One of the biggest trends in cycling today and it's quite easy to understand why. They're versatile, fun, fast and essentially a bike for anyone. The spectrum is surprisingly wide, ranging from carbon aero speed machines to pretty much full on bikepacking rigs ready for adventures like riding across the globe.
Except for maybe too many tan wall tires, there's one thing most of them have in common - drop bars. Of course there are exceptions but the vast majority of these bikes clearly have a road bike pedigree. Which makes perfect sense, both looking at history and at more practical reasons like the benefit of multiple hand positions for long rides.
But what if you come from riding mountain bikes? What if your other rig is an enduro bike or if you're already used to doing hours of gravel riding on your cross country race bike? Surely it would be nice to have a flat bar and be able to easily pop manuals during those fire road descents?
There's a joke about how things are almost going full circle and that the 90's rigid mountain bikes essentially were gravel bikes. So let's go there, albeit with a very modern and integration oriented approach.
Before we start though, let's take a look at the first build based on this very frame set.The DangerPubes Collaboration
Bicyclepubes is a man of mystery. His identity is unknown, but on Instagram he shared his very accurate and hilarious critique of the bicycle industry with priceless MS Paint drawings. He also used to do charity campaigns where you would donate for a good cause and in return get a unique Paint drawing of your bike. Unfortunately he has left the world wide web now, so you will have to take my word for it, but it was some truly amazing content and for being such a niche account (and even more niche type of humor) he had a huge amount of fans.
Either way, since I had been honored by/victim for his sharp digital pen in the past there was a connection. So we set out to do a collaboration. A bike in the spirit of his drawings, where we took all of our very worst, best and funniest ideas and actually built a bike from them. So before I started the Scale Gravel project I took the frame set and turned it into the DangerPubes build.
The result was the ultimate high speed backwoods bike-lo-pack race. It featured highlights such as carbonium frame with zittyzit fork, QRBBT (Quick Release Banana and Baguette Technology), direct-mount spare tubes, Crocs Power Strap System, dual handlebar system and a riser (yes, riser) seat post.
The more you look the better it gets! Or maybe worse, haha...Time For A Makeover
With the DangerPubes build in the books it was time to strip the bike back down and take a very different approach.
I've spent a large amount of my training hours for years now on gravel roads riding various XC builds so I already knew quite well what I wanted. It would essentially be a hardtail going full-on gravel by running a rigid fork and super fast rolling tires. You'll be able to tackle a short trail section on it but it will be at home going full speed on long winding gravel roads.
Having already built the Scott Hyper Spark
which took integration to new heights with fully internal brake hose routing and hidden shifters, I wanted to continue on that theme. Running a rigid fork would allow for an even cleaner looking setup so it was the perfect opportunity.
Aside from the technical aspects of clean looks I decided to play a bit with that 90's old school MTB vibe and go for a bright paint job. Something that escalated as I went and in the end even the full carbon wheels were custom painted to match.Preparations and Modifications
Mountain bikes aren't yet at the same level of integration as many road and gravel bikes. And while that's both good and bad, I'm 100% sure that integration will be a big part of how our bikes evolve in the coming years. Definitely not all types of mountain bikes, but certainly for some. So in order to skip ahead a few years and run hidden brake hoses and shifters there's quite a bit of custom work to do.
For starters the handlebars obviously need to be modified. Unfortunately it's not as easy as just grabbing your Dremel and adding some holes. Snapped handlebars is the last thing you want, so even if it's Darwin Awards 101 I feel obliged to tell you - don't do it. So what did I do? Like with all my carbon work I went to the experts, in this case local carbon repair man Mattias Hellöre. The handlebars were reinforced and then I spent quite some time on finishing work to make everything look smooth and nice.
The steerer tube itself also needed a fair bit of work and the bike features a steering stop to keep the rear brake hose from being damaged.
The frame did see a lot of finishing work as well. It's a Scott Scale 910 frame, meaning that it comes with a front derailleur mount and of course cable ports for a traditional setup. Mounts were removed and cable ports covered, followed by plenty of primer and sanding. It might seem like a lot of work for just a few small details but it really adds so much in keeping the overall looks clean and pleasing to the eye.
Speaking of sanding, there was a lot of it. Painting many components means that all of them need to be sanded in several steps. Old paint or clear coat needs to be removed, primer needs to be sanded and even the new clear coat gets a cut before being polished so you end up with a perfectly smooth finish.
