Probably the best promotional vid for a cycling product I’ve ever seen. It’s shame that Enve seem to want to make it impossible for anyone to actually buy their products…

Shimano 105 5800

Ok, so I’m a little late to the party on this one but bear with me.

By now we’ve all seen lot’s of the new Shimano Ultegra and Dura Ace groups as part of Shimano’s effort to bring 11 speeds to racers and passionate riders everywhere. Now comes the time of the weekend warriors and commuters, with this preview of the soon to be released 5800 105 group. It’s almost impossible to read a review or article about 105 and not see the term “work horse” included somewhere therein. This leads many, myself included, to use 105 as a bench mark group by which others can be measured in terms of performance and value.

This new iteration features much more than just an additional gear. Along with that will go the inevitably slick Shimano shifting (especially so of late), narrower STi shifter/brake levers, a newly designed brake calliper taking mechanical cues from its superior groups and a long lever front derailleur designed to take that long swing out of shifting into the big ring. Perhaps the most evident visual change however is that of the chainset; in an effort to save some weight Shimano has, since the advent of Dura Ace 9000, eliminated the fifth arm of the chainring spider. While this dramatically changes the aesthetic (for better or for worse) of the group and indeed the bike, it’s easy to justify this as a functional improvement as well. And herein lies the big problem for me that no one in the bike industry seems willing to acknowledge – proprietary BCDs; because we needed another standard, right?! I know it comes across as naïve to even think it, but once, just once could a large bike company not just make a big decision that doesn’t fuck the everyday rider.

If some one had told me a couple of years ago that Shimano would be moving from 5 to 4 chainring bolts on their chainsets I would have said, “great; an elimination of a completely unnecessary standard in favour of an equal standard between MTB and road – the 104 BCD.” Silly me; a new standard is of course necessary to make sure we only buy expensive, proprietary Shimano chainrings. Thanks Big “S” – wait is that Specialized or Shimano? Can we tell the difference?

I suppose ultimately, there’s nothing to force me to buy a Shimano chainset and indeed, given Shimano’s continued refusal to release a BB30 compatible model or indeed a carbon crank, of which they are apparently capable, you could ask why one would. There is actually nothing to stop from using a SRAM chainset or even an older Shimano 10 speed crank – I’ve seen it done. I think, however, in this industry of relentless progression, it’s always difficult to see any company take one step forward and two back – and for all the journos to eat up their shit sandwich like so much hot apple pie. Don’t get me started on the two different bottom bracket standards for Dura Ace and Ultegra. Maybe there’s a third for new 105.

Something definitely for the good – to my mind – is the introduction of hydraulic disc brake levers on mechanical shifters. This comes along with the choice of hydraulic disc brake levers on electrical gears or just standard mechanical brakes levers on mechanical gears. Look options for everyone! Isn’t that better? Another positive is the improvement of the hub design. While non threaded axle designs have previously been limited to Ultegra and XT level and up, it’s good to see smooth axles at the mid-level, improving compatibility with carbon drop outs – although why anyone is still producing bikes without thru-axles on EVERYTHING is beyond me.

Despite my griping, I certainly think this could well be the next groupset seen on one or more of my bikes, even if I do chose to eschew the chainset.

Responses and comments below. Thanks for reading.

Shimano 105 5800

Ok, so I’m a little late to the party on this one but bear with me.

By now we’ve all seen lot’s of the new Shimano Ultegra and Dura Ace groups as part of Shimano’s effort to bring 11 speeds to racers and passionate riders everywhere. Now comes the time of the weekend warriors and commuters, with this preview of the soon to be released 5800 105 group. It’s almost impossible to read a review or article about 105 and not see the term “work horse” included somewhere therein. This leads many, myself included, to use 105 as a bench mark group by which others can be measured in terms of performance and value.

This new iteration features much more than just an additional gear. Along with that will go the inevitably slick Shimano shifting (especially so of late), narrower STi shifter/brake levers, a newly designed brake calliper taking mechanical cues from its superior groups and a long lever front derailleur designed to take that long swing out of shifting into the big ring. Perhaps the most evident visual change however is that of the chainset; in an effort to save some weight Shimano has, since the advent of Dura Ace 9000, eliminated the fifth arm of the chainring spider. While this dramatically changes the aesthetic (for better or for worse) of the group and indeed the bike, it’s easy to justify this as a functional improvement as well. And herein lies the big problem for me that no one in the bike industry seems willing to acknowledge – proprietary BCDs; because we needed another standard, right?! I know it comes across as naïve to even think it, but once, just once could a large bike company not just make a big decision that doesn’t fuck the everyday rider.

