Reviewed: 2015 Scott Voltage FR710

Words Garrett Thibault
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date Jul 22, 2015

I think riders can be split into two groups: those that think new bikes are too expensive and those that don’t care. I fall into the first group and am currently in the market for a new bike that I can ride in a bike park every weekend. My riding buddies are going to give me more props for hitting a big line or looking stylish on the jump lines than they will for getting to the bottom first. As a result, I want a bike that’s comfortable, durable, and affordable. I don’t need a race machine. The 2015 Scott Voltage FR seemed to check all my boxes. It was recently updated from a well-liked freeride bike to what I consider a freeride/park jump bike with modern geometry and 650b wheels. It is stiffer, more stable, and hasn’t lost its fun jumpy nature. Complete builds priced between $2249 USD to $4249 USD make the Voltage FR a great less-expensive option.

The 2015 Scott Voltage FR: now longer, with more travel, and bigger wheels, but is still a poppy bike that’s ideal to go throw off big jumps.

As part of the Voltage’s update a couple of major issues with its predecessor have been addressed. First, the Voltage was previously only offered in two sizes which were both on the smaller side. The Voltage FR’s largest frame option – the size I tested – is quite long and has a very roomy cockpit. This makes the bike stable and allowed me to move around on the bike more than usual in the air and on the trail. I found it comfortable and missed the long cockpit after I gave the bike back. While I consider the updated frame geometry an overall positive, the Voltage’s length does mean the bike demands more work in tight single track. Wide open jump lines and fast straight flowy single track lines are when the Voltage is really in its element.

A longer bike makes straight line charging far more comfortable.

The other issue the new frame addresses is a stiffer rear end. A brace has been added between the seatstays and the shock linkage. A noodly rear end used to be a concern, but it isn’t anymore. While stiff, the rear end also felt long. This probably added to the aforementioned stability, but it didn’t help with manuals. I found it easier to pop the whole bike over something than just get the front wheel up. One other thing I noticed about the rear end was that I had to really torque the rear axle to keep it from unthreading. The Gambler uses the same dropout system as the Voltage – simply threaded into one side of the frame with no other mechanism used to hold it in place – and I haven’t heard of rear wheels dropping out of either, but I still think it’s worth mentioning riders should double check the rear axle from time to time.

Checking if the rear axle is still in place. I really torqued the axle and it seemed to stay put, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on it.

The Voltage is a very simple single pivot design. I found I was able to go into jumps with less speed and use the bike to pop myself up and over the distance. I also liked the lively characteristics on single track; jumping over doubles and into or out of corners was a blast. What made it even more enjoyable is that the Voltage is still a stable, long travel park bike so jumping into questionable lines rarely got me into trouble. I just generally enjoyed the way the Voltage responded to my feedback. As someone who likes to feel the trail and jump around on my runs, this bike was a pleasure to pilot.

Stable yet playful. Hard not to smile when you’re able to jump off of anything and land anywhere.

On the flip side, single pivots inherently lack braking independence and I immediately noticed that the Voltage’s rear suspension felt firmer under braking. As someone who currently owns a couple of single pivot bikes I can say that this is an attribute one can adjust to, but it is fairly pronounced on the Voltage.

The Voltage is a simple, light, and inexpensive frame. This comes at the cost of having a simplistic suspension platform that is affected by braking. This was a characteristic I was okay with, especially knowing I could buy a complete Voltage for less than quite a few DH frames.

Small bump sensitivity on the Voltage was also noticeably less than other downhill bikes that are common in the Whistler Bike Park (specifically the 200mm 26” carbon Santa Cruz V-10 I did a quick back-to-back with). The Voltage isn’t the perfect plow bike, but I don’t think that it’s trying to be. It’s a poppy, stable playbike, not a gnar-gobbling race machine.

The Voltage FR is not the most small-bump-sensitive bicycle on the market. I personally don’t mind feeling the trail while I ride though, I don’t go for a bike ride to sit on a couch.

