- Scott Ransom 10
- Carbon fibre all-mountain flyer
- Unique shock
- 165mm travel, 31.5lb
Scott has been using carbon fibre for many, many years now, and has an excellent track record - only the other day we saw someone racing an old Endorphin hardtail that must be a decade old by now. In recent years it's been expanding the full suspension side of its range with the Genius range, notable for running Scott-designed shocks instead of the usual approach of buying them in.
The Ransom moves on another step, using an all-new Scott shock and appearing in carbon fibre right off the bat - the Genius bikes were aluiminium-only for the first year. The design intention is a long-travel all-mountain bike at a "reasonable weight" - 165mm of rear wheel travel from a claimed sub-7kg frame. We rode a not-quite-production Ransom at the 2005 Interbike show (the first journos to do so) but production bikes for test have proven elusive. We finally got our hands on one though, and here it is...
There's an awful lot of interesting stuff going on in the Ransom frame, so you'll have to bear with us while we pontificate at length. There are actually two frames in the range. The top three bikes (20, 10 and Limited) have the carbon fibre frame, the bottom two (30 and 40) have an aluminium version that looks largely the same but weighs a little more.
The carbon frame is claimed to weigh 6.8lb including shock. That's impressively light for a 165mm travel frame, although it's not a huge amount lighter than Santa Cruz's Nomad, which is the obvious competitor for the Ransom. There's a hint of playing-safe overbuilding in the carbon Ransom, though - we wouldn't be at all surprised if future incarnations got even slimmer as Scott apply lessons learned from having bikes "in the field".
The frame's not quite all carbon fibre - the chainstays are aluminium. They hinge on what looks like a tiny pivot, but it's not actually as small as it looks - the bearings are housed in the main frame, so the bit you can see through the chainstays is just the shaft. Obviously from a stiffness point of view, it's better to have the bearings as far outboard as possible, but the position of the pivot (roughly middle ring height but right down behind the rings themselves) makes packaging an important consideration.
On the subject of packaging, a lot of cleverness has gone into fitting all of the moving gubbinses into the fairly limited space available. The front mech is mounted to a stub tube on the chainstay assembly, which means that it moves relative to the chainrings as the suspension compresses. Ordinarily we suck our teeth a bit at this kind of arrangement, but the Ransom's pivot placement seems to result in no undue front shifting anomalies. There's a very impressive little detail tucked away down there, too - the front gear cable is routed though a little pulley built in to the chainstay yoke. Tidy...
At the opposite end of the chainstays we have the dropouts. Scott has been criticised in the past for not equipping some of its bikes with replaceable derailleur hangers, but the Ransom goes the whole hog and features complete bolt-on dropouts on both sides. This saves you from hanger concerns without compromising shifting accuracy, and opens up the possibility of swapping the dropouts and running 12mm through-axles or whatever standard wins out in the future.
With just a passing mention of one of the coolest chainstay protectors we've ever seen, we'll move on to the rear pivots. These are on the seatstays, allowing suspension chin-strokers to pontificate upon its faux-bar/linkage-driven single pivot/whatever you want to call it nature. The seatstay assembly is all carbon fibre, and runs all the way forward to the top of the rocker linkage. In a very smart bit of design, the bottom end of the seatpost can pass through the seatstay assembly unimpeded, so you can drop the seat as if the bike had a full-length seatpost. Well, almost - if you drop it too far it'll clout the rebound dial on the shock.
Finally, tucked away in the belly of the carbon frame, is the really clever stuff. There's a rocker arm in there that's sufficiently well-hidden that experience FS bike designers have failed to spot it until its pointed out to them, and then there's the shock itself. Which is where the fun really starts.
Scott has been using its own shocks in the Genius range for a while, and the Equalizer shock in the Ransom is an evolution from those. To say that there's a hell of a lot going on with this shock is to severely abuse the term "a lot". It's got more more valves and levers than a saxophone shop and so many chambers that it's a wonder there isn't a law firm in there somewhere.
It's called the Equalizer because it has positive and negative air chambers that are designed to be run at the same pressure. Those pressures are quite high, of which more later. The first bit of shock cleverness is the on-the-fly travel adjustment. This is essentially the same as that on the Genius shock, with three settings operated from a bar-mounted lever. The locked-out mode is just what it says, the fully open mode delivers the full 165mm of rear travel and in between the two is the Traction mode. This cuts the travel to 90mm and makes the back end a lot more taut. It also means that the back end doesn't sag so much, giving the bike a steeper, more agile stance.
If you need further help with climbing, there's a platform-style damping circuit dubbed the "Power Stabiliser" which you can turn on and off by lifting or pushing in the rebound dial - it operates in both travel modes. The rebound damping itself features something called the "Intelligent Rebound Valve", which is essentially speed-sensitive rebound damping, allowing you to run a fairly lightly-damped shock that doesn't pack down over the pattery bits but won't spit you over the bars on big drops.
Keen observers will notice that the shock doesn't have an air can in the usual sense. Instead the air chamber is inside the main body of the shock. Unusually, the seals and bushings in there run in an oil bath, improving sealing and cutting stiction. This is a good thing, because the combination of 165mm wheel travel, a 50mm stroke shock and a smallish air chamber means running big shock pressures. We were running around 330psi in there, and if you're over 100kg or so you might want to shop elsewhere - the supplied pump only goes up to 450psi, and that's what you'll be wanting to run.
