Yes, the new Scott Gambler kind of looks like a Trek Session. After all, there are only so many possible frame shapes and suspension layouts, and in this case Scott chose a familiar looking Horst Link layout in order to be able to effectively tune the frame stiffness, and to direct the shock forces into reinforced areas. Now that that's out of the way, let's get into the more important details of this new, lightweight carbon fiber DH bike.
The Gambler's full-carbon frame delivers 200 millimeters of rear travel, plus or minus two or three millimeters, depending on the geometry setting and can accommodate 29” or 27.5” wheels. Adjustability is the name of the game here, and there's a wide range of settings that can be used to customize the bike to suit a certain track or rider's preference.
Gambler Tuned Details
• Wheel size: 29" (27.5" compatible)
• Rear wheel travel: 200mm
• Carbon frame
• 62° - 64° head angle
• 435 - 450mm chainstays
• Weight: 34.5 lb / 15.6kg (actual, size large)
• Price: €7,999 as shown / €4,999 frame w/ suspension
The Gambler Tuned is the first model to be released, and it comes decked out with all the fanciness, including the futuristic-looking Syncros Hixon iC DH carbon bar / stem combo. Other spec highlights include a Fox 49 fork and a DHX2 coil shock, SRAM's X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain and Code RSC brakes, Syncros Revelstoke DH aluminum wheels, and 29" x 2.5" Maxxis Assegai tires. All that will set you back 7,999 Euro, or the frame and suspension can be purchased for 4,199. Don't rush out to sell your current bike just yet, though; the new Gambler isn't going to be available until December 2019. The Weight Game
There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to determining the ideal weight for a downhill bike, but according to Scott engineer Tim Stevens, weight was “at the top of the criteria list.” Scott's trail and enduro bikes are some of the lightest in their categories, and the goal was to create a downhill bike that followed suit. There's no denying the fact that they've created a very light bike - the 29” Gambler Tuned pictured here weighs a scant 34.5 pounds (15.6 kg) on my scale, and the frame-only is said to weigh 2,650 grams (5.8 lb). The bike could have been made even lighter, but that would have meant forgoing the adjustable geometry features.
Along with creating a much lighter Gambler, Scott's designers and engineers also wanted to achieve the optimum blend of stiffness and compliance. They started by experimenting with different rear ends on the previous Gambler in order to see what riders preferred. The overall goal was to create a bike that had more torsional stiffness, but a bit of lateral compliance for comfort and traction. They also wanted to ensure that the final product had consistent stiffness levels from front to back – a bike with a stiff front end and a floppy rear isn't going to be all that enjoyable to ride, especially at the high speeds that go hand-in-hand with downhill racing.
The Gambler's suspension layout keeps the top- and down tubes free from direct shock loads, which made it possible to manipulate the carbon layup of each tube in order to create the desired level of stiffness. Scott says that the bike, similar to the Ransom, was designed to have a 'stiffness zone', which runs from the head tube to the down tube and then the chainstays. The upper half of the bike – the top tube and seatstays – is the 'lightweight zone', the area where it was possible to remove material and tune the amount of frame flex. All the Adjustments
There's an extremely wide range of possible setup option with the Gambler. The chainstay length can be set at either 435mm or 450mm no matter what wheel size you're running, and there's also a 4-position flip chip that's used to alter the bottom bracket height and shock progression.
For instance, if you're going to be riding somewhere super steep, running the bike in the shorter chainstay position with the chip in the lower, more progressive setting is the recommended setup. For flatter tracks, Scott suggests a higher bottom bracket, more linear shock position, and longer chainstay position. Of course, these are just suggestions, and there are a bunch more possible combinations, but Scott's setup guide does a good job of breaking down where each setting might work best.
That's not the end of the adjustments, though; another set of headset cups are included that can be used to alter the head tube angle by 1-degree in either direction, and there's a cup that adds 15mm of stack height, which will come in handy for riders who plan on running 27.5” wheels. Suspension Design
The Floating Link suspension configuration found on the previous version of the Gambler is gone, replaced by a familiar looking Horst Link design. The seat tube partially wraps around the shock, which now uses a trunnion mount and measures 225 x 75mm. Riders looking for a little more butt-to-tire clearance can run a slightly shorter stroke shock, either 72.5 or 70mm, in order to reduce the travel.
Early prototypes of the Gambler were seen with an idler pulley, but it didn't end up making it past the testing stage. There were benefits in some areas, but not enough to make it worth the additional complexity and weight, at least in the eyes of Scott's designers.
