We review the superb Scott Foil 40 aero road bike
Scott Foil 40 (2013)
The Scott Foil 40 eschews the long aerofoil shapes of most aero bikes in favour of cropped tubes, and has quickly become popular as a do-it-all racer. Light, stiff and extremely fast, the pricier models are as at home climbing mountains as steaming along flats. So how does this entry-level version fare, and is it the answer to all your triathlon wishes?
FRAME AND FORK
In 2010, Scott took their super-light Addict racing bike and tried to make it as aero as possible. The company’s engineers tested the wide, wing-like aerofoil tube profiles used by its rivals and came to the conclusion that, at cycling speeds, the rear portion had no aerodynamic advantage. They realised that by flattening the reverse side of the tubes, they could reduce frame weight and increase stiffness, while also improving handling and aerodynamics in crosswinds.
The Foil’s full-carbon fork has a tapered steerer to boost stiffness and slots neatly into the short, racy head-tube. The gear cables thread tidily into the top of the down-tube, which slopes down to a stiff, oversized press-fit bottom bracket. The carbon aero seatpost, made by Ritchey, is clamped via a clever internal wedge, and the thin seat- and chainstays have both been made as aero as possible too without sacrificing strength.
The Foil 40’s frame comes from the same mould as the other bikes in the Foil range and is made from Scott’s HMF Net carbon fibre, as opposed to the lighter HMX carbon mix used on the top-end Team Issue and Foil 10 models. The entry-level model is still no slouch in the weight department, though – at just 1,030g for the frame, it’s ripe with upgrade potential.
From most bikes in this price range, you’d expect more than a Shimano 105 drivetrain, but what you’re really investing in with the Foil 40 is the frame. Nevertheless, the 105 set-up is very nearly as light as Ultegra and features a really positive click on the rear lever when switching cogs, which happens instantly and reliably. Only the front gearing, which is a little soft, lacks the sophistication of Shimano’s higher-tier groupsets.
The 105 cranks transfer power well, with no discernable flex when combined with the frame’s super-stiff bottom bracket. The Foil is available in compact 50/34T and standard 53/39T flavours, depending on whether you want to spin up climbs or prioritise pushing bigger gears in the drops. The 105 brakes are responsive, with a strong bite giving confidence going into corners.
Scott’s own Syncros components are used for the rest of the finishing kit, with a suitably rigid stem complemented by short-reach compact bars that are comfortable and stiff. The aero seatpost is topped with an own-brand saddle that’s quite flat and firm but surprisingly comfortable from the first ride.
Shimano’s R501 wheels aren’t the lightest or stiffest on the market at over 2kg with tubes and tyres, but when combined with such a brisk and stiff frame, they don’t feel it.
The Foil certainly feels quick. Right from the first outing, it’s a fun bike to ride and one that makes you excited to climb aboard for each training session. The aero benefits are obvious when pelting along at 25mph on the flats, without the feeling that you’re working against the bike. Instead, it’s as if bike and rider are one, with chassis and engine united in the pursuit of ever-increasing velocity.
The relatively short head tube means it’s easy to find an aggressive position when hunkering down on a set of clip-on tri-bars, and in this guise, the Foil is a fantastic race-day prospect. The bike’s rigidity urges you to keep the watts running to the wheels, with no sense that you’re losing power through flex, leading you to faster bike splits and fresher running legs.
Responsiveness when kicking out of the saddle is impressive, with the front end staying true under pressure. Though the Shimano wheels aren’t up to the high standards set by the frame, when paired with such a spectacular chassis their heft and flex is barely noticeable. Upgrading to something stiffer and more aero would see the Foil 40 edge into superbike territory.
While the frame’s stiffness helps when the road turns up, it means comfort is sacrificed somewhat. Compared to more compliant – but less stiff – bikes such as Felt’s AR Series, potholes, cracked roads and unfinished surfaces seem amplified. This isn’t ideal for British roads, but the effect was diminished by fitting a plusher tri-specific saddle and won’t be a problem if you train predominantly on super-smooth asphalt.
The Scott handles beautifully, taking you surefootedly around bends with the minimum of stress. Leaning through corners, it feels stuck to the road with no twitchiness to spoil the ride or break your concentration. The Shimano 150 gearing is always reliable and performs well even under load and the option of climbing-friendly compact gearing at no extra cost is a great bonus for those wanting aero benefit for hilly triathlons.
The Foil really is the complete all-rounder. It’s savagely fast on the flats, stiff and light-feeling on the climbs and handles impeccably through corners. While it used to be true that aero, stiffness and light weight were mutually exclusive, the Foil 40 pulls all of these elements together into a tidy and exciting package that makes a versatile training and race-day bike.
Weight: 7.9kg (54cm)
Frame weight: 1,030g
Frame: Scott Foil HMF NET carbon fibre
Fork: Scott Foil HMF NET carbon fibre
Headset: Ritchey Pro, integrated
Gearing: Shimano 105
Crankset: Shimano 105
Handlebar: Syncros RR2.0 Anatomic
Stem: Syncros FL2.0
Seatpost: Ritchey Foil Aero Pro Carbon
Saddle: Syncros RP2.5
Wheels: Shimano R501
Tyres: Continental Ultra Race, 700x23c
+ Light for an aero road bike
+ Stiff and fast
– Not the best kit for the money
– Can be a little harsh over rough ground