Enduro racer and general bike hooligan Paul Aston is joining us here at Bike Magic to take charge of longer-travel bike reviews and to generally pester industry types to give us an insight into the workings of the machines we ride and the people behind them.
Last week Paul took a trip to ritzy-glitzy resort of Davos-Klosters in Switzerland to go for the epic bike ride that was the launch of the Scott Genius LT bike. We’ll have a look at the bike and a story from the trails later this week, but for now let’s catch up with one of the main men behind the new bike and the great looking all-mountain/trail/enduro (any more acronyms I’ve missed anyone?) steeds that are coming out of the Scott stable.
Paul Aston: I’m here in Davos, Switzerland at the Scott Genius LT VIP Enduro Ride with Rene Krattinger from Scott Bikes.
Rene, can you introduce yourself and tell us what your role is at Scott?
Rene Krattinger: Hi Paul. I’m Rene Krattinger, I am a Product Manager for Scott, I’m working with all the Spark, Genius and Genius LT bikes, all the carbon full suspension bikes! I’m involved in everything from specs, development, and testing. Of course we have a big team, we have engineers working on it [the bikes], designers working on it and the product managers. We are a team, we decide together then we always try to have the best solution so everyone is happy; everyone can have their input. Of course for me I have to look at what the market wants and needs. The engineers always want the best engineering, the designers they want to have crazy designs but I have to decide what the market wants, what’s saleable and how to get it at the best price. If something’s crazy but no-one can buy it, it makes no sense!
PA: You live in Fribourg, Switzerland, where Scott HQ is based. How would you say the riding there influenced the design of this bike?
RK: I would say not so much, haha. We have lots of test riders all over the world and different spots in Switzerland, locally in the Wallis and here in Graubunden, we get the input from them and also give them things for testing. Also we have the team riders. I would say it’s like a big puzzle: In the beginning everything is loose and then you have to put everything together, when it’s complete you have the best product. Its not only what we ride in Fribourg, we also have to watch all the world and see what are the needs, we never just put a bike together specific to one area otherwise they could look completely different.
PA: With the Genius LT, what inspired you to go with the bigger 27.5″ wheels and 170mm of travel – which seems like quite a lot compared to some of the other enduro bikes on the market?
RK: Actually we started with the change to 27.5″ with the standard Genius. We liked it so then wanted to carry this to the Genius LT. The advantages, especially on long travel bikes, are that you have a little more grip, a little bit better rolling and overall effect than a 26″ wheel, and you also don’t have the disadvantages of a 29er with high handlebar. The wheel is also a weak part on a long travel 29er. Why we choose 170mm of travel? We say when we can have 10mm of extra travel without weight penalty we have it. So then we were asking Fox if we could have a 34 with 170mm. In the beginning they said no, we must take the 36. We say this doesn’t work for enduro, it’s too heavy, and then after testing they say OK we can do this. Now we have no weight penalty compared to a 160mm bike but the benefit of the extra travel.
PA: And there’s no difference in strength or stiffness with the 170mm compared to the 160mm?
RK: There is just a small percentage difference in stiffness, even Brendan Fairclough didn’t find out that there was a difference in the stiffness and he was riding pretty hard on the bike.
PA: Yeah ‘Brendog’ seems to ride everything pretty hard! So what kind of testing did you personally do on the bike? You said to me today that you ride bikes nearly every day of the year?
RK: Normally I start by testing other bikes that are similar to the bikes we want to make, but the Genius LT is a 170mm bike with 27.5″ wheels, there was no bike in the market that we could test first. So we said OK, actually we have to start from zero. That’s why we did some aluminium prototypes with different geometries, then we were riding with these and we decided what we needed to change.
I remember the first prototype the BB was too high and head angle was a little bit steep, so then we went lower with the BB and head angle even slacker; then the handling was better. And then even slacker made it even better again!
We had 3 prototypes in the beginning in aluminium because with this material we can make them quite easily. We took the tube set from the regular Genius then welded them together with different angles then we had the prototypes.
PA. Which other riders did you have testing the prototypes? You mentioned Brendan Fairclough?
RK: Not Brendan in the beginning! In our office we have one very good enduro rider and we have a French enduro rider Theo Galy. Nino Schurter was also riding the bike, Nino is more than a great XC racer, he has very good technical skills and also he is very good on feedback, of course he has different feedback to Theo but it’s a good mix you know, I always say ‘enduro bike you need both worlds’, you need DH world and XC world and you have to mix them somehow together like a cocktail you know? You have to listen to this guy, and this guy, if you just listen to an XC guy the bike will never come out like this, also if you only listen to a DH guy the bike will look very different. Enduro is something in the middle. You have to listen to both sides.
PA: This year the Genius has seen a big change to Fox rear suspension after 6 years of DT Swiss on the Genius bikes, why the change?
RK: Of course, especially in this segment the enduro segment everyone wants to have good front and rear suspension. The main reason to have front and rear the same brand was to have a good balance on the bike, you see that Fox have the same damping front and rear. Even if you use a RockShox fork in the front you will see the balance is not the same, you have to have the front and rear the same in the future. Also if you have remote versions it gets even more complicated so it’s much easier to have the same brands front and rear.
PA: Yesterday and today you mentioned ‘in the future it will be important to have the same brands’. Is this something to do with new kinds of lockout system or even electronic travel adjustment?
