You only have to go to any race meeting or local DH track here in the UK and they are everywhere. The Nukeproof Scalp represents one of the first affordable, highly desirable and as you’ll read in this review, highly capable downhill bikes on the market today. Without going into the extents other brands have gone to, Nukeproof simply rolled out a bike that could not only get the job done, sold it at a price that didn’t deter people and now have one of the strongest amateur followings in a country well known for its racing. The stage is set, so lets take a look at the bike in question…
The Scalp is a purposeful yet menacing looking beast from the get go and one for all intents and purposes, is exactly that and all the more reason for it’s appeal. Although much prettier bikes exist, there is something to be said about a bike that looks like it means business – the brushed anodised black finish with moto inspired 3M graphics look the part, but unfortunately, are not something they are taking with them into 2013 range, favouring ‘industry standard’ water-transferred graphics under lacquer – their goes my hope for custom graphics options?
Industrial, but not quite Nicolai industrial (thankfully). Most of the bearings are accessible and even the ones within the linkage, which aren’t quite THAT accessible, only require a few other things to be removed for access and thankfully, unlike some other bikes, removing the shock is a piece of cake. The frame itself is constructed from 6061 T6 aluminium and all the welds are what Nukeproof refer to as ‘double smooth’ and certainly look clean and sound.
Essentially a linkage driven single pivot design, the Scalp’s swingarm is attached to the main frame by huge 40mm diameter main pivot bearings, which are mounted in machined faces in the swingarm providing maximum spacing and helping to maintain the frames considerable stiffness. Within the frame lies the ‘Fallout Link’, which is designed to give the Scalp a feel that is anything but that of a single pivot… Driving the shock in a three-stage progressive action throughout, with increasing progression at the beginning and end of the stroke, but a linearly progressive midstroke to avoid any spikes in damping. The twin ‘dogbone’ links that sit either side pull, rather than push giving a perfect progression rate. Simple huh?
With so many nooks and crannies, it does pay to regularly clean and grease any areas that need it – the swingarm cross-brace below is a good example and managed to attract dust and grit into the threads leading to some irritating creaking noises under load. Easily fixed, but it was a case of working from one end to the other to try and find the location of the noise.
Granted, this is a bit more complicated than a regular single pivot, but if you approach the Scalp properly and get accustomed to where everything is and how it all works, maintenance and access to the inner workings actually isn’t that challenging and something that when mastered, will certainly pay dividends in time.
The Cane Creek Double Barrel is without doubt, one of the most advanced and capable suspension units on the market and possibly the ticket for achieving all that the Scalp can be. While it is amazing, it is also a headache… With each click representing a significant amount of adjustment, getting things to a point where they are helping you and not hindering you, can take time and that’s time away from shredding your new bike.
The quality of construction across the Scalp is pretty damn good to say the least, especially at this price point and although it lacks the elegance of a lot of other frames on the market, it’s also half the price of many too. Interestingly, being half the price of a Santa Cruz V10 for example, raises the interesting question of “is the V10 twice as good as a Scalp?”. I’m not going to get into which is better, as comparing a carbon linkage bike to an alloy linkage driven single pivot is not what were doing here, but when you look at the economics of it all, it’s pretty plain and simple why this bike has proved such a hit with the week-end warrior.
Against other DH bikes on the market, the Scalp’s numbers equate to a balanced and well poised bike that is designed to excel when things point down. Being one degree slacker in the head tube and 5mm higher in the BB than say a Specialized Demo, helps the Scalp to maintain a solid and responsive riding position without over compromising on the centre of gravity, which is exceptional on the Scalp and when coupled with the stiff swingarm…
The build below weighes in at just under 40lbs, but a ti spring, Sram Descendant cranks, Boxxer World Cups and an LG1 style chainguide would easily take it down to around 38lbs, which I feel is the golden minimum weight for a DH bike that sees the majority of its use on the kind of DH tracks common in the UK and away from high Alpine style terrain.
Bike Build Spec:
Click on the highlighted text for individual component reviews.
|Frame||2012 Nukeproof Scalp, Size Medium, Black|
|Forks||Rock Shox Boxxer R2C2, J-Tech Tuned|
|Shock||Cane Creek Double Barrel|
|Stem||Renthal Integra, Direct Mount|
|Bars||Renthal FatBars, 30mm Rise x 750mm Wide|
|Grips||Odi Ruffian Dual Ply|
|Saddle||SDG Duster I-Beam|
|Post||SDG I-Beam 30.9|
|Shifter||Sram X0, 9 Speed|
|Rear Mech||Sram X0, 9 Speed, Short Cage|
|Cassette||Sram PG970 DH, 11-26|
|Chainring||Renthal SR4, 36T|
|Pedals||Burgtec Penthouse Mk III Flats|
|Wheels||Sun Ringle ADD Expert|
|Tyres||Maxxis High Roller II, 2.4|
Out on the Trail.
