There's a confusing amount of variations of the Spark platform in Scott's catalog, including the purebred cross-country race whippet RC models, plus-sized monsters, and women-specific Sparks, but it's the standard Spark that's probably the most well-rounded in the family. The 29'' wheeled Spark 900 employs Scott's Twin Loc remote system that, with the help of a few extra cables, allows the rider to adjust the bike's travel between 85 and 120mm, or lock it out, all while simultaneously controlling the 120mm-travel Fox fork.
If you really feel the need to define the gray Scott, its travel and geometry numbers put the $5,599.99 USD Spark somewhere in an ambiguous middle ground that a lot of us call trail riding, AKA mountain biking. Sure, you could slip into your Lycra and test yourself on the 27lb 1oz Spark 900 at a cross-country race, but it also looks like the kinda rig that would make a good all-day steed. This versatility is further underlined by the bike's proper tires, dropper post, and wide-range Eagle drivetrain.
Cables enter here, with the Twin Loc remote line exiting invisibly right below the Fox shock.
While the front of the bike has a few too many cables for my liking, Scott has done a very good job of hiding them everywhere else.
The Spark range received a complete redesign for 2017, going from the top tube-mounted shock and rocker link to what you see here, a bike with a vertically mounted shock and rocker that certainly looks more contemporary next to its predecessor. The redesign wasn't done solely for appearances, though, with the fresh model featuring new geometry that's longer up front, shorter out back, and slacker to boot. Scott also claims that the new frame is lighter than the old Spark.
The Spark 900's front triangle is carbon fiber, and it's a pretty sharp and clean looking thing despite all that's going on with it. Cable routing is internal and nearly invisible, with the suspension control line exiting the downtube directly below the trunion-mounted shock. There are no ISCG tabs, which is acceptable on a 120mm-travel bike, but the 900 does come stock with a tiny and very light guide that shares its mount with the main pivot hardware. There's also room for a large bottle inside the front triangle (that's the sole bottle mount location), which I always harp on about to the point of ad nauseam.
No pivot required. The rear end is designed to flex, saving the weight of bearings and pivot hardware.
The brake mount is a bolted to the chainstay up front and the axle runs through it at the back, thereby keeping it from hindering suspension action.
The back of the Spark 900 is aluminum, but it features the same lack of pivots at the dropout as the carbon rear end used on the higher-end models. This built-in flex design, which has been used for many years, required Scott to come up with a different brake mount that wouldn't prevent the flex-pivot from, er, flexing. The forward section of the brake mount bolts directly to the chainstay, while the 12mm wheel axle runs through the back of the mount, thereby keeping it from inhibiting the suspension action.
The 120mm-travel rear end is all-new for Scott, but it's still a single-pivot, rocker link controlled layout.
The Spark's suspension layout has changed drastically for 2017, but it's still a relatively simple looking single-pivot design that uses a rocker link to compress the now vertically-mounted Fox shock. The new design is said to offer more support, increased sensitivity, and a more consistent leverage ratio throughout the travel, all while being lighter than the previous version. ''Construction processes have matured so we could easily save some weight compared to the old bikes,'' Joe Higgins, Chief of MTB Engineering at Scott Sports, explained at the new bike's launch in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. ''Something which is more specific to the Spark was that we could improve the kinematics as we had feedback that the old Spark wasn't as sensitive or as supportive as we wanted,'' he said of the old bike and how it defined the goals for the 2017 model.
Instead of a pivot at the axle, the alloy rear end is designed to flex at the dropout, an approach that's not specific to Scott but one that should yield a lighter package given the lack of bearings and pivot hardware.
The alloy seatstays drive a short link to deliver between 85mm and 120mm of suspension travel via a trunion-mounted, proprietary Fox Nude shock with three modes: Lockout, Traction Control (85mm), and Descend (120mm). This is controlled via the bike's Twin Loc dual-lever remote the adjusts both the damping and the air volume of the shock while simultaneously adjusting the compression damping of the 120mm-travel Fox 34 fork.
The special Fox shock has three modes: 120mm, 85mm, and nearly locked out. These are controlled by the bike's Twin Loc remote.
