Review by Brandon Turman // Photos by Ian Hylands and Scott Sports
Model year 2013 bikes are being released left and right, and many of the new announcements are fueling frequent wheel size debates among some groups of riders. Here at Vital, we've always been pro 26" wheels, which is why when we showed up at Scott Sports headquarters last week and they made the announcement that they are no longer making a 26" version of their trail bike, we were honestly a little shocked. That's right. They've killed off their 26" trail bike in favor of larger wheels. Now in its 10th year of existence, the new Scott Genius saw a major redesign and is only available in the Genius 700 (650b) and Genius 900 (29") models.
When they set out to create the 2013 Genius, Scott did so with a few goals in mind - they wanted to use a standard rear shock, improve the overall stiffness, offer it in larger wheel sizes, and update it to current trail bike standards.
Previously, the Genius utilized a pull shock system. It now uses a DT Swiss Nude 2 rear shock in standard dimensions (yes, you can swap it out if you wish), and a similar linkage to the Spark line which was refined in 2012. The shock switch alone saved 200 grams, and the total weight savings is 150 grams when compared to the previous frame. The change in linkage designs lowered the shock ratio to 2.7 for the 700, and 2.6 for 900, improving damping quality, and both frames are also slightly less progressive than the previous generation. As an added benefit, the shock is now in a more protected location.
Stiffness wise, Scott says the bike is now 20% stiffer at the headtube and 30% at the bottom bracket. This increase can be attributed to several big changes. First, the bike now has a tapered headtube. Second, the front triangle is now modeled as a single piece, which drastically improved the bottom bracket area stiffness while maintaining the same weight. Third, the linkage is stiffer thanks to a 20mm wider pivot bearing and a beefed up version of the Mono U Link found on the Spark. Finally, the entire frame has a smoother shape, which helps reduce stresses and distribute loads more evenly throughout the frame.
Aside from the tapered headtube, Scott also updated the frame to use a press fit bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs, internal cable routing, post mount 180 rear disc brake, and interchangeable dropouts dubbed IDS SL, which allow for 142x12, 135x12, and 135x5mm rear hubs to be used.
Scott Genius 900 SL
Constrained by the large 29" wheels, the Genius 900 was reduced to 130mm of travel in order to avoid the negative geometry effects (tall bar height, long wheel base and chainstays, etc) that forcing too much travel onto the wheel size incurs with this linkage system.
Scott Genius 700 SL
The Genius 700 utilizes 650b wheels, a size positioned somewhere in-between 26" and 29". Officially, Scott is calling them 27.5" for ease on the consumer's brain, but we'll continue to use the correct nomenclature because 650b wheels are not directly in-between 26" and 29". In fact, they're much closer to 26" wheels than they are to 29". Adrian Montgomery, Scott Sport's Marketing Manager, put it best when he likened the overall circumference of a 650b wheel to a 26" wheel with a large 2.7" tire. This size is said to offer the benefit of improved roll over trail obstacles and increased traction, like 29", but without travel and geometry limitations. Because of this they can offer it in 150mm of travel.
Now then, just because we're advocates of 26" wheeled bikes it doesn't mean that we're not open to the idea of larger wheels. We just like to get a little rowdy while riding, and 26" wheels have proven to be best for that. Interested to see what all the hype was about, we willingly hopped on both the Genius 700 and 900 for a few days of testing. The results surprised us.
On day one of ride testing, we rode the same trail twice - once on each wheel size. Located in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho, the Greenhorn to Mahoney to Cow Creek loop provided a good variety of terrain to compare the bikes. The climb was fairly mellow, but included a few steep pitches and some technical sections. The descent varied from fast and smooth to loose and rocky (very rocky). By chance, we had ridden the rough portion of the trail a few days prior on a Trek Slash - a 26" wheeled, aggressive all-mountain bike. Having ridden the trail beforehand on a bike we are very familiar with keyed us into some interesting observations. See you if can spot some of them while watching this Scott Genius promo video:
How'd They Compare?
