Reviewed by Steve Wentz and Joe Schneider // Written by Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Brandon Turman
Meet the 150mm 2013 Scott Genius 720. Once a bike that utilized a proprietary pull shock, the line has been completely reworked and revamped for its 10-year anniversary. Now lighter, stiffer, and up to current standards, the Genius 700 series also sees the introduction of 650B (~27.5-inch) wheels. Scott's wheel testing with their World Cup cross-country athletes showed gains substantial enough that the company actually scrapped the 26-inch wheel size altogether. As a whole, the package is what Scott claims is "THE ultimate trail bike." Curious if that was truly the case, we had the boys ship one over to Utah for our 2013 Test Sessions.
Genius 720 Highlights
- HMF carbon frame
- 650b wheels
- 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel
- 150, 100, or 0mm of fork travel
- Tapered head tube
- Head Angle: 66.7-degrees low position or 68.2-degrees high position
- Seat Angle: 73.8-degrees low position or 74.3-degrees high position
- Bottom Bracket Height: 346mm (13.6-inch) low position or 352mm (13.9-inch) high position
- 440mm (17.3-inch) chainstay length
- BB-92 press fit bottom bracket with removable ISCG05 bracket
- IDS-SL dropouts for 135 x 5mm (compatible with 142x12mm, 135x12mm and 135x5mm)
- Measured weight (size Medium, no pedals): 29-pounds, 13-ounces (13.52kg)
- $4,729 MSRP
There are six models in the Genius 700 series, including one specifically designed for the ladies. The 720 falls right in the middle of the men's offerings at the third tier level. Surprisingly, the 720 utilizes the same HMF carbon frame as the high end models, as opposed to the 6061 aluminum option seen on the lower end models. This allows riders on a budget to get closer to that carbon steed, and we appreciate that. Scott prides themselves on their carbon fiber technology, having been one of the first brands to use it extensively, and the HMF carbon fiber used in the Genius is claimed to offer superior strength compared to the industry standard.
Notable changes and improvements to the Genius from the previous generation include a tapered headtube, one piece front triangle, smoother contours to distribute stresses better, a press fit bottom bracket, removable ISCG05 tabs, semi-internal cable routing, post mount 180 rear disc brake, and interchangeable IDS SL dropouts. While similar in design to the World Cup XC race winning Scott Spark, the Genius uses a 20mm wider pivot bearing and a beefed up version of the Mono U Shock Link for added rear end stiffness.
The frame's suspension design isn't overly fancy or complicated, but the single-pivot link design does have a few standout features. A flippable chip in the rear shock mount allows a small geometry tweak of +/- 0.4-degrees at the head angle and +/- 6mm bottom bracket height. For the purposes of our test, we ran the bike in the lower, slacker setting.
Also unique to the Scott lineup is the use of the TwinLoc lever, which is a bar-mounted switch that makes on the fly adjustments to the both the front and rear shock really easy to do. Press the lever in twice for Lockout, once for Traction mode, or leave it off for Descend mode (LTD). FOX's CTD Talas fork mates up with the system, and the Climb, Trail, and Descend modes pair up with the respective Lockout, Traction, and Descend modes on the DT Swiss Nude 2 rear shock.
Note that in the middle Traction mode, the travel of the rear shock and corresponding sag point are altered by closing off a secondary chamber inside the shock. As shown in the diagram above, this changes the geometry slightly. The fork's travel does not change in traction mode, but it does get a damping boost using Fox's CTD system. Descend mode is characterized by the softest feel, minimum damping, and maximum travel. In Lockout mode there's no damping, no sag, and a blow off valve that takes quite a bit of force to actuate.
On The Trail
With 150mm of travel up to bat and a claim to the ultimate trail bike title, we took the Genius to a variety of trails to try and see if we could find the limits of the platform. While Steve did his best to utilize the 650B wheels to their fullest by tackling the bumpy Zen Trail, Joe rode the bike through the never-ending rocky peaks and valleys at Guacamole, and again down the super rough and rowdy Grafton Mesa trail.