If some one had told me a couple of years ago that Shimano would be moving from 5 to 4 chainring bolts on their chainsets I would have said, “great; an elimination of a completely unnecessary standard in favour of an equal standard between MTB and road – the 104 BCD.” Silly me; a new standard is of course necessary to make sure we only buy expensive, proprietary Shimano chainrings. Thanks Big “S” – wait is that Specialized or Shimano? Can we tell the difference?

I suppose ultimately, there’s nothing to force me to buy a Shimano chainset and indeed, given Shimano’s continued refusal to release a BB30 compatible model or indeed a carbon crank, of which they are apparently capable, you could ask why one would. There is actually nothing to stop from using a SRAM chainset or even an older Shimano 10 speed crank – I’ve seen it done. I think, however, in this industry of relentless progression, it’s always difficult to see any company take one step forward and two back – and for all the journos to eat up their shit sandwich like so much hot apple pie. Don’t get me started on the two different bottom bracket standards for Dura Ace and Ultegra. Maybe there’s a third for new 105.

Something definitely for the good – to my mind – is the introduction of hydraulic disc brake levers on mechanical shifters. This comes along with the choice of hydraulic disc brake levers on electrical gears or just standard mechanical brakes levers on mechanical gears. Look options for everyone! Isn’t that better? Another positive is the improvement of the hub design. While non threaded axle designs have previously been limited to Ultegra and XT level and up, it’s good to see smooth axles at the mid-level, improving compatibility with carbon drop outs – although why anyone is still producing bikes without thru-axles on EVERYTHING is beyond me.

Despite my griping, I certainly think this could well be the next groupset seen on one or more of my bikes, even if I do chose to eschew the chainset.

Responses and comments below. Thanks for reading.

B    E    S    T    S    A    N    D    W    I    C    H    E    S    E    V    E    R

No 6.

Ok, maybe I need to get a little more creative with my sandwich fillings, but it goes without saying that this one IS a stone cold classic. This is the sandwich I made for myself after doing my first century (miles), and completely underestimated how much food I was going to need on the ride; I’m ashamed to admit that due to my own stupidity, I had to completely rely on my fellow riders food supplies. That won’t be happening again.

Anyway, during this ride, everyone at home had had steaks (unsurprisingly), and there was this beautiful slab of meat waiting for me when I arrived at around four in the afternoon. I had absolute free reign to do what I wanted so I made this: The Victory Sandwich.

1. The steak was not yet cooked so that’s the first the first thing to sort out. I like it nice and rare but still brown on the outside. The best way to achieve this is (obviously) with a good bit of butter and a high temperature. Butter has a lower boiling/burning temperature than oil, which is why it’s good for browning onions and/or meat (but bad for your ass – but hey, you’re having a steak sandwich, not a carrot smoothie).

2. Panfry your steak to taste and use its firmness to work out how well done it is – the longer you cook it for the firmer it will become, due to the molecular structure tensing in the heat. While your steak cooks, chop a quarter of an onion into lengths and some cornichons or gherkins in to lengths as well.

3. When the steak is cooked to your liking, put it to one side to rest on a plate and allow the molecules to extend – making for a more tender steak. Throw the sliced onions into the hot pan and add some vegetable (or other) oil if the pan is too dry.

4. Cut and toast your bread.

5. By now, all of the component parts will be ready. I like a mustard/mayo combo in this type of sandwich but you can sauce to your taste – that’s right you’re allowed. Next, it’s time to insert your steak… If you feel like you deserve it you could put a bit of grated cheese on your steak. Next onions and then cornichon/gherkin slices – not space for salad here. Lid.

6. Enjoy getting gherkins and steak juice on your face.

B    E    S    T    S    A    N    D    W    I    C    H    E    S    E    V    E    R

No 6.

Ok, maybe I need to get a little more creative with my sandwich fillings, but it goes without saying that this one IS a stone cold classic. This is the sandwich I made for myself after doing my first century (miles), and completely underestimated how much food I was going to need on the ride; I’m ashamed to admit that due to my own stupidity, I had to completely rely on my fellow riders food supplies. That won’t be happening again.

Anyway, during this ride, everyone at home had had steaks (unsurprisingly), and there was this beautiful slab of meat waiting for me when I arrived at around four in the afternoon. I had absolute free reign to do what I wanted so I made this: The Victory Sandwich.

1. The steak was not yet cooked so that’s the first the first thing to sort out. I like it nice and rare but still brown on the outside. The best way to achieve this is (obviously) with a good bit of butter and a high temperature. Butter has a lower boiling/burning temperature than oil, which is why it’s good for browning onions and/or meat (but bad for your ass – but hey, you’re having a steak sandwich, not a carrot smoothie).

2. Panfry your steak to taste and use its firmness to work out how well done it is – the longer you cook it for the firmer it will become, due to the molecular structure tensing in the heat. While your steak cooks, chop a quarter of an onion into lengths and some cornichons or gherkins in to lengths as well.

