Scott’s Genius 700 was already a challenge to categorize. A carbon-fiber front triangle mated to an aluminum swingarm, it offers 130 millimeters of travel and is paired with a 140-millimeter-travel Fox 34 FIT4 fork. Lighter than the crowd of all-mountain contenders, the Genius 700 has more suspension than most of the lightweight trail and XC set. Its suspension features a unique TwinLoc handlebar remote that operates in three modes: open–allowing front and rear to operate at full travel; traction–in which the front stays open but rear travel reduces to 90 millimeters, and compression damping stiffens; and closed–front and rear suspension both lock out. To further tweak genre purists, Scott has made room for a pair of fat Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.8-inch tires rolling on wide Syncros TR 1.5 rims. SRAM X01 cranks, shifter and rear derailleur handle shifting and pedaling duties, a 125-millimeter RockShox Reverb does the seat dropping and Shimano XTR brakes slow things down on this high-end bike.Scott also offers an adjustable head angle, via a pair of eccentric cups in the headtube, as well as bottom-bracket height adjustment enabled by a flip-chip on the seatstay. We kept the head angle slack at 67.5 degrees, and, after trying to dig our way to the center of the earth with severe pedal strikes in benign terrain, we decided to run the high 13.4-inch setting.
The chief upside of the plus-size tires can be summed up in one word: traction. Tons of it everywhere, all the time, regardless of ground surface. Running the tires around 10 to 11 PSI, there is a supplemental suspension effect that obliterates small, high-frequency trail garbage. Having taken the lightweight route to getting fat, the Genius 700 Plus still climbs and pedals with surprising alacrity. However, the flip side of those light tires and wheels can be felt when loading hard into turns and jumps and plowing into rock gardens. More pressure is needed to prevent the tires from rolling, and with that, the traction benefits start to fade. The tires are also a bit fragile for pinging hard into rocks. The plus-size crusade is just getting rolling, though, and as tire and wheel options become broader, this is a bold new frontier filled with potential.
Q&A with Zack Vestal
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's what Zack Vestal, Scott Marketing Manager, had to tell us. –Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: This is a new bike for 2016. What kind of rider is this new plus-sized version of the Genius aimed at?
Zack Vestal: This bike is for many, many riders. It's for every mountain biker that is looking for more fun out on the trail. And by "more fun," I mean the freedom to ride more terrain, more trail surfaces, with more confidence and control than ever before. It's not designed for one segment of riders. It's designed to improve the experience of any rider.
Think about dropper posts, disc brakes, and suspension. It's not that the bike with those parts added was made for any particular rider. It's that ANY rider that steps over that bike has a better experience, thanks to those advancements in technology. The Plus tire size, and the bikes that are made to fit the tires, are made with the same thought in mind. It's just a better bike, in many ways and for many riders.
Novice to intermediate riders will appreciate the increased confidence and stability. Advanced riders will appreciate the added traction in extreme situations, like off-camber root gardens.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
ZV: There's no doubt that with a tire contact patch 20 percent larger than that found on a standard 2.3-inch tire, a plus bike will excel in low-traction trail conditions. Sharp corners are easier to rip at speed. Loose, steep climbs are suddenly rideable. Our engineers kept the chainstays as short as possible, and that helps with both agility in corners and alacrity on ascents. The relatively low bottom bracket keeps the bike feeling extra planted in corners and loose descents, both of which are also traits enhanced by the big tires.
VF: There are a growing number of plus-size bikes out there. What sets this model apart from some similar bikes that consumers might be looking at in 2016?
ZV: For starters, the Genius 700 Plus has a few spec choices that are particular to SCOTT's Plus bike range. The Syncros rims with 40- millimeter internal width are wider than many, and the 2.8-inch Schwalbe tires are narrower than what others have chosen. This combination is deliberate. Wider tires were tested and determined to be too bouncy. Rims any narrower lacked appropriate support. So for SCOTT, these small choices are critical to keeping the bike as stable as possible. We have had riders comment that our Genius Plus bikes felt more "normal" than any other Plus bikes they rode. Small choices like these made the difference.
Boost hub spacing is fairly typical to accommodate the tire size. We managed to incorporate Boost without growing the crank arm Q-factor. So you're not pedaling something that feels like a fat bike. All the typical SCOTT Genius features persist. These features are part of our DNA and they set us apart. The TwinLoc suspension system, lightweight carbon frame, and adjustable geometry are all incorporated into our proven suspension design.
Finally, we've got a Plus bike for anyone and everyone. You're testing the Genius 700 Plus with 140-millimeters of travel up front and 130-millimeters in back. We have three models in the 700 Plus series. In addition, there are three models of the Genius LT Plus, with 160/160. And there are two Scale Plus hardtails. In total, we have a Plus range of eight bikes. It's a demonstration of SCOTT's commitment to the technology as being a legitimate advancement in the sport and a genuine improvement to the ride characteristics of mountain bikes.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
ZV: Very few Plus bikes are built to accommodate a front derailleur. But the SCOTT Plus bikes can fit a 2x drivetrain with a front derailleur. It's something to consider–x drivetrains are totally legitimate. Shimano is making fantastic 2×11 drivetrains for those of us that need a little extra bailout gear.
VF: What's noteworthy about how this bike is spec'd?
ZV: The "Tuned" version of our Genius bikes is the ultimate, high-end parts pick. In the Tuned bikes, we're going for the lightest and most elite. The drivetrain is SRAM XO-1, the brakes are Shimano XTR, and the main frame is HMX carbon (our lightest).
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
ZV: Generally the Plus details and the parts pick are fairly self-evident! But we should call out the FOX suspension. Our bikes depend on great dampers and FOX really stepped up with the 2016 range. The new DPS damper gives a firm lockout on the rear shock, the EVOL air can keeps the shock stroke more linear, and the 34 fork now gets 22 clicks of adjustable low-speed compression damping. It's easy to think that a shock is a shock, but our team worked closely with FOX to wring the best tuning out of the dampers to fit our bikes.