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Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson

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When someone like Ben Walker (AKA: The Most Interesting Man in Mountain Biking) is involved in the design of a bike and riders like Brendan Fairclough are there to help test and further develop it, you can pretty much assume that the bike is going to rip without even riding it... but that'd be no fun now would it? Lucky for us we got the chance to romp around on the 2014 Scott Gambler for the past year to put it through the ringer. With some out of the box features and aggressive geometry to boot, lets check out this beast and see what the Gambler's all about.

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Since our Gambler was a long term test bike, we opted to go with a custom built rather than go the OE route. This allowed us to focus in on just the frame and it's specific handling charistics. We did however choose to run with the OE Fox RC4 shock, which has been valved specifically for the Gambler.

Gambler Highlights

  • Frame Material: 6061 aluminum
  • Travel: 210 (8.2 inches) via a 10.5 inch eye-to-eye shock (2.36:1 shock ratio)
  • Chainstay Length: Adjustable from 425 to 440 (low bottom bracket) or 421.5 to 436.5mm (high bottom bracket)
  • Head Angle: Stock 62-degrees; Adjustable from 60 to 64-degrees with included Syncros cups
  • Bottom Bracket Height: Adjustable from 0 to +10mm offset
  • IDS-X Dropouts - Eccentric 12x150mm axle with a conical head that keys into the frame
  • Frame Weight: 8.6-pounds without shock
  • Shock: Fox DHX RC4 coil
  • Full build weight: 38.5-pounds
  • MSRP: $2,499 USD for frame and shock option

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The Gambler was built around the Floating Link, which Scott considers the heart of the Gambler. The Floating Link pivots around an imaginary floating point giving the designers one extra degree of manipulation in order to dial in every aspect of the bike's leverage ratio. This allowed Scott to squeeze as much support and traction possible from the Fox RC4 shock the frame was optimized for.

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In regards to geometry, the gambler offers up a couple of options: aggressive and more aggressive. This is made possible by providing multiple headset cups in order to dial in your head-angle from 60 to 64-degrees via the Syncros headset cups and an adjustable bottom-bracket with options between 0 and +10mm drop. Scott rounds out the geometry tinkering by offering an adjustable chainstay with lengths between 425 and 440mm in the low BB setting and 421.5 to 436.5 in the high by way of the IDS-X Dropouts and concentric axle.

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Another benefit of the IDS-X Dropouts and concentric axle is the added rigidity the interface adds. The keyed-in axle works to stiffen the frame which provides more efficient suspension performance by helping eliminate side-loads to the frame's bearings. Other details such as built in fork bumpers integrated downtube protector are nice touches as well.

Suspension Setup

Optimized around the Fox RC4, we started off with the compression set at 11 clicks (all from fully closed) on both high and low-speed, rebound at 10 clicks with 150-psi in the Boost Chamber and the volume fully out. The Gambler does have a bit of ramp to it's curve so in the end we backed off the compression slightly. Our settings stayed around here for the most part with only minor changes occasionally depending on the trail. All adjustments from full closed:

Preload: 1 turn // LSC -14 // HSC -16 // Rebound -8 // Boost Vol: Open // Boost valve: 150 // Sag: 26%

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On The Trail

One of the first things we noticed while riding the Gambler was how well the rear suspension takes the edge off in chunky sections of trail. To say it loves it rough would be an understatement; this bike likes to gobble up rocks and roots like nobodies business. This is especially true for square-edge hits that try to pitch the rider over the bars. The Gambler smooths out those nasty speed-robbing hits nicely. Scott definitely paid close attention to that high main-pivot and it shows. Pedal kick-back can be an issue though with higher pivot bikes, but in our experience this was a non-issue.

In terms of braking, we never got our hands on the charts to see if the Gamber squats, jacks or remains neutral. But to be honest, we never really felt the need to as suspension performance, whether on the brakes or not, was always an after thought as it never seemed to impact our ride.

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The cockpit is a tad cramped, likely due to Scott trying to keep the wheelbase under control while still keeping that aggressive 62-degree head-angle. This is likely a known issue to Scott and Gambler users as custom +10mm headset cups were often spotted on the 2014 frame and for 2015, Scott updated the top-tube to be 10mm longer. Despite running a tad on the short side, we adjusted just fine.

With the Gambler set in the short chainstay position coupled with the already short top-tube, the rear of the bike feels extremely planted. That, plus the slack head-angle, we found ourselves weighting the front the of the bike a bit more in order to get the rear to break-loose to get it around some of the tighter corners: a place where the Gambler does suffer a little bit. We tried the long setting a couple times and while it does help to make it easier to break that rear end loose, it was just overkill for most of the tracks we rode and would only be an asset on super fast, wide-open trails. Despite the rearward bias of the bike, washing the front end was not an issue.

The one geometry adjustment we did fiddle with often was the bottom-bracket adjustment. The head-angle and wheelbase adjustments stayed in +1-degree steeper and short positions, respectively. With the BB though, we preferred the way the Gambler handled in the low setting, but for some trails it was just too low so we would have to bump it up to the +10 setting. Not a huge deal but something to note if you mostly ride super rocky terrain.

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Armed with that slack head-angle and excellent rough terrain handling, the Gambler is definitely complemented by an aggressive rider style. With the extremely stiff rear-end and stout front-triangle, the bike is built to be ridden fast and quick line changes and accurate handling at speed were predictable and confidence inspiring to say the least. We found ourselves charging our local trails and riding rock-sections faster than ever.

Things That Could Be Improved

One thing we did notice with the Gambler was it is a bit slow to get up to speed. A sprint from a dead stop takes a bit of effort and the bike was a bit slow getting up to full clip; once there though, not much can slow you back down. Another area we felt the Gambler lacked a bit was jumping. The bike tends to round off the lips a bit and not pop as much as some of the other bikes we've ridden. Not a deal breaker in either case but worth mentioning.

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What's The Bottom Line

From a full-blown racebike to a bit more playful park bike, the range of adjustability the Gambler provides really allows you to dial the ride in to your exact preferences. Within that range of adjustability though, the Gambler really feels at home in the more aggressive settings and riding fast, rough and steep tracks is it's real forte. Coming in at only $6,000 for Scott's highest-end build and a frame only option if you'd prefer to go custom, the Gambler is definitely one of the most capable downhill bikes available for a lot less money than most other top-contending bikes demand; especially when we're seeing more $10K+ bikes lately. Ben Walker summed up the Scott Gambler by saying "it's the sum of it's parts that make it a really fast, special bike," and we agree, 100%.

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