3. When the steak is cooked to your liking, put it to one side to rest on a plate and allow the molecules to extend – making for a more tender steak. Throw the sliced onions into the hot pan and add some vegetable (or other) oil if the pan is too dry.

4. Cut and toast your bread.

5. By now, all of the component parts will be ready. I like a mustard/mayo combo in this type of sandwich but you can sauce to your taste – that’s right you’re allowed. Next, it’s time to insert your steak… If you feel like you deserve it you could put a bit of grated cheese on your steak. Next onions and then cornichon/gherkin slices – not space for salad here. Lid.

6. Enjoy getting gherkins and steak juice on your face.

T    H    E     S    C    A    L    E    O    F    T    H    E     P    R   O    B    L    E    M
Scott’s mid-range XC racer makes some costly concessions.

Scott have been well-renowned for some time for success of their Scale under (super)racer Nino Schurter. The lightweight, zippy frame has been making waves since well before it’s famous 899g framed 26 inch wheel iteration, through the 29er revolution and even now, the time of the 650b. While the wheel size has been in flux, the design of the frame has, to a greater or lesser extent, not. Visually at least, the silouette of the frame has been a fairly iconic addition to the rosters of countless XC races worldwide. Certainly the most frequently seen at the higher end would be the top flight RC model, however up for discussion today, is 2012’s mid-level carbon offering, the Expert, which, with the addition of a few changes, is not altogether dissimilar from its 2014 counterpart – more on that later.

The Frame
Despite being slightly heavier than the RC model, the HMF carbon frame still comes in at an impressive 1058g (approx. in large), and features a Tapered head tube with a zero stack pressfit headset, which marries to ample oval formed down and top tubes. The join from these three tubes extends 7 cm behind the head tube to aid both front-end stiffness and the weight of the frame, but also clearance for the fork crown. The bottom bracket is similarly pressfit and sits between a chunky 34.9/38.4mm seat tube and equally substantial box section chain stays designed to improve pedalling efficiency. Bridging the gap here are comparatively slim seat stays, so-formed to aid comfort over relentless trails.

Lacing the frame up is done via internal cable routing for the gears and external routing for the brakes. For me, certainly the latter quite a sensible choice given the fact that most home mechanics will want to take the brakes off without needing to bleed them while it’s nice to keep the gear cables out of sight. Recabling the gears is a bit of a pain, but not insurmountable. Some might argue that the rear brake hose is somewhat exposed on the downside of the down tube and BB shell, but I’ve had no issues with it’s position. The brake mount on the frame is mercifully a Post Mount neatly tucked away on the non-drive-side chainstay which apparently increases the stiffness of the rear end and therefore braking efficiency, however, necessitates a longer workshop Allen key for those fine adjustments. There is only just not enough room to do this with a multi-tool without scratching that gloss finish.

The drop outs are full carbon and are standard 135x9mm quick release compatible – this is technology that is carried over from their road bikes. Everything about the frame says “fast”; it’s clearly built for efficiency and lightweight and, despite its iconic look, there is little aesthetic joy to be taken in it, helped none too much by the any-colour-as-long-as-it’s-red-or-black colour scheme and “swoopy” graphics. 

