A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Trek Ultimate Ride in Moab...a fancy name for a kick ass time on some kick ass bikes. The 2010 Trek Scratch and 2010 Trek Remedy bikes were debuted and a bunch of us media dorks had a chance to be some of the first to ride them. Let's start with the Scratch.
The Scratch ride was an epic 21 mile ride that was primarily descending (5000 feet or so) with about 1000 feet of climbing. Connecting Hazzard County, Kokopelli, LPS, UPS and finishing on Porcupine Rim is a gourmet recipe for a bike test. Every kind of terrain is encounter on this ride and the Scratch was ready to handle it.
Rather than go into a long, detailed trail experience, I'll point out some ride highlights, which will give you insight into the capabilities of the Scratch. My bike was 17.5-inches, set up in the 66-degree head angle position with 450lb rear spring...fyi.
During climbs, it never occurred to me that I was on a bike with 170mm of travel. The bike did not feel heavy and the amount of travel did not hinder the climbs. I'm tubby and ride flat pedals and never had a second thought about any of the climbs (which worried me before the ride). The new Bontrager Rhythm stem was noticeably stiff when standing and torking on a climb and the Joplin post was incredibly handy on the quick ups-and-downs of some of the sections, especially for my sawed-off dimensions (I have short legs). If anything the aggressive, slower-rolling tires were probably the most notable item on ascents, but I didn't flat, and they were a blast going downhill.Highlight 2:
During descents, it never occurred to me that I wasn't on a downhill bike. Let me elaborate, because I mean this in the best way. On the Hazzard County single track, the bike was nimble and took the corners well, even though the trail wasn't very steep. The tech ups and downs of UPS and LPS were also really fun. Rolling over slickrock blobs and gaps into a hairpin corner was no problem.
Where the real fun began was on the jeep road sections of Porcupine Rim. Moab can be brutal on bikes with immovable square-edged rocks everywhere and Porcupine Rim embraces this Moab tradition. Speeds can get high and random holes and rocks sneak up fast, so it's best to just point it and let the bike do the work. The Scratch did the work. MANY times I had moments of "oh no, this could be bad," or "that was a horrible line choice," yet, here I am. The Fox RC4 rear shock was well-damped and a is big reason the bike clims and descends as well as it does. The travel was there when I needed it, but remained a quiet companion when I didn't, and this is I forgot I wasn't on a downhill bike.
Our entire ride wasn't terribly steep overall (there are a couple tech, skidder spots), so the Scratch's "all-around" geometry may show its true nature on a real downhill trail. I also never felt like I had a chance to really get a feel for braking because of the trail's design. Most of the trail is coasty and the only braking comes in the form of a total shutdown or creep down a steep piece of slickrock. Having spent a lot of time on the '08 Session 88 FR, I feel like I know that the braking is dialed and the ABP does a good job at isolating braking forces. Their travel only differs by 30mm, after all.Lowlight:
The Scratch let me down in one area...the bike did not remove my fear of heights. Porcupine Rim scares the shit out of me in spots and I ain't afraid to admit it. However, even with the occasional pucker factor, I ended that ride with a monster-sized smile that lasted the rest of the day.Conclusion:
The Scratch is a pretty exciting bike that opens up a lot of riding possibilities. If your mainstay riding meal consists of earning your descents, then give this bike a look. It's not an XC bike on climbs, but the weight, bike features and suspension were designed to let you get to this big squisher to the top, so you could feel like a downhiller on the descent. The variety of models available with air or coil shocks and different budget spec should provide something for everyone looking to get big travel bombing on an efficient climber.VIDEO: Trek Scratch Rear Hub System, for 142x12mm and 135x12mm