Bar position was quite comfortable, and the bike's fit was good on our size Medium frame. If anything, it was slightly on the long and low side with a definite XC feel. We felt like the seat position was a really straight up, over the bottom bracket and not behind it. This put us over the front while climbing, which was a positive thing when going up. Unfortunately when pointed down, that XC feel was very noticeable, and it zapped a bit of our confidence right off the bat.
While descending, the bike was responsive and precise, which was likely aided by the stiffness of the frame and wheels. We'd say stiffness all around was better than average. The bike's 650B wheels added some level comfort in the faster stuff and on bigger hits, and seemed to roll a bit faster than the 26-inch alternative while gaining a little in the traction arena. The wheel size and stiffness combined initially helped in making us think the bike was trustworthy, but handling was ultimately a mixed bag - both stable and sketchy at the same time. When we weren't being dynamic and jumping, the bike felt quite stable, maintaining speed and composure through most things. Once we started to get after it though, which we love to do, things got a bit sketchy due to the geometry and suspension.
That leads us to the suspension… This bike was tricky to setup for a few reasons. The leverage curve is regressive initially, then linear, and regressive again at the end of the stroke. At the same time, the DT Swiss Nude 2 rear shock has an extreme amount of ramp up near bottom out. This led us to two different ways of trying to set the sag. At 20-25% sag, the rear end was quite harsh off the top, and it was impossible to use full travel. Dropping the pressure to achieve 30% sag created a rear end that felt like it wallowed in the mid-stroke, yet was still very, very progressive at the end of the travel. In either case, we never felt the bike bottom out despite hitting some large compressions.
Of the two, we opted to ride at 30% sag for most of the test. In Descend mode, the softest setting with the most travel, both the fork and shock had a tendency to dive. Due to the wallowy feel, pumping through terrain was relatively poor since the bike would use a lot of travel before gaining forward momentum. At 20-25% sag, the bike pumped better, but the effective loss in travel due to the ramp up of the shock was tough to deal with all around.
On the positive side, chatter was good, and medium sized hits were handled very well. So long as the suspension wasn't allowed to extend all the way, it was all good in the small bump arena too. When we'd stay light and the shock got into the top of the stroke, though, small bump performance was poor. The shock seemed to rebound very quickly at the top of the travel, which we found odd. When combined with the harshness up top (likely due to stiction), the rear end kicked too quickly at times and was often accompanied by a loss of traction, leaving us wishing for a better top out system. Despite being a 650B bike, square edged hits were also pretty poor, and the bike would hang up from time to time.
Ultimately, we were a bit bewildered by the suspension system. Because the shock offered no manually adjustable compression adjustments, it wasn't great in Descend, leading us to the more controllable Traction setting, but once in Traction mode the shock was restricted to less travel and geometry got steeper. On top of this, the Climb/Lockout mode was far too stiff to allow good traction while climbing, unless the trail was very, very smooth, so the mode went unused outside of initial tests. You can see the dilemma… We'd readily opt for a standard rear shock with compression adjustments that wasn't connected to the fork. This would also do away with two of seven cables at the front of the bike.
At 29.8-pounds, the bike is on the heavy side for a carbon bike, but considering the $4,729 price tag it's right in line with comparably priced competitors. Perceived weight was much lighter than the actual weight would indicate, thanks to good rolling speed and a stiff frame that was pretty snappy when we got on the gas. Hard out of the saddle efforts did expose some noticeable pedal kickback in the granny ring and a little in the big ring if we weren't pedaling smoothly. Switching from either Traction or Descend to Climb/Lockout mode alleviated the issue, but we lost the compliance we like when climbing a suspension bike. Seated climbing was much better in this regard, and combined with great body position and the efficiency of Traction mode the Genius scooted up the mountain pretty well.