RK: You can imagine when electronic comes then it’s quite tricky to have different brands because you have to connect together somehow, it will not work. Like with iPhone and Samsung they do the same things but you cannot connect them together!
PA: Have you been working on any electronic lockout or travel-adjust systems?
RK: This I can’t say!
PA: The one little problem I have personally with the bike is the travel adjust lever, I find that it is quite awkward to locate it for a quick change. Is that the production lever for next year or do you have something different?
RK: No this is the production lever, of course we have some other ideas but these are in the prototype stages.
PA: Any chance of a Gripshift style system similar to that of Jerome Clementz on his Cannondale or Rene Wilderhaber’s bike from last year?
RK: We had some prototypes but it’s not so easy to do. With cable routing, shifters and brake hoses it’s a big hassle and quite expensive to make a good Gripshift. Also I know that when you start jumping sometimes you are holding the handlebar and start to twist and shift automatically, I’m not really a fan of Gripshift, especially for this kind of bike. Maybe for XC it’s different, but for enduro bike I don’t like.
PA: I also noticed that there is no XL size for the Genius LT but there is an XL size on the normal Genius. Any reason for that?
RK: No it’s only because of the sales figures, there are so few for XL that’s why it makes no sense to invest in the moulds, especially with carbon. If we get a lot of requests for XL we will start to produce them. Less than 2% of our sales are XL on this kind of bike!
PA: The one weak point of the bike today seemed to be the tyres, we had quite a few punctures while using the Schwalbe Hans Dampf Evo Snakeskin. I felt the bike as a whole was much more capable than the tyres it comes with?
RK: We also have to see the difference of the terrain; today was extreme alpine, quite a lot of rock, loose rocks and some quite technical riding. But many guys will be using this bike in the forest where maybe the tyres are working perfect, but of course in special places like here in Davos you should have Super Gravity from Schwalbe or DH tyres. The problem then is that if you spec a bike like this with tyres that makes sense…
PA: …then it feels heavy in the shop and the car park test!
RK: Yes, exactly, heavy in the shop and then of course you have a test in the magazine you see the end weight which the customer thinks that the bike is too heavy. They say ‘yeah this bike is heavy’ but they a not comparing the weight of the tyres. A bike with light tyres already has 1kg difference to a bike with DH tyres.
PA: Yeah it seems like everything else on the bike is extremely capable of high speed DH stuff, big rock sections, jumps etc. It has 170mm travel, 203mm/180mm rotors, wide and tough wheelset, 35mm oversized handlebars. It seems like the tyres are the weak point.
RK: Yes especially here in Davos they are a weak point but obviously it’s an easy fix, now I have been here and seen the terrain I would immediately change for DH tyres, this morning was far too many flat tyres! Also tubeless would help but setting up 30+ tubeless wheels for test bikes is a lot of work!
PA: Yesterday you mentioned about the strength testing of the bikes. The EFBe tests (explained here) which is for all bikes, but you said that you also put the Genius LT through another ‘freeride test’?
RK: Yes this is another test that we developed with EFBe and Scott, it’s another level higher than the regular EFBe test. First the frame has to pass all the normal tests as other frames, then we do more tests.
PA: So which Scott frames go through the ‘freeride’ test?
RK: The regular Genius, Genius LT, Voltage FR and Gambler have all easily passed the freeride test.
PA: Once all the bikes have passed the test do you go any further? For example could you say how much stronger a Gambler would be compared to the Genius LT?
RK: Yes, for example we start to test head tube compression until the frame breaks. It’s not so easy to compare between the Gambler and Genius because of the difference in carbon and aluminium. Carbon is very strong until a certain point then collapses, aluminium starts to deform and then bends. I would say a Genius LT is maybe 10% weaker here than a Gambler, it’s quite close!
PA: That’s pretty impressive considering the weight of the genius frame compared to the Gambler, what would you say the difference is between the LT and the standard Genius?
RK: The LT about 20% more.
PA: And what’s the weight difference between them?
RK: 120g, but with 120g of carbon you can do a lot!
PA: What are the other differences between the LT and standard Genius? Weight, travel, angles?
RK: In fact, only from the outside looks the same. It’s a completely different new frame: New geometry, different shock that’s 215mm instead of 200mm, internal cable routing, everything is different!
PA: The cable routing is pretty special on the LT, very neat.
RK: Yes its very clean, downtube is clean. All the cables are protected inside the frame, even the brake hoses. Also the bike comes with built-in downtube protector, integrated chain guard and angle adjust chip. When you buy the bike everything is done, race ready!
PA: The model I have been riding for the last two days is the ‘700 Tuned’ version. What’s the difference between this and the 710 model?
RK: The Tuned is made from HMX Carbon, full Carbon frame. The 710 from HMF Carbon with aluminium rear stays and a slightly lower spec overall.
PA: You say the 700 Tuned is an off the shelf, race ready enduro bike? Big rotors, big rims and the higher compression tune on the suspension?
RK: Yes we wanted to give this bike everything for racers. Harder compression tune, wider 25mm (internal diameter) rims, Kashima coating, 35mm carbon bars, all aimed towards people riding faster and hitting things harder
PA: That’s great Rene, I will let you get back to your beer!
Stay tuned for more stories and a close look at the new bike from the Scott Genius LT Camp in Davos, Switzerland.