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KTM Scarp Exonic 2023/24

KTM Scarp Exonic 2023/24

30.10.23 12:14 5.154Text: NoBrain (translated by Carola Felchner)Photos: Erwin Haiden, Sportograf.com (13)From Wienerwald circuits to the Salzkammergut Trophy A-podium. Bikeboard's most diligent kilometre eater and KTM's lightest race full-suspension mountain bike, specced with Sram's Transmission group, had a scorching summer.30.10.23 12:14 14.090

KTM Scarp Exonic 2023/24

30.10.23 12:14 14.090 NoBrain (translated by Carola Felchner) Erwin Haiden, Sportograf.com (13)From Wienerwald circuits to the Salzkammergut Trophy A-podium. Bikeboard's most diligent kilometre eater and KTM's lightest race full-suspension mountain bike, specced with Sram's Transmission group, had a scorching summer.30.10.23 12:14 14.090

Vienna is sweltering in the summer heat. There is some wind, but it feels more like a sauna: hot and blowing from above. Even the most die-hard summer enthusiasts are seeking refuge in air-conditioned offices around noon. Only a few brave souls are braving the conditions and venturing out of the cooled spaces.

I’m one of them. For Bikeboard.at, I’m testing “my” brand-new bike, the KTM Scarp Exonic. Even though I’m far from motivated and already sweating as I climb on the saddle. It is the first week of summer vacation in Vienna when I start my daily tests.

Right from the beginning, I notice that even when the rider isn’t in top form, the ratio of kilometres covered to time spent is pretty good. In a short time, the Scarp lets you accumulate many vertical meters, which makes it a bike – also – suitable for not-so-great days. Just hop on and keep the handlebar straight; the KTM takes care of the rest.
Well, maybe that was a slight exaggeration. Even the Scarp doesn’t conquer the Kahlenberg all by itself, though climbing certainly feels almost effortless on it. I’m already looking forward to a ride or race on a day when I’m well-rested, and the temperatures aren’t soaring past 30 degrees Celsius.

But what gives me the feeling of effortlessly climbing up mountains, and why do I also feel safe and fast when descending? I’ll try to clarify both in this review.

 A bike for bad days 

... and any other day, too.
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Geometry

I’ve already read several times that the Scarp had an extended riding position. To me, it feels a bit different. When I first hopped on, I even had the impression of sitting somewhat upright. However, that feeling dissipates within minutes. The L-sized model is just right for me: extended enough for reduced wind resistance on fast sections but still upright enough to stay in control on downhill segments. Importantly, even with a rigid seatpost, it’s not a problem to shift my weight behind the saddle during descents. Even without a dropper post, I can handle steep off-road sections with ease.

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The balanced ratio of top tube length, reach, and seat angle speaks for itself. The 75-degree seat angle (effectively 70-71.5 degrees depending on size) allows me to sit very centrally yet comfortably on the bike. My efforts to move the bike forward do not fizzle out but produce the desired effect. I can almost feel the speed on uphill climbs.
Later, I’ll find that even during longer rides or races, I don’t experience any back problems, let alone numb fingers.
Only the rather minimalistic saddle does not really feel comfortable. But I attribute this to me; recently, very few lightweight saddles have been compatible with my bottom. It’s probably an age-related issue.

Geometry

S M L XL
Seat tube (mm) 380 430 480 530
Head tube (mm) 95 105 115 125
Top tube (mm) 580 600 620 640
Chainstays (mm) 435 435 435 435
Wheelbase (mm) 1,124 1,145 1,166 1,187
Steering angle 68.5° 68.5° 68.5° 68.5°
Seat angle (effective) 75°/70° 75°/70.5° 75°/71° 75°/71.5°
Standover height (mm) 780 780 780 780
BB drop (mm) 45 45 45 45
Stack (mm) 586 596 605 614
Reach (mm) 423 440 458 475

Frame

With a total weight of 9.6 kilograms, the Scarp Exonic is one of the lightest full-suspension mountain bikes on the market. Besides the top-of-the-line components on my luxury model, it is mainly the frame that accounts for the low weight.

According to KTM’s marketing manager Matthias Grick, the frame, including all necessary small parts, weighs around 1,630 grams (size L, with about 45 grams variance per size). This weight could partly be achieved by using high-quality carbon fibres. Additionally, the frame’s tubes are only reinforced where it is necessary to create a secure and durable bike.
The absence of the Horst Link saves further weight. Instead of the link between saddle and chainstays, only the so-called Straight-Line-Link (SLL) is used. Flexible seatstays, paired with a minimalist rocker, efficiently transfer forces directly to the horizontally positioned shock beneath the top tube, which saves materials and is gentle on bearings.

