Review: Scott Genius LT 20

Long-term testing the reputed quiver killer

By Vernon Felton

A few months ago I proposed a long-term test of this bike—Scott's do-it-all machine, the $4,700 Genius LT 20. That original preview lays out the basic whatzit and why of this rig. Check it out.

Not feeling like clicking that link? Here's the A.D.D. version: this bike is supposed to do everything brilliantly. Everything.

That's a tall order and then some. More to the point, it's the kind of claim that you can generally dismiss as bullshit. No single bike can do everything. Fireroads, tight singletrack, rock drops, high-speed downhill courses, marathon trail riding grunts….different courses call for different horses. Simple.

Well, generally, yeah. But there are a few bikes out there, which—thanks to sophisticated shock and frame designs—can make some pretty preposterous claims without actually being pathological liars. The Genius is one of them (the Cannondale Jekyll and Claymore are two other noteworthy examples).

So, here's the deal, the Genius LT sports a "Twinlock" lever on its handlebar that, with the flick of a switch, morphs the bike from hardtail stiff, to 110-millimeter travel trail bike. Push the switch one more click and—bam—now you're sitting atop 185 millimeters of uber-plush travel.

That's worth repeating—hardtail to 7.3-inches of squish. This, for the record, is some crazy shit.

Three positions on the TwinLock lever provide three completely different flavors of bike. It's an impressive range of adjustment, just a thumb's throw away.

What's more, the Twinlock lever also activates the custom RockShox Lyrik RLR, so each click of the lever also changes the fork's ride feel. When you firm up the rear end, you firm up the fork. When you set that rear shock to full plush, the fork simultaneously goes putty soft. You do, have to adjust the fork travel (from 180 millimeters to 140 millimeters of travel), but doing so merely requires that you reach down and twist the travel adjust knob.
Sounds great, right? But does it actually work? That's the real question, which is why I've been mistreating this bike all season. I live in a land of mud and root and rock. It's dry for a whopping three months of the year. Bikes go to an early grave in the Pacific Northwest. It makes for ideal testing conditions.

There are three Genius LT models in the line up. The LT20 is the middle of the pack version and you're looking at the 2012 version. The 2013 iteration is, however, largely unchanged. The front triangle is made of carbon fiber. The seat and chainstays are aluminum. Rear axle configuration is 142×12. A flip chip on the massive rocker link allows you to relax the head angle from 67 to 66.3 degrees and drop the bottom bracket about a third of an inch (from 14.4 to 14.1 inches).

The lightweight carbon/aluminum frame sports plenty of smart features including internal dropper post routing, ISCG 05 mounts and this post-style disc brake mount. Very streamlined.

As you'd expect from a bike with this much travel, the frameset is built with burl in mind—everything is oversized. There are a few nice touches as well, including post-style brake mount, ISCG chainguide mount, and internal dropper post routing (this version runs the excellent RockShox Reverb Stealth).

Frame weight is an astonishing 6.17 pounds and that includes the 535-gram Equalizer shock.

The widget that makes this bike possible is the proprietary, twin-tube Equalizer3 pull-shock, which nestles just above the bottom bracket. When you run the bike in wide-open mode, oil flows to both tubes. Click the Twinlock into the 110-millimeter "Traction" mode and you only use one tube on that shock—which reduces the air-spring volume and results in not only less travel, but also a more progressive spring curve.

The proprietary pull-shock is easier to set up than you might imagine, but needs to be perfectly dialed to get the most out of this bike.

While the Equalizer3 looks intimidating as hell, it's not too hard to get this thing dialed. Rider weight and corresponding positive/negative air pressure settings are conveniently printed on the shock body. There's also a built-in sag meter, so getting the pressures right is brain-dead simple. There are also separate rebound damping knobs for each travel setting. The only thing that's kind of a pain is that the shock requires the use of a specialized high-pressure shock pump, so just remember to keep that thing in your hydration pack at all times.

