A combination of factors make a bike brand a success: Substance, image and results. If any one factor is missing the bike doesn’t “hit”, it won’t speak to consumers with that lilting call to action that sings, “buy me… I am the best”.
Scott has created a marvelous symphony with only one dissonant chord on the new Addict RC. This theme reflects the ethos and product mix of the entire brand. The Addict RC is the flagship road bike for a brand that continues to show valid innovation and competitive success.
Scott Bicycles’ parent, Scott USA, has tendrils in ski, running, motosports and lifestyle apparel. The mega-company wields tremendous resources in marketing and product development including industry maven Scott Montgomery, ex-Cannondale guru. Montgomery was ousted from Cannondale during a corporate coup and selected Scott Bicycles for his new reign. Since Montgomery’s move to Scott USA, Cannondale has waned while Scott Bicycles have expanded in sophistication and market share.
Scott’s U.S. success includes the introduction of the elbow rest aerodynamic handlebar- the aerobar, initially dubbed the “Scott DH”. This Scott/Boone Lennon development re-wrote the book on time trial bikes and paved the way for Dan Empfield to innovate the first ever triathlon bike. In 1997 the company ended its U.S. bicycle distribution and focused on Europe. Concentrating on new technologies the brand gained credibility in the tough European press and peloton. In 2005 Scott was re-introduced in the U.S. under ex-Cannondale VP, Scott Montgomery.
At the same time a boy from the Isle of Man, made famous by its annual Mad Max style motorcycle road race, was cutting his teeth on the local cycling competition. He would go on to become the alpha carnivore in the kill-or-be-killed world of the field sprinter. At the time Mark Cavendish was devouring the competition on his tiny island he had no idea his destiny and Scott Bicycles’ were on a parallel course about to converge.
The Sizzle on The Steak.
A great bike is lost without credible marketing. Scott positioned their Addict framesets and the Addict RC with the most winning team in pro cycling. The Scott sponsored Columbia/HTC team is ranked “Number 1” by Eurosport. More pro events were won in 2008 and 2009 by Columbia/HTC than any other cycling team. Market positioning is more than a balance sheet of race wins. When it comes to branding it is also about hype. Enter Mark Cavendish, The “Manx Missile”. Cavendish is a phenomenon. He wins races with panache. Fans love him. He is brash- but not obnoxious, confident but not abrasive, polished, but not over produced. He is every sports marketer’s dream- more refined than a Mark Phelps and less over the top than an Apolo Anton Ohno. Compared to Lance? Well, Cavendish lacks the legion of journalists and former teammates trying to discredit him. There is also the James Bond accent. Scott couldn’t have picked a better front man than Cav. This marketing effort with HTC/Columbia has confirmed what the engineers at Scott created: An absolute top end race brand that wins the very biggest races under the very best athletes. That is a part of what you get when you buy a Scott.
A Shining Light in a Sea of Black.
There are thousands of models of carbon fiber bikes from hundreds of brands. What is the difference?
Scott needed to provide valid differentiation from the black sea of carbon clones that customers drift upon in a confused market. They needed something unique and better than the other “black gold” carbon fiber road bikes. It’s a tall order since consumers have an impossible task differentiating one carbon bike from another. Marketing buzz words and internet forum “experts” create so much misinformation that even valid innovations have a difficult time getting noticed.
Scott developed a strategy comprised of valid technologies to set themselves apart. The challenge for Scott remains- you can’t see some of the unique features until you actually experience the benefits in real world use. For Scott the challenge is selling the inconspicuous details that make their frames tangibly better.