The Build
On paper, the components look acceptable even when you factor into account the 3x10 build on a cross-country bike but this is an inexpensive and uncomplicated fix. However, it’s the smaller details which present some problems.
Scott supplies their own kit for bar, stem and seat post, the first two of which are light, ergonomic, and stiff. The seat post is a block of granite though, which is unsurprising given the size of the seat tube and adds a significant 295g to the weight of the bike. The range of potential replacement options is severely limited to either Scott’s recently acquired Syncros; Ritchey, if you can find it; Crank Brothers, …er Rockshox… and the soon to be discontinued Enve option. The same goes for the 38.4mm clamp, of which I could only find Hope and Scott options. If you’re hoping to make a coherent custom build, look elsewhere. Also, the paint on the post is less than permanent so if you drop the post (even occasionally) don’t expect any longevity from the finish.
The saddle is a light, comfortable Selle Italia special for Scott but, like the grips, doesn’t really merit any particular mention here since everyone always changes their saddle and grips for their personal favourites. The same could be said of the Shimano M520 pedals but since they are actually included in the build (with cleats), I think that’s a pretty cool shout from Scott; most manufacturers don’t bother with pedals let alone clip-ins, but this is a bike you can ride out of the shop, with your MTB shoes. 
The top of the Ritchey Comp headset is fine – sealed bearings, no problem. The lower cup, however, is not – unsealed bearings in a runner, which are very exposed and get very lumpy and rusty quickly. This is not something I’d expect from a mid-level bike at all; replacing the headset on a carbon frame is on no mechanic’s list of favourite jobs and like the seatpost and clamp, this part is a particular size, so choice is limited.
The drivetrain is a fairly stalwart Shimano XT and SLX mix but Scott falls into the same old trap of not investing where it counts: beautiful XT cranks and rear derailleur but plasticky SLX shifters. Done the other way round, Scott could have a much improved shifting performance for a fairly minor increase in weight and a saving for the wallet – the group wouldn’t look as pretty though… The SLX front derailleur, 10 speed chain and cassette, however, is an acceptable compromise to help keep costs down and doesn’t degrade performance. That compromise, it would seem, is easier to hide. The shifters, chainset and front derailleur were switched out for Deore XT 2x models.
At the time of purchase, I had a fairly negative attitude towards Avid brakes, due to their feel and the lack of reliability I’d experienced, so the Elixir 5Ss were replaced immediately for a set of powerful Shimano XTs. As such, I can’t comment much on their performance except that they felt as spongy as any Avid brakes I’d tried, and I wasn’t prepared to bleed them and replace the seals as I had had to in the past. You may notice the use of the word ‘had’; I’ve since tried some Avid Elixirs on a friend’s bike and they felt fantastic, but I can’t speak to their reliability.
SRAM also supply the Rockshox Reba RL fork which plugs neatly into the tapered headtube. It also features a bar mounted  lock out control, which is an additional nice touch, adding efficiency and speed for those steeper and smoother climbs. An odd choice is the 9mm drop out – this does nothing to future proof the bike and seems more like a cheap out than a weight saving choice. A 15mm QR axle would be a welcome addition.
You could accuse me of nit picking; not every one is bothered about the stiffness benefits of a 15mm axle over a 9mm, brakes are a personal thing, not everyone is fit enough for 1x10m – these are all compromises afterall. I’ve left my real bone to pick with this bike until last: the rolling stock. For starters, the DT Swiss XR39 wheels weigh 2180g nude, which is pretty hefty for a bike of this class. Not only that, but they somehow manage to be remarkably flexible at the same time; these reasons alone merit getting rid of them from the off, but it doesn’t stop there. The tyres are simply too big for this frame at 2.25” and not only make it look like a tractor, but the knobs on the edge of the tread pattern wear into the frame when cornering.
The real issue is the choice of hub for the rear wheel. Being entry level, it features a threaded axle for servicing the bearings. This axle has eaten the carbon dropouts, furthering the issue with the tyres damaging the chain stays and forcing the drive train to ghost shift. This is not an isolated issue and something that can be found with little to no effort with some research on the Internet. 

The Ride
Despite these rather enormous specification shortcomings, the bike is remarkably spritely once the wheels get turning. The first few pedal strokes are always sluggish due to the weight of the wheels and the lack of stiffness at the rear end. When moving though, this thing stops for no man. I would still prefer a faster rolling rear tyre, but the chunkiness up front is appreciated and, to an extent, makes up for the lack of a 15mm axle. However, Rocket Ron supplied (while is tubeless ready along with the rims) is the Pacestar iteration, which is hard compound, making for some sketchiness over wet roots and rocks. 
This was the first time I’d ridden a bike with a tapered steerer, and that combined with the super deep-section headstock, certainly made for a massive improvement in stiffness. In terms of performance, the fork isn’t revolutionary but just does its job as expected from a mid level offering. It’s relatively plush and all but unremarkable on the trail – this is not at all a negative; rather to say that it is a fit-and-forget piece of equipment.
The minimal weight of the frame makes for a nippy and comfortable ascender, but I can’t help ask what it could do with a more appropriate wheelset. The geometry lends itself to technical climbing well and while the tyres do have a lot of traction to offer (in good conditions), they feel like they are over compensating and, in the long run, detracting from the bikes performance in other areas. On the descents, the long wheelbase helps the bike feel stable, but it doesn’t feel like steering a bus; the 69.5° head angle and the short chainstays make for agile handling even through really tight stuff and show that through smart design the negatives of any of the three wheel sizes can be, to some extent, countered.
The bottom bracket junction of the frame is stout and substantial to say the least and this coupled with the chunky box section chainstays means that the forward motivation of the bike can be very impressive… once it gets started. The advantage of the thin seatstays, however, is all but lost when sitting on this ugly block of seatpost; I can’t find an advantage of it being this large. Fortunately, the enormous tyre at the rear end is quite comfortable, however, this sensation is immediately by countered by your sphincter/wallet tightening at the sound of them eating a carbon supper.

