How Does It Compare?
I currently have a Transition Spur as my personal bike, which made it easy to do back-to-back laps between it and the Spark.
When it comes to geometry, both bikes sit in a similar realm. The Spur with a 120mm fork has a 66-degree head angle and a 480mm reach, while the Spark with its 130mm fork has a 65.8-degree head angle and a 470mm reach. The Spark has a slightly steeper seat tube angle of 76.2 versus the Spur's 75.9-degree angle, a difference that's easy to compensate for by the sliding the seat forward or back on its rails.
The Spark's claimed frame weight is nearly a pound lighter than the Spur's, at 1999 grams vs. 2450 grams. Both bikes will feel nice and light if you're coming from a burlier trail or enduro bike, but it's worth a mention for all the gram counters out there.
Even though the geometry numbers are pretty close on paper, there are distinct handling differences out on the trail. The Spark's TwinLoc system makes it possible to give a firmer suspension platform, and that combined with the lighter weight gives it the edge over the Spur on the climbs. I was more likely to stand up and sprint in an attempt to beat my personal best climbing times on the Spark, while the Spur has a slightly more relaxed, neutral approach to climbs.
Even with a 60mm stem the Spark has a more compact, nimble feel, which makes it easier to get through tight, awkward ascents. If you place a high priority on technical climbing performance, the Spark takes the point in that department.
It's when the trail tips downhill that the Spur really comes to life, with a blend of playfullness and stability that the Spark can't match. Don't get me wrong, the Spark is very capable, but the Spur takes things up a notch. I was much more comfortable in the air on the Spur, while the Spark's manners encourage more of a wheels-on-the-ground approach. Some of that could likely be adjusted with a shorter stem and higher rise bars, but all that integration makes that a tricky procedure.
Overall, I'd say the Spark is 60% focused on the climbs and 40% focused on the descents, while the Spur has those numbers reversed, with more of the focus on the descents, despite having only 120mm of travel. Value
No matter how you look at it, $10,000 is a ton of money for a mountain bike, and this isn't even the top of the line model. The good news is that Scott's lineup runs deep, and includes a huge range of build options.
Which one offers the best value? Aluminum is going to be the way to go if you're on a budget, and in that category the $3,300 Spark 960 Black gets my pick. It has a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain (other than the XT derailleur – I really wish product managers would up-spec the shifters rather than derailleurs), Shimano M510 brakes, a RockShox Judy fork, and an X-Fusion shock. It's a solid, workhorse build, and one that could be upgraded with nicer components further down the road. I would have preferred to see a Fox Rhythm fork over the Judy Silver, but that fork doesn't enter the lineup until the carbon Spark 930, which retails for $4,500 USD. The 960 Black does weigh nearly 7 pounds more than the super-fancy model reviewed here, but you'll also have $6,700 left in your bank account.