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The final product ready for Spring training.

I announced my intentions here in the initial On Test post where I set out to build up a Scott Scale 900 RC HMX frame set with a goal in mind.  That goal was to select parts that would compliment the nature of the Scale and result in a light weight, capable, fast and ‘comfortable’ hard tail for long, fast rides or shorter faster rides, as the case may be.  Personally I am challenged by the typical geared hard tail.  I find them tiring over long rides and in a lot of cases only marginally faster than something like, oh, say the Scott Spark, to keep it in the family.  Chalk that up to my aging back and the nature of our trails and roads out in So Cal.

But under the right conditions and under the right rider, a bike like the Scott Scale RC 900 can be blazingly fast, especially uphill and on rolling terrain.  Look at the XC racing group as a whole and you will see it largely populated by 29″er hard tail riders.  The combo of big wheeled momentum, smoothness, and stability with the efficient hard tail frame is a potent one.

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I rode this HMF version in 2014 at Park City.

I was very impressed with the 2 hours I spent on a lesser Scale (Non HMX) bike last year at Park City, not just for the ride quality, but also with the geometry. It felt surprisingly agile and calm and had an ‘all day’ feel to it, not all nervous and hyper feeling, yet fast. So I was curious to see what the latest in high end carbon lay-ups, (HMX being the term for the best quality carbon construction from Scott Bikes) could do to take the sting out of the trail.  I also wanted to run a wider rim, something that is all the rage at the moment, and take advantage of the lower pressures it allows. Nothing a frame by itself can do affects ride compliance as much as what a lower tire pressure does and a wide rim allows for lower pressures without a great loss in steering stability.

So I chose some components according to a few parameters.  In some cases it was what I had around and in some cases not, so those missing parts were sourced. All of them are solid yet light weight pieces of gear, although in some cases I could have gone lighter.  I also used what I was pretty sure would not detract from the bike…items I trusted and liked from previous experience.  And then I was curious about some new stuff on the market that I wanted to try, so I mixed a bit of that in as well.

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The Build:

238856_91682_tif_zoom_1The Frame – Sized XL 2105 Scott Scale HMX 900.  Scott does a fine job of selling frame sets as well as fully built bikes so you can, if you desire to, ‘have it your way’.  The frame comes with a Ritchey headset, Syncros carbon stem, Syncros carbon seat post, QR seat post clamp, and all the assorted bits and pieces to get the rear axle config to what you need.  No singlespeed option.  I weighed it, including the seat post clamp and the 142×12 rear axle, to be 2lbs/10oz or 1191g.  By the way, the MSRP is $2199.00.

The ForkDSC06610 – I went with a Magura TS8 R 100mm fork for this build.  There are a lot of good options out there for forks, all vying for your money.  Based on what I knew about the Magura series of forks, I felt that the chassis stiffness (although at 100mm, that is not a hard target to hit and stiffness is usually not an issue), the light weight, and the simple design would compliment the goals of the build.  And although the TS line of forks have not shown themselves to be super supple performers under a trail bike, on a fast XC hard tail like this the lack of dive under braking and the firmer nature overall could be a plus, not a minus.  I weighed it uncut at 3lbs/11oz or 765.5g with the 15mm axle in place.

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The Wheels – Originally Bill Shook of American Classic had XC riding in mind when he developed the Wide Lightning wheels we reviewed X2 and although they turned out to be up to the rigors of longer travel bikes as well, at 1569g and with an internal width of 29.3mm, they are a player in the trend of wider yet very light 29″er wheels.  They were a natural for this build, being as light or lighter than many carbon wheel sets and more than stiff enough with the 32 spokes and wide rim.

The Tires – I passed on using weight weenie tires like a Specialized S Works Renegade or even a Schwalbe Racing Ralph.  Instead I went with a set of tires that I trust, that are still very capable all-round XC tires, and that have a good combo of volume, casing durability, tubeless reliability, and rolling performance.  The Continental X King 2.2 front and the Race King 2.2 rear, mounted up easily on the AC wheels and the rear Race King looks positively plump on the wide rim.  I did not weigh them, but Conti lists them as 655g for the 2.2 Protection X King and 645g for the rear Race King 2.2 Protection version.  They roll fast and feel lighter than that on trail.

