Scott FOIL TEAM ISSUE Review
Nothing shouts success like winning a Monument, Matt Hayman’s 2016 Paris-Roubaix victory on Scott’s newly designed FOIL Team Issue was an unexpected score for both the Team Orica-GreenEdge journeyman and the Swiss bike brand. Combining better aerodynamics and enough vibration damping to handle even the pavé of Roubaix, the completely redesigned Scott flagship racer was more than up to the challenge – here’s the PEZ review.
For 2016, Scott has completely redesigned their aero-shaped road racer to be even more, well… aero-shaped, and deliver a more comfortable ride than the original model introduced in 2012 (see my original review here). I had one at PEZ HQ for a few weeks, and here’s a first look at what might be Scott’s best selling bike this year.
To get started – a quick refresher course in the Scott road line-up. The Scott sponsored pro teams have three models to choose from – the long admired light-weight Addict (the choice of Scott’s sponsored climbers everywhere), the endurance-minded Solace – lightweight and quick – their most comfort-oriented ride and ridden by Team IAM’s Heinrich Hausler to 6th place at this Paris-Roubaix – see my Solace review here), and the FOIL F02- the aero-shaped racer built for speed. It’s worth noting that all three models were raced at Paris-Roubaix – as Scott’s sponsored riders on Orica-GreenEdge and IAM have access to all three bikes so riders can choose what’s best for them. All three bikes share the same frame angles (72 headtube, 74 seatube, 272mm bb height, 405mm chainstay, 980-981mm wheelbase), but all ride quite differently.
The FOIL Team Issue is an evolution of Scott’s aero bike program, further refining tube shapes that they knew worked, but now using newer carbon technology to make the ride more comfortable. It’s offered in five spec levels – the top line Premium, and Team Issue, and lower-priced spec models of the 10, 20 and 30. (The 20 and 30 are not available in the US.)
It’s all about tube shapes for any aero-shaped bike, and Scott’s engineers have been hard at work the past 30 months refining the truncated kam-tail shapes used on the original Foils. Virtually every tube on the bike is shaped to slip through the air better than before.
The FOIL Team Issue model (and higher-spec’d Premium model) frame is made from Scott’s proprietary HMX carbon fiber. While the T700/T800 carbon fibers are used around the industry, Scott works up their own layup definition and resins to create the ride characteristics they want and the shapes they deem the best.
The ‘old days’ of carbon fibre used to distinguish a lot between high-modulous and low- or mid-modulous fibres, but technology and production techniques have evolved so much that today builders can use a blend of all moduli within a specific frame to change the ride character significantly versus frames with a different fibre mix or orientation.
The tube walls are about 1mm thick in most places (although thicker around the head tube and bottom bracket where more stiffness is required) – versus 1.2 mm thickness for Scott’s slightly heavier (but less costly) HMF carbon. But the wall thickness is a key part of tuning the ride when and where you want to control the amount of tube flex.
The 2016 FOIL frame weighs 945 grams (size Medium), plus 336 grams for the new fork making it a few grams lighter than the last model. My size Small tester weighed in at 16.4 pounds with pedals, cages, and the heavier Zipp 404 Alu clinchers.
Speed And Comfort Together in One Frame
The FOIL is all about getting through the air with less resistance than before. Starting at the front – the leading edge of the headtube is wedge-shaped to cut through the air better, and the sides of the headtube itself have been elongated within the UCI specs to smooth the airflow and reduce the amount of turbulence that can occur beside and behind the tube. Note also how the fork crown blends fluidly into the base of the head tube – further smoothing transition points that can disrupt airflow.
The head tube is sculpted to ensure a smaller frontal area that grows wider at each end to house the 1.125inch headset bearings, and the internal cable routing is very slick – both entering the downtube, and exiting the handlebars (below).
The fork blades are shaped accordingly as well – the leading edge is curved to slice through the air, while the trailing edge is flat. The new fork shape adds comfort as well – Scott says it’s 11% more compliant than the previous model.
The shot below shows clearly how the top tube transitions into the seat tube – which also has an aero-shaped leading edge. The flat top & curved underside of the top tube balance the stiffness and flex, and the transitions to the seat stays which flow smoothly from mid-point on the seat tube.
The seat tube is shaped neatly around the curve of the wheel, and also widens as it transitions into the bottom bracket – working to stabilize the drive center around the cranks, and maintain that smooth airflow past the wheel. The bottom bracket itself is what I’ve been calling “full-width” for years now because it simply could not be any wider without completely messing up the bike’s Q-factor (that width between the pedals). It’s proof that Scott is making the most of the available real estate to build a stable bottom end to deliver power transfer with the best efficiency.
The chain stays are built for business – big, symmetrical, and box-shaped – they use enough material that it’s hard to imagine anyone generating enough power to cause it to flex.
Swinging around for a better look at the very new rear triangle – the shortened seat stays are just the start of a bunch of changes back here. The thin seat stays more easily flex under loads from a seated rider, which adds to the comfort. By shortening the seat stays and lowering their connection point with the seat tube, Scott has reduced the open gap between the wheel and the frame, which means less space for stagnant air to collect and slow you down, and a much cleaner airflow around this section of the frame. On the comfort side of the equation, the seat tube itself is 7mm smaller (in cross section above the stays) which increases the effective range of motion of the seat post – resulting in a but more shock-absorbing movement at the saddle.
The rear brake has been moved down under the bottom bracket – which also cleans up the airflow around the top of the seat tube, and allows the whole area where seat stays meet seat tube & seat post to take on a much bigger role in the ride comfort, because less material is needed in the seat stays to anchor the brake.
The seat stays remain thin, and are honed with a kam-tail shape to make ’em slipperier into the wind.
