Bike Check: Kate Courtney's Scott Contessa Spark RC

Mar 8, 2019
by Daniel Sapp  



Kate Courtney needs little introduction. The 23-year-old American has quickly risen to the top of the sport, taking the UCI cross-country World Championships title in her first year racing elite, making her the first American to land in that spot in 17 years. Kate's attention to detail and her work ethic make it likely that we'll see her on top of the podium for years to come.

This year, Kate sees a big change as she carries over the rainbow stripes from Specialized, where she has been on their team for several years, to the Scott-SRAM team. It's a pretty big change, but it puts her in good company, with none other than Nino Schurter as her teammate and fellow World Champion. Kate's mechanic, Brad Copeland, joins the team as well and they're undoubtedly looking to carry the successful formula they've established into the new season.

I had the chance to catch up with Kate and Brad last week in Sedona, Arizona, to get the lowdown on Kate's new bike and how the transition to new gear and the new team is going. I'd say that as good as it seems that things were last year, they're only better heading into 2019.

Kate's bike is a standard small-sized frame, but there have been several modifications made to it to suit her better. From custom dropper remotes to high-volume air cans, Kate's Contessa Spark RC is unique and it's obvious that every detail has been attended to.

Rider Name Kate Courtney // Scott-SRAM, Red Bull, Oakley
Age: 23
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Instagram: @kateplusfate
Spirit Animal: Shark

Image by Piotr Staron
Kate taking the win at the 2018 UCI World Championships

Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool
Scott Contessa Spark RC Details

Frame: Contessa Spark RC, size small
Shock: RockShox Nude RLC, 100mm
Fork: RockShox SID Ultimate, 100mm
Wheels: DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline 30mm
Tires: Maxxis Rekon Race 2.25", 17psi front, 18psi rear
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate
Bar/Stem: Syncros Fraser iC SL, 680mm width, 90mm x -8° rise
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS, 100mm drop
Saddle: Syncros Belcarra
More info: Scott Sports

Although Kate is on a stock size small frame, there are a number of things that are a little more than just "off the shelf" going on with her bike. There's a new RockShox RLC Nude shock on the back. In the past, the team had been running an unbranded Fox shock while RockShox was developing this one which has only been around for a short time now. RockShox has been working with the riders on getting the bikes dialed in, and this shock has the DebonAir large-volume can on it to get the most sensitivity out of it as possible.

The fork is also the new SID Ultimate. The internals have been revised to address some issues in the past to help increase the service interval time, and there's also increased volume in the air side to help with the sensitivity.

There are two tokens and 66psi in the fork, and out back there's one and a half spacers and 97psi in the rear shock. Moving from the Brain system on Kate's previous race bike to Scott's Twin-Loc has been an adjustment, but Kate and Brad both say that it's been a positive experience.

Kate explained she likes having full control over when and what is and isn't locked out on the bike. She says that as a lighter rider, learning how to use the suspension most effectively has been really helpful in racing and training and it has been helping her with getting back time on descents.

For tires, the Kate is now on Maxxis. Her current set up is a pair of Rekon Race 2.25" with EXO casings. With the new tires, she's been running lower air pressures than previously and has had a lot of success with that as well. They have opted to not use the lightest casing for durability as a flat would cost far more time than a few grams of increased puncture resistance.


Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool
Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool

Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool


Kate just got on the new SRAM AXS system and is happy with it, even though she hadn't touched or ridden it until about a month ago at their training camp. The thing that Brad says is one of the huge benefits of the AXS is that there's very little effort required to shift.

At the end of a bike ride, it's noticeable that you don't have to put much effort into the shift; it's like clicking a mouse on a computer and it's not something they considered being a benefit until now.


Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool
Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool


There's a SRAM blip button integrated into Kate's left grip for her dropper post. It's set up on her handlebar now but will be in the downtube as soon as longer wires are available. Kate's hands are small so having the dropper lever and the twin-loc on the bars was tricky. Having the blip integrated helped a ton with this, especially since she's using a dropper post more and more. The button works as easy as just squeezing the grip, and the transmitter is currently on the bar but there's a more integrated set-up in the works.

Slowing Kate down are SRAM's Level Ultimate brakes. The brakes on the bike look to be an updated version as there is no banjo from the caliper to the hose, rather a direct fitting. I would suspect this is to make for one less place for air bubbles to hide and to increase reliability.


Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool
A wirelessly activated 125mm Reverb helps Kate maintain control and gain time on technical descents.

Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool
Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool


Kate and Brad both seem very happy with the Syncros Fraser iC handlebar. It took a while to figure out the set-up with the sweep and design being quite different from a standard two-piece handlebar and stem, but they settled on a 90mm effective stem length with the sweep.


Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool

Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool

The paint on Kate's bike is "pretty sparkly," as she says. She claims to have had some influence on the "boys' bikes" as well and apologizes for the number of sparkles. Top level racers often have custom touches, and Kate says that all of the special bits on the bike and with her gear make her feel valued as a rider.