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The Drivetrain – SRAM XX.  Light, proven, expensive.  You can’t have it all, and so this stuff is not cheap, but XX is still a proper high end racers choice.  Why not 1×11?  Well, I did not have that around at the time and I know what to expect from the 2x based XX.  I did use an XO rear cassette however.

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The Brakes – Magura MT 8.  Light and simple to work on with the mineral oil fluid, the improved power of the MT series brakes should do well in a single piston application for this bike.  The top of the line brake in the Next series, the MT 8 is light at 299g.

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The Contact Points – Ergon supplied some of the latest performance/endurance items they offer. The SM3 saddle is last year’s model, but is still very close to what you would see in the SMR3 version coming soon.  It is an interesting shape and has less of a cut out than I am used to seeing on saddles.  I am skeptical, but we shall see.  It weighed 251g in the SM3-L Pro model I have (I have the wider of the two widths).  I also have a set of Ergon GA2 grips, something new from Ergon.  Billed as an AM/Gravity grip, I like the shape of them already, with a reduced diameter for better thumb/finger wrap at the inner section.  I weighed them at 107g.  I typically hate the typical ‘ergonomic’ grip with the shaped ‘wing’ sections, something Ergon loves, although JeffJ swears by them.  Personal preference.  Round or close to it is good for me.

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For the bars, originally I was using a set of Answer carbon bars at a 720mm width, but the sweep did not feel right to me…not enough of it…so I requested a set of carbon bars from Syncros to match the stem and seat post.  I had to choose between a 700mm wide bar or a 740mm wide bar in the FL1.0 model with a more wrist friendly 9° of back sweep, so while 700mm might have been a better choice (but seemed a tiny bit narrow for me) I asked for the 740mm bar thinking I would trim it to around 720mm…oops…it turns out that the FL1.0 bar has a bar end insert that makes that difficult, so I will run it at 740mm and see.  I weighed it at 186g.

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DSC06611I am concerned that the odd sized seat post diameter that Scott specs will, if I find it to be too stiff, make it really hard to find a more compliant replacement and running a shim is verboten per warranty requirements.  We shall see.  Who uses a 34.9mm post?  Scott does.

The build went well, all things considered.  I used a SRAM GXP to PF adapter to get the SRAM GPX BB to play well with the Press Fit BB shell.  The final weight was 21 lbs without pedals and 21&13oz with pedals and cage, etc.  That is not bad for a non-weight weenie build.  Rolling out in the street, the acceleration is impressive as even slight pressure on the pedals results in forward motion. Between the light weight, the quick wheels, and the stiff frame, it feels ready to run hard.

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Quick take:

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Typical So Cal riding…power towers and yucca plants.

I have over a hundred miles on it now with more to come.  My initial impressions are, well…impressive!  The geometry is unlike the typical ‘race’ hard tail in that it has a slacker head tube angle.  The long effective top tube of the XL and the rangy and flipped stem put me in an aggressive position that I did not go out of my way to lessen.  This is no Enduro bike.  And I am quite pleased with how comfy it is, especially when I add in what low pressures can be run on the wide rims and the relatively stiff casings of the Conti tires.  And surprise, surprise…the stock 34.9mm seat post is surprisingly compliant. But it is still a hard tail.

The bars could be narrower, but so be it.  The Magura brakes are bedding in and the TS8 R fork just might be a perfect application for this bike…for sure the best result I have had out of a Magura fork yet. The Ergon saddle is a real surprise and although a saddle is such an individual preference as to make a review kind of superfluous, I think it will be quite good with only one nagging thing to be revealed in time…still working through that.  The Ergon grips rock.

I can run 21psi in the tires all day on those Protection side walled Conti tires and the AC Wide Lightnings spin up fast.

The bike is a PR machine for any path that goes uphill and is even remotely smooth; keep the power on and impress Strava watchers. I set a PR on a long dirt climb I ride regularly.  More to come as we get enough miles and saddle time to really know it well, then we will talk some more.

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Note: All the components shown here were sent for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.