Took some doing, but I am very happy with the results of my Scott spark 930. It comes in at a mere 21.75 pounds with pedals. I believe it will be 21 pounds flat when i am done, but not there yet. Most importantly, it's super fun to ride, and very much trail worthy.
Hope the following helps other riders.
Small, carbon frame Spark 930 - adjustable geometry (0.5 degree difference between the low and high setting of the rear shock). Both settings climb well, but the high setting climbs better and is more responsive. The low setting is way more comfortable on the DH. Changing between the two settings is effortless (only requires 30 seconds and the use of a 5mm allen) but I find that once you find your niche, you probably won't have to change it.
The frame has some really "interesting" curves, and a bottom bracket fitting that's "out of this world". The rear triangle is made out of aluminum, and clearly has huge oversized bearings of articulation.
The rear shock looks like it is part of the frame. Clever design, minimalist, and really good looking. The photos that I have seen online do not even do the frame justice, neither do mine.
Unlike all of my Cannondales (all pre 2013), the steering tube is tapered and showcases a massive intersection point. The result is a stiff front-end that tracks really well. Dare I say more precise than a lefty? Well, it's a different feel, but note that it feels very precise.
WATER - anyone?
Just like my 2012 Cannondale Scapel 29er, the Spark only has one water bottle holder. On a small frame, it's a bit tight, but even that is all relative. The Cannondale's water bottle provide with zero to no clearance... the spark has way more room to spare. It's a different angle all together.
The Spark was delivered with rather decent parts. In fact, some of the best stock parts I had seen in a long time. Wheels, seatpost clamp, brakes and handlebar were all a bit heavy, but quality products.
The stock seat post clamp is a quick release, and as heavy as can be. KCNC has a great replacement part that's coming. For now, I am using a Cannondale Clamp (don't laugh).
Seat post is 31.6mm - transferring my super light MCFK carbon seat post from one bike to the other was painless. Be sure to use carbon paste which works wonders in eliminating post slippage. Took me 3 months to figure this out (I can vouch that many bike shops ignore this simple paste).
I use a Selle Italia carbon SLR that I have had for about 2 years. It's very light 135g, and I personally find it super comfortable. Beware, as with all saddle, you will want to test drive a few (many of my friends just hate mine).
I use a carbon bar, 620mm. Clamp is 31.8 (standard) and really requires carbon paste to lower bolt torque. My handlebar is a mere 83 grams! So far so good… I only crashed twice, and well: knock on wood. Note that my handlebar is certified in Europe - with steep safety measures already taken - safety first.
This is probably the second most important part of the bike for me. The stem needs to be exactly the length that I need, and have the angle that works for me. It’s likely that every other riders out there will want different lengths, and different angle. The beauty of this is: I can FINALLY “adjust” both to my liking. Unlike the Cannondale, I am now able to go with 80mm if I want, and even -30 degrees if that’s what it takes to position myself on the bike. Piece of mind, perfection: I will not be missing my “system integrated” stem.
I save weight wherever I can. KNCN grips were chosen. They are very light, but they are glued with a light coating of upholstery glue (for safety during wet weather). My motto is: Save some weight, get good gloves – and use good hand and body positioning.
Nothing special here: just went with very light. XX world cup brakes were used, but beware: They are very light, not the lightest… but they don’t work as well as the near-perfect XTR from shimano. Still, they are some of the lightest, and more importantly: they are already on all my other bikes, so I still went with my XX.
LOCK THEM UP
One of the most “talked” about is the remote lock for the shocks – on the fly. Actually, everyone says it’s the most talked about, but in fact, there’s really very little information out there on this nifty little switch.
The remote should (in theory) be mounted closest to your grip. I placed mine on the left because I do not have a front derailleur. This remote has two levers and almost resembles a regular front derailleur shifter. There are two knobs, but let’s first look at the larger knob: There are 3 positions: First, Second and Third.
The first position, both suspensions are wide-open.
The second position (one click), both suspensions are set to the climbing mode – in an instant.