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Parts

To bring out the bike’s positive qualities, a rear shock is required that matches the frame’s kinematics (my test bike came with a Fox Float DPS Factory). According to KTM’s marketing manager Grick, this is standard practice.
The kinematics curve of the Scarp reduces the leverage ratio toward the end of the travel, providing additional support to the shock in this area and reducing the tendency to bottom out.
I’m literally riding the Scarp with less air pressure in the shock than recommended. This results in the frame being very responsive to small bumps while larger obstacles are still not a problem. I also increased the rebound to ensure the shock responds quickly. However, I don’t want it to become twitchy. As usual, it takes me a few attempts to fine-tune the compression damping.

Tech Specs

Frame Scarp 29" Premium Carbon SLL95 mm UDH / M-2926 Grips KTM Team silicone
Sizes S/M/L/XL Brakes Shimano XTR M9100 2-piston
Fork FOX 32 Float SC 29" Factory 100 mm remote 15x110 Rotors Shimano MT900 CL, 160/160 mm Freeza
Shock Fox Float DPS Factory remote, 190x37.5 mm Wheels DT Swiss XRC 1200 Spline 25 Carbon, Boost-Standard
Shift Levers SRAM AXS Rocker-Paddle / SRAM POD Ultimate AXS Controller Tyres Schwalbe Racing Ray/Racing Ralph Evo Superrace TLE 57-622
Rear derailleur Sram XX SL Eagle AXS T-Type Handlebar KTM Prime Carbon flat 720 mm
Crankset Sram XX SL Eagle T-Type, 34t Stem KTM Prime MTB 6°
Cassette Sram Eagle XS-1299 T-Type, 12s, 10-52t Saddle Selle Italia SLR Boost flow Carbon Rails
Chain Sram XX Eagle T-Type, 12s Seat post KTM Prime Carbon Zero 30.9/400
Weight 9.66 kg (Bikeboard) Price € 9,999 SRP

The top model is specced with a Fox 32 Float SC 29” Factory fork. I’m riding it with slightly less air pressure than recommended for my weight. This setup makes the fork very sensitive to small obstacles while also preventing bottoming out on larger rocks or edges.

The Twin-Lockout system at the handlebar that controls both the fork, and the rear shock is a handy feature. Even more handy is that cables can be independently adjusted using a set screw, even though both suspension components share a lever. To me the handling of the Twin-Lock system is perfect. With a single click, I can change the responsiveness of the KTM. This system is especially beneficial in races or when you need to ascend or descend quickly.
There are three positions available. For descents, I use the full travel of the suspension, even when riding on asphalt. For uphill sections, I typically switch to the middle position, where the suspension still works sensitively, but not the entire travel is available. There’s no noticeable bobbing.
When tackling steep and rough terrain on ascents, however, I preferably use the full travel again for better traction. When it is about conquering steep ramps with firm ground quickly, I like to lock the suspension completely, even if I don’t have a race number on the handlebar. In this setting, the Scarp feels somewhat like my road bike.

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With its lightweight frame, shock, and XC-compatible fork, the foundation for a competitive race full-suspension bike is already established. The Scarp luxury model’s components take care of the rest. Every part on the test bike is lightweight, stiff, and race-oriented.
My model, e.g., is specced with the lightweight and stiff DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheelset. I’m really happy with it. I have only positive feedback regarding both acceleration and downhill performance. Despite my carefree riding on rough terrain, the wheels remain true and – except for minor scratches – show no significant damage.

If you want to find something to grouse about, it would be the tires – a combination of Schwalbe’s Racing Ray in the front and Racing Ralph in the rear. They are true race tires, and I used the same combination for my last long-distance stage race, i.e., I like and appreciate this setup. However, I often could descend even faster on downhill sections if maximizing the breaking potential was possible. Particularly the rear tire tends to slip. In my case, switching to tubeless and reducing the tire pressure to around 1.5 bars improved things.

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 The parts on the Scarp Exonic work perfectly together  

A well-executed overall concept: check
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Sram T-Type

My Exonic is already specced with the Sram Transmission, i.e., the weight-optimised XX SL. Of course, I was eager to test the performance of this new groupset. It looks incredibly robust, and in operation, it’s even more sensitive. According to the creators, shifting under full load should be no problem. And it’s true indeed. When shifting under load, the combination of the rear derailleur mounted directly on the rear axle and the cassette with a Sync profile is sometimes so quiet that I have to check if I’ve actually changed gears. The word “effortless” comes to mind.

However, the transmission is not immune to “mis-shifting”. Shifting 2-3 gears at once can be a bit clunky. But I attribute this more to the rider’s mistakes.

The new gearing of the cassette is quite good, especially the reduced jump to the “bailout gear”. The manufacturer claims that the rear derailleur is better damped, which might explain why it seems to me like the chain slaps less against the chainstays.