Scott rose to the design challenge of building a different- and tangibly better- carbon road frame with several design features that result in benefits to the consumer. Here is the balance sheet on those features:
|Feature Unique to Scott.||Tangible Benefit to Consumer.|
|New and varied individual fibers woven into carbon lay-up: Fibers include materials only used by Scott. Scott trade name: HMX-NET.||Combination of different fibers used only by Scott make frame stiffer, more impact resistant and provide better shock absorption. Better ride and better stiffness.|
|Molded Carbon Fiber Cable Stops. (not aluminum riveted)||Cable anchors are stronger, lighter and stiffer. Results in more consistent component performance: Better braking and shifting. More durable than rivet-attached aluminum stops.|
|Carbon Fiber Front Derailleur Hanger.||Less flexible than aluminum riveted hangers resulting in better front derailleur performance. More durable.|
|No Cosmetic Carbon Weave. Scott trade name: NET (Naked External Technology).||Saves significant frame weight making bike accelerate and go up hills easier. Most bikes have a cosmetic carbon “stocking” molded in as the final layer. Scott skips this purely cosmetic layer.|
|Carbon fiber dropouts on fork and rear triangle: “SCDS” Scott Carbon Dropout System.||Weight reduction and ride quality improvement: Better shock absorption. No joining (gluing) of dissimilar materials (stronger).|
|PF86 Bottom Bracket: Semi-integrated, serviceable lightweight bottom bracket.||Slightly lighter weight than other bottom bracket configurations (amount not quantified due to variances in other BB formats).|
The features in the above table are tangible- they aren’t buzz words- it isn’t marketing. They have a measureable benefit. The rider will notice a difference from other frame designs during the ownership experience. This is the side of the balance sheet that tips in Scott’s favor. No other production road bike has this same convergence of technologies and their associated benefits.
“No other production road bike has this same convergence of technologies and their associated benefits.”
In the analog what Scott has achieved with the Addict RC and the Addict framesets benefits consumers more than sponsored racers. Most consumers will own one high performance road bike. This bike must corner well, have good shock absorption and comfort, significant enough frame stiffness to feel responsive during acceleration and sprinting, and it should climb and descend optimally. In other bike brands the road frames are divided among specialty aerodynamic framesets and specific “stiffness” or “classic” framesets. If you want all the optimal characteristics you’ll need more than one road bike. Scott has combined the comfort, durability and light weight into one unified design. The frame aerodynamics are not prioritized on Scott Addict road framesets, but they may be better than square shaped configurations designed specifically for stiffness (Cervelo squoval “R” bikes) and have more eclectic utility across a broader range of performance envelopes. In short: The Scott Addict design is a better bike for consumers because it does more things better.
“The Scott Addict design… does more things better.”
Scott’s flagship Addict RC uses the integrated seat mast design that has enjoyed a run of popularity in high end road frames. Is it better than a conventional seatpost? The answer depends on how you define “better”.
If you want a wide range of adjustment- more than 4cm of saddle height adjustment and you want to vary the effective seat tube angle of your bike by using different seatposts you won’t want a seatmast bike. This may be the single question mark on the spotless spec sheet of the Addict RC- but it is a matter of perspective. This reviewer considers the integrated seatmasts an elegant design theme. If you know your bike fit and don’t resell your bikes quickly it is a valid feature. Going into 2011 the integrated seatmasts are much less common with only the ultra-high end Scott road frames such as Addict RC using them. Bike shops and consumers had difficulty with integrated masts. Even experienced shops sometimes cut seat masts incorrectly. Consumers couldn’t test ride or fit bikes until the seatmast was amputated to their appropriate saddle height. In most cases integrated seat masts created a degree of frustration not commensurate with the benefits.
Why would you want an integrated seatmast instead of a conventional, adjustable seatpost? The primary benefit may be weight savings. Seatmasts save weight predominantly in the bike frame itself; reducing the wall thickness of the frame in the seat lug area (where the top tube, seat tube and seat stays converge), eliminating the length of seatpost stored inside the seattube of the frame and removing the necessity for heavier seatpost collars and hardware.
