Reviewed by Evan Turpen and Steve Wentz // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
For 2014, Scott went back to the drawing board with their do-it-all Genius LT. The redesigned bike has been reduced from 185 to 170mm travel, but gains a new suspension design, 27.5-inch wheels, revised geometry, and a simple lever designed to enable you to pedal it up just about anything you'd like to rally back down. While it may look similar to the Genius 700, the Genius LT 700 is a big-mountain tamer with extra travel to back it up. The latest version looks clean and means business, so we were excited to put it through the wringer at the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
Genius LT 700 Tuned Highlights
- HMX carbon fiber frame
- 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
- 170mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel
- FOX Nude / SCOTT custom rear shock
- Tapered headtube
- 66.3 or 66.8-degree adjustable head angle
- 74.0 or 74.5-degree adjustable seat tube angle
- 346 or 315.8mm (13.6 or 13.9-inch) adjustable bottom bracket height
- 438.8 or 440mm (17.3 or 17.3-inch) chainstay length
- Press Fit BB92 bottom bracket
- IDS SL dropouts for interchangeable hub size - 142mm x 12mm thru-axle tested
- Measured weight (size Medium, no pedals): 27-pounds 6-ounces (12.41kg)
- $7,600 MSRP as tested
In switching from the previous pull-shock based frame to this new HMX carbon version, Scott managed to drop a substantial 400 grams off the total frame weight. That's no small feat. The new frame weighs 2,450 grams including the shock and hardware. Combined with a smart build, Scott’s top of the line Genius LT tips the scales at a surprisingly light 27.4-pounds.
Frame details include a semi-integrated tapered headtube, internal cable routing for everything, press fit bottom bracket, direct front derailleur mount, rubber frame and chainstay guards, and an optional integrated chainstay-style chainguide. The 12x142mm IDS-SL dropouts can be adapted to 12x135mm or 5x135mm if desired. Mud clearance is very good with about 1.5cm of room for crud around the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe tires. There’s also plenty room for a water bottle and a spare tube inside the front triangle.
A geometry adjustment chip in the rear shock mount allows you to change the head angle by 0.5-degrees and bottom bracket height by 6mm. In its slackest setting, the bike has a 66.3-degree head angle and 346mm BB height.
Perhaps the most unique feature on the Genius LT is the suspension. Previously the bike used a DT Swiss Equalizer 3 pull-shock, but with the new frame Scott has partnered with FOX on a proprietary Scott-FOX Nude rear shock. The shock itself features Kashima coating and a Boost Valve for better performance. Unlike other FOX shocks on the market, the use of two internal air chambers allows you to remotely adjust the volume of the shock while simultaneously changing the damping characteristics. Scott's bar-mounted TwinLoc lever switches between three modes:
- Descend = 170mm travel, full air volume, supple damping
- Traction = 135mm travel, reduced volume, increased damping
- Climb = 0mm travel, reduced volume, locked-out
While the available travel changes, the shock’s eye-to-eye length does not. The sag point also decreases in Traction mode, steepening up the front end of the bike slightly for better climbing performance.
Up front, the 170mm FOX Float 34 CTD fork simultaneously switches between Climb, Trail, and Descend modes, but remains at 170mm travel in both Descend and the middle Traction/Trail mode. Just like the shock, the fork locks out in the Climb position.
The Genius LT is available in the full carbon 700 Tuned model for $7,600, the half carbon, half aluminum 710 for $5,500 and the full aluminum 720 at $4,000. Frame and shock only kits are available in the full carbon and aluminum versions.
On The Trail
The Genius LT is claimed to be the “ultimate Enduro bike” so we treated it like one. Our rides in Sedona, Arizona consisted of several fast and rough descents linked together by meandering and sometimes technical climbs. Trails included Broken Arrow, Little Horse, HT, Slim Shady, HiLine, Baldwin and Ridge. We also got a few shuttle runs in on Brewer Trail, a rowdy descent with a good sprint up top that’d be at home in any Enduro stage race. Dirt conditions ranged from hero dirt to loose over hardpack.