All of this kind of goes against the conventional wisdom, which is that lower leverage ratios (ie longer stroke shocks for a given wheel travel) are more desirable - greater oil volume, lower spring rates, reduced stiction, lower mechanical loads and so on. Most bikes we've enountered with this kind of travel are running 70mm stroke shocks. But Scott designer Peter Denk has his reasons for swimming against the tide here. Although the seals need to be tighter to hold the air in, the greater leverage makes it easier for the suspension to overcome initial stiction. The shaft speed is lower, which gives the seals an easier time and allows "more precise control of the oil flow [in the damping circuit]".
It's still a bit unnerving, but the proof is in the riding...
For the £3,399 asking price you'd expect a pretty fearsome spec. It's pretty good, although it's clear that a lot of money is going into the frame. Even so, you're getting some proper high-end kit like SRAM X.0 mech and shifters and Thomson stem. The rest of it is in that sort of "sensible high-end" arena - XT HTII cranks, Avid Juicy 7 brakes - with a smattering of Scott-branded stuff to finish off. That includes the Scott Stroke tyres, chunky 2.35in treads with an unpretentious square-block tread. They work just fine on the Sun SOS 28mm rims.
Fox TALAS 36R forks grace the front of the Ransom 10. These aren't the most highly-regarded of the 36 range, but they felt pretty well balanced with the other end of the bike, which is at least half the battle.
What you really want to know is what it weighs. The whole Large bike came in at 14.3kg (31.5lb) on the BM scales.
The Ransom makes an interesting comparison with the Santa Cruz Nomad, mostly because it's different in almost every way but ends up achieving much the same results. It uses a straightforward suspension design using a sophisticated shock rather than a sophisticated design and a simple shock; the shock itself is short-stroke and highly leveraged rather than long and lazy; the back end is short and steep rather than long and relaxed. Most of all, though, the whole philosophy is different. Rather than the Nomad's approach of being one bike that can handle everything, the Ransom is more like having three different bikes.
Interestingly, the Ransom is also markedly different from previous Scott bikes. Traditionally Scotts have had somewhat, well, idiosyncratic geometry, but not in a particularly consistant way. "Short" is a usual feature, and steep seat angles usually feature heavily. At the front they're either racer-steep or DH shallow, which can make for some quite intriguing cockpit layouts. No such oddness with the Ransom, though - it feels just like a bike when you get on it, with everything being where you expect it to be and no sense of having to adjust yourself to suit it.
The "just like a bike" feel continues as you ride. Which sounds like damning with faint praise, but really isn't. Plenty of long-travel bikes don't feel like the sorts of bikes that most riders are used to, but the Ransom is instantly familiar. But almost infinitely more capable. Fast, rocky, drop-laden trails are despatched with something approaching contempt, and you don't have to get used to the bike first - it just gets on and does it.
Going back up the other way the clever shock comes into its own. A flick of the lever and the Ransom is transformed into a taut, short-travel bike, albeit a 31.5lb one with a long fork. It works very well, though - the bike sits higher at the rear, which combines with the steep seat angle to sort out the weight distribution for effective climbing, even without winding the fork down.
Calling it Traction Mode is a bit of a misnomer, though - the one thing it doesn't do is deliver bags of traction. Obviously it'll sniff out more grip than the locked-out mode, but the stiffer action can scrabble a bit. If you encounter a really marginally grippy climb you may find it's more effective to stay in the plusher full travel mode and shorten the fork (or just get your weight forward). Conversely, if you're in twisty singletrack the short-travel mode feels more like the tool for the job - fully open the Ransom tends to wallow a bit on compressions and it doesn't feel the sprightliest powering out of corners. In Traction mode it behaves more like a kind of superhardtail, and in fact led us to wonder why there weren't more bikes with 90mm of travel at the back and 150mm at the front.
As for those super-high shock pressures, they didn't seem to hinder the bike's performance in any substantial way. The suspension feels quite firm off the top, which could be stiction or could be the early part of the rate curve keeping things steady under power. Once it's moving, it likes to move quite a lot over middling hits but you'll have to work pretty hard to encounter the deeper reaches of the travel. We lost some air from the negative chamber on one ride, which made the bike behave very oddly indeed, but a quick tweak of the valve core sorted that out.
Handling is on the neutral side of neutral in all circumstances. It may not excite in and of itself, but it's sufficiently forgiving to let you get your kicks with the kind of unorthodox line choices that all that travel lets you get away with.
And rocks off the down tube? We stopped short of actually deliberately throwing rocks at it, but a fair few bounced off the frame to no apparent effect. Certainly the frame-tape protected down tube ended the test in better nick than the stays, which got rather scuffed up from heel rub - you'll probably want to get some tape on those too if you're a bit of a toe-out pedaller.
Positives: Neutral handling, familiar feel, effective multi-mode suspension, makes everything terribly easy
Negatives: Slight mid-stroke wallow in long-travel setting, pricey, makes everything terribly easy
To return to the inevitable Nomad comparison for a moment, the difference in approaches between the two bikes is marked. The Nomad is very much a set it and forget it kind of bike - the suspension design lets it be a true all-rounder, tackling all sorts of trail conditions without much in the way of fiddling. Indeed, most of the available fiddling just makes it worse. The Scott, though, makes a point of fiddling to work at its best in different situations, and it does it very well - the travel lever is fast and effective. And while many aspects of the design go against conventional wisdom, it all seems to work out in the end. The only real question is how well the shock will hold up. Scott's apparently had a good track record with the Genius shocks, so with any luck all will be well. Which just leaves the startling price, but cheaper models are available...
Of course, there's always the question of whether this is simply too much bike for the trails. But really that's a question that only you can answer. It wouldn't surprise us in the least to see Scott launching shorter travel versions of this platform in the future, though.
Performance : 5/5