Is it possible to create an aerodynamic triathlon bike that offers the comfort of a road bike? According to Scott it is and it’s called the Plasma 10…
In 1989 Scott Sports launched a product that would revolutionise the world of time trial cycling. Rather than twist and contort their body into the most efficient riding position riders could now clip on a set of aerodynamic handlebars and pedal like the wind, whilst slicing through it too. Used strategically by Greg Le Mond in his 1989 Tour de France win – these detachable bars became must-haves for pros and amateur TT riders alike. And the phrase “getting aero” was born…
Sixteen years later, in 2005, the American company, now known for its innovative approached to bike design, research and development, launched the Plasma, a 980g aero carbon frame with triathlon-specific geometry. It was the lightest in the world.
Fast-forward another ten years and Scott’s Plasma range of bikes is never far from the headlines; it’s the stead of choice for reigning World Ironman Champion Sebastian Kienle and for WorldTour outfit Orica-GreenEDGE, who won the opening TTT stage of the Giro d’Italia on the newly updated model.
The Plasma 10 is third in a line of four Plasma bikes made by Scott. A step up from entry-level this is a bike that shares many features with the Plasma Team Issue – its big hitting brother – yet is an affordable option for an amateur racer with a PB in mind.
It’s fair to say that Scott is rather fanatical about creating light, stiff, aerodynamic bikes. It’s rumoured that Simon Smart, the UK engineered who created and recently upgrading the Plasma series, spent around 18 months in research, development and wind tunnel testing to get this bike right and so this is a bike that comes with a reputation.
In creating the Plasma 10 Scott’s aim was to create a bike that featured the integration and adjustability of the more radically shaped Plasma Team Issue and Plasma Premium bikes but was affordable for the everyday triathlete. What’s more, the aim was to create an in an off-the-peg, aerodynamic bike that felt more like a road bike than a traditional bone-shaking, body-breaking TT model.
The way Scott did this was to first look at the ergonomic design of the bike, which is a fancy way of asking how it fits your body. Bike fit is as personal as the colour of your underpants and so an appreciation that no rider is the same is at the core of the Plasma’s geometry. There are two stem options on offer -TT (flat) or triathlon (+ 45mm riser stem). What’s more, with three base bar options of varying width and drop, it really is a highly adjustable set up; choose from flat, drop or rise and 40cm or 42cm wide bars.
Aero features and spec
The list of aero features on this bike is so long that you’d need a free half hour to even try and list them. The crux of it though, is the use of F01-X230 parametric airfoil technology. Airfoil is a term used in aeronautical engineering to describe a surface designed to influence the movement of air currents over parts of a plane – a wing say, or in this case the shape of the tubes on a bike. The Plasma’s frame has aero zones – surfaces that direct the airflow over the bike, or over the rider, in the most efficient way. The tubes, which are fat, chunky and create a rather funky looking silhouette, are shaped like an elongated bullet, which maximizes airflow over the bike and rider as one.
An interesting feature is that the seat post is not inline with the seat tube, which at first glance looks like an eye-bending, optical illusion. The seat post sits at an angle to the seat tube – a position that Scott has found to be more efficient – and so as to not compromise the reach, the seat post has an extra 10mm of horizontal adjustment.
The braking system has been upgraded from the previous edition of this bike, which featured a conventional Shimano Ultegra direct mount front brake. The rear brake is now properly integrated below the bottom bracket and the front brake is low profile and has been aerodynamically shaped. A clever feature is the fork, which also allows for the installation of any direct mount or standard brake caliper.
Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset is an obvious choice for a bike at this price point. Some might question whether an electronic Di2 setup should come as standard but the Ultegra shifting is perfectly adequate and there is the cabling option to run electric.
A standard 39/53 crankset and 11-25 tooth cassette gives a range of gears well suited to a flat TT course and equally one with a few lumps and bumps. Syncros, Scott’s favoured component manufacturer, and Profile, the California company with over 25 years of aero expertise supply the finishing kit. The sleek Profile Ozero 11 TT bars are particularly noteworthy with their sleek, tapered design and Di2 compatibility.
For a triathlon bike to feel like a road bike you’d expect a few compromises. For a start there’s the issue of comfort – not many roadies choose to hang out in a TT position for three hours on their 100km Sunday spin, so you’d expect there to be some dampening features in the frame, which there aren’t.
Instead, the frameset of the Plasma 10 uses a HMX carbon – a slightly different mould to the top of the range HMF carbon layup used on the Plasma Team Issue but one that uses a layup that delivers a high level of stiffness and rigidity. Despite this a ride on the Plasma 10 does feel familiarly like a road bike and much of this is down to the ride position, which is pretty well sorted, thanks to the adjustments in the set up. (The HMX layup doesn’t feature the integrated fork-head tube setup of the Plasma 5 in order to keep costs down.)
When it comes to acceleration the Plasma 10 was a touch hard to get going but this is most likely down to the heavy wheel and tyre combination – it’s surprising to see the same Syncros 27 Aero Profile rims on this bike as on some of Scott’s bottom of the range Speedster road bike (admittedly the hubs are upgraded). An obvious and sensible upgrade would be to Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone SLSs.
The Continental Grand Sport tyres are another addition to the spec that has the potential for the bike to feel sluggish. An upgrade to a set of Conti’s GP4000s II tyres would give a weight saving of 50g and give a more performance orientated whilst enduring several months of wear.
Once up to speed the there’s no doubt that the Plasma 10 is a lovely ride. It rolls beautifully and it’s easy to drill the pedals and get speed up. Surprisingly, for a bike with that favours going in a straight line the handling is great and what’s more, thanks to the squared off down tube and the oversized headtube area the bike fares pretty well in cross winds. Shimano Ultegra shifting is precise and suitably fast for a bike at this price point, although the aerobars could do with a touch more padding.
All in all this is a high caliber bike with a frameset built on some of the most detailed research into aerodynamics. To be able to access this technology at an affordable price is a pretty nice surprise. What’s missing perhaps in the Plasma 10, is the finesse of a finishing kit that matches the frame – something that can be easily fixed with a few sensible upgrades if you have cash to spare.