Having recently purchased Syncros, Scott decked the Genius out with a seat, bars, grips, stem, saddle, post and wheels all with the iconic brand's emblem. Each of the parts seemed very well built, and we didn't have any issues. While slightly on the skinny/long side, the included 720mm bars and 70mm stem were comfortable and close to what we'd call perfect. The seat was great, and the grips felt awesome as well.
Note that while our photos show one, a dropper post is not included on this model (the 710 and SL are equipped with a dropper but the 720 is not to save cost). While other bikes in this price range do include one, many of them don't sport a carbon frame. Regardless, it's one immediate upgrade we'd recommend, though finding room for it may be difficult on the already crowded bars.
Due to the bike's moderate head angle and the geometry's bias toward the front of the bike, the travel adjust feature on the FOX CTD Talas fork was never needed. Like many of the other bikes in our Test Sessions, we'd happily choose the FOX CTD Float given the choice, which performs a little better.
Drivetrain performance was ensured by the Shimano camp, with a XT clutched derailleur out back to keep things quiet. Shifting was dialed, too, but we did find ourselves missing a 2X system in favor of more clearance and less complexity up front.
The Shimano SLX brakes worked really well, and we were able to get on the binders hard in a few sections without worry. They delivered consistently good performance.
Finally, Schwalbe's Nobby Nic tires were solid - they cornered well, were predictable, and didn't spring off rocks. Considering the open lug design, they rolled decently fast too.
Long Term Durability
The bike is solid from the durability perspective, and Scott's expertise in carbon is apparent when looking at the frame, making us think it'd hold up without worries.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Scott Genius 720 has a lot of all-around potential, but due to the use of proprietary rear suspension technology and the TwinLoc lever, the bike never realizes that potential out of the box. Lots of the basics were good about the ride, including its ability to excel on the way up, and we think with a few component swaps the bike could really excel on the ups and the downs. In fact, watch how well Brendan Fairclough gets along with it. Granted, Brendog could probably beat us down the hill on a picnic table, but the proof is there. As the bike currently stands, it feels like a capable cross-country bike, not the ultimate trail bike we'd hoped it would be.
That said, riders who find themselves in the saddle often may really enjoy the Genius 720 thanks to its relatively neutral geometry, especially on relatively smooth, fast trails.
Given our experience on the trail, we reached out to Scott for their input on the bike's suspension and who they think is the ideal fit for the Genius:
"It's no secret that SCOTT bikes are targeted towards an audience who appreciates the lightest bike in respective travel category and the Genius serves the Trail rider who can appreciate an efficient climber. The TwinLoc switch offers advantages for pedaling efficiency that somewhat compromises performance when in full open mode. Any shock that can be fully locked out will have a lower oil flow rate than one that doesn't fully lock and will have a simpler damper. Most damper technologies that are meant to improve pedaling either don't fully lock or turn off low speed damping with a 'platform.' Additionally the 'set it and forget it' style shocks do not fully extend in Lockout mode and do not offer multiple sag positions, you have one sag setting and you slog it uphill even though the entire climb you wish your saddle was further forward over the BB.
If you calculated your times on the whole trail, up the hill, across and down, then you would see the Genius would save minutes on the pedaling segments compared to seconds gained/lost on the DH segments.
We know we won't be attractive to every Vital MTB reader, but there is an audience for this bike. If you're not sold, consider our Genius LT product which offers 185mm of travel mated with TwinLoc and much slacker angles. That bike is great for those who can pedal to the top of FR lines, it can even be ridden in a Bike Park." - Adrian Montgomery, Marketing/PR Director of SCOTT Sports Bicycle Division USA
Cruise over to www.scott-sports.com for more details about the entire Scott lineup.
Bonus Gallery: 37 photos of the 2013 Scott Genius 720
About The Reviewers
Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 17 years, 10 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).
Joe Schneider - During the day, Joe's busy solving complex mechanical engineering problems. When he's free, he's out crushing miles on his bikes and moto. He raced cross-country for several years, made an appearance on the Collegiate National Champs Omnium, turned Pro, and more recently shifted his focus to enduro.