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Scott Foil Team Issue review

1 Jul 2016

The latest Team Issue has race-winning pedigree and speed, but in a surprisingly comfortable package.

Aero bikes shouldn’t be winning Paris-Roubaix. It’s long, it’s cobbled and it’s uncomfortable, so much so that even team cars have to be adapted to cope. Suspension gets raised, tyres changed, steel wheels replace alloys and metal plates get bolted under the chassis. So, to see Mathew Hayman cross the finish line in the Velodrome Andre Petrieux first was probably just as surprising to bike geeks as it was to the Australian himself. 

Hands aloft just inches in front of Tom Boonen, Hayman was on board this, the Scott Foil, a machine that on paper should be ill-suited to the Hell of the North, because aero bikes are too uncomfortable for rough roads. Aren’t they?

Going forward

I rode the original Scott Foil back in 2013 and my backside has never forgotten how it felt. Imagine sitting on a pub bench in an earthquake and you’re close. The Foil was fast and incredibly stiff in both the vertical and lateral planes, making it an adept sprinter and something of a standout bike in the emerging aero category, but there was no getting away from the harshness of the ride.

This time around, Scott was determined to make amends. ‘The Foil has been redesigned to be more comfortable,’ says Paul Remy, lead engineer on the Foil project. ‘The key to this is the shape of the tubes and the carbon lay-up.’

Scott reckons the new Foil is a staggering 86% more vertically compliant than its predecessor at the rear, and 11% more at the front. While I can’t tell you what magic has been woven into the carbon layers, I can point to the tube and frame shapes, in particular the rear triangle. 

Pretty much every tube has been slimmed down to significantly increase comfort. The real masterstroke, though, seems to have been to position the rear brake under the chainstays, such that the rear triangle can 
be compacted as it no longer needs to accommodate a brake bridge. That, together with vastly more slender seatstays, has created a rear end that’s light years away from the original in terms of comfort. The compact rear triangle also means more seatpost and un-braced seat tube stick out of the frame, both elements that flex over bumps to make the Foil more forgiving. 

Luckily all of this emphasis on smoothness hasn’t dulled the Foil’s rapid edge. This is still one fast bike. I clocked a PB for a 100km solo ride, and from Scott’s statistics, that isn’t a surprise. 

Scott reckons the Foil saves 6 watts in drag compared to the previous model – which in real money means a 27-second advantage over 40km at a wind speed of 45kmh. It says it followed the widely respected Tour magazine’s testing protocols: bike in a wind-tunnel with a mechanical dummy pedalling at 90rpm, at a wind and wheel speed of 45kmh, across yaw angles of -20° to +20°. 

Remy pointed me towards Tour’s recent wind-tunnel test, which pitted the Foil alongside the latest aero road bikes from Trek, Felt, Cervélo, Canyon, BMC, Specialized, Giant, Look, Rose, BH, Merida, Fuji, Storck and Ridley. The Foil came seventh, separated by 7 watts of drag from the first-placed Trek Madone 9.9 and Specialized Venge ViAS. This represents a 3% difference between the bikes, but overlooks two crucial factors – weight and ride feel.

Windows to the soul

If there were such a thing as a blind test for a bike (believe me, Cyclist is working around the clock to realise this dream, but so far, so many accidents), I’d say if I could ride this bike blindfolded I wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from a normal road bike, save for the added speed.

This Team Issue bike weighs just 7.26kg for a size large, nearly half a kilo lighter than an S-Works ViAS at its claimed 7.7kg. Admittedly that’s 426g heavier than a Madone 9.9, but in context the 9.9 is Trek’s flagship model, and the comparable top-of-the-tree Foil Premium matches it at a claimed 6.8kg – the primary difference between those bikes being the Zipp 404 wheels on the Premium and the Zipp 60s on the Team Issue. That’s incredibly good going for an aero bike, and it’s part of what gives the Foil its lithe road bike feel. No part of it feels chunky or clumsy, and there is excellent weight distribution between the front and rear, coupled with a light-feeling top half that swings almost effortlessly from side to side when sprinting and climbing. 

Another factor, which might sound a bit silly but can be very annoying when it’s not right, is the sound. The Zipp 60s produce a satisfying whoompf when sprinting, but otherwise the Foil is a quiet ride, not beset with the clunks, rattles and pings many aero bikes exhibit due to nattily engineered flaps, internal cable routing and cavernous, echoing tubes.

The key thing, however, is the comfort factor. Comfort stems from compliance, compliance equals smoothness, and smoothness means good surface tracking and grip. Here, Scott has got it spot on. The Foil feels taut and stiff without feeling overbuilt or awkward. It happily flings itself around corners and down twisting descents, again more like an all-round racer than a highly strung aero bike, and it provides a steadfast pedalling platform with serious punch tempered by decent feedback.

The Foil isn’t without its niggles, however – one of which is that under-stay rear brake. Unlike some bikes with brakes in this position, I didn’t detect rear brake rub under big efforts, but the lever feel was spongy compared to the excellent direct-mount front brake. No amount of fettling could change this, and adjustments were awkward to carry out. The big problem is lack of leverage. The crank needs to clear the calliper, meaning the calliper arms need to be that much shorter and the pivots that much closer together, thereby diminishing leverage.

Also, there’s no quick release on the calliper itself, with Scott instead providing an in-line release switch up front. This is a chunk of metal borrowed from Shimano’s commuting range that, while unlikely to really impact aerodynamics, looks ugly and not in keeping with the bike’s otherwise clean lines. Remy points out that the switch could be positioned on the part of the cable housing that exits at the underside of the down tube, adding that some wheel/tyre combos won’t require a quick release at all to free the wheel, but still, I think it’s about time someone came up with a neater solution.

The other gripe is the price. At six grand it’s expensive, especially when measured up against the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX Ltd, which comes with Zipp 404s and Dura-Ace Di2 for a similar price. If you want those on the Foil you’ll need to find £3,000 more for the Premium version.

Still, I find it hard to really criticise the Foil and exceptionally easy to praise it. It’s blisteringly quick yet performs like a very comfortable, normal road bike. No wonder it took Mat Hayman to victory. Sorry Tom.

Model Scott Foil Team Issue
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
Deviations Shimano Dura-Ace Direct Mount front, Ultegra Direct Mount dear callipers
Wheels Zipp 60 carbon/alloy clinchers
Finishing kit Syncros Aero RR 1.0 Integrated handlebar/stem, Syncros Foil Aero Carbon seatpost, Prologo Zero II Titanium saddle
Weight 7.26kg (56cm)
Price £5,999

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