Certain things mark you out as a serious cyclist. Buying a skin suit, setting up a turbo-trainer in your garage and shaving your legs are all signs that you might have taken your cycling up to the next level. Despite splashing out on skin-tight lycra and making access to my lawnmower almost impossible, I’ve not yet plucked up the courage to take a razor to my varicose veins. Fortunately, the last few weeks have allowed me a hairier route to the world of the elite rider. I’ve been riding a genuine superbike – the Scott Foil R1.
The Scott Foil R1 really is a serious bike for serious cyclists. With an RRP of £6300, it’s clearly not aimed at the average sportive rider, but does the performance of the bike justify the hefty price tag? I had the ideal opportunity to put that to the test.
The National Hill Climb marks the end of the British racing calendar. Held on the last weekend of October, it attracts the best climbers in the country to pit themselves against the clock and gravity in front of large and enthusiastic crowds. This year, the event was to be held on the appropriately named Long Hill, just outside Buxton in the Peak District. It was a controversial choice, quite different to the traditional short sharp blasts up nasty gradients. Long Hill goes up 4.4 miles with an average gradient of just 3.2%. There was some debate amongst the top riders as to whether a Time Trial bike would be the best choice for the race. I had ridden in the open event on the same course in September on my normal road bike with clip on aero bars. It didn’t really suit me. What I needed was a super-light road bike which would give me an aero advantage without needing to hunch over the tri-bars. Step up the Scott Foil.
The Scott Foil was designed to take the best aspects of the Addict and Plasma TT frames and combine them in a UCI legal road bike with exceptional stiffness and light weight. With the help of Formula 1 aerodynamicist Simon Smart, and extensive wind tunnel testing, Scott developed the almost triangular tube shape, removing the trailing edge normally seen on aero-frames. This has kept the weight down whilst still producing what Scott claim is one of the most aerodynamic road frames available – saving up to 20% of drag compared to the Addict.
The result is a bike that is visually stunning, from the large, sculpted head tube to the swooping chainstays. This bike turns heads, from spectators on the hill climb to the pro-rider I caught up with on a training ride. The black and white finish subtly emphasises the aero properties and looks great combined with the weight saving Naked External Tubing – no fancy carbon weaves here. Mavic Cosmic SL wheels, a full Dura Ace groupset, Ritchey WCS carbon finishing kit and a carbon-railed Fizik Arione are added to the 840g frame. With a total weight of 6.96kg it feels amazingly light. Most road bikes, when picked up by a member of the non-cycling public, produce incredulous gasps. This bike produces the same response in experienced riders.
On the road I expected an uncompromising ride, but there’s a surprising lack of road buzz and I felt no discomfort, even on long weekend runs. Handling is sharp and responsive, yet reassuringly stable and sure-footed. I soon found myself throwing the bike into corners at silly speeds, coming out with nothing worse than a massive grin! The Cosmic wheels get up to speed quickly and hold it well, but are a bit susceptible to crosswinds, the bike’s general stability compensating for that somewhat. The whole package feels faster than my normal bike, particularly on the hills, where the light weight and stiffness of the frame really comes into its own. I beat my personal best on a seven minute training climb near my home by over a minute, helped by the lightning fast gear changes of the Dura Ace (for electronic Di2 you need the Premium model and a further £3000). Fellow members of Leicester Forest CC who tried the bike on our local hill climb course were impressed by the lightness, stiffness and acceleration.
And so the big test, the National Hill Climb. Riding the Foil definitely gave me a psychological boost and made me feel that I could do well. Sure enough, I managed to beat my previous time for the course by an impressive 22 seconds. Unfortunately, against a very strong field including such legends as Rob Hayles and Michael Hutchinson, that was only enough to lift me to 118th. A top level bike that my legs and lungs couldn’t quite match.
If you want a unique piece of brilliant engineering and design and can afford the Scott Foil R1 you should seriously consider buying one. A dream bike that will almost certainly make you faster, I’m sure you will not regret your investment. As for the rest of us - Scott are releasing some lower spec models for 2012, including the 105 equipped Foil 40 for about £2200.
I’ve enjoyed my brief foray into the world of the top rider, I think it might even be time to get out my razor.
Performance 10/10 - 5 stars
Performance 10/10 - 5 stars
Quality 10/10 – 5 stars
Desirability 10/10 – 5 stars
Value 6/10 - 3 stars
Overall 9/10 – 4.5 stars
Overall 9/10 – 4.5 stars
Fantastic bike but prohibitively expensive for most riders