For the first lap, we opted for the Genius 700, wanting to see the progression as we gradually increased wheel size from our previous 26" trail ride. The bike climbed well, but was noticeably slower over rough climbing sections than the 29er. The Genius 700 lacks the mind blowing roll-over found in the 29er, and it felt very much akin to a 26" wheel in several of the rougher sections. However, there was one particular rocky section at the top of a climb where the improved rollover was noticeable - on a 26" bike it was easy to get hung up, but the Genius 700 rolled over it with ease. On the descent, when compared to a 150mm travel 26" bike with large volume trail tires, the Genius 700 seemed relatively harsh. When compared to the 130mm Genius 900 29er, it seemed especially harsh.
You'll see Olympic hopeful Geoff Kabush on the Genius 700 SL at the Trans Provence enduro race this year.
Traction was actually quite impressive. In turns that we blew or drifted around during the previous ride, we found ourselves able to push the bike even harder. The rear end would eventually break loose in the dry, dusty dirt, but it seemed surprisingly more grippy than a 26" tire.
Having said that, the Genius 700 lost some of the fun that a 26" wheeled bike is capable of. The 650b model has longer chainstays, a lower bottom bracket, and a more rearward axle path than the previous Genius, and as a result it's harder to get the front end off the ground or to get the rear end sideways. Some will find this confidence inspiring as the bike seems to be glued to the ground; others will yearn for the playfulness of a smaller wheel. We found ourselves in the second boat.
Adrian Montgomery, Scott Sports Marketing guru here in the USA, puts the big wheel to the test through a rough portion of the trail.
When we hopped on the Genius 900, we were in for a bit of surprise. Admittedly, we only had a handful of days on a 29er before the Genius launch, so much of this may seem normal to big wheeled riders. The bike climbed incredibly well. When we'd get offline on a techy climb, it didn't matter. As long as the cranks were still spinning, the bike would find its way to the top. Uphill traction was also substantially better than the 700, especially when standing. Climbing wise, the Genius 900 could be improved with a travel-adjustable fork like the 700 has.
The descent on the Genius 900 was a real eye-opener. With the exception of tight turns, average trail speed seemed substantially faster. We literally felt like we were hauling ass in comparison to the 700. The 29" wheels plowed over anything and everything in their path, and they did so quickly. We actually found ourselves sprinting into rock sections just to see what the bike could handle. Were we impressed? Yeah. You bet.
Contrary to the typical 26" rider's beliefs, if you get aggressive with a big-wheeled bike, it will turn well. Corner exit speed on the Genius 900 was better than we've ever experienced on a 26" wheel or the 650b equipped Genius 700. Watch your cranks though - the lower bottom bracket of the 900 seemed much more prone to rock spiking than the 700. Much like the 700, it was difficult to get the front end off the ground on the 900. It's possible, but you've got to really put your back into it.
Even though the 900 has 20mm less travel than the 700, it certainly didn't feel like it. When coupled with the larger wheels, bumps actually felt relatively smaller on the 900. We're not sure why Scott decided to spec the 900 with a 32mm fork and the 700 with a 34mm fork, especially when the larger wheel size is more prone to flexing. The Fox 32 Float on the 900 is also at a set 140mm of travel, whereas the Fox 34 Talas on the 700 can be adjusted, which is nice when climbing steeper pitches.
Switching bikes usually takes some getting used to, but that wasn't the case with the Genius. They share a nearly identical build kit and some frame geometry measurements are almost identical, including the reach, seat tube, and bar heights. The wheelbase length of the 700 is actually 13-15mm longer than the 900, simply because the 700 has a slacker headtube and more travel.
New for 2013, both bikes are equipped with a geometry chip in the rear shock mount. By flipping the link, it's possible to change the head angle by 0.4 degrees and bb height by 6mm.
