Road to Cape Epic 2012: Epic rig – Claire’s Scott Contessa

Not only does the Scott Spark have a proven race-winning reputation but it also has an outlandish little sister in the Spark Contessa, designed for smaller, lighter female riders. Scott has been kind enough to hand two mountain bike beginners some of the most wanted rigs around.

It is refreshing to see Scott is ready to make top-of-the range bikes and kit for women. My road and ‘cross experience has shown me it’s difficult to find performance products designed for girls; I’ve often had to compromise with road shoes, choosing a heavier pair without the bells and whistles of ratchets and carbon soles in order to find a good fit, narrower toe box or even get down to size 40.

We’re currently riding the 2011 edition of the Spark Contessa, complete with vibrant purple and orange livery splashed across a pearlescent white carbon frame. Eventually when our skills have caught up with our exuberance, I know I will revel flying down singletrack, overtaking the guys, knowing we won’t be mistaken for a couple of skinny lads. There I said it, yeh I’m ready for boy-girl rivalry, and it only serves to make you faster.

Plenty of bike

OK, back from my aspirations and I know what you’re thinking; they don’t know what they’ve got. Looking at the Spark’s palmares, it can obviously handle more than I could throw at it.

For me I can translate that to I don’t need to be delicate with it. As newbie, with the clock ticking towards a marathon stage race, I need get a comprehensive skill set and find my confidence fast.

For this, the Spark Contessa is just what that doctor ordered. Armed with that knowledge I want to push the bike to work for me and go further, I’ve stopped feathering the brakes all the way to the bottom and put trust in the Avid Elixir carbon disc set up to stop me only when I want to stop having fun.

Getting specific, as a roadie, weight is something we’re keen on and a full suspension mountain bike is going to be more than I usually handle. Thankfully it’s just not an issue as the Spark Contessa weighs in at 24lbs so that’s one less thing for my twiggy arms to worry about – one part of me that is far less likely to give up on me halfway through a killer loop.

Like the men’s Spark, the Contessa features Scott’s trademark TwinLoc remote lockout. This carries over from their all-mountain and trail bikes and offers three distinct modes of travel and damping characteristics that operate via a single handlebar mounted lever.

2012 Suspension revamp

More exciting for any bike fan (which I’m slowly becoming) is the redesigned Spark range, due for consumers in 2012. If what I’ve got is anything to go by, I’m only going to go faster, with more traction and control for the tough Cape Epic course.

Knowing they’ve got strong yet light frames, the Scott design team turned their attention to enhancing the suspension.  The Spark and female-friendly Spark Contessa have a new top tube mounted rear shock in the Nude 2, again made by DT Swiss and according to the lads hanging around my bike at Skyline Cafe in Glyncorrwg, it’s a light piece of kit.

Reading from the Spark micro site the Nude 2 doesn’t reach full travel until 1,100 newtons. Shamefully or perhaps thankfully I’m just not heavy enough to get that out of it but the reassurance it offers on the approach to a drop is moral boosting.

Where the Nude 2 comes into its own is the progressive damping, says Scott. The new shock was developed from research and assessment of rider pedal strokes as they navigated and cleared obstacles.

“Many other designs assume that a rider is static and coasting, or they only include acceleration forces on the suspension and drivetrain,” says Scott.  “We’re more concentrated on suspending the movement of the rider instead of negating pedalling forces.”

Finger tip controls

Up front a partnership with Rock Shock means the fork is also affected by the TwinLoc system. The settings don’t alter the travel of the fork as it does at the rear, but new technology does allow the fork to best match the position at the rear.

A few tweaks on the 2012 frame see Scott introduce tapered head tubes, internal cabling and a press fit 92 bottom brackets; the net result being a stiffer and stronger frameset and I cannot wait to get out on it and racing.

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