There was however one detail I didn't manage to sort out. With a rigid fork it would look just perfect if the front brake hose ran internally through the left fork leg. So believe me when I say that I tried to find a reasonable way, but it just wasn't meant to be. But I guess I had to save something for next time!HighlightsFrame Set
At the heart of the bike is the Scott Scale 910 frame, in size Medium. This is actually what you might call their entry level carbon hardtail frame, sitting below the RC and SL models. They share the same looks and geometry, but the higher end models feature even better carbon and layup resulting mainly in lower weight. What's nice about the 910 and their other HMF Carbon models is that you get most of the performance but at a significantly lower price.
It's matched to a Trek 1120 rigid fork up front. This fork has been developed for their adventure bike and it features the traditional fork leg bosses plus an optional integrated front rack. A super nice solution, and perfect if you want to go on truly stupid long rides or just need to bring some stuff to the after-bike BBQ.
The handlebars are Syncros Fraser iC SL which is a one-piece combo. Except for clean looks this style of design opens up for some good construction benefits too, like being able to run continuous carbon fibers all the way from the stem section to the handlebar ends. One of the things that gives integrated combos a good strength to weight ratio when done right.Wheel Set
As some of the most iconic looking wheels on the market today, the Bike Ahead Composites Biturbo RS are hard to miss. They're a one-piece carbon construction hand made in Germany, and the concept has been around for quite a few years now.
Except for the unique looks they also offer a quite unique ride quality by being very responsive and quick accelerating. The latest version features a 27mm inner rim width and weights from around 1250 grams. Hub internals are DT Swiss so no surprises there, and in my case I also upgraded the bearings to ceramic ones.
The tires are Continental SpeedKing RS which are most likely the fastest 29" tires you'll find for gravel riding. The acceleration grip is actually very good but as you can imagine they keep things pretty exciting during hard cornering and braking. Part of what makes them so fast is the very thin and supple RaceSport casing, which also unfortunately makes them quite difficult to run tubeless. So to keep things reliable I'm running Tubolito tubes. Tubes definitely keep with the 90's theme of the bike, but these are not the heavy butyl tubes of old but extremely lightweight and actually more durable. Brakes
Once again I'm running Trickstuff Piccola Carbon brakes and once again I have several good reasons to do so.
They're not just the lightest brakes at the market but despite this they're also some of the most powerful 2-piston brakes. With very smooth internals and the lever blades running on four bearings each the lever feel is second to none, and extremely light and nice feeling. Then there's the looks, or course!
But maybe most importantly for this project they're available with a special banjo coupling for internal or semi-internal routing. These angle the brake hose towards the handlebar, making for a perfectly clean look when going all in like with my custom solution or if you're running something similar but more user friendly like the all new Scott Spark.
The brake discs are Trickstuff Dächle UL, a model giving a great mix between performance and low weight. The edges are rounded for easier wheel installation, and they're fastened with super light Bike Ahead Composites centerlock adaptors.Controllers
The bike is running SRAM AXS with a wireless rear derailleur and dropper seat post. No cables makes for a pretty clean looking cockpit and to make things even better I'm running Zirbel Twister WE01 controllers. These slide onto your handlebars and are plug and play when using a SRAM BlipBox, which you can for example place under your stem or even hide inside your frame or stem depending on what you're running.
The "shifter rings" rotate on an aluminum base and have a distinct tactile feel thanks to small but very strong magnets. The controllers come stock with nice machined rings but you can also get them with 3D printed rings, with the paddle in any size or shape that you prefer. You can even print them yourself and buy the magnets separately.
In my own opinion the ergonomics are amazing, almost surprisingly so since they're so small and sleek looking. The paddle is very easy to reach and for example to shift to a higher gear you just lightly push it backwards with the knuckle of your thumb. It struck me that what separates them, except for the design in general, from other electronic controllers like Di2 or AXS is that they actually have some "travel" when you push them. They're not just a button that moves a couple of millimeters and says click. This gives them a much more natural feel, sort of blending a traditional trigger with electronic controllers.
To keep things 100% clean looking I'm running a custom setup on this bike. Having the brake hoses internally routed means that the stem and steerer tube already is full, making it difficult to fit cables going to a BlipBox hidden inside the frame. Instead, I had help having the Zirbel controllers connected directly to the SRAM circuit boards. The cables go underneath the Syncros foam grips with the PCB's and batteries hidden inside the handlebars. Not as easy as it might sound, but it gives a perfectly clean look.
The controller battery life with this setup is expected to be 5-8 years and if you for some reason need to make any adjustments you just pull the PCB out of the handlebar to access the button.Seat Combos
Low weight is nice but droppers and easily doing manuals is fun. So in an admittedly luxurious manner I opted for both.