The third position (one more click), both suspensions are set to lock (I am calling it 95% locked on my rig)
The other lever? Well, you probably guessed it: it works the other way (to open up your suspension system).
AUTO OR MANUAL
Coming from a Cannondale, I can’t say that locking my front “fork” and my rear shock was difficult – in fact, changing modes on a Cannondale is one of the easiest manual operations on any bike. The Spark is just so much easier that you will use it more often. This remote is very VERY nice. There are times when I wouldn’t even have bothered changing modes (from say wide open to climbing), but with a single lever, I now change both to climbing in a split second. I am now faster on the bike because I set the bike to its most efficient pedaling efficiency.
The stock rear shock doesn’t bob like my Cannondale did. I have set both of them the same (19% sag) and constantly had a pedal bob at high cadence with the Cannondale. That’s a thing of the past on the Spark suspension system – very different.
The Scott seems more efficient to me for climbing big hills. It’s more “pleasurable” – okay, I am stretching it, but you get the drift.
One thing I did notice right off the back – and that surprised me the most: Standing and Climbing on the pedals of the Spark was so much nicer and efficient. Very little flex out back, compared with the Cannondale FS. In fact, that was the most surprising thing because the cannondale comes stock with a thru axle (132) in the back, where I was actually worried about the Spark only having a quick release. Proves: I was dead wrong, but I still don’t understand why it’s stiffer (perhaps just a better design).
XX1 Cranks and XX Rear.
First, let me say that I have yet to drop a chain, all the while riding on crazy rock gardens and raddling my jaw. But why this combo?
I ran a XX1 front and XX1 rear and found:
The 10-42 cassette had a beautiful range, but weights a ton. Obviously, to make use of that huge cassette, I had to have the XX1 derailleur – which also weights a ton (for those adding it up: that’s TWO tons). Doing a little bit more math, I came up with a range for every day XC racing that would work:
30T up front (XX1) – and 11-36 in the back (XX)
For really long LONG climbs / races, I opted for:
28T up front and 11-36 in the back.
The rear derailleur is a MED cage, XX derailleur.
The cassette is the same (11-36) XX.
Changing the front chain ring is too EASY.
It came down to a small compromise, and quite a bit of weight saving.
As mentioned above, I am using the XX1 cranks with 30T (most of the time). The new cranks are GXP, 168Q factor. I believe I could have used a 156Q factor, but couldn’t find any confirmation. Note that I am using the stock bottom bracket that came with the bike. The transfer took but a few seconds.
I opted for the Look S-trac pedals for their larger axles. They are harder to get in, but you KNOW when you are “in”. No accidental release here (well, as all things: almost). Plus, they are French – but actually, the best part is the fact that they use one of the largest axles available on nearly any MTB pedal.
Personal preference, but I am using a lightweight Racing Ralph 2.25 up front, and a lightweight Racing Ralph 2.1 in the back. I actually hate stiff sidewalls that do not seem to conform to roots and nasty rocks.
I usually run them both as tubeless (with NoTubes sealant) with 21 psi in the front and 23 psi in the back.
The most important part (for me).
As you probably have gathered, I have a lot of lefty “forks” (broken or nearly) and a few quality lefty wheels. This is my first “real fork” in nearly 20 years, so I had to order a front wheel.
The “perfect” setup for me will be two sets of wheels:
Training (and nearly indestructible) Mavic CrossMax SLR 29
Racing (and fragile as can be) NoTubes Golds 29.
The crossmax weight nearly ½ a pound more than the racing wheels, but weight about the same as the Crest from NoTubes – yet far more durable (I actually defy people from denting those wheels).
I am 132 pounds, 5’6” (and shrinking). I love to go fast DH, but I thread lightly. Perhaps this setup will work for you, perhaps you will completely destroy it. In my opinion, it’s not just about your weight, but more about the line you decide to take at any given instant. I have seen lighter riders trash their Crest wheels!
I hope all of this info helps out a bit.
Quick note on wheels:
Perhaps the only thing I would do different is go with only one set of wheels (Carbon XC Enve 29) but still find the cost a bit out of reach.
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