Any bike that rolls off the showroom floor equipped with the Cane Creek Double Barrel, does so with a distinct need for its new owner to get their head around, not only how the shock works, but how even the smallest adjustment makes the kind of alteration to the shocks feel that would require several clicks on a Rock Shox or a Fox shock. It’s for this reason that a good degree of patience is needed as finding a setting that best suits you and your bike isn’t easy, especially if you don’t understand the significance of what high and low speed compression does and how it affects your experience on the bike. It’s not rocket science, just something to get your head around.
Confronted with a new bike, my patience goes out the window as all I want to do is hit the hill, manual around some corners, gas-to-flat of anything in front of me and boost it into some sweet transitions – or at least I try to, but fiddling with dials, knobs, buttons or what ever, literally does my head in. It doesn’t interest me and I can’t be bothered with it, but this is the quandary with the CCDB. Take the time, figure it out and it will repay you in droves. Thankfully I had J-Tech at my side, and a desirable base setting was achieved and it only took a few tweaks to get it somewhere near perfect for my local tracks making small incremental adjustmnets. Hitting the Alps was a whole new ball game…
Off the brakes and hammering over the rough stuff is a pleasure on the Scalp, but I did feel it somewhat difficult to change lines and when needed, struggling to put the front wheel where I wanted it to be and although the Fall Out link does a great job of keeping the wheels glued to the ground, it was inherently also doing a good job of keeping them their too. This could well be an issue with the shock and one that I’m sure could also come down to technique and personal preference, but I do prefer a bike that is lively and instinctive and one that lets you know what’s going on below without slowing you down. On the brakes, the Scalp quickly lets you know it’s a single pivot bike at heart, and one that may be an issue to overcome when coming off a more forgiving linkage bike. Supple when brake dragging, no – stiff as hell when pinned, yes!
Jumping the Scalp is probably where I had the most fun. The angles combined with the suspension curve allows the Scalp to be picked up and put down as and where you chose and even approaching jumps at a speed I felt was insufficient to clear the gap, the Scalp always got me there.
The Scalp’s a dab hand at going around corners and isn’t shy when it comes to getting up on the back wheel either. With a 13.9″ BB height, about 40% sag on the CCDB and a generally low centre of mass, the Scalp just needs a little commitment to look ahead and staying off the brakes, which is also the key to unleashing what this bike will and can do!
With the CCDB shock option coming in at £1800 and the Rock Shox Vivid at £1500, your straight away struck with how well priced these are against frames that are in some cases, twice the price. Value aside, the Scalp’s popularity also stems from the fact it comes with a good reputation and a viable race pedigree that’s not usually found on products at this price point. Next year sees the introduction of the Pulse, an evolutionary step forward from the Scalp and a more expensive premium platform. But fear not as the Scalp is back next year and in what I think is its best incarnation ever, coming with the capable Rock Shox Kage shock and at a crazy price of £1300!
Any negative feedback with regards to the Scalp mostly starts and stops with the CCDB shock. It’s brilliant, it literally is, but if I was to do this again, I’d have gone for the Vivid option hands down. I don’t care about what the CCDB can do for me, because in getting there and reaching this ‘suspension nirvana’ ultimately takes me away from what I’ve come to do, and that’s ride and have fun, but if your techy, patient and are only happy with the best, you know your going to love the CCDB – a fettlers dream product.
Not the easiest bike to get over the back off and one that promotes a central position on the bike, but even with the oddly shaped top tube, standover, which for me and my 30″ inside leg is pretty important, actually isn’t that bad, but certainly no Demo 8.
I’ve ridden the Scalp on a number of tracks in Wales, England, France and Switzerland and can easily say it’ll handle it all and then some, coming as no surprise as to why it’s a popular hire bike in the Alps. Although heavy, you could get it its weight down without too drastic a measure and the weight is also a good sign that the frame is designed to take a beating and come back for more. It leaves the ground with ease and comes back down purposefully and attacks corners like a wild animal. This is not a perfect product, but not many bikes are and the Scalp is firmly up there with frames that would cost more than this built up and race ready.
This then brings me to who should buy a Scalp? Someone who wants to go and ride their bike without worrying about what comes after and still with enough money in the kitty to go racing. Everything around us is going up in price and sometimes, something’s gotta give; just don’t let it be the thing you love doing. Economics aside, this is indeed a frame and a bike to shout about and one that we’ll continue to see flying down hillsides for some time to come.
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