Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Scott Scale 910

Purchase Date: April 2013
Uses: XC racing, XC riding, occasional trail tiding
Purchase Location: Chain Reaction Cycles, Anchorage, AK

The Scott Scale 910, when it was shiny and new.
I purchased my medium Scott Scale 910 this spring from Chain Reaction Cycles in Anchorage (not to be confused with the online retailer), after many years of service from my 2003 Giant XtC. The latter was due for some upgrading, and the costs to do so no longer penned out compared to the new tech available on the market.

A big reason for a new purchase also, was that I wanted a carbon frame for my hard tail, and it was clear that it was time to get on with the times, and move to 29-inch wheels for this rig in my fleet.

My inclination was to either go with another Giant XtC or a Scott Scale. Ultimately, the decision to go with the Scott was driven both by my satisfaction with my 2011 Scott CR1 Elite road rig, and shop preference.

This is a 1-season review, but so far, so good.

As a short rider, I’ve been skeptical of moving to 29r wheels. My biggest concern has been the nimble-ness I have on a smaller 26-inch wheel set.

Riders who didn’t grow up riding the rocks and wet roots of New England on 26-inch wheels, or taller riders, may fail to appreciate the nimbleness the same way I can, but I have always loved having the ability to move my rig side to side as deftly as it rolls forward.

Additionally, the smaller 26-inch bikes are superior at short accelerations.

In a racing or group ride context, I have found myself at times frustrated by riders on 29rs who try to “roll” undesirable lines through technical sections, or lag in their accelerations.

It is no surprise that particularly in the former context, these were places I often made my move for a pass.

But the 26-inch wheels left me spinning up a high cadence to hang on in fast, smooth sections, and when the trail presented broken up obstacles, the 29rs easily cleared them and carried their speed, while a single sink hole in a trail easily sucked up a ton of speed from my 26r.

The trade off for me was to go light. The Scale 910 is just that, and while I feel a slight reduction in my ability to “flick” my bike due to it's size, its not significant. Nor is it a slow climber.

The added, and so-oft touted rolling prowess of the 29r wheels is indeed a perk, and sometimes give the hardtail a near full suspension feel. What helps with this as well is a long wheel base. This bike can float technical sections far easier than one might expect from a hardtail.
Two other big plusses have been the installation of a flip-loc for the fork with three settings. On up-and-down trails inter-mixed with smooth and super rooty stretches, I work the flip-loc as much as my brakes and shifters.

Another big plus is the Sram XX 2x drive train. At 95 RPM I can push this bike at 25 MPH, topped out.  That's plenty fast for most XC riding. The draw back is that should I chose to do gravel road riding, I may want that third ring up front, though the Denali trip last spring seemed to refute that.

I was also pleasantly surprised with this bike's performance on longer backcountry rides. On the whole this would be a poor choice for a backcountry rig, but on loops and rides that feature less technical trail, or sections of gravel, like the Russian Loop, it's pretty fun.
Major disappointment: tubeless tires. I just wasn't getting anything from them. Weight savings? Lower tire pressure? Whatever, they were unreliable, messy, and too much work.

Expected disappointment: stock Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires. I'm just going to vent this out over the Internets: Schwalbe mountain bike tires suck. I have personally witnessed the sidewalls on three different pairs Schwalbes blow out, one of those pairs being my own. I also saw one of my own Schwalbes get what was arguably the lamest puncture flat in the history of the sport of mountain biking: from a pointy pebble ON A DIRT ROAD. News flash Schwalbe, I ride dirt roads several times a week ON MY ROAD BIKE, and I don't have this issue.
Sadly, lots of bikes come stock with Schwalbes, I assume in part because they're cheap, but also because of the "OOOH, this is light," effect. Ride'em for what they're worth, watch them closely for wear, and after two months, expect to be in the market for something new. I recommend Maxxis tires.


Andrew J. Bernstein said...

Counterpoint: I like my Schwalbe tires for road, 'cross, and MTB. I will admit that it sounds like yours are too light for your terrain.

Andrew J. Bernstein said...

Counterpoint: I like Schwalbe tires and have successfully used them for road, 'cross, and mtb. It does sound like you have the wrong model, though.

Dante said...

I knew you were gonna stick up for the Schwalbes. They may make very good road and cross tires, I would not know. To their credit, the rocket rons have a descent tread pattern that hooks up well in most conditions and sheds mud. In a race setting these tires were good. Outside of that, I would not recommend them, or similar models such as the racing ralphs, based on my own and other's experiences.

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