We placed the Devinci Spartan, Pivot Firebird 29, and the Scott Ransom in the Super Enduro category, the realm of longer travel bikes that are designed for aggressive riding, enduro racing, or smashing out laps in the bike park. All of the bikes in this test have 29” wheels, and between 162 – 170mm of travel. The head angles are similar as well, with the Firebird and Spartan checking in at 65-degrees, and the Ransom just a touch slacker at 64.5 degrees.
The Whistler Bike Park served as the test area, and multiple laps were put down in the Creekside zone in order to sort out the pro and cons of each bike in this trio of 29ers. After thoroughly thrashing all of the contenders we sat down to discuss our favorites.
Paul Aston: Scott Ransom
My background of dirt jumping, downhill, and enduro racing means that I want a bike that handles as well as a downhill bike to make my life easier on the trail; slacker angles and a forgiving system lets me focus on the riding and how I want to ride, not focusing on fighting the bike to stick to or absorb the terrain. When it comes to climbing, I'm not adverse to knocking out 1-2000 metres in a day, but I don't care about racing up to the top - just like an enduro race - grind up the climbs and get there when you get there (unless I'm on an eMTB then it's fun to go fast up).
So what did this leave me with? The Ransom. Easily the most forgiving bike over the Spartan and Firebird, which could have been put down to the Syncros handlebar/stem combo and the alloy wheels on the Scott that smoothed out the trail. But, the frame also seemed to be the most forgiving along with the rear suspension system which relies less on the anti-squat of the kinematic design and more on the TwinLoc lever; basically the Ransom was the least efficient at pedaling, which I don't think makes a huge difference cruising up a road with no rush to the top, on the way down however it gave a much more forgiving ride.
The Ransom was also slightly slacker at the headtube, and longer in the chainstay, these are an advantage in my eyes, especially for taller riders with a higher center of gravity: a slacker head angle keeps you safer, and the longer chainstays make it easier to keep your weight in front of the rear axle. So less pedal efficiency, but the nicer climbing shape is more important to me and my lower back and hips. The TwinLoc? Well, this does make pedaling more efficient, but, locking out the fork too is always a downer for me. I have tried disconnecting the cable from the fork lockout on many TwinLoc bikes and this always gives a better climbing position – the front sags more, the rear rides higher in travel. C'mon Scott, spec a burlier rear shock with a 'UniLoc' lever and the full powered GRIP2 Fox fork then we are talking, especially on a rig that is aimed at climbing and descending steeper grades than its XC brothers.
The Ransom is my favorite of this trio, and with a few tweaks could be the best enduro bike on the market.
Mike Kazimer: Scott Ransom
The Scott Ransom is my pick out of these three big mountain machines, even though I'm usually opposed to extra levers on the handlebar. I do wish that the TwinLoc system left the fork alone, and that there was a GRIP2 damper inside that fork instead, but the Ransom's excellent handling and suspension feel outweighs those gripes.
For a bike with 170mm of front and rear travel the Ransom is extremely manageable – it's still enjoyable even on rides that don't involve blasting straight down the fall line, and its light weight makes it less of a chore to get to the top of a long descent. Even if the TwinLoc lever is left in the open position it's still a relatively decent climber, although there is a fair bit of suspension motion during out of the saddle efforts - the Firebird takes the win when it comes to lever-free pedaling efficiency.
The vast majority of my rides tend to be fully pedal powered, and often encompass a wide range of terrain, which means that my ideal bike needs to be well rounded, rather than solely focused on the moments when gravity takes over. The Ransom fits the bill, I'd be just as happy racing it as I would heading out for a big multi-hour mission. Sure, it doesn't have the absolute steepest seat angle, or an insanely long reach, but it doesn't need to – instead, it has a very balanced, 'just right' feel that's easy to get along with.
It's when the shock is in the fully open mode and gravity takes over that the Ransom truly shines. The suspension tune is excellent, allowing the bike to track extremely well through chunky sections of trail without getting bounced around. That level of traction is what sets the Ransom apart – it has a way of sticking to the trail that keeps it on line in loose or slippery conditions.
There isn't one particular trait that made me choose the Ransom over the Firebird and the Spartan. Instead, it's a mix of attributes that add up to create a bike that's perfectly suited to my riding style.