The saddle is by Prologo and regardless of what my six-year old daughter says, it’s quite comfortable. The FOIL seatpost features that rounded leading edge, and a flat back. The saddle clamp is a single bolt design that’s easy to adjust, and the look is simple and clean, and a nice mate to the frame. At the bottom end, the seat post secures to the frame via another single-bolt design that hides neatly under a flush-mount cap.
Getting A Grip
In tuning the tube shapes to better slice the wind, Scott looked at every surface on the bike – even the handlebars.
The top-end FOIL Team Issue and Premium models sport the new Syncros carbon FOIL Combo one-piece handlebar and stem. First off, the flat top section of the bar is itself aero-shaped, but also shaped anatomically to fit nicely into the hand when riding on the flats. I found it surprisingly comfortable. Also note that slight change in profile where the bar tape ends along the tops – and how the tape itself transitions seamlessly into the overall profile of the bar – it’s nice attention to detail to eliminate another area where airflow could be disrupted.
The integrated stem features a flat top, and a curved underside that’s designed to be more aero-dynamic than a standard shaped bar-stem combo. The unit bolts onto the steerer tube via two star-bolts, which are very neatly concealed under a specially shaped cap that’s designed to further smooth airflow at the back of the stem. The stem is also offered as a separate piece for riders who want to use their own handlebar. Underneath the bar is a neat compartment that houses the Di2 brains, and it also converts to a mounting port for Garmin computers.
Bar height is adjustable with a series of spacers shaped to blend perfectly into the head tube. And because it’s all one piece, there are no stem bolts or face plates to deal with – just a very clean, and fast-looking control system. It’s also offered in different widths and stem lengths to suit different riders.
There are a lot of race bikes in this category – but not all of them look as fast as the FOIL. The first thing that caught my attention when I saw it at Interbike was the very clean lines, and an overall look that’s built for speed, with a lot of style thrown in for good measure.
But given the extremely ‘precise’ ride of the original Foil, what really got me excited about this one was the promise of more comfort.
The top line take away for me now, is how well this ‘new’ ride was delivered in a package that is firstly (and almost oppositely) built to slice through the wind better than bikes that are intended to be lightweight climbers, or more ‘relaxed’ endurance rides. Even rolling on the the deep Zipp 60 clinchers (a nice spec for OEM), the ride of the FOIL was much smoother, less harsh, and just plain more comfortable than its predecessor and a lot of other “race” bikes I’ve ridden.
Is the bike more comfortable than before? Definitely. I still remember how stiff that original FOIL ride was, and admit to having my doubts about this new one with its deep section Zipp wheels. But the difference is notable.
For sure the ride is quick and responsive. The bottom bracket height and short 170mm crankarms moved my center of gravity higher than I’ve been used to – making me feel slightly more “on top” of the ride – but also adding to a more responsive overall feel. That bb placement allows for shorter (and stiffer) chain stays, which mean a more efficient power transfer, and a more responsive ride.
The shorter seat stays and longer seat post really do a nice job of absorbing bumps and junk from the road, while the rest of the frame keeps you firmly connected to what’s going on without losing or dulling any sense of feedback that’s so important in the control department.
Going uphill seemed almost as fast, the light weight and stiff bottom end offer a more direct feeling that I’m connected to the rear wheel. Standing up on the bike is rock solid – all the way from the handlebars through to the rear wheel – the big tubes really do the job of eliminating any noticeable sideways flex.
I enjoyed those same qualities going downhill, but in a different way. The overall stiffness of the ride encourages some limit-pushing in the turns – the bike inspires a feeling that it’ll take you as far as you want to push. The front end wants to dig in and hold the line – egging you on to go a little deeper into the turns.
And then there are those lines – the unquantifiable quality of looking faster = going faster.
I’d say that if Matt Hayman was happy riding this over the cobbles of Roubaix, it’ll likely do the job for you too.
Getting one might not be so easy – my local shop Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver reports they’re selling fast and hard to get, while Scott’s North American HQ had a few in stock as I wrote this, you might want to look into getting one for yourself sooner, not later.
• FOIL 2016 Team Issue – US$7,999
• Premium – $11,999
• Foil 10 – $4,799
Don’t Just Take My Word
PEZ-Tech Charles Manantan was one of the first to ride the bike when Scott debuted it last summer, and so I asked him to weigh in:
“Scott’s entire road and cross line are either tweaked or end to end redesigned and the refinement is impressive. The Foil is the bike of the day given it “aero-ed” its way over the cobbles like a champ to win Roubaix (yeah, so the rider wasn’t bad either…). What that win suggests for the Foil encapsulates what I think about Scott’s development.
You also can’t have enough energy left over at the end of a race like Roubaix if your bike lacks at least some basic compliance. Vibrations take a big toll on the body. That’s not to say that the Foil is super comfortable but, relative to a lot of other aero-road frames, the ride on the Foil isn’t bad. I bombed down pot hole strewn, winter battered Ski resort roads that I would have expected to leave me with a few chipped teeth from the chatter. While the foil still has some feedback and road feel, it also has a little bit of compliance to take the worst of the edges off.
I would guess Scott know exactly where the stiffness / performance versus comfort cross over point is and this bike is focused in performance. Acceleration and handling are very good as you would expect for a top tier race bike, but climbing is an aera where some might expect an Aero bike to suffer. The Foil suffers very little…
The light weight construction that Scott pioneered with the original CR1 has been refined to the point that the Foil (and pretty much the entire Scott lineup) is very good at going up. The stiffness along with the relatively light weight leave you no excuses at all for a lack of ascent speed.
My guess is that this will be one of the few times you’ll see the same frame win Paris Roubaix as well as sprint and Mountain stages at the Grand Tours.”
• See more info at the Scott Website