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The shifter can be positioned in many places, so there should be a suitable position for every thumb. The shift buttons have a good tactile feel and sufficient spatial separation. After swapping the functions of the two buttons via the app, shifting becomes intuitively without needing to take my eyes off the trail.

Speaking of the app: Sram’s application software allows for all settings to be controlled, including fine-tuning the rear derailleur. The familiar adjustment screws found in other systems, such as the lower and upper limit adjustment screws, have been “designed out” in the second generation AXS because, according to the manufacturer, they are sources of errors and problems. The initial setup is done during assembly and is allegedly straightforward. Although I’ve never felt the need to change anything about the gearing, I have some reservations about not having any manual adjustment options. But maybe that’s an age-related concern, too…

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Salzkammergut Trophy 2023

I was determined to participate in a race with the Scarp. Why not start with the longest one? The A-course at Salzkammergut Trophy seemed perfect – over 200 kilometres and 7,000 vertical metres. I usually spend two weeks of summer vacation there, and I have enough experience from previous starts to assess the KTM under race conditions.
Since I didn’t come square with the loose gravel on site, I converted my bike to tubeless before the event. This change significantly improved my grip.
One handy feature, not common with every full-suspension bike, is the space for two bottle cages. There are four screws on the downtube for the cage, so it can be mounted in different positions on the frame, depending on personal preferences or bottle size.
Other than that, as described at the beginning, I was simply hoping for a good day and bearable temperatures. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t happen. Temperatures soared well beyond 35 degrees Celsius.

However, I did get that good day. I could maintain my pace from the beginning without being influenced too much by the competition. A young co-rider proved to be very helpful as he was riding at a similar pace, had a KTM Scarp, too, and even a power meter. He rode steadily, didn’t overexert himself on short, steep sections, and made up for it on flat terrain. Thanks to him, I found my rhythm perfectly. Eventually, he got too fast for me, and I let him go. I had found my own pace by then. For extreme distances, it’s crucial to manage your energy wisely. The Scarp helped with this. The central riding position and the gently tuned shock helped relieve the back. Unlike usual, I was able to climb uphill quickly, and thanks to the balanced setup, I descended safely.

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In a race, you can truly feel whether the components of the bike are working together. With the KTM Scarp Exonic, they absolutely do. I can’t and won’t emphasize any particular aspect; the overall concept is coherent. The lightweight, stiff frame that still absorbs bumps sensitively, the smooth shifting, the intuitive operation of the lockout, the robust wheelset that even shrugs off rough impacts, or the brakes that never let me down. Even after eleven hours straight in the saddle, the carbon saddle didn’t hurt more than usual, and the KTM Team silicone grips are non-slip without causing discomfort until the end.

Despite the heat, I was able to keep up my pace until the finish. Cramps set in from time to time after the halfway point. Drinking more fluids, some extra salt and magnesium intake, and using easier gears were all helpful.

Without a support crew, you don’t know much about the ongoing race. In the last four hours, I overtook two competitors, and no one overtook me from behind – a good sign. At the last refreshment station in Gosau, I heard that I was in 23rd place. That motivated me even more, so I summoned my last reserves. I was welcomed at the finish line after about 11:15 hours by my daughter and wife – and I found out later that I had finished third in the M50 category.

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Fazit

KTM Scarp Exonic
Model year: 2023/24
Test duration: 6 weeks / 2,000 km / 45,000 meters of climbing
Price: € 9,999 SRP
+ lightweight, stiff frame
+ sensitive rear suspension
+ intuitive cockpit – shifting and locking out without taking your eyes off the trail or your fingers off the handlebar
+ new Sram XX SL transmission
+ well-thought-out component selection
o Price – but it’s still in the four-digit range
o Race tires limit downhill potential
BB verdict: An ultralight race full-suspension bike with modern geometry

Everything went well that day: My back didn’t hurt much, and the cramps subsided. My foot soles and palms were burning, but that’s normal after almost 12 hours in the saddle.

And the bike? After washing, cleaning, oiling and greasing it thoroughly, it looked as good as it did in the morning. The 209 race kilometres don’t seem to have taken a toll on it.
... Just like the thousands of training kilometres accumulated since early July. My initial assumption from the first ride got confirmed: the KTM Scarp Exonic is an ultralight race full-suspension bike with modern geometry. It supports on bad days and is the perfect companion when you’re feeling strong.

The tested model is excellent, but it’s a bit expensive (by the way: Transmission was added “mid-flight” without affecting the SRP. Some bikes were still delivered to dealers as specified on the website). However, there are many different models available to suit almost any budget. The entry-level aluminium Scarp 294 is already available for € 2,499. The cheapest carbon model with an aluminium rear triangle, the Scarp Elite, is priced at € 3,499. In addition to the “standard” configuration, there are also the MT models (MT stands for marathon) that offer more suspension travel, bringing the total number of options to eleven.

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