We review the Scott Foil 20 aero road bike
Scott Foil 20
We all know the value of a great aero set-up for an Ironman event – a dedicated tri bike, wheels and helmet can get you to T2 faster by whole minutes – so why not look for some of the same advantage in a road bike? That’s exactly what Scott have aimed at with the Foil.
FRAME AND FORK
Until now, aero road bikes have all involved some sort of compromise, because traditional airfoil tube shapes are heavier and have less lateral rigidity than conventional frames. Scott say that a target of the Foil was to eliminate these compromises, so the frame design approaches the question of aerodynamics from the opposite direction.
Instead of designing the most aero frame possible and then trying to make it light and stiff, Scott started with its excellent Addict as the benchmark and aimed to improve its aerodynamics without compromising the weight and stiffness that have a greater influence on the ride quality.
Scott says that the solution is the ‘virtual airfoil’, a tube shape that uses its leading edge to make the air behave as if it’s following a long-tailed airfoil shape. The result is a frame that weighs 1,030g in our 58cm test size and which Scott claims saves you 20 watts at 45kph over the Addict.
The top three models, from the £5,999 Foil 10 up to the £9,499 Foil Premium, use Scott’s lighter HMX NET carbon fibre. The Foil 20 uses HMF NET which has a slightly lower ratio of high modulus fibres but, Scott says, only adds around 80g to a frame compared to the top versions.
To balance steering integrity against the frontal area, the headtube tapers from 1.125in to 1.25in at the crown of the full-carbon, aero-profile fork. The frame also features an integrated clamp for the aero seatpost, internal cable routing and an oversized bottom bracket area that adds stiffness, smooths airflow and is shaped to accommodate an SRM power meter.
The Foil 20 comes equipped with a complete Shimano Ultegra Grey groupset. It’s well-proven and handsome kit, if extremely understated for such a racy bike. Two gearing options are available: compact with 50/34-tooth chainrings and an 11-28T cassette, and standard with 53/39T rings and an 11-25T cassette. Oddly, Scott refers to the latter as ‘20-speed’ but, of course, both have 20 gears.
The Mavic Cosmic Elites are entry-level aero wheels. The rims are slightly deeper, at 30mm, and they have a basic aero profile that fits the aims of the frame. Don’t expect them to surf the air like a set of Zipp 808s though, and keep in mind that they come with a weight penalty. The build is finished off with a Selle Italia X1 saddle and Scott’s own oversized Road Pilot Pro bar and stem, all coordinated in white.
Let’s make one thing clear right from the start – the Foil is fast! On the descents we ride most often we noticed that it hit 50kph sooner than we’re used to seeing and it whips along on the flat too. When you get out of the saddle and apply some gas the Foil leaps forwards. Holding the drops and pulling hard to get the maximum force into the bike reveals that it’s a very stiff frame from front to back. More than simply an absence of tangible flex, the Foil gives you a very positive feeling of rigidity that really encourages you to pour in all your effort. It’s fun and inspiring.
Unfortunately, the Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels are nowhere near as stiff and rather shown up by the frame. During sprint efforts we could even hear the spokes ‘pinking’ like a cooling car engine as their tension came and went with each pedal stroke. Their weight is a clear hindrance when climbing, too. Neither is a big issue when you’re spinning along on the flat but a wheel upgrade should be your top priority ahead of some fancy new running shoes, a training camp or feeding the kids!
The frame takes the edge off the worst bumps but it’s no airbed and it would be tiring on an Ironman, especially one on UK roads. The steering isn’t as twitchy as you might expect: the Foil turns and carves a line with accuracy and confidence. With the stem sat above the spacers you get a sporty position that doesn’t demand extremes of flexibility on your part but which still places the emphasis on speed. Whip out the spacers and you can get a really aggressive position which will keep your back flat with clip-ons fitted. It’s just a shame that the tapered spacers look daft and fit poorly when arranged in a different order.
The Ultegra drivetrain felt as smooth as we’ve come to expect but felt a little vague after riding bikes fitted with snappier SRAM kit. Test ride both if you can and see which you prefer. Anatomic bars also divide opinion but the quality saddle will suit most riders.
+ Aerodynamic design will help you cut minutes from long rides
+ Stiff, light frame gives a top ride and will dazzle on upgraded wheels
– Wheelset is slightly heavy and way too flexible to suit the eager frame
– Comfort levels aren’t the most generous for long rides