Last year I did a post on the release of the Trek Scratch. A cross between the popular Remedy and the Session 88 down hill machine, the Scratch is a curious mix between an aggressive all mountain bike, and light freeride bike. In many ways, the Scratch is Trek’s answer to the popular SX Trail from big brand competitor Specialized- a light and flickable freerider that jumps well, while still being capable of pedaling back up. Trek is relatively new to the gravity game though, while Specialized has been running full steam ahead since the release of the Demo 9 over five years ago. While Trek has quietly been making long travel single pivot freeride oriented machines for a while, it wasn’t until the ABP design was incorporated into their gravity program that their bikes really took off.
What has surprised me is how few Scratch models I’ve seen on local trails. (likely due to the retail pricing- the flagship Scratch 9 lists for $5769, while the SX Trail comes in at $4800, almost $1000 less. Yow! That’s a lot of lift tickets and dime bags! You know how you dirt bag freeriders are, and yes, I know people don’t really do dime bags anymore) One thing the Scratch features that the SX doesn’t is pedalability. I ride with several friends that rock the SX Trail. Can they keep up on the climbs back up? Kind of. The Scratch offers a different proposition, with a pedal-friendly seat tube angle of 74.1°, you are positioned significantly better for climbing, even with the short stem/wide bar cockpit most freeriders run. In fact, the bike looks like it would be an excellent bike for the northwest- a light freerider capable of the stunts and features of Black Rock and Post Canyon, but very easily pedaled up for another run. I’ve wanted to spend some time on one for a while. Since I’m currently riding both a Session 88 and a Remedy, I had to get a taste of the new sibling. During our Crankworx trip I finally was able to get a ride in on both the 2010 and the 2011 Scratch coil models.
Since I was with a friend, we took both 2010 and 2011 Scratch coil models out for a few runs down the mountain. The plan was to head down Ninja Cougar, as it is a bit tighter of a run than many of the groomers, and seemed like it would fit the personality and intended use of this bike well. To get there, we dropped into A-line. For this first run I was on the 2010 model.
To date, I’ve only been down A-line on my Session 88. Last year with a Totem fork on the front end, and this year with a Boxxer. Needless to say, the Scratch feels considerably lighter than the DH bike. In fact, initially it made me nervous- it felt more like riding my Remedy down the jump trail than the DH bike, although the cockpit length has the shorter top tube and reach of a DH bike. That said, it didn’t stop me from sending it while riding down A-line. The bike felt retardedly light. Maybe even too light. (is there really such a thing?)
The build of the 2010 bike was a bit confusing to me, but probably felt off because I wasn’t used to it. I run 29.24″ bars on both my DH bike and my trail bike, so getting on this bike with narrower 28″ bars felt a bit twitchy. That said, I’m more interested in testing the frame capabilities, not the spec decided on by a product manager trying to please some consumer demographic. I’m not sure Trek knows exactly who that is yet- looking at the bikes Cam and Brandon are riding show that what they’re riding looks more like small sized Remedy frames. If Trek wanted to sell more Scratches, it would make sense to get them on this bike. (Take a look at what comes up when you Google Cam Mccaul/ Bike Check … hmm. Next time I see those guys, I should film one myself) Darren Berrecloth rides an SX Trail, and SX, and a Demo. Cam and Brandon are riding the Ticket, the Session, and un-obtainium versions of what looks like a beefed up Remedy. (I could be wrong though, it could just be a small Remedy frame, though I believe last year his SS bike didn’t have the full-floater shock mount)
What kind of bike is it?
The Scratch isn’t sure if it is a hard-core trail bike, a slopestyle bike, or a light freeride bike. From the geometry numbers, it looks like the frame could handle more than a little of all of that. The 2010 felt like they were trying to make the Scratch a trail bike that could handle burly shit, as opposed to a light freerider, based on the cockpit set up. I was feeling a bit squirrelly with the “narrow” low rise bars. In fact, the cockpit was considerably more “XC” or “all mountain” than my personal Remedy, with its 50mm stem and 2″ rise, 29″ Sunline bars. (and I ride and climb everything with that set up.) In fact, the Scratch basically felt like my Remedy, but with .5″ inches shorter reach on the top tube, a slightly heavier tubeset, a coil shock, and another .5″- .75″ inches of travel. And that is exactly why I’m so intrigued with this bike. I’ve ridden the Remedy on just about everything. I almost took it for a run down the slopestyle course at the Ranchstyle even- that is how solid that bike works as an all arounder. The reason I didn’t? My shock set-up at the time, lack of a chain guide, and a long top tube.
It is really hard to give this bike a fair shake after only a few runs on chatter-bump filled terrain, especially since I was directly comparing it to the Session 88 I was riding just before hand. Ideally, I’d like to get one on our local trails here- a pedal up Seven Springs at Post Canyon with a DH session on all the jump lines and stunts on the way back down would be a way better testing scenario of its all around capabilities than strictly gravity trails at the bike park.
On the second run I switched bikes with Matthew for some time on the 2011 model. The biggest difference between the 2010 and the 2011 was the spec of the 7″ travel Fox single crown fork. That extra inch of travel makes a huge difference though. It removed the nervous feeling I was getting at speed and over braking bumps, and really made this bike fun at the bike park. Another upgrade to the bike was a carry-over from the carbon Remedy model- the down tube armor.
The down tube armor is a welcome addition. While the Remedy and Session bikes are strong and light, some of the light weight is attributed to thin tubing. I haven’t had a single issue with the strength of my (Trek) bikes even though I’ve been wringing the crap out of them, but I do have dents and small dings on my down tubes where my T.H.E. fender (which I run year-round) doesn’t protect the frame.
The cockpit looks better as well; I liked the stem and bar spec better on the 2011. The higher rise bar felt way better while boosting the jumps and wall rides on Crank It Up. In a way, stem and bar spec doesn’t matter to me, since I already have personal faves I would run, but it is nice to have parts lying around that can be useable, as opposed to dumped in the recycling bin. For the average buyer though, this makes a big difference, since many bike shops don’t like to do bar and stem swaps. In 2011, the bike is starting to find its voice. The air models continue to retain the hard core all mountain vibe, while the coil models feel way more like a light freerider or slopestyle machine.
That said, for bike park use, we both preferred the 2011 model. In fact, after a run, Matthew wanted to 2011 bike back- he was feeling way sketched out on the 2010 on the jump lines. Turns out the 7″ Fox 36 Van makes a huge difference in the gnar. (as to be expected)
When considering both models in their stock form, and for bike park use, the 2011 felt like the way to go. Where the 2010 felt sketchy, the 2011 felt like a light and fully whippable version of my Session 88. Those considering a 2010 Scratch air vs. a Scratch coil will do well to consider where they will be riding the bike.
I’m hoping to source a 2011 Scratch frame for the coming season to replace my Remedy, as I liked what I was feeling with this bike. Our few runs on the bike really weren’t enough get a solid impression on how it would do as an all-arounder, but we liked what we saw. For me, the question is: how light can you build a Trek Scratch for epic all mountain rides, while still maintaining the big hit capability? The 2010 Scratch coil comes in around 35lbs. That is heavy for a trail bike. While it certainly is all relative, try keeping up with guys on 26lb. 5″ travel trail machines on a bike 10lbs. heaver. I’m certainly one of those riders that want it all, but when you are putting out this much coin for your dream ride, I don’t think that is unrealistic. Guys are building up hardcore all-mountain quiver-killing machines with DH tires at sub 30 weights now. Although it will cost you an arm and a leg, the best part is that we consumers have a ton of sweet options to choose from.