Scott Spark 945 review
There are more than 30 different 2017 Spark models, but the 945 definitely hits the sweet spot for XC/trail riders on the hunt for maximum speed whatever the ride.
Scott always delivers a keen balance of performance and tidy design, and the alloy Spark is a very businesslike, geometrically styled frame.
The short, stout tapered head tube gives low bar potential without sacrificing stiffness. A sharp kink in the top tube, above the shock, provides good standover room and puts it parallel with the skinny, tapering seatstays.
Engineered flex in the tapered seatstays saves the weight of a rear pivot, while the chainstays are super-deep for maximum drive stiffness.
Above the press-fit bottom bracket, the seat tube base and rocker link are offset to give double chainring clearance, but trying to pull the big 29in wheels out of shape reveals a seriously stiff frame that’s not much heavier than the second-tier carbon-fibre Spark.
Scott Spark 945 kit
Any concerns that the Spark may be more of an XC bike than a trail all-rounder should be quelled by the relatively aggressive all-weather tread of the Maxxis Forekaster rubber that Scott specs. The 2.35in tyres on 23mm rims are narrow (I measured them at 55mm) and helps make the wheelset light.
The 740mm bar and 50mm stem are well-shaped to get the most from the tyre grip and stable handling without tagging every tree, and Scott has gone with a stiffer 34mm fork rather than the lighter Fox 32. Brake rotors are 180mm to boost power but the Shimano stoppers are still slightly numb in feel.
The proprietary Fox Nude shock adds unique rear-end control via Scott’s double-decker ‘TwinLoc’ lever. This lets you toggle between a 120mm open setting, a more progressive 85mm ‘Traction’ mode and a full lockout. Corresponding fork adjustments are made at the same time.
Scott Spark 945 ride impression
The Spark is fast-rolling on 29in wheels with the ability to tighten or lock out the suspension of its seriously stiff frame. It comes out of the blocks very quickly. It doesn’t just suggest that you punch that acceleration advantage out of every corner or up every climb either — it straight up demands it, even when your legs are screaming and your head is threatening to burst your helmet…
The tighter, but still well-connected, ‘Traction’ mode is spot-on for smashing tricky climbs, and toggling between settings is as easy as changing gear. As a result, I demolished Strava climb times that I’d set on super-light hardtails.
It’s the ability of the Spark to carry that speed through seriously techy terrain that makes it a standout all-rounder though. The geometry is fully trail-ready, including a 67-degree head angle and 460mm of reach (large). Despite the low frame weight, it’s impeccably precise, no matter how hard you’re working the front tyre.
The control delivered by the new suspension layout and rear shock is excellent too. Fox’s ‘Performance’ grade dampers are tight rather than plush in feel, which doesn’t work on some bikes. But in this case, it suits the naturally taut and aggressively predatory feel of the Spark really well.
Similarly, while the narrower tyres and rims can’t absorb as much shock as others, they’re still a healthy size and tough enough that you don’t have to back off when the trail gets pointy or punchy.
Don’t forget, there are plus-tyred Sparks too, if you want to match the punchy base character with maximum trail-smoothing climbing and descending grip, as well as an even quicker-responding 650b range.
Whichever you choose, the Spark is for those who value flat-out climbing speed as much as full-gas singletracking and descending thrills.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.