In this bout, two renowned long-travel bruisers go head-to-head in a vicious battle for the title of Bike Park King. Most people would place their bets on the SCOTT Gamber – it is a full-on downhill bike after all. However, the Specialized Kenevo has some tricks up its sleeve… Can the eMTB underdog leave its opponent in the dust? Find out here!

Both of our fighters have dual-crown forks and masses of travel. Both are capable, confident and like to get rowdy. One has a motor, the other doesn’t. To find a champion we put them in a head-to-head battle. A battle fought in lap after lap of the bike park, on berms, jumps, roots and rock gardens!

Introducing the SCOTT Gambler

In the blue corner, we have the infamous SCOTT Gambler! Fresh off the top step of the 2020 Downhill World Cup overall, there is little left for the Gambler to prove between the tapes. While the € 4,599 Gambler 920 tested here isn’t made of carbon like it’s World Cup winning sibling, it’s still an all-out downhill race bike proven to be one of the fastest rigs in the world. Designed and tuned to be ridden at breakneck speeds, the SCOTT embodies everything that a great downhill bike should be! Rider personalisation is almost endless, with adjustable chainstay lengths, geo-adjust headset cups, a four-way flip-chip that tweaks geometry and kinematics and the choice to run 27.5” or 29” wheels. However, how does all this specialisation affect its all-round performance in the bike park? Do the small cassette and race-orientated design limit its riding fun? Well, you’re about to find out!

Made for all-out speed
The SCOTT Gambler has already been proven on the most demanding race tracks in the world!
Personalisation is key
The Gambler is incredibly adjustable, allowing you to tweak its geometry for different tracks and conditions.
Specced for the race track
From the DH casing tires to the four-piston brakes, the Gambler is ready to shred!
The small 7-speed cassette on the Gambler is made for downhill race tracks and limits the bike’s all-round potential.

Introducing the Specialized Kenevo

In the red corner, the Specialized Turbo Kenevo stands proud! A blatant “F#ck you!” to chairlifts and shuttle vehicles around the world, the Kenevo (which retails at € 7,599) brings the bike park to your favourite local riding spot. Sporting a massive 180 mm travel with a dual-crown RockShox Boxxer fork, this aluminium heavyweight is a force to be reckoned with on even the gnarliest tracks. However, it doesn’t stop there – the Kenevo is also specced to climb with a dropper post, bottle cage and a wide-range drivetrain. Powered by the mighty Specialized 2.1 motor and a 700 Wh battery, it should be nearly as fast on the uphills as it is ripping back down into the valley. Is it a good enough climber to truly put uplifts out of business? Does it pack a punch mighty enough to take down the SCOTT Gambler? There’s only one way to find out!

A downhill bike with a motor?
The Kenevo is that and more!
Hydration is important!
The Kenevo is capable of stowing a full-size bottle inside its front triangle – great for those sun-baked days in the bike park or backcountry!
Gears for days!
Compared to the Gambler’s small downhill cassette, the Kenevo shines with a wide-range 11-speed drivetrain.
The powerhouse
The Specialized 2.1 motor makes easy work of any climb, powering you back to the top of the hill for another lap!

The geometries compared

Before the contestants touch gloves and the fight begins, let’s take a moment to compare the geometry and intentions of both bikes.

The SCOTT Gambler only has to be good at one thing – descending. Therefore, the geometry, kinematics and are all uncompromisingly optimised for downhill performance. For example, the seat tube angle, which makes a huge difference to a bike’s uphill performance, is completely irrelevant here. Another example is the suspension kinematics, which can be entirely optimised for maximum traction and control without having to compromise for uphill efficiency.

On the other hand, the Specialized Kenevo has to perform on both the climbs and the descents. As we all know, simply bolting a motor to a bike does not make it a great eMTB. Therefore, the designers of the bike had to come to a compromise, though the balance between uphill and downhill performance is achieved exceedingly well in this case. Specialized have combined a massive 495 mm reach and 1293 mm wheelbase with a steep 77° seat tube angle. To put things into perspective, the Kenevo has more than 30 mm longer reach and 20 mm longer wheelbase compared to the Gambler ( in size Large/S4 equivalents, as tested).

The Gambler, in turn, is just over a degree slacker in the head angle and 15 mm shorter in the chainstay in its low bottom bracket setting and long chainstay configuration. It sports a super-short 405 mm seat tube across all sizes, even shorter than the Kenevo’s which measures in at 440 mm in the S4 (Large equivalent) tested here.

Another interesting fact about the geometry of both bikes is that both have been designed to let the rider choose a size based on their preferred reach, as opposed to being shoehorned into a specific size by the seat tube length.

The battle – Who rules in the bike park?

Enough with the theory, let’s get this party started! In order to crown a victor, we subjected both bikes to a variety of trails and conditions, from hard-packed bike park jump lines to rough, natural, gnarly downhill tracks and everything in between. We even put them to the test on a climb, because sometimes you want to shred another lap (or three) after the lift has closed…

Round 1: Fast, man-made bike park tracks

The first round was fought on hard-packed berms, jumps and rollers!

