How does Scott Sports’ redesigned 120mm Spark RC platform stack up against the field? Pete has spent the winter finding out.
After acquiring the brand Bold, the layout of the new Scott Spark won’t come entirely as a surprise. The 120mm platform shows just how rowdy World Cup cross country courses are getting with few racers opting for hardtails on race day.
How does the Spark RC Team Issue AXS cut the mustard? Pete delivers his verdict.
When I checked in from a soggy Glentress, the Scott Spark RC Team Issue AXS had flown around the hardpack trails of the Scottish Borders’ most famous riding locations. Climbs had been dispatched with a cool efficiency that few bikes have matched, with the descents made a touch spicier by way of a fixed seat post that was as high as I wanted it for climbs at its lowest.
With the suspension set up right on day one, the fettling remained limited from the outset, with tyre pressure on the Maxxis Recon Race tyres adjusted for ground conditions. That would leave me to focus on covering the ground as fast as possible on this rocket ship.
On the size small tested, you get a 411mm reach with a 415mm seat tube. Head tube angle in the ‘Race’ setting is 67.2 degrees, but with a twist of the headset cups, you can drop this to 66.2. Seat tube angle is 75.9 degrees. Chainstays are fixed across the sizes at 437.5mm, with the small having a wheelbase of 1129mm.
Components-wise, the build on the Spark RC has been flawless throughout. Not even a hint of wind is missing from the wheels, despite me not trying to avoid the odd square edge on some bigger days out in the hills. The Rockshox suspension was easy to set sag thanks to the laser etched sag markers, and with the compression options limited by the TwinLoc 2 it’s a case of set the rebound and off you go.
This was my first test bike with SRAM’s AXS wireless shifting and while the luddite in me was skeptical, I am duly impressed. The buttons are light and consistent, meaning you can shift even with big winter mitts on, and the shift stays consistent. No cable stretch and it’ll stay that light forever.
Shimano XT’s 2-piston brakes are, as ever, flawless and they didn’t have the vanishing lever feel on this bike. Just solid, consistent power, aided by a bike that doesn’t weight very much to start with.
As soon as you swing a leg over the Spark, you’re moving and moving fast. There simply is no messing around with how much of your effort goes into simply shoving this bike forwards. The low profile tread on the Maxxis tyres will have you hacking along the flats even when just coasting. A far cry from the grip-heavy and just straight heavy tyres I’m used to running in a plea for traction.
When things start to get interesting, the suspension feels measured, consistent and seems to offer more than the stated 120mm. It’s a far cry from any downcountry offering, but it’s certainly capable for a cross country machine even with the head angle set in the steeper of the two settings. The hum from that boxed in shock becomes a constant companion that you’ll soon tune out.
This capability allows you to include much dicier trails into big missions that you might otherwise avoid on other cross country bikes. That efficiency leaving you fresher at the top of the descent that you might otherwise not be. Pick a smooth line and the Spark RC will thank you with a great turn of speed.
The elephant in the room can’t be ignored, however. I’m not sure I quite understand how in 2022, you can get a bike that’s the best part of £5,000 with no dropper. Yes, it’s an XC bike but XC racers have been using droppers for years. Maybe I’m spoiled by not having ever had to test a bike without one, but if you’re out hacking the miles on the Spark RC, that speed is killed outright by having to stop to find a 5mm and put the seat down, only to have to do the same at the bottom of the hill.
If you want a dropper on a Spark RC, you’ll have to go for the £6,149.00 Spark RC Pro minimum. It is a Fox Transfer and you do get some Shimano XTR loveliness with it. Considering bikes like the Calibre Sentry at £2,000 came with droppers, it’s not unfair to want one on a bike more than double that. Arguably the better option if you’re fully sold on a Spark RC is to go for the Spark RC Team, which drops the SRAM AXS drive for an analogue Shimano XT 12-speed drive, and swaps Rockshox for Fox, crucially though, saving you £450 that could go towards a dropper.
What do we think?
The Spark RC is a very capable cross country machine that can handle some fairly interesting terrain far beyond the capability numbers alone would suggest.
All that prowess off road is muted by a lack of a dropper.
Very capable in the rough
Components are solid
AXS shifting is a delight
Could do better:
I pressed every lever on the bars and the saddle did not move
You can check out the Scott Spark RC Team Issue AXS on the Scott Sports website here.