Flipping through Scott Sports' 215-page 2014 bike catalog, there are 74 different mountain-bike models represented. Of those, just 10 are still built on a platform that uses 26-inch wheels.
Scott Sports has abandoned 26-inch hoops in favor of the larger 27.5 and 29-inch options on all of its trail, enduro and XC mountain bikes, leaving the smaller wheel size available only on its DH Rambler, Voltage freeride and dirtjump bikes and a few entry-level Aspects.
It's not an unexpected move. Though other brands (including Jamis, Haro and Norco) beat Scott to the 27.5 (a.k.a. “650b”) punch, Scott was among the first mainstream brands to really dive into the middling wheel size. Scott Swisspower racer Nino Schurter won the 2012 World Cup in Pietermaritzburg on his 27.5-inch wheeled Scale, and later took the series title. He also won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics on the bike. Schurter began asking Scott to develop bikes using the "in-between" wheel size in 2011. At 5-foot, 8 inches tall, he felt he was too small for a 29er, but still wanted to reap the benefits of a larger wheel, such as improved stability and better rolling capability, while retaining the agility of a smaller wheel.
"Basically we believe in big wheel sizes and that's why we do this move," said Jochan Haar, the Swiss company's global communications manager, as Scott unveiled its new line to press and retailers in Deer Valley, Utah, on Tuesday. "There's not enough space for three wheel sizes. Everybody would agree on that."
Before releasing the media to shred the of smattering of lift-accessed singletrack that winds through Aspen groves and across open meadows down the face of Deer Valley Resort outside of Park City, Scott's engineers walked us through the big changes in the line for 2014.
Perhaps more noticeable than Scott's wheel-size commitment is its new partnership with Fox Shox for front and rear suspension. Scott previously had a co-development agreement with DT Swiss, but switched based on feedback from the market. Bike reviews came in strong except for shock performance, said Dan Roberts, Scott's bike engineer. With Fox, Scott worked on creating a suspension platform around its Nude rear shock and its TwinLoc technology that adjusts damping and volume control from a handlebar-mounted lever. The shock offers three modes: descend, traction control and climb with two different damping systems. The evolution, which emphasizes lockout and places less importance on performance and tuning characteristics, is used for the Spark and Genius, bikes on the lower end of the travel spectrum. The Genius LT and Genius 700 use Boost Valve, which offers less lockout, but more performance and tuning.
Not one to be left on the sidelines of the current enduro craze, Scott is bringing to market the Genius LT 700 as its new enduro mountain bike. Engineers reduced travel from last year's Genius LT from 185 millimeters to 170 millimeters and shaved 400 grams off the full-carbon version by using higher grade carbon fiber. The bike stays true to Scott's geometry philosophy with a short chainstay (439 millimeters), low bottom bracket (346 millimeters) and slack head angle (66.3 degrees). A new "geometry chip" allows riders to change the geometry from "high" to "low," which drops the bottom bracket by 6 millimeters and slackens the head angle by a half a degree. The top-of-the-line Tuned LT comes spec'd with a Fox 34 Float CTD Fox fork, SRAM X01 11-speed rear derailleur, Rockshox Reverb dropper post, direct-mount front derailleur, semi-integrated headset and 142 by 12 millimeter rear dropout. Retail price is $7,600 with availability in late fall.
Scott also spruced up its Spark 700, 120-millimeter travel bike. The new 27.5-wheel option includes a revised downtube for better bottle clearance, redesigned seatstay bridge to improve clearance, a 5 percent stiffer headtube and a 5 percent stiffer bottom bracket. It's spec'd with SRAM XX1, Fox 32 Float Fork and Fox Nude rear shock. It's a sweet ride, but it'll cost you. The top-end 700 SL and 900 SL (29er version) both retail for $9,200. Gulp. But, you can get onto a Spark 29er or 27.5 for as low as $1,900 with seven pricepoints and spec packages in between.
With all Scott's focus on 27.5 wheels, are big-hit bikes next to undergo the wheel transformation? You can be sure Scott's engineers are giving that option some real thought, and athletes are riding prototypes.
"[27.5 wheels are a] tool. If we can keep the geometry and go faster, it's a win-win all around," Haar said. "We're not going to rush into that. It takes a lot of development and testing before we do that."