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First Ride: Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus

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SCOTT Bikes dove in the deep end for 2016 and released a range of six 27.5 Plus bikes, showing a commitment to the new wheel size that most others haven't. Plus sized bikes include the Scale, the Genius, and the Genius LT, with both the Genius and its long travel brethren coming in two models.

We spent some time aboard the Genius models in Park City, Utah to see how the new, funky looking wheel size rides in comparison to their regular wheeled counterparts.

Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus

Initial Impressions

The obvious feature initially noticed with the Genius LT Plus is the monstrous amount of rubber. 2.8-inch tires coupled with 40mm internal width Syncros rims result in a tire that comes across like a mild tractor tread. While not as big as a fat bike, we constantly felt that we were looking down at something along those lines, and eventually dubbed the Plus bikes "Mini-Fats" thanks to their similarities.

Aside from the amount of tire and the wider spaced axles, there isn't much that has changed from the regularly shoed Genius LT. The Plus versions of the bike come with 10mm less travel, with SCOTT citing that due to the added air volume in the tires and outer diameter, it was necessary in order to keep the bikes stable. Besides that, these are pretty much the same bikes, and come with the same suspension and parts options as the regular models. Even the Q-Factor on the Plus bikes is the same, keeping pedaling duties familiar and comfortable.

New for 2016, SCOTT did update the suspension tune and included FOX's new EVOL air can. This is proving to be a great improvement on the Genius bikes, aiding with a supple beginning stroke and more traction in the low end of the travel. The 700 series models also come fitted with SRAM's X01 drivetrain, with a 30-tooth ring up front as well as a set of Shimano XTR brakes to take care of stopping duties.

Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus Geometry

Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus Build Specs

On The Trail

SCOTT hosted us in Deer Valley, Utah, providing lift access in the bike park and slackcountry access to Park City and Canyons. We took advantage of all we could ride, taking to the park for some quick laps to get familiar with the Plus sized tires, and later opting for some slackcountry access to test overall ride capabilities.

Dropping into the first berms of the bike park we were quickly alerted to the different handling of the large tires. A slightly wider turning radius meant there was a little familiarization needed in order to get comfortable. Line choice required some adjustments as the bike wanted to straighten out the corners a little, not too dissimilar from the initial feeling of a 29er. Add to this gob loads of traction, which made it difficult to break the rear end loose, and we were in trouble when squaring up the occasional turn, resulting in a couple of "oh shit" moments during our first few laps.

Over the course of a day we grew more familiar with the characteristics of the larger tire size and found we could push it around more. Our initial tire pressure of 14psi was good for most situations, granting us a smooth and stable ride without much bobbing about. We did however find that as confidence grew, we were rolling the tires when hitting a number of our favorite corners, creating an unstable ride in these situations with unexpected exits out of them. The following day we had the pressure increased to 15psi which was the improvement we were looking for. The tires were slightly firmer in regular situations, but we didn't have the awful sound and accompanied sketchy feeling associated with rolling of the tires during harder compressions. With tires this large even a single psi difference is noticeable, so you'll want a very accurate tire gauge and to check it regularly.

Traction from the Plus-size tires is nothing short of heroic, with the larger surface area (aka "contact patch") helping hugely on off-camber sections of trail and loose corners. The tires are very predictable when going into a drift, and during moments that would normally result in a foot-out to keep stable and upright, we found ourselves keeping all limbs inside the vehicle, riding it out to hoots and hollering. The larger tires really compensate for a lot of mistakes, and in a more predictable manner than even the best regular tires on the market. The updated suspension on the Genius platform definitely helps here as well, thanks to better traction from a more supple beginning stroke.

All of the above sounds awesome, right? But as many can imagine, it's not without drawbacks. As previously mentioned, the larger volume and lower pressure tires slow down the cornering characteristics of the bike, similar to that of a 29er, which isn't too bad but something to note. The bikes are still remarkably maneuverable, but not near that of a regular wheeled 650b bike, or even a 29er. The Genius LT Plus wasn't the most playful of bikes, either, which can be in part contributed to the longer rear end combined with the added girth and low pressures of the Plus-sized wheel.

The lack of agility was made up for in straight-line speed and stability, granting us bucket-loads of confidence on trails where we had no idea of what was coming up next. Thankfully the larger tire also translated to increased braking traction, making it possible to slow down for unexpected corners or features in little to no time in a completely predictable and controlled manner. It's this ride quality that could make it a pretty good bike for an entry to intermediate level rider.

The other somewhat obvious downside is the cumbersome feeling, thanks to the tire size, pressure and rotational mass. SCOTT have done a great job with keeping the weight of these bikes reasonable, with the medium Genius coming in at right around 28-pounds. But with a larger ratio of that weight coming via the wheels, it adds to the less dynamic ride. These characteristics often left us trying to either manhandle the bike in order for it to react the way we intended, or attempting to get out of trouble because of the bike reacting differently than expected. Only time would tell if these characteristics can be overcome, but then again the bikes are being targeted at an audience that wants grip and control from their bikes over agility and dynamic riding.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Genius Plus and Genius LT Plus bikes left us pretty confused initially, constantly questioning our thoughts. In some situations we were having a blast, with the Plus-size tires allowing us to get away with things we otherwise might not have, while at other times it took away from the fun we were looking for. Currently we're left feeling like the Genius Plus and Genius LT Plus bikes may be a great option among riders looking for something to get them down the trail, but aren't seeking anything extra out of a bike. Personally we'd prefer something that allows for more dynamic riding (Genius LT 29er, anyone?).

At the end of the day, the time spent aboard the Plus bikes is not enough to give a definitive opinion on them, only to say that more time would be required to really see if the cumbersome attitude of the bikes can be overcome, and that we're intrigued to see where these Plus sized Genius' go. We're currently of the opinion that these Plus sized models are best suited to a specific entry to intermediate level user group, and generally not the core rider who has come to love the nuances of their regular mountain bike.

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About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from eight hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

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