Before judging too harshly for a bit of a rougher ride, remember that the Voltage has a complete starting price of $2249 USD and goes up to $4249 USD for the top spec that was sent to NSMB for review. In other words, a complete Voltage can be bought for significantly less than some of the other long travel options you can find being regularly abused in the Whistler Bike Park. The bike’s weight is also competitive at a claimed 35.27 lb. weight without pedals for the large size (and my scale didn’t disagree).

Light, cheap, strong. Pick two. My test period was short, but I never questioned strength, broke any components, or tipped any scales. Three spec levels offered between $2249 USD – $4249 USD allow you to get the bike fitted for your needs.

As for the spec, I was pleasantly surprised by a few things. The 180mm Fox 36 up front was air sprung which made it really easy to set it up for different testers. The fork also felt well-matched to the rear end. The Magic Mary tires with a softer compound tire up front wore well (not super fast) and showed good attention to detail from Scott. I had no issues with the house-brand Syncros components during the test and thought the overall weight of the bike came out rather respectably. My only real gripe was with the Shimano XT brakes which I sometimes felt did not have sufficient power in certain demanding situations, like at the tail end of a double right before a tight corner. I prefer maximum braking power in the bike park as I find that it’s easier on my hands after a full run. If this were my personal bike I would have put on Shimano Saints or Avid Codes.

I consider a mountain bike less of an investment and more of a money pit. Scott offers you a 650b modern geometry jumpy stable park bike for without digging your pit too deep.

I was quite impressed with the Voltage, and had a lot of fun on it. Unfortunately I found a total deal breaker for me: when I was really hanging off the back of the bike on steep rough trails, the tire came up and struck me between the legs on a few separate occasions. I thought I learned from the first couple of times that it happened and was trying to ride the bike in a more neutral middle position, but it didn’t take long for me to forget and have it happen again a little more firmly.

The Voltage FR is a modern, well priced park bike that I had a lot of fun on. I might have tried to keep it if it hadn’t been for my lower stance not mating well with where the big knobby tire travels under compression.

In my experience, I have a lower position on the bike than the majority of guys that I ride with. I like my saddle slammed and my stand over low. The Voltage accommodates both of these things, but occasional surprises from the tire made the Voltage FR a poor fit for me. Not everyone will have this problem, but riders who tend to be low off the back of the bike should be wary of the rear wheel on the Voltage.

I had to ride in a more neutral position than I was used to on the Voltage. Taller riders or those that already ride centered should be all grins on this bike. I was mostly grins with a few groans.

Overall I enjoyed my time on the Voltage FR 710. It’s a great price-conscious option for those of us that just want to go have fun on two wheels. For between $2249 and $4249 USD you get a playful park bike that can take the big hits. Highlights include a poppy suspension platform, and long modern frame geometry that’s comfortable and stable both in the air and on rough descents. The frame also has nifty adjustments which can be read about in Kaz’s first impression article, or Morgan’s first impression article. The flip sides to the inexpensive, poppy, and stable frame are a simple suspension platform and long chainstays. It’s up the rider as to what compromises they’re willing to make. I’d say a rider who loves to send big jumps and occasionally spends some time blasting some wide open single track should definitely consider the Voltage FR.


Comments

bebender-fan-1
0
BeBender fan #1  - July 23, 2015, 5:35 p.m.

425 mm is not "long chainstays." Many DH bikes are going to 440, 450, or longer.

Interesting complaint about contacting the back wheel, curious how tall you are?

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - July 23, 2015, 7:12 p.m.

I didn't say the chainstays were long, I said they felt long. The bike felt stable at speed and wasn't easy to get up on one wheel. My Kona Process 153 also has 425mm chainstays and if I were riding both bikes without knowing the numbers I would think the Process had much shorter chainstays.

6 foot with shorter legs and a longer torso.

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bebender-fan-1
0
BeBender fan #1  - July 24, 2015, 8:26 a.m.

Thanks, but you actually did write:

"The flip sides to the inexpensive, poppy, and stable frame are a simple suspension platform and long chainstays."

No biggie though, I get what you are saying. I wonder how this bike would do with a high end air shock?

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - July 24, 2015, 9:35 a.m.