The Rub
Bikes at this price point are ultimately about making compromises – trying to find the best performance to price ratio – and there are places where this pays off in Scott’s build for the Scale Expert; the front end of the cockpit is comfortable and light, a chunky tyre up front, gives confidence where a 15mm axle is lacking – however, there are too many occasions where Scott’s cost cutting has either gone too far or has been done the wrong way round. While cranks and rear derailleurs will always look great when they are the highest specced components, they won’t offer the same benefits as an equivalent set of shifters on some lower level derailleurs. Shimano offers proper Hollowtech II cranks as low as SLX, so why not make use of that?! 
Talking specifically about the wheels, it would seem that the design department, wasn’t in touch with the component buyers but this is more than a massive oversight on the part of Scott, which has rendered my bike and plenty of others unrideable, which is completely unacceptable. I suppose most of all I’m disappointed that Scott seem to have come so close to producing a real ripper of a budget carbon (super-lightweight) XC race bike which has only been systematically butchered and undermined by their choice of components. That and the fact that I’ve had a very expensive piece of carbon fibre garage furniture for the last year or so, which, due to a lack of finance, I’ve been unable to do anything about.
“How would you spec this bike and stay within the price point?” I hear you cry! I know this isn’t how it works exactly with large bike manufacturers but there’s not much other way to make a comparison: I added up the RRPs of all the components and (excluding the cockpit, tubes, the chain and cassette – these bits would stay the same in my build) they come out around 1800€ or a bit less than £1500. For my key and a half you can get (at RRP):
Rockshox Reba RL Solo Air fork with a 15mm axle
Hope Type 2G headset 
Shimano SLX M675 Double chainset
Shimano Deore XT M780 shifter set
Shimano Deore M615 Shadow+ rear derailleur
Shimano Deore M616 front derailleur
Stan’s Notubes ZTR Crest rims 32H x 2
DT Swiss Competition Spokes x 32
Shimano Deore XT M785 32H rear hub
Shimano Deore XT M788 32H 15mm front hub
Continental Protection X-King 29 x 2.2” tyres x 2
Shimano Deore M615 disc brakes x 2
Shimano SLX RT67 160mm rotors x 2
This build might look, on the surface of it, heavier and more of a compromise than the original but this, for me, is how a budget conscious mechanic should build their bike. Here we see some investment in a 15mm axle on a decent fork and headset, top-flight lightweight rims (where we can really feel the difference of lightweight components), great quality shifters, hubs (that won’t destroy the frame) and tyres, and stalwart cranks and derailleurs that are as capable as their predecessors if not so light. While it may not be as pretty the original bike, any sales person is going to be able to demonstrate to a client the benefits of these investments over the aesthetic of flash derailleurs and cranks. 
The other problem here is ultimately one of design versus practice; I’m not convinced that this technology of full carbon dropouts on mountain bikes is such a great idea, even if a more appropriate (non-threaded) hub is used. Ultimately the mechanical forces in each discipline are very different and we can’t assume that what is good (lightweight) for one will be good (strong) enough for the other. Given the 142x12mm axles on the 2014 models, it seems that Scott agree.

Due to the frustration with this bike, I’m going to attempt to repair and rebuild the frame and write another review in the future, after I have spent some time on it with parts that don’t impede its performance. Watch this space…

  H    E     S    C    A    L    E    O    F    T    H    E     P    R   O    B    L    E    M

Scott’s mid-range XC racer makes some costly concessions.

Scott have been well-renowned for some time for success of their Scale under (super)racer Nino Schurter. The lightweight, zippy frame has been making waves since well before it’s famous 899g framed 26 inch wheel iteration, through the 29er revolution and even now, the time of the 650b. While the wheel size has been in flux, the design of the frame has, to a greater or lesser extent, not. Visually at least, the silouette of the frame has been a fairly iconic addition to the rosters of countless XC races worldwide. Certainly the most frequently seen at the higher end would be the top flight RC model, however up for discussion today, is 2012’s mid-level carbon offering, the Expert, which, with the addition of a few changes, is not altogether dissimilar from its 2014 counterpart – more on that later.

The Frame

Despite being slightly heavier than the RC model, the HMF carbon frame still comes in at an impressive 1058g (approx. in large), and features a Tapered head tube with a zero stack pressfit headset, which marries to ample oval formed down and top tubes. The join from these three tubes extends 7 cm behind the head tube to aid both front-end stiffness and the weight of the frame, but also clearance for the fork crown. The bottom bracket is similarly pressfit and sits between a chunky 34.9/38.4mm seat tube and equally substantial box section chain stays designed to improve pedalling efficiency. Bridging the gap here are comparatively slim seat stays, so-formed to aid comfort over relentless trails.