Leaving the trailhead, we immediately felt at home on the Genius LT thanks to the Syncros stem and carbon bar. At 50/60mm long (size dependent) and 760mm wide, the cockpit is ready for the aggressive rider. We found the top tube length on our size Medium test bike to be comfortable at 5’10” with an upright and centered position with plenty of room to move around. The front end seems a little tall with the 170mm fork, but this encourages you to open it up on the descents. The bike is clearly made for charging and we applaud Scott for gearing this bike toward the descent crew - it should be with all that travel.
We found the bike to handle best set up in the low and slack geometry position, offering better handling over the rowdy stuff. The bottom bracket height, seat tube angle, seat tube length and reach are all within very comfortable dimensions. The back end seemed neither short nor long, just stable. Overall the Genius LT felt very neutral in many respects and was one of the more comfortable stock bikes we threw a leg over. Pedaling up to the first big descents we had high hopes. With loads of travel and pretty aggressive geometry to work with, just about any trail looked tamable.
Dropping in we quickly learned that the Genius LT is best when ridden at a decent clip. At slower speeds it can be difficult to maintain balance due to the tall front end and lanky feeling suspension. Even at speed we sometimes felt very detached from the terrain, leaving us wishing for a more precise, responsive, and playful ride. We like to be in tune with what our tires are doing. Because there is so much linear-feeling travel to push through, the bike also isn't the easiest to jump in the Descend setting. The front end is also a little difficult to pop up at times due to the extra squish of the suspension. Depressions and rollers in the trail weren’t that fun as the bike just absorbed them and we weren’t able to pump as much as we wanted to gain speed.
Fast, rough, but not overly steep terrain is where the bike excels. Suspension performance through the chatter was good - it would use lots of the travel lots of the time, which is a great thing in rough, consistently bumpy trails. It would just keep soaking up the hits and stay stable through it all. Occasionally a large square-edged bump would catch us off guard, though, hanging the rear of the bike up slightly. It tracked surprisingly well through rough off-camber sections, possibly aided by a slight amount of flex helping to maintain traction.
Pointed down the steep and gnarly stuff the Genius LT comes up a bit short on performance. Even with proper air pressure and sag settings, g-outs and drops had the rear suspension reaching the end of its travel a little too harshly. It felt as if the back end rode fairly high in its travel yet used it all quickly. Unfortunately the damping isn’t readily adjustable outside of the TwinLoc lever. The downhill geometry is also not as aggressive feeling as the numbers would suggest, and the head angle feels slightly steep at times. Ultimately it seemed to lack the gusto we’d hoped for in the most demanding terrain. It feels compromised in order to provide an easier ride to the top. It still descends decently well, it just doesn’t have the over the top fun factor and rowdiness level one would expect for a bike with 170mm of travel. We often felt like we could get away with more on shorter travel bikes.
The sluggish, detached feeling in Descend mode definitely encouraged the use of the TwinLoc lever as much as possible, though the benefit was questionable. In Traction mode the bottom out position of the bike was just a tad higher in the rear with no change on the front, so the head angle would be a tad steeper when fully compressed. There was more breakaway force in the rear shock and it made the feeling of detachment from terrain worse. Because of the higher breakaway force it felt like the rear shock was through-stroking more once it did move, making it feel like more travel anyway. Pointed downhill, we chose the Descend setting more often because it was smoother, rode slightly lower in the rear travel and had better traction. While the fork was more consistent through its travel, due to the TwinLoc configuration it lacks good compression damping support in Descend mode.
Torsional stiffness of the 170mm FOX 34 fork was a concern for Evan, who said it seemed as if he could feel the fork flexing more than any other fork in the 25 bike test. Looking over the FOX’s aftermarket lineup, it’s interesting to note that they don’t offer an aftermarket 34mm stanchion fork in excess of 160mm of travel. If in the future they make a 36 with 27.5-inch lowers it could be ideal. We reached out to Scott about their decision to spec this fork and if it was based on weight or other factors:
"Weight has always been a consideration but not at the detriment of the ride. At the time of spec there was not an offering from FOX that fit the bill, but as we work closely with FOX they were able to tune the 34 for us. [Stiffness concerns] are not something that we have heard from other people but everyone’s riding styles are different. The frame is actually laterally and torsionally stiffer than the previous edition."
