Technology Restores the Versatility of the Mountain Bike
By Scott Hart
Versatility was the defining purpose of the first “mountain bikes.” We all know the history lesson: By the late 1970s, riders around the world – which included but were not exclusively limited to the fabled codgers in Marin County – were modifying bicycles for off-road-specific use. Pre-existing beach cruiser-type frames were adapted for the forest using any available technology. Multi-gear drivetrains were adopted from road cycling that provided the ability to comfortably go up, or down, nearly any mountain, while motorcycle handlebars and brake levers added greater control and fat, high-volume tires ensured traction in all the elements along the way.
In the sport’s beginnings, the goal was to create one machine with the ability to conquer any mountain. But as the sport advanced through the 1990s, this singular vision of the mountain bike splintered. Just as the sport’s forefathers had done twenty years prior, riders began modifying their current bikes for even more specific purposes.
The adaptability of the mountain bike was…well, adapted. The sport evolved into many factions – cross-country, dirt jump, street /skatepark, downhill, etc. – and bike designers have been optimizing the mountain bike for each specific application ever since.
As each specific user group has evolved over the last ten years, the technological advancements have been plentiful in each category. The XC crowd demanded suspension efficiency and got it; DH racing innovated tire technology; while big mountain and freestyle riders have tested and advanced product resiliency. With such specialized uses for a diverse tool, the modern mountain bike has grown to take on many different forms.
Although technology has split the MTB family over the last two decades, now it might be technology that brings the original vision of the sport back in to focus. As we head into 2011, there are several manufacturers who have brought the spirit of mountain biking full circle. Cannondale and Scott are introducing two unique air pull-shock all-mountain bikes that feature on-the-fly travel adjustment at the flick of a wrist. And Scott’s new Genius LT platform is one of the bike lines that aim to re-introduce the concept of one, do-all bike that is capable of conquering any and all terrain. Scott Genius LT 30 Bike Test
This particular test bike couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was personally bike-less when the Genius LT 30 arrived on my doorstep. Being “between bikes” for close to a month, I had been without a ride and had multiple un-returned text messages to meet buddies for downhilling, cross-country riding and even some dual slalom and light dirt jumping. This bike claimed to be versatile and I would need it to be.
Foundation: The Chassis
There are four Geniuses in the 2011 LT line. The Genius LT 10 and 20 are the top shelf carbon models that come with expensive price tags, while the 30 and 40 supply a more modest spec on an aluminum chassis. Our Vital test was organized with the workingman in the lineup, the Genius LT 30.
The hydroformed 6061 alloy front triangle features a tapered head tube and an uninterrupted seat tube, which is attached to the custom-butted alloy chainstays and seatstays. The new 12x142mm rear axle system comes stock, but there are options to adapt for 12x135 wheels using Scott’s interchangeable dropout system dubbed IDS-SL. The chassis is tied together by a one-piece aluminum linkage, which produces 185mm (7.3”) of rear wheel travel when connected to the Scott Equalizer3 shock. This is where the magic happens.Scott Equalizer3 Shock
Like the current Genius, the LT’s suspension system is activated by a pull shock. Made specifically for Scott by DT Swiss, the Oil Transfer System Equalizer3 is comprised of three separate air chambers. When activated by the TwinLoc bar-mounted lever, which offers simultaneous control of fork and rear shock lock-out, the OTS shock offers three distinct suspension travel options: Open, Traction Control and Lock-out.
The open position is full travel, front and rear. But one click of the lever closes one chamber of the rear shock and switches the bike to Traction Control mode, offering 60% rear travel (4.5”) while the fork remains fully active. Click once again and the rear shock and fork completely lock-out at the same time. Another click back and you can be in Open or Traction Control mode again.
All of this is available on the fly, without ever removing your whitening knuckles from the bar. Think of the TwinLoc as a switchblade knife that can be flicked into a machete or flipped into a mallet at any moment. Custom Fork: RockShox Lyrik RLR
To compliment such an exotic rear suspension setup with just any ordinary front suspension fork would not suffice. And Scott has a history of custom front ends…
Back in 2006, Scott commissioned Marzocchi to produce a special 190mm 66 fork for the Nitrous 10 freeride bike. “We've always had ‘special needs’ in the fork department,” says Adrian Montgomery, Marketing and PR Director. He explains Scott’s picky spec history, “Being travel category weight-leaders means you may have to get a special fork made to suit your needs sometimes.” Back then, the 66 was 160mm and Scott requested a custom 190mm version. Always wanting the best-performing bike at the most favorable weight possible, Scott’s motivation has always been to provide a favorable travel-to-weight ratio.