How much weight does it save? A small sized water bottle that is one-third full weighs about 300 grams (10.5 ounces). The weight savings from a conventional seatpost to a seatmast is difficult to quantify because of the variables of different seatpost weights- mostly due to their length. For perspective a Ritchey WCS carbon post weighs 182 grams. The entire seatmast assembly- everything north of the top tube according to Scott USA- weighs 165. You must add the 110 gram weight of a Ritchey WCS seatmast clamp to the weight of the seatmast. Now we are at 275 grams compared to 182 grams for the conventional seatpost with its integrated seat clamp. This means the seatmast is 93 grams (3.28 ounces) heavier than the adjustable seatpost. However, the frame on an integrated seatmast design uses less material- so you save back more weight than the mast/saddle clamp assembly adds. The weight savings is likely less than the weight of a small (21 ounce) water bottle 1/3rd full. You need to be careful with saddle height measurements prior to cutting an integrated seat mast and, once cut, saddle height adjustment is limited to about 3 centimeters (about 1.18 inches of saddle height adjustment possible).
Bottom line: An integrated seatmast saves weight, but not much weight- it is less of a weight savings than a nearly empty water bottle. The additional benefit is improved lateral stiffness at the seat lug area of the frame.
Fly By Wire.
The Addict RC combines Scott’s premier HMX frameset (100 grams lighter than the non-HMX Addicts R2, R3) with a component ensemble that is authentic Tour de France pro team spec. Most notable is the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.
If there is one chink in the armor of Dura-Ace Di2 it is Shimano’s marketing- or lack thereof.
When we asked ten customers on a busy Saturday afternoon what component kit Craig Alexander used to win the 2009 Ford Ironman World Triathlon Championship not one got it right: He used the new electronic Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. In the 2009 Tour de France every rider on HTC/Columbia used electronic Di2 on their time trial bikes, while Michael Rodgers and George Hincapie used it on their Scott Addicts for the road stages. Pro team Garmin/Transitions used electronic Di2 on all their time trial bikes last season and again this season with more riders using the kit on their road bikes. For 2010 a staggering amount of pro teams are on Di2 both road and time trial. At the Amgen Tour of California Di2 bikes were everywhere- road and time trial. In fact, Cyclocross World Champion Niel Alberts won the ‘09/’10 cyclocross season opener on a Di2 equipped cyclocross bike. Triathlon, road, even cyclocross. It would appear that Di2 has been a quiet revolution- Shimano has said so little about the competitive advantages inherit in electronic Dura-Ace Di2.
Do you want Di2? Yes – once you ride it you likely will.
It isn’t a sales job; it is a valid revolution, a reinvention of bicycle components. It is so much better than a mechanical drivetrain a comparison is difficult and unfair. There are some valid criticisms of the controls themselves, but those concerns do not eclipse the tangible advantage Di2 provides.
The Di2 revolution is a significant enough story that we are covering it in depth in its own review. Most drawbacks of a mechanical drivetrain are eliminated. You can shift under full pedal load and get a perfect shift every time. You can shift from small front chainring to large front chainring during an out-of-the-saddle effort and expect flawless shift performance consistently. Rear shifting is clairvoyant: you think shift- it shifts. Shift accuracy is so good we weren’t able to produce a single mis-shift in literally thousands of shifts: Not one.
Modern high performance aircraft from fighters to airliners use an electronic flight control system. Modern Formula 1 race cars use a shift-by-wire system. BMW has used electronically actuated shifters on a number of their upper end vehicles including the 5 and 7 series since 1986. Now BMW uses Electro-Hydraulic gear changers on almost every production model. The only high technology race vehicles that didn’t incorporate successful electronic shifter controls were race bicycles- until Di2.
Rollin’ on S’s.
Wheels on the Addict RC are on the same level as the rest of the spec: Top shelf. The Shimano Dura-Ace Carbon aero wheelset (WH-7850) moderates the three most critical aspects of wheel performance in a near equilateral triangle of performance: Wheel weight, durability and aerodynamics. Additionally, a full complement of mechanical features makes the 2010 Dura-Ace wheel extremely advanced. Most notably is the hubset.
Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7850’s use a traditional, non-sealed bearing. This bearing offers lower rotational resistance through precise adjustment and reduced bearing contact. You find better cornering authority on the Dura-Ace wheels owing partially to a stiffer, larger diameter 15mm alloy axle. This is reassuring on bantam weight bikes like the Addict.
The wheels are bladed spoke, radial construction front, cross 2 rear with differentially offset straight pull spokes, 16 on the front wheel and 20 on the rear. The obvious comparison for these Dura-Ace wheels would be Zipp 404’s and Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR’s. Both are between 50mm and 60mm deep, use bladed spokes and proprietary hubs. The Dura-Ace clincher wheel weighs 1695 grams, the Zipps (latest all carbon clincher version) 1557 grams and the Mavic weighs 1595 grams. The Shimano is a heavier wheel- but don’t latch onto this as a “golden BB” metric. Wheel weight is important, but the Dura-Ace carbon wheels have a measure of precision in the hubs, lateral strength in the oversized axle, great braking performance on the alloy braking surface (no special pads) and a titanium cassette body. These features improve ride quality and durability. Wheel performance is more than just a race to the lowest weight. I put these Shimano hoops on the same level as Zipp and Mavic’s very finest and, in some tangible ways (most notably low contact, non-sealed bearings) a measure better than either. Zipp does hold the technology edge in rim shape however, especially on their new carbon clincher 404. This Shimano Dura-Ace wheel is the same configuration Craig Alexander used to win the 2009 Ironman Triathlon World Championships, albeit with a deeper section rear Shimano rim for the lava fields.
But, How Does it Ride?
This reviewer has been on a Scott frameset for three months. I divide ride quality into two predominant categories: Comfort and stiffness. Comfort is how much or little you feel the bumps in the road. Stiffness is how much lateral deformation there is under pedal load- does the frame flex when you stomp on the pedals, does the back end listen to the front end when you steer it. This second component of stiffness is important since it determines if steering is predictable- the bike does what you expect when you lean into a turn.
First, the good news: Stiffness on this bike is excellent, trending to the ultra-sporting, not a luxury car ride. Given the wheelset and tire selection on the Addict RC you will feel the surface you’re on, but the bad hits disappear somewhere between the tires, your crotch and hands. It’s active and racy, but it doesn’t rattle you until the roads get really bad. What happens when the roads do turn rotten? The HTC/Columbia riders have tuned the ride of their Addicts with tire width, occasionally using up to 25mm wide tires.
If you can’t decide if this level of comfort suits you then let me tempt you with what is perhaps the absolute best frame stiffness in the market today. “Best” frame stiffness doesn’t mean the absolute stiffest- it means an appropriate level of stiffness for excellent handling, accurate steering and sporty response to a pedal stomp. If “10” is rigid and “1” is extremely compliant I put the Addict RC at “7”. Under hard braking and acceleration the bike does what you tell it without debate or complaint. It also steers with accuracy- rear wheel attentive to front along a predictable path.
The balance of these two features- comfort and stiffness- is optimal on the Addict RC. I place this bike as one of the best riding of the current mix of pro team bikes, better than most and with no true equals. There are specialty aero-road bikes that have lower drag coefficients and special square-oval down tube equipped climbing bikes that may feel snappier in the first pedal strokes of an attack, but neither combines these characteristics as well as the Addict.
But, Does it Fit?
Another factor in ride quality is how the bike fits. The Addict is moderately high at the head tube and moderate on the top tube throughout its size run- right down the middle on stack and reach for a road racer. It’s built for the middle 70% of dimensions.
