Aerodynamic meets low weight: The Scott Plasma Limited

<![CDATA[ #pubdate {display:none;}]]> In the '90s it was all about weight. Bicycle manufacturers concentrated on what cyclists wanted -- very light bikes. The demand led to a revolution in material manipulation and shaping technology.

Aerodynamics, however, weren't ignored, they just took longer to catch on. Because a wind tunnel is required to see low drag coefficient, a bike's aerodynamic qualities are far more subtle. Eventually, athletes realized that aerodynamics are equal to -- if not greater than -- weight in creating a fast bike. Case-in-point: aerodynamic water bottles.

Manufacturers were forced to focus on aerodynamics when triathlon began its explosive growth and bike weight hit a plateau of 16-17 pounds. Complex monocoque frames tested in wind tunnels were produced to reduce drag. The downside was that this process required more frame materials, making aerodynamic frames much heavier compared to a road frame with round tubing.

On a flat course at high speeds -- as in a time trial -- these bikes were much faster, but once speed dropped and you had to climb they slowed riders down. For triathletes facing a varied or hilly course, it was an either-or situation; either use a light bike that climbs well or an aero bike that produces less drag. The real challenge to manufacturers was producing a hybrid of the two.

A technological marriage

Enter the Scott Plasma Limited. This bike is about as aerodynamic as they come and weighs an amazing 15.4 pounds. Certain design elements of this bike, such as the absence of a traditional seat post, are obvious indicators of a decrease in weight.

Where double materials are generally required, there is now a solid beam with a movable seat cap on top. This allows for a relatively small range of adjustment; if you cut this beam, it's permanent. You can already see a lot of other brands picking up on variations of this design.

The Scott seat post design doesn't seem to have any of the issues I've come across with other tri bikes. With most, the airfoil shape only allows a small amount of torque on the clamping bolts (one example is the Cervelo P3 Carbon bike). If you stay within the torque limits, the seat post may begin to slide down, especially if you're a heavy rider. Tighten the bolts further and you risk a cracked frame. I had one athlete so frustrated with his sliding seat post he had carbon fiber stops made for his bike.

Beyond the frame

As expected with a frame like this, the components are top shelf -- Dura-Ace throughout. The Zipp 606 wheelset is enhanced with DT Swiss hubs instead of the stock Zipp hubs.

My only reservation is the Profile aero bars. The set up is solid, light and comfortable, with good adjustment. Yet on a high-end bike like the Plasma, I would expect a fully-integrated aero bar rather than a clip-on. While the rest of the bike looks aerodynamically clean, this feels clunky.

Because monocoque frames are very expensive to produce, some manufacturers cut corners by producing a smaller number of sizes (only S, M and L), making up for it with a wider range of components. Unfortunately, this leaves out a lot of differently sized cyclists. The Scott has five sizes, ranging from XS to XL, so most riders should be able to find a bike that fits them.

Sold on Scott

I was surprised to find this bike stiffer than my Giant road bike. I thought a bike this light would have some flex, but I couldn't detect any around the bottom bracket. The handling is what really sold me. There are not enough o's in smooth to describe how this bike corners or feels.

It is one of the few bikes that is noticeably faster than whatever you were riding before. One of our veteran coaches put it best: "This is the first bike I have ever owned where I was completely satisfied."

The Plasma was purported to be the fastest growing bike brand at Kona last year. With over 15 of our athletes, coaches and team members on Scott Plasmas, I've had the opportunity to get plenty of feedback. I haven't heard any major complaints on durability, ride or design. The only initial problem was obtaining one.

Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over 10 years. He currently holds expert licenses from USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full-time. He is a freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit for more information or email him at

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