Lacing the frame up is done via internal cable routing for the gears and external routing for the brakes. For me, certainly the latter quite a sensible choice given the fact that most home mechanics will want to take the brakes off without needing to bleed them while it’s nice to keep the gear cables out of sight. Recabling the gears is a bit of a pain, but not insurmountable. Some might argue that the rear brake hose is somewhat exposed on the downside of the down tube and BB shell, but I’ve had no issues with it’s position. The brake mount on the frame is mercifully a Post Mount neatly tucked away on the non-drive-side chainstay which apparently increases the stiffness of the rear end and therefore braking efficiency, however, necessitates a longer workshop Allen key for those fine adjustments. There is only just not enough room to do this with a multi-tool without scratching that gloss finish.

The drop outs are full carbon and are standard 135x9mm quick release compatible – this is technology that is carried over from their road bikes. Everything about the frame says “fast”; it’s clearly built for efficiency and lightweight and, despite its iconic look, there is little aesthetic joy to be taken in it, helped none too much by the any-colour-as-long-as-it’s-red-or-black colour scheme and “swoopy” graphics.

The Build

On paper, the components look acceptable even when you factor into account the 3x10 build on a cross-country bike but this is an inexpensive and uncomplicated fix. However, it’s the smaller details which present some problems.

Scott supplies their own kit for bar, stem and seat post, the first two of which are light, ergonomic, and stiff. The seat post is a block of granite though, which is unsurprising given the size of the seat tube and adds a significant 295g to the weight of the bike. The range of potential replacement options is severely limited to either Scott’s recently acquired Syncros; Ritchey, if you can find it; Crank Brothers, …er Rockshox… and the soon to be discontinued Enve option. The same goes for the 38.4mm clamp, of which I could only find Hope and Scott options. If you’re hoping to make a coherent custom build, look elsewhere. Also, the paint on the post is less than permanent so if you drop the post (even occasionally) don’t expect any longevity from the finish.

The saddle is a light, comfortable Selle Italia special for Scott but, like the grips, doesn’t really merit any particular mention here since everyone always changes their saddle and grips for their personal favourites. The same could be said of the Shimano M520 pedals but since they are actually included in the build (with cleats), I think that’s a pretty cool shout from Scott; most manufacturers don’t bother with pedals let alone clip-ins, but this is a bike you can ride out of the shop, with your MTB shoes.

The top of the Ritchey Comp headset is fine – sealed bearings, no problem. The lower cup, however, is not – unsealed bearings in a runner, which are very exposed and get very lumpy and rusty quickly. This is not something I’d expect from a mid-level bike at all; replacing the headset on a carbon frame is on no mechanic’s list of favourite jobs and like the seatpost and clamp, this part is a particular size, so choice is limited.

The drivetrain is a fairly stalwart Shimano XT and SLX mix but Scott falls into the same old trap of not investing where it counts: beautiful XT cranks and rear derailleur but plasticky SLX shifters. Done the other way round, Scott could have a much improved shifting performance for a fairly minor increase in weight and a saving for the wallet – the group wouldn’t look as pretty though… The SLX front derailleur, 10 speed chain and cassette, however, is an acceptable compromise to help keep costs down and doesn’t degrade performance. That compromise, it would seem, is easier to hide. The shifters, chainset and front derailleur were switched out for Deore XT 2x models.

At the time of purchase, I had a fairly negative attitude towards Avid brakes, due to their feel and the lack of reliability I’d experienced, so the Elixir 5Ss were replaced immediately for a set of powerful Shimano XTs. As such, I can’t comment much on their performance except that they felt as spongy as any Avid brakes I’d tried, and I wasn’t prepared to bleed them and replace the seals as I had had to in the past. You may notice the use of the word ‘had’; I’ve since tried some Avid Elixirs on a friend’s bike and they felt fantastic, but I can’t speak to their reliability.

SRAM also supply the Rockshox Reba RL fork which plugs neatly into the tapered headtube. It also features a bar mounted  lock out control, which is an additional nice touch, adding efficiency and speed for those steeper and smoother climbs. An odd choice is the 9mm drop out – this does nothing to future proof the bike and seems more like a cheap out than a weight saving choice. A 15mm QR axle would be a welcome addition.

You could accuse me of nit picking; not every one is bothered about the stiffness benefits of a 15mm axle over a 9mm, brakes are a personal thing, not everyone is fit enough for 1x10m – these are all compromises afterall. I’ve left my real bone to pick with this bike until last: the rolling stock. For starters, the DT Swiss XR39 wheels weigh 2180g nude, which is pretty hefty for a bike of this class. Not only that, but they somehow manage to be remarkably flexible at the same time; these reasons alone merit getting rid of them from the off, but it doesn’t stop there. The tyres are simply too big for this frame at 2.25” and not only make it look like a tractor, but the knobs on the edge of the tread pattern wear into the frame when cornering.