I'm generally not a big fan of remotes or different travel modes, but Scott's Twin Loc system does offer loads of tuning at the tip of your thumb for on-the-go adjustability, and I can see why that's going to make sense to some riders. And, aside from a bit of a rat's nest of cables in front of the handlebar, Scott has managed to do a relatively clean job in the design department thanks to the Spark's internal cable routing and combo dropper post/Twin Loc handlebar mount.
The Twin Loc remote shares the same perch as the Fox dropper's thumb lever.
With just 120mm of travel when left fully open, I expected a lot of the Spark 900 as far as climbing manners go, and it impressed in some areas but left me a bit perplexed in another. First, the good news, which is that the mostly gray Scott is an efficient little package that doesn't need the Twin Loc remote to feel sporty. The bike is like a two-wheeled pep rally when you're feeling energetic; no, it's not quite as lively feeling as a Ripley of the same travel, but it's only a hair's width behind in this department.
That's one of the reasons why a bike like the Spark is often chosen: because it's fast and nimble. Well, more on the nimble part later, but the Scott is fast, anyway.
A 120mm-travel trail bike needs to have plenty of pep, and the Spark 900 doesn't disappoint.
Yes, pushing the Twin Loc remote one stop to switch to the firmer, 85mm-travel setting does make a difference, of course, but it's a silly thing to do when you're on singletrack - it seemed to matter little on proper trails, and I preferred the more forgiving but still sporty full-travel mode. Gravel roads, sure, but give me all the suspension when I'm doing my thing, please. The firmest setting, which requires a fair bit of lever throw at the remote, is a lot firmer but not a lockout.
While the Spark's efficiency is good enough to light a fire under anyone's ass (sorry, I had to), I didn't gel with the bike's handling on technical, tight, twisting climbs. A 120mm-travel trail bike should feel like you can weave through any and all vertical agility courses, but I struggled with steering that often felt a bit too calm for my liking.
Now, I know the 67.2-degree head angle isn't anything out of the norm these days for a bike like the new Spark, but the geometry as a whole didn't make life easier on climbs that are technical struggles, and I feel like a 120mm-travel trail bike needs to do exactly that. The Spark isn't a handful, mind you, and the Maxxis rubber and shorter rear end deliver loads of traction, but the handlebar requires a surprisingly heavy hand given the 900's travel and intentions. My butt also kept telling me that the bike's 73.8-degree seat angle felt slacker than that number, which isn't great for a guy like me who tends to stay planted in the saddle for the large majority of climbs.
With cross-country-like efficiency but more relaxed trail bike handling, the Spark 900 isn't an out-and-out whiz on technical climbs. But what it does do is gobble up singletrack efficiently when its pilot is on the gas. If that sounds like it matches your needs, then you're in luck.
While it may be more steak knife than scalpel, the Spark can still get through a set of tight corners quickly.
There are many different interpretations of the contemporary trail bike, but I think that most riders would agree that it has to let you get after it on the descents once the climbing is finished. If it doesn't, what's the point? Well, the Spark 900 is definitely one of those ''get after it'' kind of bikes that only gets better the harder you push, which is something that can't be said of some bikes in the same travel bracket. The ride is stable and surefooted at speed, with a riding position that feels like you're down in between the wheels rather than high up above them, and that's a virtual "you got this" when you're in the midst of high-speed moments on the trail.
A short-travel trail bike can be a surprising thing sometimes; with relatively small amounts of suspension, an exciting moment can quickly go south if you're not on top of things, but this never happened when I was on the Spark. The bike never felt like it was against me, and while the Scott could be a handful on truly steep and scary terrain (it is a 120mm-travel trail bike, after all), there's not much that I'd shy away from when riding the gray 900. Again, I have to give kudos to Maxxis and their new Forekaster tires that felt predictable and don't need to be within 2 or 3 psi of their ideal pressure to work well.
At speed, the Spark makes a few much longer-travel bikes feel nervous in comparison.
The price for that sure-footedness and stability is a ride that's not exactly playful; it'll do what you ask of it, but this isn't a bike that's eager for long manuals or to be cutting up and down the trail as you jump from line to line. The Spark is more about speed and covering ground than making the most out of that ground, and there's nothing wrong with that - a skilled rider will still be able to get the 900 into some interesting places on the trail, while a rider with less confidence will probably benefit from the Spark's stable, autopilot-like handling.