The amount of anti-rise on the new bike was reduced compared to the old model based on feedback from team riders, and it now sits at 40%. The main pivot was also lowered in order to reduce the amount of chain growth and pedal feedback. Geometry
The Gambler is now available in four sizes, from S to XL, with reach numbers that range from 400mm all the way up to 500mm. That's quite the spread, and it should accommodate the vast majority of rider heights. On the whole, the reach number for each size has grown by approximately 15mm. The seat tube angle was steepened on the small and medium sizes so that smaller riders can run low seatpost heights without worrying about the 'bzzzzzt' noise of the rear tire contacting the back of the saddle.Integration
Integration is a term that falls dangerously close to being a business-speak buzzword, in the same vein as 'synergy', but given what Scott have done with the Gambler I'm going to allow it. I mean, just look at that handlebar / stem combo – if that's not integration, I don't know what is. In addition to being lighter than a traditional two-piece bar and stem, the 300-gram Syncros Hixon iC DH bar is said to be able to withstand 260kg (573 lb) of downward force on each side and still return to its original shape without any deformation – that's one hell of a huck-to-flat. The concept may be polarizing, but it's a surefire way to attract plenty of looks in the lift line.
Scott created their own chain guide system that uses a two-bolt lower bash guard and a separate upper guide.
Scott did more than just combine a stem and handlebar – they also created their own proprietary chain guide system. Why? Well, as the development of the Gambler progressed they realized that they were making compromises to the frame shape in order to adhere to the ISCG 05 standard. By creating their own system, they were able to design a straighter chainstay and gain additional tire clearance, a similar story to what happened when companies began ditching front derailleurs.
The guide and bash guard weigh 113 grams, and the upper guide alone weighs only 23 grams. Rather than having the bash guard thread into the frame, it slides over two lugs that extend underneath the bottom bracket. There are elastomers inside those carbon lugs to help absorb impacts and prevent frame damage.
The final piece of the integration puzzle is the fender – similar to what Syncros created for the Fox 36, they've now made a fender that makes use of the threads on the 49's arch.
I've been able to get in two solid days aboard the new Gambler so far, just enough to start getting a handle on what this bike is capable of. The first was a day of shuttling on steep, rooty, natural tracks, and the second day was in the Whistler Bike Park, where I hit up everything from the techier bits in the Garbanzo zone to jump-filled trails like A-Line and Dirt Merchant. I kept the bike in the geometry configuration it came in, with the flip chip in the low / progressive setting, and the chainstays in the longest position. At 5'11" I went with the size large, and so far I've been very comfortable on it. I'm sure I'd be able to handle the XL if I wanted to really maximize straight-line speed and stability, but I'd rather feel like a pilot than a passenger, so the 460mm reach of the large works well for me.
The light weight of the bike is noticeable, but there's still plenty of stability on tap – you're not going to mistake the Gambler for an overgrown trail bike, which is a good thing. After all, part of the reason that DH bikes are so fun is that they let you get away with speeds and line choices that wouldn't be possible on anything else.
Even though it gained a little length and bigger wheels, the new Gambler is much easier to throw around than the previous version, whether that's while navigating through a tight, technical chute, or lifting up and over a chopped up section of trail. With the flip chip in the progressive setting, it takes barely any effort at all to get the shock to begin moving into its travel. That sensitivity came in handy on the more natural trails where I wanted as much grip as possible, but it wasn't as beneficial in the bike park – I'm planning on trying out the more linear setting next to see if the difference is noticeable. In theory, it should provide more support at the beginning of the stroke and make the bike ride a little higher in its travel at the cost of a little bit of bottom-out resistance.
How about the wild-looking handlebar? I didn't get along with the geometry of the Hixon bar that comes on the Scott Ransom, but so far the shape of the Hixon iC DH is working well for me. It feels quite stiff, but not enough to cause any hand pain or arm pump. I did notice that some of the orange paint around the bolt heads is beginning to chip off, and there are a few sections on the Gambler's frame itself where chain slap or flying rocks have knocked off some paint – we'll see how it handles the next couple months of riding.
So far it's been incredibly easy to get up to speed on the Gambler – the handling is very intuitive, and I haven't had to exert any undue effort in order to get it to behave the way I'd like. With so many possible geometry and suspension settings, it's going to be interesting to determine which changes make the most difference. Stay tuned for a full review once I rack up enough miles of descending.