For the long-travel brother of the Genius, Scott wanted a 180mm tapered fork with 20mm axle that could be used on the new all-mountain bike. However, an OE version of such a fork didn’t exist. The RockShox Lyrik available at your local bike shop boasts 160mm of travel, but as Montgomery stated, “SRAM stepped up and built it for us.” The Genius LT 30 is equipped with a special version of the Lyrik adorned with the unique RLR moniker, which you won’t find on the RockShox website. The custom Lyrik RLR features the new Maxle Lite 20mm quick-release axle system, stout 35mm stanchions, tapered 1-1/8” to 1.5” steerer, IS Rebound adjustability and boasts 20 millimeters of extra travel along with the remote, cable-activated, lock-out ability.On the Trail
The “LT” in this Genius’ moniker stands for long-travel so that was the first test I decided to throw at the LT30. Actually, it was more by chance. A few buddies said they were going to shuttle a local downhill trail and since I had just bolted the LT30 together, with 7.3 inches of travel, there was no way these two Scotts were going to miss out on a free truck ride to the top of the mountain (view Hart's Kernville feature here)
. I would have liked to go for a pedal to iron out the kinks first, but I figured there was no time like the present to start testing.
With 30-percent rear shock sag, the 65.7-degree head angle coordinates well with the LT30’s 185mm of travel. The 7.3 inches of rear suspension gobbles trail debris like Pacman chomps ghosts and the steering remains stable even when hammering down fast and rocky terrain at speed. I was impressed with the amount of momentum I seemed to carry on the 31.5-pound triple-chainring machine.
The front end was stiff and turning was predictable, however I would have enjoyed a slightly wider handlebar. The bend and feel of the Scott proprietary bar is comfortable, however the 700mm width may just depend on your personal preference. As is the aftermarket trend these days, I would have liked a little more length.
Following the printed gradients on the RockShox Lyrik fork and the Equalizer 3 shock helped with the initial setup. I set the suspension to the recommended settings for the first ride, then wandered up and down the scale over the few months of test riding and found myself surprisingly close to the recommended settings for most of my riding applications. Why don’t all manufacturers do this? Kudos to both SRAM and Scott for putting in the homework and creating the guidelines, which will help make setup a lot easier for most riders.
At the end of the first day of testing, I knew a lot about how the LT30 coasted. However, the real test still awaited: Pedaling.
The Real Purpose: All-Mountain
Like any rider, I have a few preferred XC rides that I hit regularly. My current favorite ride is a two-hour loop with two sustained descents that make it all worthwhile. On a whole, the trail is a fast flowing singletrack. However, the climb up is a snore. The first 30 minutes of the ride are spent climbing a wide and smooth fire road. But, like I said: the descents are worth it.
As a creature of habit, I have grown accustomed to controlling my bicycle with four controls on the handlebars – two shifters and two brakes. So I’ll admit that on my first ride out, I wasn’t overly concerned with the suspension lock-outs. But by the end of the first ride, I was surprised how much I utilized the on-the-fly adjustment now that I had it.
After using a remote height-adjust seat post for the last two or three seasons, I was actually a little disappointed that with all the technology at my fingertips that the LT30 was spec’d with a crankbrothers Joplin 4 with the lever mount under the saddle. But I was stoked all the same to have adjustability out of the box. And remember, there is the carbon LT10 with all the bells in whistles if you want to break the bank to get all the greatest options.
Now, back to that favorite trail. I’ve been riding this same trail on and off for the last few months and have it memorized pretty well. Like I said, creature of habit. I found this trail knowledge to be especially beneficial during the testing of this particular bike. Repetitively sessioning all the same lines ride after ride, you come to remember every flat section out of a difficult turn (you know, the one with the rock in the outside of the exit…). Knowing the trail, or looking ahead on a new trail, is the essential rider input needed to fully utilize the lock-out technology that has otherwise been unavailable to long-travel bikes until now.