Those familiar with Scott bikes will recognize the TwinLoc lever. It's a quick way of adjusting the damping of the both the front and rear shock, the travel of the rear shock, and in turn the geometry of the bike. Press the top lever in twice for Lockout, once for Traction mode, or leave it off for Descend mode (LTD).
For the rear shock, Descend mode is characterized by the softest feel, minimum damping, and maximum travel. Traction mode has less air volume and is harder as a result, uses the most damping, and travel is reduced which also raises the sag point. In Lockout mode there's no damping, no sag, and a blow off valve that takes quite a bit of force to actuate.
The diagram above shows the effect the TwinLoc system has on the bike's geometry and travel. What's important to note here is Traction mode, which effectively raises the rear end of the bike up and reduces rear travel by 50mm, putting it in a better climbing position. The fork's travel does not change in traction mode, but it does get a damping boost using Fox's CTD system.
We like the TwinLoc system for its simplicity… most of the time. Adjusting the front and rear simultaneously is great when you're grinding uphill in the hurt locker, but there are times when being able to independently adjust the front and rear would be nice - like having the front end sag into its travel a bit more on climbs. On rough and rocky climbs, we found traction mode to be too stiff, and that the bikes would climb best in descend mode. The only time Lockout was used was on the paved bike path commuting to and from trails.
The collection of photos above are of the shocks on all of the test bikes after our first loop. Having hit some large rocks and a few g-outs at speed, the quick survey was a good indicator that the bikes are still quite progressive. Hardly anyone had used full travel. To remedy the situation, most riders dropped a few psi and increased their sag point. The DT Swiss Nude 2 rear shock isn't incredibly supple off the top, but performed well in this light-duty trail bike application. Chattery bumps could be one area for concern, but we didn't encounter any on the trail. Up front, we ran more pressure than recommended in the fork because we've found Fox's CTD system to be a bit divey in Descend mode.
What We'd Change
We were a bit surprised to find that our test bikes weren't equipped with dropper posts, but later found out that they should have been. Having grown accustomed to that luxury, we certainly missed it. We're curious where the lever remote would be located, though, given the number of controls already on the bike.
Also missing is a clutched rear derailleur and 2x10 chainguide. The combination led to a noisier bike than what could have been, and a few dropped chains during rough descents.
Schwalbe's Nobby Nic tires hooked up well and rolled fast, but the thin sidewalls had us wishing that a larger volume tire had been spec'd after a fair number of flats on relatively smooth trails. The increased size would also help the rollover of the 650b bike by giving it a diameter more noticeably larger than a 26" bike.
The medium Genius 700 comes with a 70mm stem, and the 900 with an 80mm stem. Both are equipped with 720mm bars. We found the cockpit to be long and skinny, and would quickly opt for a shorter, wider setup to release the bike's full potential.
Finally, exposed cables and brake housing on bottom of the downtube, although cleverly attached, could be routed internally or at least above the downtube, out of harms way.
What's The Bottom Line?
As Scott Sports puts it, "10 years ago, SCOTT conceived the Genius, the first 'do-it-all' super-lightweight carbon trail bike. From inception, it was developed for the trail rider who desires a bike that possesses proficient uphill performance while remaining capable on demanding technical trails and descents." The new Genius still meets those requirements, though in its current incarnation we're inclined to give it more credit on the climbing spectrum. It's what we'd call a downhiller's XC bike. By today's standard, it's certainly not an aggressive all-mountain bike, but it sure gets up the hills easily and can really cruise on most singletrack descents. With a few minor component changes any rider will find themselves at home on the Genius.
Before we sign out, surely you're wondering, "What about wheel size?" Well, if you're going to go big wheel, we'd suggest sucking up the ego and going all the way, at least on the Genius...
The new Genius will be available in eleven models this fall. Visit scott-sports.com/genius for more details.
About The Reviewer
Brandon Turman likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike, and to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.