Ah rats I didn't re-read enough of my article. Thanks for the comment so that clarification of what I was trying to communicate could be made.

Reply

ken-leggatt
0
Ken Leggatt  - July 23, 2015, 9:49 a.m.

I had the pleasure of testing one a year or so ago during Crankworx. It was the 26inch version, but I was highly impressed by how fun and poppy the ride was. It immediately went on my "to consider" list when the time comes to get rid of my V10. It is not a plower as you mentioned in the article, but it is an immensely fun park bike. The value can't be ignored.

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - July 23, 2015, 7:21 p.m.

A couple of weeks ago I rented a Specialized Status at Whistler. Another
budget, simple, playful park bike. I really enjoyed it and would have
bought one if I could have found a good deal right away. Ended up buying a Kona
Operator instead, but haven't ridden it yet.

Reply

john-rodriguez
0
John Rodriguez  - July 23, 2015, 6:26 a.m.

Thanks for the review. How did you find running a single crown vs a dual crown on the tech trails like Goats, Detroit Rock City etc?

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - July 23, 2015, 8:12 a.m.

The single crown Fox was set-up to match the bike which wasn't as plush in the initial stroke as the triple crowns I run on my personal park bikes. Different setups means there isn't much merit in comparing suspension performance.
I didn't have any issues with a flexy fork and I honestly didn't think about single crown vs triple crown while riding. I would have thought about it if the crown started creaking, but this didn't occur during my test period.

Reply

mike-ingle
0
mike ingle  - Nov. 23, 2015, 5:19 a.m.

Garrett in your opinion if money was no object what is the best park/downhill slayer? I road an FR 10 at winter park a few years ago and loved it. I also rode a V-10 a few moths ago at Angel Fire and loved it! I have a carbon Demo 8 now but feel it is not playful enough so selling it and starting fresh for next season. There are so many options just wondering what you think is the best bike that leans more toward a park bike but can still kill it on a downhill when it needs to. Also for this style riding would you go with 26 or 27.5 wheel set?

Reply

Cheez1ts
0
Garrett Thibault  - Nov. 23, 2015, 10:23 p.m.

Hi Mike,

Mid-summer I cracked my personal bike: a 2009 Yeti 303R-DH.
I had to find a replacement quick on the cheap.

I wanted 26” because I had issues with tire clearance on
this 650b Voltage and had a friend with similar riding style complain about the
same issue when testing some other 650b sleds. I was not in a situation where I
could figure out which 650b downhill bikes would work for me and which would
not, so I played it safe with 26”.

26” limited my options. The bike with the longest reach with
26” wheels that I could get for a good price was the 2015 Kona Operator base
model. I like it. The updated geometry feels great. I am noticeably faster on
the new bike. That being said, the rear end is heavy relative to the front and
the bike feels unbalanced. There are likely better bikes.

My aforementioned friend WAS in the position where he could test everything. He
tested a 650b Norco Aurum, 650b Transition TR500, and 650b Santa Cruz V-10. He
bought a V-10 even though the price was higher than he had wanted to pay.

There’s something about the V-10s. Riders like them. If you
know you do, Mike, it could be a good buy.

If I was in a situation where I could spend quite a bit of
my hard earned cash, I’d spend the little extra to rent and figure out what I
wanted.

If I could pick anything in the world, period, I’d probably
get a new 650b Trek or a Canfield. Trek because I’ve always wanted to ride one
and don’t know of anywhere I can rent one anyway. Canfield because I think the
Canfield brothers are extremely cool.

Reply

mike-ingle
0
mike ingle  - Nov. 25, 2015, 1:57 a.m.

Thanks so much for the reply Garrett!!
Perfect timing! It just so happens that Canfield bros is doing a demo
This weekend at bootleg hill and I just happen to be spending Thanksgiving in Vegas 🙂
I am driving out Friday to demo a Jedi.
Without your input I would have never looked at Canfield and I have done some research and it looks like the Jedi is just what I could possibly be looking for!
Thanks again Garrett for taking the time and responding. If I ever run into you on the mtn I am buying beers after the day is over. Cheers!

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