Love them or loathe them, disc brakes are definitely becoming more and more prevalent in the world of road cycling and as the pace of progress continues, aero road bikes are increasingly at the cutting edge of road disc innovation. So, can hydraulic disc braking and aerodynamic excellence live in harmony for the average road rider? We got our hands on the latest iteration of the Scott Foil - now built around disc brakes - to find out.
See the latest Foil Disc range >
The Scott Foil is a bike that has been around for a few years now and led the way in terms of aerodynamic performance when it was first introduced, racking up a number of wins underneath Mark Cavendish as part of the HTC-Columbia team. Fast forward to 2015 and the Foil had a drastic makeover with improved comfort and compliance, lower weight, increased stiffness and better aerodynamic performance, and it's this bike that forms the template for the new Disc version.
That's not to say that Scott have simply shoe-horned disc brakes onto the existing frame though, and the Foil Disc gets a completely redesigned asymmetric fork to handle the extra braking forces created by discs. As part of that redesign, the fork has been lengthened and the blades narrowed to guarantee perfect airflow around the brakes. At the back end, the non-drive side chainstay and has been beefed up and lengthened by 5mm to accommodate the brakes.
But disc brakes aren't aero right? As the big bike brands learn more about how to build performance road bikes around disc brakes, we're seeing more and more optimized designs - on their own disc brakes may appear less aero but combined with carefully crafted frame design, the aerodynamic performance can match or even excel the equivalent rim brake models - and the new Foil is no different. As part of the redesigned fork Scott have added clever fairings which shroud the calipers and improve efficiency, as do the removable thru-axle levers. The cleaner fork crown area afforded by the removal of the rim brake caliper further increases the aerodynamic performance, and in combination Scott claim that this brings the Foil Disc in line with the standard Foil for aero efficiency. Plus, you should in theory be faster overall due to the increased modulation and braking power in all conditions, allowing you to brake later and carry more speed through corners.The New Scott Foil Disc : 8 Things You Need To Know >
We've been putting the Scott Foil 20 Disc through its paces over the last few weeks to see how it performs out on the road. The cheapest option in the Foil Disc range, the 20 comes with Shimano Ultegra throughout, even down to the cassette, with Shimano's BR-8070 hydraulic levers and gear ratios which are pretty much spot on for this type of bike with a 52/36 chainset and 11-30 cassette. The frame is made from Scott's HMF carbon fibre - one notch below the top end HMX carbon - with a full carbon fork and tapered steerer with integrated carbon dropouts. The aerodynamic seat post is carbon fibre as well, with the rest of the finishing kit coming from Scott's accessories brand, Syncros. Although you don't get the super sleek integrated handlebar and stem from the top of the range models, the Foil 20 Disc stills gets a chunky stem with specially designed spacers to keep the aero aesthetic without sacrificing adjustability. The Syncros disc-specific wheels are wrapped in Continental's Grand Sport 28mm tyres.
Born To Win. This Foil 20 Disc Road Bike has been redesigned by Scott for 2018 and brings new levels of aerodynamics to life on the road as you know it.
- Frame - FOIL DISC HMF / IMP F01 AERO Carbon
- Fork - FOIL DISC HMF
- Drivetrain - Shimano Ultegra
- Brakes - Shimano BR-R8070 Hydraulic Disc
On The Road
First things first, this bike looks INCREDIBLE. I'm a huge fan of the styling - it looks fast but also keeps that race bike aesthetic that can sometimes be lost in pursuit of absolute aero gains, and the shrouds on the fork add a sense of urgency to the design and almost make it look faster. And then there's the paint job. The colours are brilliant, with an understated classy look that doesn't shout too much but just gets better the more you like at it. Roll it out on a sunny day and the dark navy glistens in the sunshine. All round, it's a fine looking bike and I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best looking disc-equipped road bike around at the moment.
Beyond the colour scheme, the frame deserves a closer look and you can see the work that has gone into the design, presumably in the wind tunnel, with the hourglass headtube and fork crown tucked into the fork. At the rear, the tubes are cut off square with dropped seatstays and the rear wheel tucked into the seat tube. While we (unfortunately) don't have the Rutland Cycling wind tunnel up and running just yet to verify any of Scott's aero claims, the Foil certainly
So far so good, but does all that stiffness create a bone-jarring ride? Not at all. In fact, the Foil Disc is surprisingly comfortable given its aero credentials, after all this bike is based around the same chassis that Mathew Hayman rode to Paris-Roubaix glory a few seasons ago. It gobbles up rough roads with ease, no doubt in part due to the 28mm tyres, and feels fast without being uncomfortable. Compared to many aero bikes which are all about speed and nothing else, you could comfortably take the Foil out for a long ride without impediment - and get round a lot faster as well. For an aero bike it also climbs admirably - weighing in at just over 8kg it's no lightweight but it's not a bike that feels heavy, as such, and with the well-specced gearing you can spin up most climbs with ease.
The final note on the frame is just how impeccably it handles. There's no doubt this bike is fast but it is also remarkably calm and stable - lively but just the right side of twitchy. On one of my favourite testing grounds, a fast downhill through a 270 degree left hander before a sharp punchy uphill followed by another following downhill section, the Foil absolutely ripped away, pinning the bends before jumping up hill. The planted handling inspires so much confidence that you just want to push faster and harder.
Which brings us nicely on to the disc brakes, which just back up that confidence from the frame. The hydraulic brakes perform brilliantly and the stopping power is phenomenal, allowing you to push that little harder knowing that they've got your back. On a couple of occasions I found myself grabbing a handful of lever to countenance my own over-confidence with the brakes bailing me out and saving me any injury or embarrassment. Miraculously, given the weather that we've had at the start of the year, I didn't have a single wet mile on the Foil, but from previous experience I can be certain that the disc brakes would out-perform rim brakes when the weather turns. The rest of the Shimano Ultegra drivetrain is as reliable as you'd expect with shifting both front and back crisp and precise, while the choice of gearing provides the perfect balance for this type of bike - enough at the top end to reap the benefits of the aero frame, while providing plenty of range at the bottom end to get up just about anything.
So, this is all very positive, but were there any negatives from my experience of the Foil Disc? Well, nothing that should put you off adding one to your new bike shopping list. The standard position was a little shorter and more upright than my usual (admittedly aggressive) position, but due to the semi-integrated stem and spacers I would have looked to cut the steerer tube down to match my fit and retain the smooth aesthetic if it were my own bike. The 28mm tyres no doubt improve comfort but you might want to swap them out for a livelier rubber that matches the bikes - again, no big issue and one of those things that most roadies will have a preference for anyway. Lastly, I had some very minor brake rub on full-bore out of the saddle efforts but this should be negated fairly easily with a bit of mechanical fettling.
Overall, this is a really brilliant bike at a reasonable price point. Aero disc bikes have become increasingly popular over the last few years and the Foil 20 Disc is undoubtedly one of the best options out there if you're looking to move over to disc brakes without sacrificing performance. It's a finely balanced bike which provides a fantastic frame, assured handling and exceptional ride quality all in a fast, responsive, racy package that's looks stunning.
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You can browse the entire Disc Road range online, or you can get your hands on it in your nearest Rutland Cycling store.
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