Scott Spark Plus 700 Tuned
Size Tested: Medium
Drivetrain: Sram XX1 Eagle
Brakes: Sram Level Ultimate
Fork: Fox Float 34 Factory
Rear Shock: Fox NUDE Trunion Mount
Travel: 120 mm rear / 130 mm front
Blister’s Measured Weight: 26.8 lbs (12.16 kg) without pedals
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Moab, UT
We swung through Outerbike in Moab a few weeks ago to hang out, ride some bikes, and partake in the good times that happen when bike people gather together in the desert.
If you don’t already know about Outerbike, you should; it’s a great opportunity to demo new bikes on some great trails. There are three Outerbike events throughout the year — Moab in the spring; Crested Butte in the summer; and Moab again in the fall. Each event lasts 3-4 days, and you can get more information at outerbike.com.
So we had three days to ride some of this year’s new bikes on a smattering of Moab’s best trails. And while it was a great opportunity to learn a good bit about a number of new bikes (including the one reviewed here), we only rode these bikes for a few hours each, so keep in mind that this isn’t our normal full-scale review.
The Spark has been in Scott’s lineup for a while now, and situated at the cross country end of things. But the Spark got a full redesign this year, and while a racy XC version still exists, the Spark also comes in a more trail-oriented version with plus tires bolted onto it: the Spark Plus.
I rode the ridiculously high-zoot “700 Tuned” $8k version of the bike, but the bike also comes in a bunch of different build iterations, many of which are considerably less shocking to the wallet.
I’ll admit that going into this, my viewpoint on plus bikes in general (including this bike in particular) was probably best described as, “open mindedly pessimistic.” I’d ridden some plus bikes in the past and just wasn’t that impressed. Yes, traction was great, but they felt big, and dumb, and imprecise. For me, the upsides had never quite outweighed the downsides for all-around trail riding.
But now here I am, about to tell you how the Spark Plus was my favorite bike that I rode at Outerbike.
The 700 Tuned version of the Spark Plus gets a fairly no-holds-barred build kit; a 12-speed Sram XX1 Eagle drivetrain, Sram Level Ultimate brakes, carbon bars, carbon seat, carbon cranks, etc. And, of course, there’s the suspension — top of the line Fox Factory, front and rear, and a Kashima coated Fox Transfer dropper post to match. Aside from personal preference items, pretty much the only place on the build kit that I can find room for an upgrade would be the wheelset. It has aluminum rims (gasp!) rather than carbon. On the upside, that keeps this to an $8,000 build instead of a $9,500 one.
It should go without saying on a bike like this that all of the build choices are fantastic, and they all worked ridiculously well on my test ride.
There is, however, one thing that I’d change. The Spark Plus, along with a number of other bikes in Scott’s lineup, comes with a Fox Nude rear shock and a Twinlock lever. Basically what that means is that there’s a handlebar mounted lever that controls both the fork and rear shock, and has three positions: Position 1 is fully open front and rear (essentially “descend” mode). Position 2 reduces the travel in the rear shock to 85mm, and puts the fork in “trail” mode. Position 3 is a lockout, front and rear.
I’m not a fan of this system, particularly on this bike. First, the handlebar remote makes for a cluttered mess on the bar and a rats nest of cables on the front of the bike, and I kept hitting the suspension lockout when I was trying to hit the dropper lever. Second, this is a relatively short-travel bike with intelligent suspension kinematics — it pedals reasonably efficiently even in the fully open setting. On the chunky trails of Moab, I never once felt the need to firm up the suspension for the riding I was doing, but even if I was doing a long fireroad climb where trail mode (or a lockout) would make sense, I’d rather just reach down and flip a switch on the shock.
This whole system seems like a good example of unnecessary complexity. That said, the shock sizing is standard, so at least if you want to replace it (or when it eventually needs replacing), you’ll have options.
NEXT: Fit and Geometry, The Ride, Etc.