The tell-tale sign that the Speedster is more endurance than race bike is seen with the relaxed handlebar height. One reason for this tall height is the endurance-friendly stack figure that has the top of the head tube above the seat tube. Another reason is the generous number of stem spacers that sit below the stem. And as we found out, you’ll need to acquire some 1 1/4″ round spacers to put on top of the stem if you wish to lower the handlebars to a point where the bike steers well. Alternatively, you can have the fork steerer cut.
More endurance bike themes are seen with the Speedster’s long-for-a-road-bike wheelbase, with all seven available frame sizes measuring in at over a metre in length between the two hub axles. This is done for stability, to reduce toe overlap, and to allow for additional clearance with full-length fenders. Plus, it’s easier to squeeze those 35 mm tyres in when the chainstays are 425 mm long (427 mm for larger sizes).
The trail figure, which gives a strong indication of the handling quickness, has some variance across the size range. Our tested 52 cm size has a 72° head angle which combined with the 45 mm fork rake gives a slow-for-road 65 mm trail figure with 32 mm tyres. That 45 mm fork rake is consistent throughout the size range with the head angles seeing some variance, and as a result, the smaller frame sizes have a longer trail figure (slower handling), while the larger sizes have a shorter trail figure (faster handling) that goes down to 57 mm in the biggest size.
As already mentioned, Scott is one of the first bike brands to bring a premium integrated aero aesthetic to a more entry-level bike. The company’s website even promotes the fact it’s an aesthetic decision. “With fully integrated cables, not only will this bike ride well, but it will most definitely look the part!”
Indeed the Speedster looks like a more expensive bike than it is, which goes beyond the concealed cables and metallic red paint. The top tube offers a thin and flat profile, the down tube is formed into a non-consistent shape, and even the subtle details such as the shapely dropouts add a sense of prestige. However, Scott’s decision to take such an aesthetic path at this price point has led to a bike with obvious functional compromises.
Those compromises start with the frame weight that sits at a claimed 1,750 g for a painted medium (the press-fit bottom bracket version of this frame saves 40 g) – though the full carbon fork is surprisingly light at 390 g. And before I continue with the more impactful compromises, I think it’s important to explain in what situations such hidden-cabled bikes work best.
Only in the past few years have we seen the explosion of these sleek, integrated and wholly hidden-cable race machines. And at their heart is the bike industry’s continual movement toward hydraulic disc brakes and electronic shifting. Those hydraulic disc brakes use a flexible hose that can twist and curve in all directions without an obvious impact on the braking performance.
Meanwhile, the electronic wire of Shimano’s previous Di2 didn’t need much room and didn’t mind an intestine-like path to its destination – and wireless shifting has only made this easier. Certainly both of these technologies give little complaint if woven through a sharply shaped stem, and then bent at an almost 90º angle to go through the headset and into the frame.
However, even when run with the ideal combination of hydraulic disc brakes and electronic shifting, these integrated bikes still hold compromises. The worst examples require you to disconnect and even cut the brake hoses to replace a handlebar, stem, and/or headset bearing. Even the best examples still make that headset bearing replacement a chore.
Scott’s approach to hiding the Speedster’s cables isn’t all bad. The Speedster uses a regular handlebar with external cable routing. The stem may have been designed to offer an integrated look, but it’s quite a normal item with the cables running beneath it – rather than through it. Meanwhile, those headset spacers are split, so you can remove them without disconnecting cables. These things allow fairly easy swapping of the handlebar or stem if required (commonly done in a bike fit).
However, where things get problematic is that Scott has decided to trickle down these high-end features to a pricepoint that only affords mechanical shifting and mechanical brakes. Both require steel cables to function, and those cables can only be bent and twisted so much before friction increases. Similarly, the longer the cable path, the more friction it has. And the Speedster’s design calls for the cables to go on a more arduous journey than they should. The cables on our tester were already showing signs of scarring after only a week of use.
