PARK CITY, Utah — I have to make a confession: I own a fat bike. There, I said it. Yes, I waded into the debate and got a fat bike to see if it was really made for deep snow (not really) or if it could really be considered a viable year-round ride (nope), or if it’s just a fun, mess-around ride (definitely), and despite its shortcomings and obvious drawbacks on singletrack, I love riding it. It’s an impractical, heavy, slow, and very fun bike to ride when fast isn’t your goal.
With that in mind, I headed to Park City to check out Scott’s new line of 27.5+ bikes that bridge the gap between conventional mountain bike tire sizes and the fat bike. Their goal was not to create a slow, fun crawler, but instead to deliver a quick-handling, fast, and stable trail bike with a wider contact patch that stays wide even while cornering. “We don’t think this will eliminate other wheel sizes,” said Zack Vestal, bike marketing manager for Scott, “and we don’t feel like we’re doing this for the sake of doing it. We think each wheel size has its place, and 27.5+ offers a new level of traction and control.
“Dropper posts made me a better mountain biker when they hit the market, and I think the plus bikes are going to do the same thing. It’s going to open terrain for a lot of riders.”
As someone who’s spent plenty of time on wide tires and knows their drawbacks well, I was skeptical heading into the test. At high speeds, the last thing you want is sluggish steering, and it’s been my experience that wider tires deliver exactly that. Handling aside, who wants to lug heavier tires up a climb? The 27.5+ offerings from Scott even looked big, so my expectations were not high heading into my first runs at Deer Valley.
The movement: Wider is better
Scott worked closely with Schwalbe to develop the 27.5+ tires on Scott’s Plus line, and the general thinking behind it is that wider is better for stability, traction, acceleration, and cornering. In order to give the tire the right shape to accomplish all those lofty expectations, the Schwalbe rubber is mated to 45mm-wide Syncros rims (40mm inner-width and 21mm height). Scott bought Syncros in 2012 in hopes of using the in-house brand to develop components technologically specific to its bikes, and the Plus rims are a good example of that: The wider rim allows for an increased tire volume, presumably leading to a more comfortable ride, more traction in corners, and more lateral tire support.
According to Scott, the 2.8-inch tires offer a 21-percent increase in contact-patch size over a comparable 2.35-inch tire with a minimal increase in rolling resistance — only 5 watts. With all that width, Scott has still managed to avoid increasing Q-factor, so pedaling feels comfortable and intuitive, unlike true fat bikes that have vastly larger Q-factors.
Frame geometry is slack, with a 67.5-degree head tube angle on the Genius 700 Tuned Plus (65.8 degrees on the Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus long travel version at the low BB setting) and a lower bottom bracket height to accommodate the larger tire size. Riders can run regular 27.5 wheels and tires on the Plus line bikes if they choose, and the geometry also accommodates 29-inch wheels, versatility that makes the Genius attractive to the multi-purpose crowd. Bottom bracket height is adjustable, though when I caught one of the product managers on the chairlift, he recommended the lower setting nearly unequivocally.
The wheels also feature wider Boost hubs: 148mm width in the rear and 110mm up front. The combination of the Boost hubs, wider rim, and bigger tire supposedly create an exceptionally well-handling bike.
But the Genius isn’t all about tire size. Fox Suspension has a Scott-specific Nude shock in the rear. The Nude shock with Fox Evol features increased air spring volume that soaks up small bumps and is said to offer more support mid-stroke.
Fox’s 34 Float Factory Air works the front of the bike and includes the new FIT4 damping system. Like its predecessors, the 34 Float Factory features three compression settings that range from fully locked to fully open, with a trail setting in between, but on the updated model, the settings actually make a noticeable difference. The lockout actually locks out, the full-open position is all the squish you need, and the trail setting is ideal for 90 percent of the riding you’ll do on the mountain.
The new suspension is controlled by Scott’s TwinLoc system that allows the rider to lock out front and rear suspension simultaneously via a thumb lever mounted to the handlebar.
The ride: point it down and hang on
The first model I threw a leg over was the Scott Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus, which is a pure enduro ride with 160mm of travel front and rear. Like other enduro bikes, the Genius LT 700 is made for exceptional speed on descents and a bearable pace on climbs. Scott representatives acknowledged that the 27.5+ tires add some weight to the bike, but they assured us that the benefits vastly outweigh the added grams.
Given its long travel, I rode the lift up to test its gravity capabilities, and while it did not disappoint, it was not the exceptional ride I was expecting (that came on the 140mm travel Genius 27.5+. More on that in a moment). Whether the fault of hurried suspension tuning or overall geometry, the ride felt slightly unbalanced front to rear. It cornered very well, and airing it out wasn’t a problem, but the fork felt a bit harsh in chatter and the shock felt too sloppy both on the full-open setting and the trail setting.
Railing into corners and berms was a blast, though, and the wheel/tire combo performed admirably, as promised in all the lead-up to my first ride.
Balance and control
The Genius 700 Tuned Plus was next on the docket, and this one I chose to test both up and down the mountain. With 140mm of travel, this is the bike most appropriate for those of us who dabble in a bit of climbing but love to shred technical descents and buffed-out singletrack. Luckily, there was plenty of all that at Deer Valley Resort.
Scott swung for the fences on this one, and I’ll confess, I immediately loved this bike. Trust me when I say this: I don’t often immediately love a bike. To be honest, the Genius 700 lived up to its design as soon as rubber hit dirt. I locked out the TwinLoc lever and began climbing, and I found myself passing other riders on 29ers and XC-oriented full suspension bikes. It climbed much better than I expected, and while it probably couldn’t match a lightweight carbon hardtail 29er up the mountain, it felt better on the climbs than the overall design would have you believe.
The position of the TwinLoc lever is perfect and intuitive, but it takes up the space that would otherwise be inhabited by the dropper post lever. Consequently, the dropper lever is mounted on the top of the bar in a nearly unreachable position. It’s a minor quibble, but one that tripped me up a bit on the trails. The TwinLoc also adds two cables and housing to the cockpit, which makes for a sloppy look.
Once I got to point the 700 downhill, it felt balanced and nimble in even tight switchbacks, and natural in the air. I missed having the extra 20mm of travel from the LT only when I hit really steep sections or rough braking bumps, but otherwise, 140mm was more than enough to create a plush ride both up and down the mountain.
The bike I rode featured an X01 drivetrain and XTR disc brakes, both of which performed flawlessly. It will be interesting to see if Scott offers the Genius with a Shimano XT 1X drivetrain in the future for the Shimano loyalists out there. A 1X drivetrain makes sense on this bike, and the SRAM drivetrain performed excellently.
The Bottom Line
With all the new tire sizes bombarding us constantly, it’s hard to discern what’s fad and what’s fab. I headed to Scott’s event thinking I was about to ride a fad bike but was pleasantly surprised with the handling. Is this a quiver killer? Not on its own as a plus-size bike, but because the Genius is such a versatile ride, with geometry that allows 29er wheels and smaller 27.5 tire and wheel combos, it certainly comes close.
If you’re looking for a trail bike that’s fast, fun, and confidence-inspiring going downhill, and better than average for its niche going uphill, take a good look at the Scott Genius 700 Tuned Plus. Enduro riders will want to throw a leg over the Genius LT 700 Tuned Plus, though be sure to fine-tune your suspension before hitting the trails.
MSRP: $7,999 for both models, specced with SRAM X01 and XTR brakes.
Scott Bicycles provided travel and accommodations for its press event in Deer Valley, Utah.