The rigid and lightweight option is a Schmolke Carbon TLO seat post with a Tune Speedneedle 20Twenty. A seat post this light actually offers one other performance benefit - comfort. With the option to get them for specific rider weight intervals means that you get a seat post that truly suits you. If you're 60kg having a seat post with a 130kg rider weight limit sure will give you an unnecessarily harsh ride. But this way the seat post is strong enough not to break but compliant enough to flex when riding bumpy terrain. You can actually see and feel the post flex (in a safe manner) if you stand next to the bike and bounce it with your weight.
Tune Speedneedle is a true classic when it comes to carbon seats, and this version with a stripe in the middle was introduced for its twentieth anniversary a few years ago. They are handmade on a small scale in Germany, just like the seat post.
A lot heavier but offering a lot of fun is the RockShox Reverb AXS dropper seat post. Luckily it's slightly compensated by the 60 gram Berk Composites seat. It's controlled with a Zirbel Twister on the left side of the handlebar, and since the controller is so small it can conveniently be left on the bike permanently while you easily switch seat posts depending on what you want for the day.Drivetrain
Gravel riding allows for some pretty fast average speeds, so a big chainring like this 40T Garbaruk can make sense for more people than just Nino Schurter. On the rear there is a matching 12-speed Garbaruk wide range cassette so that you still can manage any steep long climbs. The crankset is a SRAM XX1 DUB with a Kogel preload adjuster in machined aluminum. Pedals are Xpedo M-Force 8Ti at a reasonable 213g.
A lot of focus was put on making this bike quite fast. Not just with fast rolling tires, but by having a very efficient and fast drivetrain as well. So the bottom bracket comes from Kogel and features ceramic bearings. So does the Kogel Kolossos rear derailleur cage with its oversized pulley wheels. The reason for the big wheels is that they result in less chain friction, since the chain links don't have to rotate as much. It also allows you to choose between three different tension settings for the cage, with lower tension meaning lower friction but at slightly higher risk of dropping your chain.
In an unholy alliance I'm combining the Kogel bearings with CeramicSpeed UFO Drip chain lubricant.
All in all this results in a noticeably faster drivetrain, as in that it spins at the lightest touch and even just the freewheel friction is enough to propel the cranks forward in the higher gears.
Ceramic bearings often get a lot of criticism with people saying they're a waste of money. In my opinion it's important to see them for what they are - marginal gains. There are absolutely very good steel bearings out there at a much lower cost, but a setup like this will save you precious watts compared to a standard drivetrain. How many is difficult to say and varies a lot, but the savings are there. So in reality it could make more sense to spend on ceramic bearings and OSPW derailleur cages than on titanium screws or Kashima coating if you're chasing seconds.
But of course, the best is to have all of them for all of the marginal gains haha.Paint and Extras
As mentioned before the paint job sure is a bright one, and while it won't be to everyone's taste I kind of hope that it's so over the top that you'll end up liking it. Even in real life the bike almost looks like a rendering, and strangers keep stopping me just to ask what kind of bike I'm on.
Either way, it's easy to spot at a distance. The yellow color is called Mellow Yellow Metallic and truly comes alive in sunshine, while the thin stripes in the fading was just as difficult to mask as you can imagine. But equally satisfying to peel off.
To make a whole concept out of it I didn't just paint the front rack to match but a Scott Cadence helmet and Scott Sport Shield sunglasses too.Scott Scale Gravel - Weight from 7.50 kg / 16.53 lb incl. pedals
So does this bike make sense in the end?
I would say hell yes to that. It falls perfectly right in between a "real" gravel bike and a traditional XC hardtail. It's fast, comfortable, fun and you'll feel right at home as soon as you get used to not having any suspension. With this type of bike, and especially so with this very build, it's easy to get that high speed feeling like you're flying down the gravel road ahead of you.
What's nice is that a build in the same spirit as this one doesn't have to cost a fortune. Any decent hardtail with a lightweight rigid fork and some fast tires will get you there. A perfect work horse for training year round and a great tool for when you want to go and ride something different than your regular trails. You can cover great distances when riding gravel, and to me that's one of the best parts - you can go and see so many nice places you normally wouldn't.
So what's next? Well, this gave me an even bigger appetite for gravel riding so I will actually build a "real" one too. My very first drop bar build!
And on the topic of integration, I would say that the new Spark would be a good canvas to take things to the next level. Feel free to follow along via my Instagram
until you get to see the next full feature article here on Pinkbike!
Warning and disclaimer:Please keep in mind that any modifications such as paint stripping, repainting, sanding or in any way modify frames, components or safety equipment is potentially dangerous and can lead to crashes and injuries. It will always void any and all warranties, and is strongly advised against by SCOTT Sports and all other manufacturers, who take no responsibility. It is not recommended to put any travel fork on any frame, if unsure of the fork travel limit for your frame always consult a dealer or the brand directly first. If you choose to modify your bike anyway, always make sure to do so with safety in mind and remember the points above.