Scott claims just 4.6mm of vertical movement is built into the back end of its fantastic Scale 29 RC carbon 29er hardtail but in practice it behaves like more.
Coupled with the inherent vibration damping characteristics of good carbon fibre construction, that tiny bit of movement yields the smooth and sublime ride quality you'd expect on gentler terrain but it also mellows things out overall by rounding off the violent spikes that come with bigger trail features to which your arms and legs just can't react quickly enough.
Add in the associated traction benefits and the overall 'monstertruckability' of 29" wheels shod with relatively fat tyres – that we ran reliably at just 24/25psi front/rear on notoriously unforgiving Rocky Mountain terrain thanks, again, in part to that bit of movement in the stays – and the result is one of the most glued-to-the-ground feelings we've experienced in any hardtail. Not to mention a ridiculous amount of speed. This sucker is seriously swift.
It's not just a race bike, though. Over the last six weeks our test rides took the Scale 29 RC across all of our usual stomping grounds and given the off-season timeframe of our testing, unfortunately included no real racing so we treated it as we would any other trail bike and this carbon wündermachine surprised us there, too.
We had perhaps our most enjoyable descent ever down the tricky front side of Hall Ranch, complete with a few little drop-offs and lots of tricky granite fields that conspire to swallow standard 26" wheels; we happily clawed our way up the annoyingly loose 'connector trail' leading from town up to Betasso Preserve.
We confidently launched off the roots coming down the Enchanted Forest section of Chimney Gulch and we rocketed through the incessantly rock-strewn Wild Turkey slight downhill section of Heil Ranch, happily flicking our way over/through/around everything in our path and pedaling like mad, all while barely touching the brakes throughout.
We'd even gotten into the habit of launching the Scale 29 RC off of whatever (moderately sized!) hits we find on the trail, relishing in the remarkably composed behavior upon landing.
The straight truth is this is some of the most fun we've had on any mountain bike in ages, and the fact that it's been on a hardtail is more testament to the remarkable engineering. Hey, Scott, come over here and try to take it back – we dare you.
Scott hasn't tempered any of the usual hardtail attributes, either, and in fact the Scale 29 RC chassis merely ups the ante. It's wonderfully rigid everywhere it should be and yet still very entertaining in the right environment and the hands of a skilled rider.
Without the filter of true suspension to water things down, reflexes retain immediacy, which come especially handy at higher speeds when you need those fast reaction times – after all, you're still on a hardtail and can't just mindlessly plough through things.
Tube sections are enormous in the front triangle and aided by the tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" head tube/press-fit 89.5mm-wide bottom bracket combo, both of which afford more real estate for the adjoining tubes and the concurrent extra lateral and torsional stiffness that come with it.
The seat tube flares radically outwards just below the front derailleur mount and the top tube is wide and relatively thin. The down tube, of course, is positively gargantuan and major kudos to Scott's product manager for selecting a 15mm thru-axle fork. Bravo.
The asymmetrical chain stays are fat as well, but the seat stays are shockingly slender and flattened, much like the road-going CR1 that shares the pseudo-flex stay design philosophy. Hey, guess what – we've now ridden both machines extensively and the idea works in both arena so it's not just sleight of hand and marketing hype.
Not surprisingly, pedaling response is superb. Push down, rocket forward – no questions asked.
Despite what the relatively slack (especially for a 29er) 69.5° head tube angle might suggest, handling is remarkably nimble and surprisingly natural feeling with no evidence of wheel flop or languishing in switchbacks. Credit here likely goes to the extra-rigid front end that loses little in translation from input to output, the short 438mm chain stays, just-right 60mm bottom bracket drop, the generously wide bar, and a flickable 90mm-long stem.
Not that this even needs to be mentioned explicitly, but the Scale 29 RC is also really light. Actual weight for the complete bike as pictured (but without pedals) is just 9.70kg (21.38lb) while the medium-sized all-carbon frame (there is no aluminum in the bottom bracket, head tube, or even the internal housing stops) is just 990g including the rear derailleur hanger, bottom bracket cable guide, and chunky quick-release (!) seatpost collar – well within Scott's 949g claim.
Scott Scale 29 RC
Weight: 9.70kg (21.38lb) (complete bike, w/o pedals), 990g (frame only, w/ seatpost collar, rear derailleur hanger, and bottom bracket cable guide)
Available sizes: M (tested), L, XL
Pros: Remarkably effective SDS rear end, brilliant handling, extremely light and stiff frame, excellent parts pick
Cons: Rear brake failed during testing, hard saddle, not everyone will be able to afford one, no small size
More information: www.scott-sports.com
Cyclingnews verdict: 4.5 stars
Frame: Scott Scale 29, HMX NET/IMP3 carbon fibre
Fork: Fox Racing Shox 32 F29 FIT RL Remote 15QR
Headset: Ritchey WCS Carbon Press Fit, 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" tapered
Stem: Ritchey WCS 4-Axis 44 Wet White
Handlebars: Ritchey WCS Carbon Flat, 660mm
Tape/grips: Scott lock-on
Front brake: Avid XX w/ 185mm rotor
Rear brake: Avid XX w/ 160mm rotor
Brake levers: Avid XX
Front derailleur: SRAM XX
Rear derailleur: SRAM XX
Shift levers: SRAM XX
Cassette: SRAM XX, 11-36T
Chain: SRAM PC-1091
Crankset: Truvativ XX GXP, 175mm, 42/26T
Bottom bracket: Truvativ GXP press-fit
Wheelset: DT Swiss XR-29 w/ 15mm thru-axle front, 10mm thru-bolt RWS rear
Front tyre: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Evo, 29x2.25" tubeless ready
Rear tyre: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Evo, 29x2.25" tubeless ready
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Team Edition
Seat post: Ritchey WCS Carbon, custom SDS carbon lay-up
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