For the record, I almost never ran the bike in full lock-out mode because climbing traction suffers massively on bumpy trails with the bike locked out (not a huge surprise). The lock out would be useful on asphalt excursions, but I almost never touch the street, so I spent all my days in either the 110 or 185 travel modes.

In the 110-millimeter mode, the bike climbs brilliantly. No, it's not as efficient as most DW or VPP style bikes, but the traction is excellent and, really, the bike scales climbs better than it has any right to. I did all day-grinders on this thing and though it wouldn't be my choice for trail bike or XC machine, it does a far better job in those roles than you'd ever suspect possible. At 32 pounds it's not the lightest thing on the block, but for a bike with this much travel, that's respectable as hell.

For techy riding, the 110-millimeter setting is actually a lot of fun. I may be a kook for saying this, but I actually liked the way the bike rode with the Lyrik at full travel and the rear end at 110-millimeters of travel. It was like some kind of crazy, super trail bike that could be threaded through tight singletrack and yet plow through the ugliest possible sections of trail.

When the trail (and speeds) opened up, I ran the bike in full travel mode and it was nearly as competent in that setting. Would it be my choice at the bike park? No. As a long travel machine, the bike is competent, but doesn't feel as sorted and confident as most dedicated "big bikes". It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this is the case, but I'll put it this way, the Genius LT would be the perfect "road trip" bike. Put it on the back of the tailgate and you can ride just about anywhere on this thing. Long days and big climbs? This bike can do that. Super-technical singletrack? Ditto. Occasional shuttle machine? Absolutely. Dedicated bike park rig? Nah.

My biggest concern with the Genius LT was its Equalizer3 shock. I've had hit-or-miss experiences with the earlier generations of Equalizer shocks on the old Ransom models, which could turn shitty after a few months of riding. This generation of Equalizer, to its credit, has proven completely reliable. I treated this thing cruelly. Other than keeping the bag at the proper sag, I did no maintenance. None. The bike and suspension hardware, however, are performing spot on.

Speaking of "spot on" you really do need to be spot on with both the sag and rebound settings. Getting those settings right isn't a challenge, but the bike's performance (particularly in the long travel setting) is noticeably compromised when you're off by even a little. I found I had to run the bike at the maximum sag recommended (which feels a little too soft when you are just putting around at the trailhead). Even though there are a ton of clicks on the rebound damping, I found little margin or error when achieving the "right" speed. Too fast, and the shock would top out. Too slow and the suspension would pack up quickly on the trail. Again, getting the suspension isn't a headache, but this bike requires that you nail it on the head. Whether that's just a function of the shock and frame design or the fact that you are asking one bike to do so much is unclear to me, but if you are testing this thing out and not enjoying the hell out of it, it's probably all in the suspension set up.

What would I change? The 700-millimeter bars are way too narrow. That's XC width in my book. I tore them off after the maiden voyage. I also couldn't get my head around the triple chainring set up, which seems bizarre on a bike with this much travel. If you need to use the 44-tooth big ring to bring yourself up to speed, you need to re-evaluate your riding style. If it were my bike, I'd tear that big ring off and replace it with a bashring. A 2×10 drivertrain with an integrated bash, or better yet a double-and-a-chaingude set up (like the Gamut versions spec'd on so many Specialized models) would be perfect.

The triple chainring set up is one of the few mis-steps in the outfitting of the Genius LT 20, but one that is easily rectified.

These however, are minor criticisms as the big ticket items are all nicely sorted. The custom Lyrik is fantastic. The DT wheelset is burly yet light. Hans Dampf tires as OE product? Outrageously good fortune. I'm also a fan of the Avid brakes (I wish they required a few less bleeds, but I'm a sucker for their feel) and the Reverb is tough to beat as a dropper post.

I had my doubts about this bike coming into the test. I knew I liked the way it rode (I tested it for the 2011 Bible of Bike Tests), but I wasn't sure whether that special shock would survive or shit the bed. After a year of abuse, the Genius LT is still going strong. It may not be the most popular Scott in the 2013 line, but it is one bike that lives up to the marketing hype in the catalog.