Review: Scott Plasma 5 Superbike
Mar 16, 2015
article & images by Nick Salazar
It's fair to say, and I often have, that we're in a bit of a golden age for triathlon bikes. Recent efforts like the Dimond bike, the Felt IA, and other tri-specific efforts have shown that the triathlon market is significant enough to warrant bike designs specific to our sport (and independent from UCI design restrictions). A lot of companies are still making UCI-legal frames that get some tri-specific add-ons, like the Trek Speed Concept, the Cervelo P5, and now the bike at hand, the Scott Plasma 5. And although these two design roads - all-triathlon parts vs UCI + tri parts - at first seem to be quite different, they can still lead to very similar results, at least as far as the wind is concerned. That's because despite their UCI limitations, bikes like the Speed Concept and the P5 have been virtually unbeatable in the wind tunnel. Some companies are showing results that rival or surpass these bikes at some yaw angles, but in general their supremacy as top-tier bikes still seems fairly safe.
The Plasma 5, in my opinion, is very likely every bit as good in the wind tunnel as any other top-tier bike, and has some very nice tri-specific features to boot. It's a gorgeous machine, from tip to tail, and rides beautifully. I've been spending the last four months or so getting to know this machine inside and out, learning all its features, pitfalls, and pleasant surprises, and I'm finally ready to write. Like any machine with highly-integrated components, there are ups and downs to the proprietary nature of its parts. But before we get started, I should mention that I'm reviewing the "Team Issue" build of this bike. It has SRAM RED 22 mechanical shifting with the new wider-blade R2C shifters, as well as a Zipp 404-front 808-rear wheelset, which proved my favorite combination of Zipp wheels. Save for a power meter and a tri-specific saddle, this is a complete racing setup that wants for nothing. A lot of high-end builds these days still leave me a little cold, and I'd prefer to just build up a bike from the frameset. Not so here - with the exception of possibly wanting to swap SRAM for Di2, I have zero complaints about how this bike is set up.
We'll start our review with the front end, which is becoming the most intricate area on the modern tri bike, and the place where bikes are really distinguished from one another. In the case of the Plasma 5, that involves the integrated aerobar and stem, fork, and brake. We'll save the integrated hydration and storage for the following page, as there's a lot to discuss there as well. Hit the jump and let's get started.
Complete Bike - Tri Mode
The Scott Plasma 5 is one of the latest generation of superbikes to feature a whole lot of integration up front. In its debut year, it was ridden to a World Championship victory by Sebastian Kienle, Scott's marquis athlete. This section shows the bike with its +45mm stem and the integrated bottle/storage unit that go with it.
Complete Bike - Low-Stack TT Mode
The Plasma 5 can also be built with a lower-stack +0mm stem for those who need a lower position. However, in this configuration is cannot use the integrated bottle or storage mode. But it's VERY clean, and I really like the look in this mode.
The Plasma 5 uses an integrated version of the Profile Design Aeria bar, and an integrated stem to match. The stem is available in the stock +45mm version, or a +0mm version that can be purchased separately, but the low version isn't compatible with the bike's integrated aero bottle.
The integrated bottle is a very slick and usable aerodynamic feature, and something triathletes have wanted to see for years. The only real downside is that it's not compatible with the low-stack stem. The bottle has a number of somewhat difficult-to-install rubber pieces (I wish they were all just one piece), but once on the bike it's a really cool feature.
The integrated storage unit forms a perfect aero match with the rest of the front end, and has quite a lot of space to store gels, tools, tires, etc. Even better is that Scott used the industry-standard boss spacing, so that you could optionally mount any other top tube storage unit you wanted. This could be nice if you run the bike in low-stack TT mode, because then you could put on a storage box with a rounded leading edge, like some of the units from XLAB, or the carbon unit we featured from Glen Alden.
The Plasma 5 uses custom integrated TRP centerpull brakes that completely hide from the wind. These brakes are built on the Shimano Direct-Mount standard. But in an awesome and very thoughtful move, Scott also included a standard brake boss on the front of the bike. This means that if, for example, your brake gets damaged in travel, you could easily bolt on a standard brake as a last-minute replacement. In my case, I installed a TriRig Omega, which even fit underneath the aero cover after a small modification.
More shots of all the beautiful pieces of this very clever bike.