The real issue is the choice of hub for the rear wheel. Being entry level, it features a threaded axle for servicing the bearings. This axle has eaten the carbon dropouts, furthering the issue with the tyres damaging the chain stays and forcing the drive train to ghost shift. This is not an isolated issue and something that can be found with little to no effort with some research on the Internet.

The Ride

Despite these rather enormous specification shortcomings, the bike is remarkably spritely once the wheels get turning. The first few pedal strokes are always sluggish due to the weight of the wheels and the lack of stiffness at the rear end. When moving though, this thing stops for no man. I would still prefer a faster rolling rear tyre, but the chunkiness up front is appreciated and, to an extent, makes up for the lack of a 15mm axle. However, Rocket Ron supplied (while is tubeless ready along with the rims) is the Pacestar iteration, which is hard compound, making for some sketchiness over wet roots and rocks.

This was the first time I’d ridden a bike with a tapered steerer, and that combined with the super deep-section headstock, certainly made for a massive improvement in stiffness. In terms of performance, the fork isn’t revolutionary but just does its job as expected from a mid level offering. It’s relatively plush and all but unremarkable on the trail – this is not at all a negative; rather to say that it is a fit-and-forget piece of equipment.

The minimal weight of the frame makes for a nippy and comfortable ascender, but I can’t help ask what it could do with a more appropriate wheelset. The geometry lends itself to technical climbing well and while the tyres do have a lot of traction to offer (in good conditions), they feel like they are over compensating and, in the long run, detracting from the bikes performance in other areas. On the descents, the long wheelbase helps the bike feel stable, but it doesn’t feel like steering a bus; the 69.5° head angle and the short chainstays make for agile handling even through really tight stuff and show that through smart design the negatives of any of the three wheel sizes can be, to some extent, countered.

The bottom bracket junction of the frame is stout and substantial to say the least and this coupled with the chunky box section chainstays means that the forward motivation of the bike can be very impressive… once it gets started. The advantage of the thin seatstays, however, is all but lost when sitting on this ugly block of seatpost; I can’t find an advantage of it being this large. Fortunately, the enormous tyre at the rear end is quite comfortable, however, this sensation is immediately by countered by your sphincter/wallet tightening at the sound of them eating a carbon supper.

The Rub

Bikes at this price point are ultimately about making compromises – trying to find the best performance to price ratio – and there are places where this pays off in Scott’s build for the Scale Expert; the front end of the cockpit is comfortable and light, a chunky tyre up front, gives confidence where a 15mm axle is lacking – however, there are too many occasions where Scott’s cost cutting has either gone too far or has been done the wrong way round. While cranks and rear derailleurs will always look great when they are the highest specced components, they won’t offer the same benefits as an equivalent set of shifters on some lower level derailleurs. Shimano offers proper Hollowtech II cranks as low as SLX, so why not make use of that?!

Talking specifically about the wheels, it would seem that the design department, wasn’t in touch with the component buyers but this is more than a massive oversight on the part of Scott, which has rendered my bike and plenty of others unrideable, which is completely unacceptable. I suppose most of all I’m disappointed that Scott seem to have come so close to producing a real ripper of a budget carbon (super-lightweight) XC race bike which has only been systematically butchered and undermined by their choice of components. That and the fact that I’ve had a very expensive piece of carbon fibre garage furniture for the last year or so, which, due to a lack of finance, I’ve been unable to do anything about.

“How would you spec this bike and stay within the price point?” I hear you cry! I know this isn’t how it works exactly with large bike manufacturers but there’s not much other way to make a comparison: I added up the RRPs of all the components and (excluding the cockpit, tubes, the chain and cassette – these bits would stay the same in my build) they come out around 1800€ or a bit less than £1500. For my key and a half you can get (at RRP):

Rockshox Reba RL Solo Air fork with a 15mm axle

Hope Type 2G headset

Shimano SLX M675 Double chainset

Shimano Deore XT M780 shifter set

Shimano Deore M615 Shadow+ rear derailleur

Shimano Deore M616 front derailleur

Stan’s Notubes ZTR Crest rims 32H x 2

DT Swiss Competition Spokes x 32

Shimano Deore XT M785 32H rear hub

Shimano Deore XT M788 32H 15mm front hub

Continental Protection X-King 29 x 2.2” tyres x 2

Shimano Deore M615 disc brakes x 2

Shimano SLX RT67 160mm rotors x 2

This build might look, on the surface of it, heavier and more of a compromise than the original but this, for me, is how a budget conscious mechanic should build their bike. Here we see some investment in a 15mm axle on a decent fork and headset, top-flight lightweight rims (where we can really feel the difference of lightweight components), great quality shifters, hubs (that won’t destroy the frame) and tyres, and stalwart cranks and derailleurs that are as capable as their predecessors if not so light. While it may not be as pretty the original bike, any sales person is going to be able to demonstrate to a client the benefits of these investments over the aesthetic of flash derailleurs and cranks.