The cabling path isn’t likely to present as an issue when you first test ride the bike or perhaps even own it for six month. However, over time, as corrosion and cable wear set in, you’ll find that the gears and brakes will be more noticeably impacted than a bike with simpler cable routing. And worst yet, it’ll take considerably longer to replace a cable and cable housing in this bike versus one with a more ordinary aesthetic.
Draped in a hot red and shaped like a premium road bike, there’s little denying that the Speedster looks fast. Unfortunately, the actual speed and ride experience just never met the expectation set by our eyes.
“The frame rides super harsh; not a comfortable bike at all,” said CyclingTips’s head of tech, James Huang. “It feels like it’s trying to be a budget crit bike, if only in image.”
James’ sentiment was only further backed by Betsy Welch’s impressions of the bike. “I didn’t enjoy this bike; it felt boring,” said the VeloNews senior editor. “And, it’s not just that it was a road bike because I know road bikes can feel fun – playful and zippy. This one kinda just trudged along.”
That lack of fun is certainly related to the extended wheelbase that’s more commonly expected of a gravel bike than a road bike. The positive of this decision is that the Speedster is ultra-stable and predictable at speed, both good things for newer riders. The negative is that it lacks the rewarding sporty handling that helps to make road descents a thrill.
While it may lack excitement, that stable handling will encourage you to carry good speed on descents and let you apply the power on rolling roads without worrying about where it’s pointed. However, it’s a different story once the road inclines, and while we commonly say you shouldn’t worry about the weight of the bike, there was simply no hiding the extra mass this bike carries.
Before disc brakes became the norm, you’d be able to get yourself a decently equipped and not-all-that-heavy rim-brake road bike for this sort of money. By comparison, the Speedster 30 is perhaps as much as two kilograms heavier than such a bike of the past, and that’s enough additional weight to kill the sprightliness that a nice road bike should offer. Jumping from the saddle or aiming for a quick change of speed feels like more of a drag, and there’s no instant gratification to reward your effort.
Beyond the weight and lengthy wheelbase, the trudging feeling is related to the tyres. “The Schwalbe Lugano 2 tyres are thick and dead-feeling,” said James about the 32 mm measured-width tyres that didn’t do enough to smooth out the harsh ride. Those tyres are a decent choice for general recreational riding and commuting, but do they match the Speedster’s personality? In our opinion, a bike with a longer stretch to the handlebars, stiff ride quality, and race-like looks feels like it wants a narrower, lighter, and just generally faster tyre. Changing tyres is easy, but it is an additional expense.
OK, so the stock 32 mm tyres are intended to add an endurance feel, improved comfort, and greater versatility to this bike. And all that would be true with a more supple-riding tyre.
In addition to testing the Speedster as a road bike, we also sought to see just how versatile a bike like it could be. To do so, we set it up with some Schwalbe G-One RS gravel tyres in a 35 mm size width. The stock rims are tubeless-ready and so we installed tubeless rim tape and a tubeless valve on each wheel to make the conversion – it went smoothly and with easy inflation. And those 35 mm tyres fit in the frame with ease.
Those G-One RSs are a much higher-end tyre than the stock Lugano 2s, and both James and I were surprised that the wider and slightly knobbed tyre didn’t feel any worse on the road. If anything, they helped smooth out the harshness and made the Speedster feel more effortless to keep rolling.
Those bigger tyres also calmed the steering, and combined with the already lengthy wheelbase, this bike didn’t feel out of place on light to medium gravel.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Scott offers the Speedster Gravel that’s unquestionably better suited to gravel. That said, the Speedster’s 35 mm tyre clearance and decent gearing range make this bike more than a pure road bike. The topic of modern road bikes on gravel is something James recently covered.
The US$1,700 asking price of this bike isn’t exactly pocket change, yet it only affords you a 2x nine-speed Shimano Sora groupset. Now Shimano Sora is functional stuff – it hits the gear you want, it offers decent ergonomics at the shifters, and it’s easy to service. However, compared to better options, such as Shimano Tiagra, I found the shift quality fairly clunky and rough when changing under pressure, resulting in greater noise and an interruption to the pedal stroke.