Great suspension should do its job nearly invisibly, and the Spark's rear end does pretty much exactly that. The Fox 34 fork required some volume spacers - that's rider and terrain-specific, of course - but never felt fussed as far as damping goes. The FIT4 damper is as dialed as it gets, so that's not really a surprise, and the fork is a good fit for how the Spark is meant to be ridden. The bike's rear end also went about its job quietly, although it's worth noting that the top of the stroke felt more supple than expected, which never hurts things. Besides that, I never felt like I was sitting too deep into the travel, and bottoming moments were a no fuss, no bang kind of thing.
Don't buy the Spark 900 expecting a toy that loves to be thrown around like a BMX bike; it's not an agile, playful thing, even for a 29er. But what the Spark does do well is allow its pilot to let go of the binders and carry some serious speed. It's a bike that, while not being overly frisky, loves to pretend that it has an extra 30mm of suspension travel on both ends.
The Spark has traction and composure for days, but it's not nearly as eager to play as it is to simply go fast as hell.
• Twin Loc Remote: If you're a button-pusher, you'll love the Spark 900's cockpit; if you're not, you won't. The dual-lever Twin Loc remote works as intended, and it's relatively clean, but Scott and Fox tag teaming the remote to create a single unit limits setup options.
The three levers (including the Transfer post) all seem a bit cluttered when you're in the heat of battle on the trail, and the seatpost's trigger actually makes contact with the gray Twin Loc release lever. Extra cables aside, the packaging of the combination remote is clever, but the ergos aren't quite right.
• Maxxis Forekaster Tires: I had never used the Forekaster before getting on the Spark 900, but they ended up being surprisingly good performers, and a great choice on a bike like the Spark that is essentially a very capable cross-country machine. The 2.35'' Maxxis rubber felt extremely predictable, and especially well-suited to the seemingly never ending wet and loose conditions that have persisted for the last few months. With a tubeless setup and a 21/23 psi combo (I'm 160lbs), I had all the traction I could hope for and suffered from precisely zero flat tires.
The Forekaster tires seem well-suited to wet or loose conditions, and they're reliable to boot.
The Eagle drivetrain was flawless, but that eight-tooth jump is never going to feel right to my legs. It's also neat to see Scott spec a chain guide on their 120mm-travel bike.
• Fox Transfer Dropper Post: I don't care how heavy it was, the sometimes annoying rattle, or even the monstrous remote: Fox's old D.O.S.S. dropper post was a favorite of mine simply because it seemed indestructible during a time when everyone else's droppers were anything but. Its replacement, the Transfer, is lighter and simpler, but it's quickly earning the same reliable rep in my books for being trouble-free. And I don't just mean the one that came stock on the Spark 900; I mean every single Transfer that I've ever used.
• X01 Eagle Drivetrain: SRAM's 12-speed drivetrain feels like it shifts as quick as a dual-clutch transmission on a high-end sports car, and it also offers a 500% gear range that should be enough for any rider, regardless of abilities and fitness, just so long as they pick the appropriately sized chain ring. That's all fine and dandy, but I'm still going to bitch about the eight-tooth jump between the two largest cogs. The shift is actually fine and decently quick, but man, that eight-tooth difference is a cadence killer that has never felt right to my legs. I'd choose the standard X01 11-speed drivetrain if I had the choice, but maybe I'm too nitpicky - most other reviewers seem more than fine with it.
The Spark 900 is an interesting thing; it certainly has a bit of cross-country thoroughbred in it, but it's far more confidence inspiring at speed than any feathery race whippet could ever dream of being. And while it might not be a technical trail specialist, many riders will surely find the Scott's surefootedness to be well worth the tradeoff.— Mike Levy
About the Reviewer Stats: Age: 36 • Height: 5'10” • Inseam: 33" • Weight: 165lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None • Instagram: killed_by_death Mike Levy spent most of the 90s and early 2000s racing downhill bikes and building ill-considered jumps in the woods of British Columbia before realizing that bikes could also be pedaled for hours on end to get to some pretty cool places. These days he spends most of his time doing exactly that, preferring to ride test bikes way out in the local hills rather than any bike park. Over ten years as a professional mechanic before making the move to Pinkbike means that his enthusiasm for two wheels extends beyond simply riding on them, and his appreciation for all things technical is an attribute that meshes nicely with his role of Technical Editor at Pinkbike.