4 Impressive MTB Dual-Suspension Race Bikes
Scott Spark RC 900 Pro
Five metres. that’s all the distance you need to ride, to know the Scott Spark is one quality offering. And you probably already know that multiple champion Nino Schurter used one to complete his perfect season. Point its responsive front end down the first bit of singletrack you see, and it’s impossible not to smile.
The steering is ultra-sensitive, needing little input from the rider to change direction – a result no doubt attributable to the shorter stem and chainstays. Traction is superb, thanks to the lowered stack height; and a reduced centre of gravity results in a pretty confident performance.
In fact, the entire experience is organic – telepathic, almost – which instils in you the confidence to push harder and leave your comfort zone. The RC frame is single-ring-specific, and the lack of a front derailleur allows a stiffer bottom-bracket area and deeper-section chain-stays.
And stiff it is – particularly when hustling out of the saddle up a climb. I found it excelled more on negative gradients than on the climbs, but that’s not to say it’s no good when the trail points upwards. But it’s when the environment becomes rocky, with technical switchbacks and short, steep inclines, that the Spark shows its mettle and begins to make sense.
The Spark’s longer reach, shorter stem and forgiving head angle, together with the shorter chainstays, have resulted in a responsive bike – both in terms of how it steers and how it corners. Sure, this all points more towards a trail bike than an XCO bike of old, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to the new ‘saddle-up/head-down’ riding position.
It’s a truly flattering machine, and goads you to ride it faster and faster. If you’re looking for a ride that does it all – this is the one.
PRICE: R84 990*
GET IT NOW: scott-sports.com
Cannondale Scalpel-Si 3
As far as off-the-shelf XCO racing rigs go, the Scalpel-Si’s as fast as they come. Cunning tweaks to the frame geometry have not only refined the Scalpel-Si’s appearance over its forebear; they’ve also made the entire set-up more functional. The asymmetric frame and wheel design have fixed the tyre and chainline clearance issues of the past; and finally, it accommodates two water bottles.
The riding position’s definitely more trail-focused than before, with a head angle of 69.5 degrees versus the previous model’s 71.2. Then the fork has a 55mm offset, and the trail has been lengthened along with the reach, while chainstays and stem are shorter. What all this means is that the moment you point it down your favourite singletrack, you’ll feel some noticeably different nuances in behaviour – it’s sharp, reactive, and as quick as they come.
PRICE: R69 000*
GET IT NOW: Omnico.co.za
Specialized Epic Expert
To SA’s mountain bikers, the Epic needs no introduction. Like the Scalpel, the outgoing model was infamous for its twitchiness; but the 2018 Epic’s revised front end offers noticeably better handling. As a whole, the bike’s more in line with modern standards – the frame’s front centre is longer, stem lengths are shorter, and the head angle’s been slackened by 1.5 degrees over previous editions, to 69.5.
Despite the relaxed underpinnings, the Epic is still one fast and appreciably demanding machine – especially on rougher topography, where the Brain suspension works its magic. It’s a superb system. In a recent MTB shootout, James Reid – who spent most of his professional career racing the Epic – pointed out that Specialized had “taken an incredible bike, and made it better”. And we couldn’t agree more.
PRICE: R78 000*
GET IT NOW: Specialized.com
Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 1
In South Africa, smaller wheels have died faster than anywhere else, and it’s Giant – early adopters of 650b – who have felt the true brunt, with a notable dip in sales and popularity. The new Giant Anthem, however, is back to 29-inch wheels – and the result is truly impressive.
Giant calls it an outright racing bike; it’s lighter and more dynamic than ever. It also benefits from a lower stand-over height, longer wheelbase, and relaxed head angle, for improved handling and climbing. Its agility is thanks to a shorter stem and reduced chainstays. So it’s fast, versatile, appreciably well-specced for its price – not to mention the confidence-inspiring geometry.
PRICE: R73 250*
GET IT NOW: Giant-bicycles.com
*Prices correct at time of publishing.