And in the specific case of this bike, those otherwise comfortable levers were set too far down the handlebar from the factory, with a rear derailleur cable that was too short and a front derailleur cable that lacked a barrel adjuster to ease setup. These things can be fixed, but it’ll likely mean time and money with a mechanic.
There’s a generous gear range provided with a compact (50/34T) crank matched to a 11-32T cassette. Unfortunately, that crank comes in the form of a cheaper and heavier Octalink model (ours came with a Shimano crank, although Scott’s spec list claims FSA) wrapped with a cheaper KMC chain. This crank alone brings a cheaper feel and look to this bike, and the Shimano logo started to rub off the crank within the first few hours of use.
Scott’s own component company, Syncros, is seen throughout the bike and it’s all functional gear. Most notably, the tubeless-ready and 21 mm internal width aluminium Alex rims are laced with straight gauge spokes to Formula Team II CL hubs with replaceable sealed bearings and centerlock disc rotor mounts. With 28 spokes front and rear, the wheels are almost overbuilt for the purpose (which should mean good durability) which certainly didn’t help with the harsh ride quality.
So far, this review hasn’t exactly been positive, and it’s about to get worse as the Tektro MD-C511 mechanical disc brakes were not good (note: this is a very different brake to the Tektro MD-C550 equipped on the Salsa Journeyer).
“[They offer a] very firm contact point at the lever, but no friction until the brakes get hot. And at which point they get unpredictably grabby,” said James of the single-moving-pad brakes we’ve also used on other bikes with mixed results. While Betsy agreed that the “brakes were terrifyingly bad.”
There can be a number of factors that prevent a disc brake from stopping the bike. Skipping the bed-in process, contaminating the braking surface, poor adjustment, and other factors can all be to blame. In the opinion of James and I, none of these factors played a role here. Rather, it seems the inability to lock a wheel comes down to the equipped metallic pads that just require a bunch of heat before they begin to bite. And that heat simply isn’t going to be in your braking system when you’re first rolling out the house, riding a paceline with others, or cresting a climb.
OK, so replacing the brake pads will go a long way to making these woeful brakes safer to use. And such a change isn’t expensive to do. That said, it worries us to think that people are riding in traffic with the brakes in their stock form. And bigger picture, the disc brakes on a bike that costs US$800 shouldn’t offer superior stopping control to these, and yet, they did.
I’m not all that joyful about a few facets of this bike, and I think it’s important to note that we initially sought to test the model above. Priced at US$1,900 (AU$2,400), the Speedster 20 is just US$200 more but solves a few of our biggest issues. Unfortunately, ongoing supply issues meant Scott didn’t have one to spare.
Firstly, the brakes will work as you’d expect them to. The Speedster 20 features Shimano mechanical disc brakes which we’ve used across several bikes with consistent results – they let you slow down as you’d expect.
Then there are the gears. The Speedster 20 matches its brakes with a full 2×10 Shimano Tiagra groupset, which we’ve said numerous times works amazingly well for the price point. It looks and shifts much more like a higher-end groupset.
The rest of the Speedster 20 is then an exact match with the Speedster 30, and so admittedly suffers the other compromises that have been highlighted. However, if the slightly longer reach to the handlebars suits you, and you like the idea of stable instead of lively handling, then it wouldn’t be a bad choice.
On one hand, I applaud Scott for continually being on the cutting edge and progressing bicycle technology. They truly do make some remarkably high-performing, great-riding, and innovative bikes. And what Scott has shown with the Speedster is that it’s possible to have a high-end-looking bike based around a surprisingly feature-full frame at a more affordable price point.
We often say that the frame matters most and to invest in a good frame, but this isn’t quite what we had in mind. By chasing such a high-end aesthetic with fancy frame features, Scott has made a few too many compromises in other areas. And when it comes to an entry-level price point bike, the focus needs to be on function before form. In the case of the Speedster 30, that function is far enough behind other bikes of this price point that we can’t recommend this model. Bike industry, please take note.
CyclingTips Field Test group bike tests are never paid for by the participants, but they’re still only possible with some outside assistance. CyclingTips would like to thank the generous support of Assos for this year’s Field Test.