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First Ride: Scott Foil Disc

DEGGENHAUSERTAL, Germany (VN) — The fastest bikes in the world are getting the disc brake treatment, which should come as no surprise: Marcel Kittel and Michael Matthews rode discs at this year’s Tour de France, perhaps indicating a true sea change in road braking. Scott has now added its Foil Disc to the mix, and it did more than simply slap on some calipers and call it good. The Foil got a smart redesign to ensure the brakes only slow you down when you want them to.

There’s a reason Scott wasn’t first to the aero disc-brake party. “Disc brakes are not aerodynamic,” says Benoit Grelier, Scott’s head of engineering. The rim-brake version of the Foil features a rear brake mounted beneath the bottom bracket. It’s clear that Scott’s engineers value aerodynamics above all else.

“Adding disc brakes adds about three watts, so we had to save some watts, “says Grelier. “We shielded the caliper and extended a fairing, which saved one watt.” That caliper shield doesn’t extend all the way over the caliper, so you’ll still be able to adjust it fairly easily.

Scott didn’t stop there. The 12x100mm front thru-axle features a removable lever as well. By removing the lever after axle installation, Scott says it saves another watt. And by allowing for a wider tire and rim, the leading edge of the bike becomes more aerodynamic — potentially saving yet another watt. Between those three tweaks, Scott overcame the three-watt disc brake deficit.

Grelier stresses that while disc brakes are the big story, it’s the fine details that make the Foil a real winner. The rear dropouts, for example, feature wheel positioning guides to make wheel swaps quick and easy. The Foil also accepts both a standard derailleur hanger and a Shimano Direct Mount hanger to allow more room to remove the rear wheel. Best of all, the bike fits up to a 30-millimeter tire, largely due to the absence of a rim brake.

Those big tires certainly help improve the Foil’s handling and comfort, but that’s not the only compliance feature worked into the design. The lowered seat stays are flattened, and the top tube and seat tube shapes both allow for a certain amount of vertical flex to help eat up road vibrations.

Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman was on hand to extol the virtues of the Foil Disc. “If there’s one place that disc brakes are going to come in handy, that’s the classics when the weather turns bad,” he says. “It’s about confidence, and if you’ve got confidence in your brakes, it’s a big advantage. Since I took the gamble and rode the Foil at Roubaix, I haven’t ridden any other bike.” Hayman isn’t riding a Foil Disc because it’s not yet available in his size.

First ride

My time on the new Foil was limited to a 22-mile loop in the hills outside of Friedrichshafen, Germany. It was enough to get a taste of its capablities. The disc brakes performed as well as expected. Plus, the Foil turned out to be a solid and fun bike for other reasons.

For starters, the Foil 10 Disc with Shimano Ultegra Di2 was surprisingly comfortable. I’ve ridden the rim-brake version of Scott’s Foil extensively, and while it seems nearly identical in geometry and road feel, the disc-brake version felt more compliant, particularly in the rear end. I’d hardly categorize this as a comfort bike — or even as comfortable as an all-rounder — but the Foil lacks much of that harsh shudder of many aero bikes. That might have something to do with big tires and low tire pressures. The flex in the rear triangle, seat tube, and top tube could also contribute.

The front end is a different story. Even with the more typical round bars, the Foil’s front end yields little to road vibration. The fork, according to Grelier, is actually a bit stiffer than the rim-brake version, explaining the front-end harshness. But I’ll take that as a tradeoff for solid handling in high-speed corners. The Foil has that in spades, as far as I could tell bombing down twisty mountain roads at 55mph.

As a road disc-brake fan, this Foil wasn’t a hard sell for me. Although I did have one frightening moment on a fast descent when I grabbed a bit too much rear brake. I skidded and thankfully recovered. That’s not at all the brake’s fault. If you’re switching over from rim brakes, be aware that the lever feel will be different. It’s wise to employ the 80 percent rule during your first rides to get used to different modulation and power.

Ultimately, Foil Disc’s ride quality and handling is about the same as the Foil with rim brakes. This is a good thing as far as I can tell. It’s nice to say goodbye to the bottom-bracket-mounted rim brake. The brake was a culprit for rubbing and one of my few complaints about the Foil. If you’re after an aero bike with all-around capabilities and tons of solid braking, give the Foil Disc a shot.

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