The first round was fought on hard-packed bike park tracks, littered with large jumps, massive berms and even bigger braking bumps. Here, the SCOTT landed some early blows with its lighter weight and slightly shorter geometry, leading to increased manoeuvrability both in the air and on the ground. However, due to its high front end and slack head angle, the Gambler requires an active riding style to keep in check on flatter trails. If you don’t actively keep the front weighted through flatter corners, the SCOTT is prone to losing grip with the front wheel washing out

While the Kenevo can’t keep up with the Gambler’s agility and manoeuvrability, it scores with a very balanced ride due to its balanced geometry and well-placed motor and battery – this is particularly beneficial to less experienced or active riders. Despite putting up a good fight, the first round goes to the SCOTT Gambler which delivers with its agility and manoeuvrability in the corners, jumps and berms.

Round 2: The dogfight – Who rules in the air?

Both bikes are capable of sending massive jumps despite displaying very different jumping characteristics

While we all know that jumps are just for show, they’re an integral and insanely fun part of all-round gravity riding and should not be overlooked. Therefore, round two of our gravity bout was fought on steep lips, dirt kickers and hefty drops. Once again, the Gambler’s agility and chuckability shine bright. It’s just as easy to pull up for a large gap as it is to throw the rear end out for a fat moto whip.

However, the heavier Kenevo has a trick up its sleeve: its higher weight makes it very stable in the air, letting it sail over even the largest of jumps without batting an eyelid. Essentially, if you pull a straight air (also known as a dead sailor) over a jump on the Kenevo, you feel noticeably safer and more stable than on the Gambler. However, before you try to throw a whip or pull a table on the Specialized make sure you’ve hit the gym – it requires a lot of strength and skill to make jumps on the Kenevo look stylish. If you are looking for a bike that feels stable in the air, the Kenevo comes out on top. However, if you are all about pulling shapes in the air, the Gambler is your winner in this round.

Round 3: Roots, rocks and natural trails

Round three saw the fighters take on roots, rocks and natural terrain!

How do the contestants fare when things get fast, rough and steep? Can the Gambler run away with the title or will the Kenevo’s extra length give it the stability it needs for a knockout performance? We took on steeps, roots and rock gardens to find out!

With the SCOTT solely designed with speed in mind, it should hardly be a surprise that it hauls through even the most demanding sections with the speed and precision of a well-placed jab. In the rough steeps, the Gambler is extremely stable and confident, yet its ability to easily change lines is even more impressive! The combination of stability and agility the SCOTT displays on gnarly tracks really show the bike’s downhill prestige – it truly is world-class.

Hold on and plough through – the Gambler effortlessly reaches breakneck speeds!

If the Gambler is a nimble, lightweight fighter, the Kenevo is a monster-trucking heavyweight. Smashing through whatever stands in its path, the longer geometry and extra weight of the Specialized give it unstoppable momentum and confidence. This can lend a helping hand to less experienced riders, guiding them through rough terrain and helping them stay balanced and composed without having to muscle the bike to keep it on line. As well as the geometry and higher overall weight, another contributing factor is the higher ratio of sprung to unsprung mass due to the low-slung motor and battery, which gives the bike incredible balance in the rough.

Monster trucking confidence – the Kenevo is a stable and balanced heavy hitter!

Once again, less experienced riders will benefit from the Kenevo’s balance, confidence and stability when things get gnarly. While it isn’t far behind the Gambler on rough and natural DH tracks, experienced riders looking to push their limits and ride flat out will prefer the increased agility the SCOTT can offer.

Round 4: The uphill

Sure, this seems like a totally unfair round seeing as one bike has a dropper, wide-range cassette and a flippin’ motor… However, in order to truly crown a bike park king, you have to take into consideration each bike’s uphill performance when the lift is closed. So, let’s get to it!

Climbing on the SCOTT Gambler is an uphill battle. As expected, the downhill specialist is not a joy to climb with. The suspension sags and bobs under pedalling, the geometry is not at all uphill-friendly and the short, fixed seat post doesn’t help either. If the lifts are shut or the uplift bus cancelled, you’ll be pushing the Gambler to the top of the hill.

Finish your lap, high-five your mates, engage Shuttle mode and hold on – the Kenevo is your personal uplift service!

The Kenevo on the other hand… Finish your lap, high-five your mates, engage Shuttle mode and hold on – the Kenevo will have you back at the top of the hill faster than any uplift can. With its powerful motor, comfortable and efficient climbing position and large battery, you can bring the bike park to your local trails. Wherever you take the Specialized, your personal uplift is ready to go. Whether you use it to scope new freeride lines, lap your home trail or head higher into the mountains than any lift takes you, the Specialized Kenevo will never miss a beat. It’s safe to say it wins this final round with ease!

Conclusion: Who won the fight?

If you live next to a bike park or lift-accessed DH track and want to spend all eternity riding laps, laps and more laps while pulling big whips and riding faster than anyone else at the park there’s one clear winner – of course, it’s the SCOTT Gambler. However, for those of you who want to bring the bike park to your local trails, shred laps once the lift has closed and explore rowdy new lines to test your limits, the Kenevo performs with a knockout win!

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