Kate says her spirit animal is a shark, and it's been incorporated on her bike. Kate has always been a huge shark fan and loves watching 'Shark Week.' It's a fun thing, she says, but it's also how she feels when she's racing - always lurking just below the surface but ready to go when it's time and attacking; just like a shark.
Photo Paris Gore Red Bull Content Pool


While a lot of the changes made have been big jumps from her last set up, they've been very smooth and she's settling right into the new bike. We'll soon see how these translate over to the race track as the World Cup season gets underway.



MENTIONS: @SCOTT-Sports / @kateplusfate




69 Comments

  • + 94
 Kate is awesome. Dope bike. My spirit animal is the donut.
  • - 41
flag gunnerMTB (Mar 8, 2019 at 5:53) (Below Threshold)
 Well actually it's doughnut
  • + 6
 @gunnerMTB: Levy’s Torus
  • + 4
 @gunnerMTB: MTN bikers don’t care much about grammar. It’s all about the shredding!
  • + 7
 @gunnerMTB: Alice Donut Liver Anymore
  • - 9
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 8, 2019 at 9:41) (Below Threshold)
 @endlessblockades: were da hoe at,
  • + 0
 @endlessblockades:
Wow! Deeeep pull. Nice work!
  • + 56
 Bike weight is a mandatory spec on an XC bike check
  • + 8
 I agree, but I bet for some reason they don't like to advertise that.
  • + 17
 It’s 21.8 lbs as you see it
  • + 2
 @bbcopeland: that is stock s-works weight and TF 9.9 weight with no droppers and power meters. I guess they have tubes tho... all pretty close!
  • + 25
 Those blip buttons built into the grips are pretty trick.
  • + 4
 "trick"! Bringing back the '80's bmx slang. Love it.
  • + 9
 @rrolly: Yeah I agree that is totally sano.
  • + 2
 ????????‍♀️
  • + 2
 @preston67: is sano a good thing?
  • + 4
 @bbcopeland: Yes. Its 80's BMX lingo. I think it comes from "sanitary" as in "that bike is so cool/clean/sanitary" == "sano".
  • + 1
 @preston67: nah bro it's a reference to captain insano hahaha
  • + 14
 Bet Finn misses her already!
  • + 4
 I'm going to miss season two of following both of their progress. Such a great series.
  • + 5
 The bike looks fun. Curious whether she'd run inserts with pressures that low. XC racers don't use ProCore or Huck Norris, but some seem to run Pepi, don't they?

I am getting the point of this wireless thing. What if she'd run a front mech too (or Rohloff/Pinion) and have everything cable actuated? Add the sensor cables for the bicycle computer (speed and cadence sensors) and you wouldn't ever get to see her amidst that spider web. My guess is that halfway through the season RockShox will at least have some kind of wireless AXS control for their suspension.
  • + 6
 No inserts.
  • + 16
 You have to consider she is very light. So the pressure isnt that low when you consider the overall weight on the tyres.
  • + 6
 When I bought one of these modern, supple xc bikes on xc trails, I was amazed how low I could go on tire pressure. At 160lbs on 2.2 tires, I use 20 psi front and rear, no inserts. You won't roll a tire because they just don't have that much grip lol.
  • + 1
 This is good to see people running low pressures. I have been nervous on my XC bike with 2.4" on 30iw rims running lower than 20psi (175lb rider). I think it feels much better when I have run 19psi in the front, maybe this year I'll keep pushing it. :-)
  • + 5
 We just got a couple Pepi’s tire noodles and I have set up two rear wheels (both tread options) with them, and we will probably race them when she chooses the hardtail to have a little extra cushion for the pushin’. But even at these low pressures before any inserts we have had great experiences on these tires so far.
  • + 0
 I go as low as 13 psi in the front with magic marry, 2.35, super Gravity.
Ik weigh 200lbs and ride pretty darn hardWink
  • + 1
 @bbcopeland:
Thanks for checking in to answer questions! You guys make a great team! Have you put a Pepi's noodle on a scale by chance? Very curious to know how heavy they are compared to the panzer, minesweeper, HN, etc.
  • + 3
 I just weighed one WITH the valve (it uses a unique valve with holes exiting horizontally relative to the valve, so the air flow is not impeded by the insert covering it inside the rim) at 68.9g for a size Small 29” noodle.
  • + 1
 @wittereus: Yeah I ride with 0.9bar in the front too (2.4" Conti Trail King) but then there is somewhere between 5 and 6bar in the tube (ProCore) to keep the beads seated and also to protect the tire against pinches. But last week my rear tire picked up a screw (probably from a boardwalk section) which punctured both tire and tube. The sealant sealed the tire and I inflated it back to my usual 1.1bar (16psi) but I hadn't realized the tube was also punctured. The rear was flying all over the place. But yeah I'm obviously heavier than Kate (and the same probably goes for my bike vs hers) so I can imagine it could work for her. And probably all that suspension is also easier on the tires riding over sharp rocks.