The other problem here is ultimately one of design versus practice; I’m not convinced that this technology of full carbon dropouts on mountain bikes is such a great idea, even if a more appropriate (non-threaded) hub is used. Ultimately the mechanical forces in each discipline are very different and we can’t assume that what is good (lightweight) for one will be good (strong) enough for the other. Given the 142x12mm axles on the 2014 models, it seems that Scott agree.

Due to the frustration with this bike, I’m going to attempt to repair and rebuild the frame and write another review in the future, after I have spent some time on it with parts that don’t impede its performance. Watch this space…

Jared Graves:Arguably THE greatest moutain biker today. Jared of all trades.
I’ve been watching this guy since he was smashing it in the 4X and winning nearly every single race in the season a few years back. Last year he picked up a medal on the South Africa DH World Cup course on a 160mm Enduro bike. He is now competing in Enduro races and XC and has also been a Don in the BMX racing scene. What next?

Jared Graves:Arguably THE greatest moutain biker today. Jared of all trades.

I’ve been watching this guy since he was smashing it in the 4X and winning nearly every single race in the season a few years back. Last year he picked up a medal on the South Africa DH World Cup course on a 160mm Enduro bike. He is now competing in Enduro races and XC and has also been a Don in the BMX racing scene. What next?

Bad news: I had to quit my job at Station Velo Services*. Good news: Thomson have announced that they are going into full frame production! This particular bike is a water tester and was designed by a motivation to build the bike that the Thomson designers wanted to put their parts on. It costs a substanitial $6800 but includes a titanium frame, a pretty high spec component package, a suspension set-up from Thomson inhouse, a tour of the facility AND they’ll take you out for a ride and a burger after. Well I don’t have $6800 but if anyone needs an assassination carrying out or some other such dirty work doing then you know your price…

Thomson have said that if there is a market apparent, they will further the range with a 29 inch single speed (with geared upgrade possible AND Thomson cranks) and a gravel racer too!

Photos courtesy of Matt Wragg.

*They needed some one who could commit to being there for a long time and I’m thinking about going back to uni in order to study design, and they’re all really nice guys and I didn’t want to let them down in 6 or 7 months time if I manage to get it together to go back to uni this year - it’s all love. They already have a good guy to replace me and it is still a small but rapidly expanding business, so they need reliability. I’m pleased with my decision, not least because it frees up riding and blogging time, but I can’t say I’m not disappointed about the situation of having to walk away from some great colleagues and a nice job. Hopefully though, I think I’ve gained some riding buddies, once my Scott is rebuilt…

It would seem that over the last year or so I’ve forgotten how to mountain bike. I’m fucking shit… however, the front end is still very low. Should do something about that at some point.
Anyway, gumwalls, yeah…

It would seem that over the last year or so I’ve forgotten how to mountain bike. I’m fucking shit… however, the front end is still very low. Should do something about that at some point.

Anyway, gumwalls, yeah…

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No 5.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these; well, to be fair it’s been a while since I’ve done anything on this blog. Such is having two jobs (not complaining; this is definitely better than unemployment). I’m at work now! That would be why however, this (post) Christmas Special Sandwich is somewhat late. If you still have turkey meat in your fridge, it’s probably about time to let it walk out of the fridge by now. Unless of course you froze it - in which case, you can profit from this recipe… or wait til next Christmas. Or Thanks Giving if you’re Murican.

Simply put, take everything delicious from X-mas, put in bread, enjoy promotions

Complicatedly put…

1. Raid the post Christmas fridge. Obviously you’re looking for cold meat, but equally you want something picklyand sweet like pickled onions or cornichons, Christmas cranberry sawce, cheese (I went for a Somerset Brie which was pretty strong but was also going to go with the cranberry sawce, a strong Lancashire or Cheddar would be good) and something salady and bitter like rocket or watercress. Butter is not optional (as in ‘a must’). Mayo too.

2. Toast bread to your liking. Cut some cheese and pickled onions. Also cut some meat try to get some skin and/or bacon to add that kind of salty goodness.

3. Butter toast. Apply Christmas cranberry sawce liberally. Apply cheese as soon as possible in order to profit from hawtness and mely goodness. Apply mayo (I’d say sparingly - you already have cheese) to other slice and for extra brownie points mustard too.

4. SANDWICH!!! ASSEMBLE!!! Speaks for itself, I imagine. Mayo-bread first, then turkey, then bacon/skin, then pickled onions, then salad, then cheese, then Christmas cranberry sawce-bread.

5. (Slice of) pork pie on the side, with further pickles. Then beer.

6. ????