A 54cm frame size Addict RC has a 140mm high head tube. For perspective, other grand tour bikes like the Felt “F” series bikes are lower on the front end at 120mm on a 54cm, the Cervelo R3 squoval and S2 aero bikes both use an identical 140mm high head tube at the 54cm frame size, reflecting the fact that the same composite manufacturer produces both Scott and Cervelo frames- they come from the same factory. The Trek Madone 6.9 may be reflective of Lance’s chronic lower back problems with a pedestrian 150mm high head tube in the 54cm frame size- it’s really a “comfort” road bike. Scott’s head tube height falls between the low front end on the Felt “F” series and the sky-high, hybrid geometry on the Trek.
Scott threads the fit needle with a “just right” head tube to frame size relationship for most performance riders. I run my 54cm Addict with no spacers under the stem- it’s low and long with my 130mm stem (I have a long torso). With a saddle height of 72.3 cm my drop from top of saddle to top of bars is 9cm. In the drops the bike is low and aero, on the hoods it is comfy and scrappy, hands on the tops next to the stem and you are upright enough to blow kisses to your fans. I give the Addict’s geometry chart a “best in class” compared to the extremes found on flagship race bikes from other brands.
A final note on the interplay between geometry, fit and ride comfort. Scott is one of a handful of high end bike marques that use “size specific” carbon fiber layup. The carbon fiber and other materials placed into the mold on the XXS 47cm are different from those molded into the XXL 61cm frame size. This varied construction means each frame size has a different carbon configuration so each of the frame sizes has nearly identical ride quality- even as the bikes get bigger or smaller. A 5’4” rider will feel about the same ride quality as a 6’2” rider.
The Living Room.
Furniture on the Scott Addict RC continues the no-compromise theme. The cockpit is Ritchey’s highest end WCS series. The Ritchey WCS carbon fiber stem with titanium hardware is reinforced by a forged 2014 aluminum internal structure. The bars are Ritchey Superlogic Evolution carbon bars with a unique bend and shape that increase comfort with an elliptical upper and a moderate drop, shallow reach bend. It’s a comfortable bar with subtle ergonomics that make an old school ergo bend handlebar feel awful after gripping these elegant Ritcheys.
You sit on Fizik’s Arione CX Carbon Braided saddle. The 7X9 carbon fiber saddle rails combined with lighter weight foam reduce the weight of the saddle by 70 grams (3 ounces) compared to the metal rail (“Kium”) version of the Arione. Perhaps more notably is the level of acceptance of this saddle in the pro peloton. This is what Cavendish rides. There were more carbon braided 7X9 rail Fizik saddles on pro bikes at the Amgen Tour of California than there were conventional metal rail saddles. Largely because of this saddle, the carbon fiber rail saddle has finally arrived as dependable race kit.
The 2010 Scott Addict RC hits all the technology leading trends. The bike includes the details most customers forget as they swoon over the racy paint livery, laser accurate Di2 components and agile Shimano Dura-Ace wheels. Pricing on the Scott Addict RC is good for a flagship bike at the top end of a major brand. The Scott Addict RC with Dura-Ace aero wheels and Shimano Di2 is $9899.99 MSRP compared to Cervelo’s R3sl with SRAM Red at $10,400. Making the Scott 5% less expensive but with a more sophisticated component group and a frame from the same factory albeit with a more eclectic design for all terrains.
This is a bike of solid substance and solid innovation. It is a category leader in a tough category to command- the ultra high-end road bike. The 2010 Scott Addict RC is truly the top end of the high end.
For 2011 the new Scott Addict RC will continue as their flagship, team replica bike. The new version will retain the same Tour de France pedigree team frameset but, according to early reports from Scott USA, “Will have a different wheel spec”. While Scott has unveiled their new time trial frameset, the Plasma 3, they have remained quiet about the spec on the 2011 Addict RC. Given the company’s penchant for improvement and the fact that the new Plasma 3 literally breaks the mold we’re looking forward to many of the things that make the 2010 version outstanding in the superbike category along with some new surprises.