The Genius LT is a very light bike for its travel, and it impressed us by how light it often felt while riding. Rolling speed is decent and the tires keep speed well. The long-travel suspension can take away from this feeling while maneuvering over obstacles and pumping, though, regardless of the TwinLoc setting.
Pedaling was one of the stronger points of the Genius LT when the Twin Loc lever was set to the middle Traction setting. It didn’t feel like it suffered from excessive bob or chain torque problems, and there was only a slight loss of power. In this setting it accelerates with authority while still maintaining decent traction and control. However, if the bike is left in Descend mode it bobs noticeably with a more obvious loss of power. The body position offered by the roomy front end and 74+ degree seat tube angle was comfortable and we never really encountered any issues clipping pedals or having the front end wander.
We found the firmest Climb setting almost useless in Sedona’s rocky terrain as it fully locked out the fork and rear shock. Traction was worse, bump absorption was worse, and the bike ended up being essentially a rigid hardtail. When the suspension was in the softer settings the bike would absorb bumps and motor up climbs. It did become difficult to bunnyhop once fatigued because the amount of suspension made it tough to really move the bike up and over obstacles.
The top of the line Genius LT 700 Tuned brings together several great components from FOX, Shimano, SRAM, RockShox, Schwalbe, and Syncros (now Scott’s house brand). The bike is ready to race out of the box. There’s little we’d change before hitting the trails, save perhaps the suspension for something offering independent adjustability.
Schwalbe’s super high-volume 2.35-inch Hans Dampf tires worked well and matched the intended purpose of the bike. They had good all around traction in the conditions we encountered, though we did occasionally wish for a little more cornering bite.
The Syncros AM1.5 wheels are fairly light, plenty stiff, decently wide, and come tubeless ready. They did their job well, we had no issues, and we trusted them. Ours came fully tubeless which definitely helped keep things light and flat free.
Once broken in, Shimano’s XTR Trail brakes worked well with plenty of power and excellent modulation. They were never grabby, didn’t fade and have some of the best lever feel in the business.
The SRAM X01 drivetrain shifted well and had plenty of gear range to get the job done. With the clutch derailleur, upper e*thirteen chainguide and 32-tooth X-Sync chainring there were no dropped chains and everything stayed working smoothly throughout the test. The addition of some 3M Mastic tape in select areas would reduce the little bit of chain slap noise we occasionally heard while bombing rough sections.
Long Term Durability
The Genius LT is extremely light and because of that it doesn’t quite give the confident, solid feel that most 160mm+ travel bikes have. Even so, the frame does carry a five year warranty so Scott should have you covered in the event anything goes wrong. Proprietary suspension is always a concern of ours due to availability and service issues, though, especially years down the line. During our limited time on the bike we experienced no issues.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Scott Genius LT was designed to be a capable, aggressive Enduro bike with a unique advantage across all types of terrain by way of the three mode TwinLoc suspension adjustment system. Unfortunately in our experience all three modes felt like a compromise. We can’t help but think that the bike would be far better off with independently adjustable suspension without the bells and whistles. Those looking to tinker will be pleased to learn that while the shock itself may be proprietary, it’s now possible to swap the shock thanks to the use of standard shock dimensions.
For someone wanting lightweight XC-like performance on the climbs and a long travel feel on the downs it does a decent job. It climbs well and descends well in some terrain, but it does so without much personality. There are much better performing bikes on the downs with less travel, some of which climb as well or better, too. As of right now we feel that the Genius LT is a bit confused and trying to find its identity - this isn’t the ultimate do-it-all machine we had hoped it would be. The bike doesn’t do anything poorly, but because there’s lots of good competition at this price level it comes across as just “okay.”
When we discussed our experience with Scott, they responded:
"We do see this bike as one of the most capable Enduro style bikes out there and we obviously have to look at a global reach. When we develop a bike we have to take into account all the different terrain that the bike may be ridden on, so it is tough to get the bike right for everyone and all conditions. TwinLoc is obviously a proprietary system so we try to utilize it as much as possible, but this is the first year with this design for the Genius LT and the FOX partnership. We do listen to all the comments and feedback we get so that newer generations can benefit."
Visit www.scott-sports.com for more details.
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).
Evan Turpen - Evan has been racing mountain bikes as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most.