@bbcopeland : Thanks for your response. Also good to know about these valves. I was considering getting something similar from Cushcore because I'm getting fed up by the complex ProCore valve (it clogs up and you can't clean it out). So I'd need a valve like that for the outer chamber and just use a regular tube with its own valve as inner chamber. Good to know Pepi makes similar valves.
  • + 1
 @bbcopeland:
Thank you! That seems quite reasonable.
  • + 1
 How low you can go depends a lot on the tire casing too. I can run 20psi on an xking, but 20psi on a shwalbe tire will blow it off the rim.
  • + 1
 @wittereus: what rim width do you ride?

I'm 210lbs with a 30mm rim and 2.6 tires and anything below 18psi front and 19-20 rear creates some tire roll when cornering hard and even a burp or two on some exceptionally flat or off camber landings.
  • + 4
 When AXS comes to forks and shox it's going to be a pretty killer combo and add a lot of value to AXS. Either that or more bikes with Live Valve (for some reason there are hardly any xc bikes, and no down-country bikes with it). The remote lockouts are super useful and nice, but it would be cool to get rid of the cables and make for better ergonomics. I would think you could use one axs controller to do the suspension and dropper. Push up and that toggles suspension, hold down and it opens the dropper. 1 paddle, 3 components controlled, all wireless.
  • + 3
 That blip button is pretty neat, and very clean, but i'm trying to figure out the ergonomics of it. If you have it face you, you risk your hand sliding inboard on the grip and pressing it. If you have it facing away, you have to squeeze the grip with your index finger...the one you'd usually use for braking. A low profile button, covered with a rubber boot, placed inboard of the brake lever would be pretty cool though.
  • + 4
 We tried a few positions, including thumb-actuated, inboard of the grip and in the grip, and a few positions she could reach with her index finger, and it kinda came down to being able to manipulate the twinloc and button simultaneously without taking too many fingers off the bar during the operation of everything.
  • + 1
 You shouldn't be breaking while hitting your dropper any way #fullsend
  • + 5
 So the new SID Ultimate is now available to the pros, what is this fork and what makes it newer or better? Is it lighter than the Fox Float 32 SC Factory?
  • + 5
 RS is redoing the lineup yet again. According to Barelli on IG, the Lyrik Ult. has a better damper and the article said the SID has more neg volume, so good chance all the forks will be getting more neg. volume. Same goes for the shocks.
  • + 3
 "the Kate is now on maxxis". I thought we waited until the comeback album before using third person. How long until the artist formerly known as Kate?

What's that bike weigh btw
  • + 3
 21.8 lbs
  • + 6
 30mm inner rim wheelset for sidewall support.
  • + 1
 Maybe I am missing something:

"There's a SRAM blip button integrated into Kate's left grip for her dropper post. It's set up on her handlebar now but will be in the downtube as soon as longer wires are available"

How is she going to activate it without taking something off a control point - or with her knees?

Love the bike -best of luck this year Kate! Its great to see the champs coming from North America!
  • + 1
 its wireless, inboard, and probably facing her, so it's unlikely to be hit by her knee
  • + 17
 There is the "Blip Button" on the grip, which is wired to the wirelesss communicator that is attached to the bars. This wireless communicator will eventually be placed inside the frame once a longer wire (from the blip button to the wireless communicator) is available.
  • + 4
 @DeeHubbs: So a wired activated wireless dropper?
  • + 1
 @mikericci: kinda like that one wired activated wireless rear derailleur lol
  • + 1
 @mikericci: ...yeah, i like that wired wireless solution! Smile
  • + 5
 That metal flake!!!!
  • + 3
 That's pretty sweet she's running a dropper. About time xc racers started riding these!
  • + 2
 i really like those scott spark rcs, they ride awesome, but man they need to improve the color schemes on the consumer versions
  • + 4
 Would have love to have seen Jolanda on that bike but hey ho.
  • + 3
 Kate's career is only going upward! Love the XC updates.
  • + 2
 Hope so!!
  • + 2
 This kid may just win it all in Japan.......
  • + 1
 I wonder when are we going to see wireless brakes and chainless drive That will be something else.
  • + 2
 At last a dropper ,what are riders waiting?,good luck,for the season
  • + 1
 I feel like i would hit that blip button way to many times on the downhill.
  • + 4
 You don't cover the brake riding down?
  • - 1
 @yzedf: Brakes only slow you down
  • + 3
 @Pavel-Repak: I've got two bikes with SRAM Guides, I wouldn't know...
  • + 2
 It’s a little inboard of where she actually holds the grip to avoid this.
  • + 2
 Sick bicycle!
  • + 1
 Nice, what's the fork offset?
  • + 3
 42mm
  • + 0
 "18 psi rear" LOL
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