On regular XC and all-mountain rides, I found myself using the TwinLoc technology. If I could look ahead or remember all the usual momentum-robbing flat sections and climbs, I would hit the bar-mounted lever and ride in the mode best-suited for that portion of trail, which can often be in the 60-percent rear travel mode. And on that boring climb up to favorite trail? Yes, I utilized the full lock-out mode over the course of my time testing the LT30. In fact, I found that I alternated the TwinLoc modes so much that I might even be so bold as to say that I’m going to miss the feature on the next all-mountain test bike. It’s a feature I never knew I needed until I started using it.
By adding a hydraulic travel adjuster to the Solo Air design, RockShox’s 2-Step Air system allows the fork to shorten to a minimal travel setting (45mm less travel). For sustained climbs only, I typically activate this a few times on each ride. It’s not an on-the-fly adjustment…yet. You have to flick a single lever on the top of the left fork leg to activate the drop. The shorter stanchion does lower the handlebars, helping you get a little weight over the front end for a little extra traction to get up the steep stuff.
Another adjustability feature that I set-and-forgot was the elliptical Travel Chip. The chip is inserted at the upper shock mount to allow the Genius LT’s bottom bracket height to be adjusted by eight millimeters, which in turn alters the bike's head angle between 67 and 66.3 degrees. After testing both modes, I wound up riding in the Low Mode (66.3) on the predominately fast and rocky Southern California terra firma. Depending on your region and type of terrain, the higher bottom bracket can deliver more clearance.Niceties
Talk about restoring the spirit of mountain biking! There are two true quick releases on this mountain bike. I don’t think I’ve had a bike with two QR’s in well over a decade. The DT Swiss RWS provides a rock solid connection of the rear wheel to the frame and the RockShox Maxle is just as easy to use and convenient as the original purple-anodized QR’s of yesteryear.
Attention to these particulars can either button-up a svelte ride or dishevel an otherwise sick rig with sloppy details. On a whole, the LT 30 fits into the former with such niceties as full derailleur housing and water bottle cage mounts on the top of the down tube should you wish to mount a water bottle or batteries for a light system.
This mid-price range model came equipped with Avid’s Elixir 5 brakes. The rear brake mount is a dedicated 180mm post mount-type, which eliminates the need for adapter brackets. Again, another nice detail that makes the Scott a complete package.
The spirit of capability first established by MTB’s pioneers, still remains. The Scott Genius line is a versatile platform at the forefront of a new group of mountain bikes that aim to revive the versatile do-all spirit of the mountain bike – pedal, descend and even rip the bike. So while the practice of the sport has evolved to include may different practices, the spirit of mountain biking has essentially remained the same: To be the capable of conquering any terrain.
S, M (tested), LWeight:
Geometry as tested (Medium)
Low Setting / High SettingBottom Bracket Height:
14.1-in / 14.4-inHead Angle
: 65.7-deg / 67-degTravel
: 7.3-in / 7.5-inChainstay Length
: 16.9-in / 16.8-inSeat Angle
: 73.5-deg / 74.2-degBike SpecsFrame:
RockShox Lyrik RLR, 180mm, custom Scott OE forkHeadset:
Syncros AM Comp / Tapered 1.5“ - 1 1/8“, Semi integrated 50/61mmDerailleur (Rear):
SRAM X-9 / Long cage / 30 SpeedDerailleur (Front):
Shimano SLX / FD-M660-10 E-Type direct mountShifters:
SRAM X-9 Trigger / adjustable clamp with Matchmacker ClampBrake Levers:
Avid Elixir 5Brakes:
Avid Elixir 5, 203/F and 185/R mm RotorCrankset:
Shimano XT / FC-M770-10 / Hollowtech 2, 42A x 32A x 24A THandlebar:
Scott Pilot 20 Comp 7075 Alloy 20mm rise / 700mm / Scott Lockon gripsStem:
Scott AM / 4 bolt Oversize 31.8mm 1 1/8“ / 6° anglePedals:
Crankbrothers Joplin 4 adjustable / 31.6mmSeat:
Scott AMHub (Front):
Scott AM / 20mm thru axleHub (Rear):
SRAM X.9 V2 Disc IT with 12mm RWS / 12 x 142mmChain:
Shimano SLX CS-HG81-10 / 11-36 TSpokes:
DT Swiss Champion Black 1.8mmRims:
Alex AM-44 Disc / 32H / EyeletsTires:
Schwalbe Fat Albert EVO / 26 x 2.4 67EPI / Kevlar / Snake Skin / Tubeless ready, Compound: Front - Trail Star / Rear - Pace Star
Have you ridden Scott Bikes?