One bike from the range that really shined for us was the Spark 700 Plus Tuned. 120mm may seem a bit down on travel but with the high volume tyres absorbing the bumps, it feels like there’s much more underneath you and the lack of fatigue is startling. It’s honestly best to think about this like a car, where the tyres absorb the small bumps and the suspension the bigger knocks. The relief on your hands is really noticeable and allows you to push harder for longer.
“Turn it downhill and it will embarrass many bikes with much greater travel and marketing bravado”
Of course, Plus wheels aren’t perfect. Tyre pressure is absolutely critical. You’ll have to have a good play around for your trail conditions – too soft and the tyres will roll around underneath you and too firm and it feels like you’re riding a bouncy castle. It’s nice to see proper treads coming in to this size though. The Maxxis Rekons were meaty and good enough for Welsh winter riding.
The Spark may be the bike that Nino Schurter has been dominating the XC circuit on, but don’t let the name confuse you, this bike excels on far more than simple pedal chugging. Turn it downhill and it will embarrass many bikes with much greater travel and marketing bravado, World Cup cross-country tracks have become far gnarlier in recent years (how’s that for irony?) and this is a bike that is capable of tackling them… and far more.