Scott Sports chose the mountains that make up the border of Switzerland and France as the location for the launch of their new Gambler and Voltage FR, a fitting choice since much of the testing during the bikes' development took place in this area. Chairlifts climb skyward out of nearly every valley, providing endless options for long days of lift assisted mountain biking with jaw dropping backdrops. Ben Walker, one of Scott's product developers and testers, even built a trail in Morgins, Switzerland, that features a mix of bermed turns and root choked straightaways designed specifically to run the bikes through the full gamut of suspension scenarios, everything from hard G-outs to rapid-fire square edged hits. The weather and the trail conditions swung wildly from one extreme to another during our time in the region, and we were able to ride the new bikes in everything from slippery, greasy mud (picture the track conditions during Danny Hart's famous 2011 run in nearby Champery) to tacky, grippy perfection.
|The Gambler 700 retains the same distinctive suspension layout as the previous model, but has undergone a host of changes to ensure the bike can maintain its reputation as a downhill race machine capable of taming the steepest of tracks. The most notable change to the frame is the fact that the bike can now accommodate 27.5” wheels, but that doesn't mean that the 26” crowd has been forgotten – the smaller wheels will still fit, and the bike's adjustable BB height, head angle and chainstay length allow similar geometry to be achieved with both wheel sizes. Following the current bike geometry trend, the Gambler's front center has been increased, with the top tube length on the medium frame going from 550 to 595mm, which adds approximately 10mm to the bike's reach. |
Head angle adjustments are accomplished by swapping the stock cups for the included Syncros angled headset cups, which allows riders to choose from a super-slack 61° head angle all the way up to a quicker handling 65° degree setting, or anything in between in one degree increments. There are also two bottom bracket height positions that are selected by flipping the aluminum chip found at the lower shock mount. The Gambler's chain stay length is adjustable as well, and can be set at either 424 or 440mm at the lower bottom bracket height setting.
• 210mm Floating Link suspension
• 6061 aluminum frame
• 27.5” or 26" wheel compatible
• 61° - 65° head angle
• 422 - 440mm adjustable chain stay length
• Adjustable BB height
• Sizes S, M, L
• Gambler 710 weight: 38.58lb
| The Gambler's Floating Link has been refined to better match Fox's newest RC4. The bike's fork bump stops now do double duty as cable guides, and two rear wheel positions allow riders to alter the bike's chain stay length.|
Suspension and Frame Design
The Gambler is designed to work best with Fox's RC4 rear shock, and when Fox made the shift to a smaller shaft diameter it became necessary to slightly tweak the Floating Link suspension layout to match the damping characteristics of the new design. By adjusting the size of the links, Tim Stevens, the engineer behind the design of the Gambler 700, was able to reduce the amount of rotation that occurs at the mounting hardware from 36° to 12° at the top of the shock, and from 12° down to 4° at the lower mounting point. This should help increase the bike's small bump sensitivity and bushing lifespan by translating impacts more quickly to the shock with less stiction from the rotation of the shock hardware on the bushings. Other small refinements to the frame include new fork bumpers that also serve as cable guides, and the switch to routing the rear derailleur housing through the drive side seat stay, which helps give it a better angle when it reaches the rear derailleur. The bike's weight remains roughly the same, and the 710 model, kitted out with a mix of Saint and Zee components and Fox's Air 40 fork checks in at 38.58 pounds.
| Flat out is the Gambler's preferred pace, and once up to speed it'll quickly mow down anything in its path. Photo: Christoph Laue |
Riders who have spent time on previous versions of the Gambler will be glad to know that its monster-trucking abilities are still firmly intact, along with its rock solid feel on steep and rutted tracks. The Gambler isn't a bike for the timid, though, and if you're planning on creeping down the trail while grabbing a fistful of brake this bike could prove to be a handful. While there are lighter, more playful bikes out there, at high speeds the Gambler turns into a bump eating, turbocharged rototiller that will churn through the nastiest terrain and keep asking for more. Even in chunky, awkward sections of trail the rear suspension remained very predictable, with a smooth, well-controlled stroke as the bike went through its 210mm of travel. For the DH rider looking for a full-blown race sled, the Gambler is certainly capable of taking on the most challenging tracks, while at the same time possessing enough adjustability so that it can be ridden on less rowdy bike park trails without feeling out of place, although it's still best suited to more advanced, aggressive riders who can push it hard enough to make it come alive.
|The word freeride may have been superseded by the 'E' word over the past two seasons, but Scott still believes there's a demand for a long travel, versatile bike that can be built up in multiple configurations, whether it's with a 180mm single crown fork to make a playful bike park / big mountain bike, or with a 200mm dual crown fork to create a DH race bike. Enter the Voltage FR. The Voltage sports 190mm of rear travel that can be dropped to 170mm by flipping the rear shock mount, and can be run with either 26” or 27.5” wheels. Like the Gambler, the bike's head angle can be changed by switching out the headset cups, giving it a range of options from 62°- 66°. With 26” wheels the chain stay length can be set at either 410 or 425mm, and with 27.5” wheels it is fixed at 425mm. Previously, only two sizes of the Voltage were available, but the FR will now come in small, medium, and large sizes. |
The size of the Voltage's bearing and axle hardware has been increased to help the bike withstand lap after lap of bike park shredding, and a brace has been added between the rear seat stays to increase rear end stiffness. The Voltage 710 we rode in Chatel, France, and Morgins, Switzerland is well spec'd with 27.5” wheels, a 180mm version of Fox's new 36, Shimano XT brakes, a pair of Schwalbe's Magic Mary tires, and weighs in at 35.72 pounds.
• 170 or 190mm travel
• 6061 aluminum frame
• 27.5” or 26" wheel compatible
• 62° - 66° head angle
• Interchangeable dropouts
• Sizes S, M, L
• Voltage FR 710 weight: 35.72lb
The Voltage can be run with either 170 or 190mm of rear travel. A brace has been added between the seat stays to add stiffness, and there are two rear wheel positions for 26" wheels, and one for 27.5", along with interchangeable dropouts for either a 12x135 thru axle or a 135mm quick release.
| Whether we were hitting scenic step downs over bunches of wild flowers or rallying through the mud, the Voltage FR took it all in stride. Photo: Lee Trumpore. |Ride Impressions
Compared to the Gambler, the Voltage is more user friendly, and it only took a couple of lift served laps to feel right at home on it. On everything from trails filled with tight berms to long, steep rocky chutes, the bike dishes out a good time, and it actually felt faster in some of the twistier sections of trail than on the Gambler, simply because it took less effort to whip it around the corners. The amount of travel was more than adequate, especially when the performance of the Fox 36 is factored in. The 36 possesses what would be on most riders' list of requests for their dream fork: incredible small bump and beginning stroke sensitivity, plenty of mid-stroke support, and a smooth ramp up at the end of the travel. It does a stellar job of filtering out the trail chatter that can cause sore hands and arm pump by the end of a day in the bike park, and even under heavy braking on super steep sections of trail it settled right into the sweet spot of its travel. The rising popularity of all-mountain and enduro bikes does raise the question - who is the Voltage FR for? It's for the rider that wants a bike that can take a season's worth of abuse in the bike park, and possibly be called into duty as a downhill race machine as well. For riders searching for a relatively simple and stout gravity sled with excellent handling, the Voltage is worth a look.www.scott-sports.com
Must Read This Week