By Chris Magerl
The Plus Equals More Fun!
Let's get this out of the way: there are too many options on the MTB front. So why do we need one more?
Because you can never have too much fun!
Salt Lake City’s Scott Sports just unveiled its 27 Plus line of mountain bikes to dealers and press at the annual Scott Week, held the week of July 20 at Deer Valley Resort in Park City. Scott was showing its full line of bikes, from the Foil and Addict road bikes that were being raced that day in the Tour de France by IAM Cycling and Orica-GreenEdge, to the latest gravel and CX bikes. Time trial and tri machines, kids’ bikes, 29er MTBs, 27.5 MTBs, a few gravity bikes and electric-assist bikes.
For the off-road set, the buzz was all about the Plus.
29 Plus and 27.5 Plus, often just called 27 Plus, fit somewhere between the relatively narrow tire size of XC racers, at perhaps 2.0, and the fat tire bikes found on snow and sand, usually at 4 inches wide. For many, the Plus tire of choice is around 3.0. For Scott, after some testing with Schwalbe, the sweet spot came at 2.8 inches. “2.8 seemed to be the perfect blend of bigger contact patch and minimal rolling resistance,” said Zack Vestal, MTB Marketing Manager for Scott.
“Scott Sports feels like the Plus tire size is almost the natural evolution of the mountain bike,” said Vestal. “Mountain bike technology is not static. It has been evolving from day one. We don't see this eliminating any wheel and tire sizes. This is one more option. 27 Plus we see as representing stability, control, grip and versatility.”
To fit in those wider tires, a wider bottom bracket and a wider rear triangle are needed. Many Plus models run on wider rims (Scott was using 40 mm Syncros rims). The Boost rear hub of 148 mm (for years most MTB rear hubs were 135 mm) is becoming far more common. And there is now a wider front standard at 110 mm (most fronts have been 100 mm).
Unlike the trickle of parts and complete bikes here and there that marked the early days of 29-inch wheels, 27 Plus seems poised to flood the market. The big names (Trek, Specialized) are already in, as are loads of smaller bike companies, including Utah's Fezzari. “The tidal wave of adoption is happening in one season,” said Vestal.
“We've seen a bit of a cultural shift in mountain biking, where maybe racing is a little less important. Having fun with your buddies has really supplanted the need to be first to the top of the hill,” said Vestal. “They're stopping to chat and take photos and then ripping the downhills and having a beer afterward. That's where these bikes fit in, for trail riders who want to have more fun.”
“I look at the Plus bikes as being good for entry-level mountain bikers who need an extra measure of confidence and stability and grip. I also feel that experienced riders are going to adopt this bike. All of a sudden you can ride more terrain with less fear and more confidence.”
Scott offers eight models of 27 Plus bikes, ranging from the Scale 720 Plus, an alloy hardtail (Retail $1,699), to the Genius 720 Plus (alloy, 140mm travel, $3,999), the Enduro-oriented Genius LT Plus (carbon, 160mm travel, $7,999) to the lighter top-end Genius 27 Tuned Plus (carbon, 140mm travel, $7,999).
Switzerland is home for Scott World HQ. In the US, Scott calls Salt Lake City home. Scott Week shares the magic of Park City riding with about 35 members of the media (US and international), about 30 sales reps and about 200 retailers representing about 100 shops.
“This is great for the proximity to the trails,” said Vestal. “And of course Deer Valley has been a great host.”
These folks attend presentations, walk through a showroom of almost all Scott models and ask questions of the engineers and marketing folks.
Then the fun begins. The demo fleet is just outside the door. Pedal the trails, ride the lifts, take a road bike winding down Royal Street. Scott technicians meticulously dial each bike to the rider, including setting front and rear sag on the dual suspension bikes.
For those wandering past, it all looks like a big fun time. The setting is beautiful, the gear top-notch, and time on a bike beats time in the office. But this is also work. Reviews matter. Dealers have to make the right choices on which models, and how many of each, to bring to their shop. Serious business, with real financial consequences. But you still get to ride a bike. A pretty sweet mix.
Let's tally it up. The big tires eat rocks and ledges. That's a plus. The soft landing really boosts confidence when launching off rollers. That's a plus. Braking is very positive, with so much rubber in contact with the ground. That's a plus, too.
The Scott Genius 27 Tuned Plus is fun. And surprisingly versatile. There are many factors that play into the great ride, the larger tire size being just one. Scott has long offered remote switches to control suspension options, and that continues here, with the front and rear linked in one switch, with options for locked, normal travel and wide open. The Fox suspension is tuned well to the bigger tires. This bike is easy to like from the first pedal crank.
I did not know I was going to be at the Scott event until the evening before. It was a lucky coincidence that I had ridden the same Deer Valley trails Tuesday on my own full-carbon, race-tuned XTR 29 dual suspension. So when I pedaled the Scott Genius 27 Tuned Plus on Wednesday, I had a pretty good basis for comparison.
I expected more bob and squish, not characteristics I would consider positive. But the bike was playful, not inch worm-like, on the flats and climbs. Turn around and point it down, and it was certainly a hoot. I was quickly running higher up on the berms, feeling a bit more OK with air and letting the bike run faster on the downhill straightaways.
When the boys on the real downhill bikes came up behind me, I got out of the way. But when the trail tilted upward, the Genius effortlessly left them behind. All-mountain is a phrase thrown around a lot. This bike defines that. More fun down the hill. Not at all a drag to pedal up.
It is important to not go too high on tire pressure. Scott folks suggested starting in the 13-15 psi range. I ended up lower than that. When the tires started widening out a bit, the way they were designed to roll, it was a blast to push into bermed corners and feel the bike compress and then push you back out. Such a feeling!
Have an unlimited wheel budget? As long as you have Boost hubs front and rear, you can run standard 27.5 or 29 inch wheels in this frame. But I doubt you would bother. The fun is in the Plus.
You might not win any XC races on a 27 Plus. But the Scott Genius 27 Tuned Plus would be right at home on the Shoreline, Flying Dog or the Porcupine Rim. Reasonable to pedal all day, and more control in every terrain.