Review: Scott Plasma 5 Superbike
Mar 16, 2015
article & images by Nick Salazar
In recent years, the practical needs of long-course triathletes have finally come front and center in the world of bike design. No longer can a bike simply be fast on its own, it has to have the ability to store fluids and tools without compromising its pristine aerodynamic form. And the Plasma 5 is a perfect example of this design ethos. All buttoned up, in full tri configuration, this is one epic beast. An ENORMOUS chord, beginning at the front of the integrated water bottle, going through the stem, fork, brake, and top tube storage box, results in an incredible airfoil that must be around 20-to-1 in some sections. And it's not just a big airfoil shape; it's incredibly clean and highly functional. Let's take a closer look at what's going on here, starting with the bottle.
Another joint effort with Profile Design, the Plasma 5 bottle makes good on a concept triathletes have talked about since the original Nosecone Shiv: if you're going to have such a huge aero chord on your bike, why not fill it with water? That's exactly with Scott does with this bottle. The shape fits perfectly with the bike, and provides ample space for storing fluid, as well as an easy refill port thanks to the nice Profile Design hardware. This piece replaces rather than supplements a BTA bottle, as any bottle you put between your arms would occlude both the fill port and possibly the straw for this bottle. Which shouldn't be much of an issue; this thing is really easy to use, and very well-designed.
My big gripe with the bottle is the cacophony of rubber pieces required to mount it to the bike. No fewer than three large rubber bumpers have to be very carefully joined to the bottle, in a specific sequence, in order to mount this contraption to the bike. It would have been MUCH nicer to see these pieces all integrated into the shape of the bottle itself, and for the life of me I don't understand why that wasn't done in the first place. If the issue was vibration control (that's my best guess), the bottle itself could simply have been coated in a bit of rubber at the back. Adding those bits to the bottle itself would also have allowed for a little more storage capacity as well.
The other sad fact, as mentioned on the previous page, is that the bottle is only available to riders using the +45mm stem. I needed the flat stem (which looks glorious, sitting right in line with the top tube), but that meant no bottle. That wasn't a huge drawback, as there are plenty of good BTA solutions out there. And moreover, I really hate all those rubber pieces, so I wasn't sad to see them go. Ultimately, I'd *really* like to see a 2nd-generation of this bottle, eliminating the excess rubber and rolling everything up into one piece. But if you can get past that, the full setup is absolutely gorgeous, and no doubt extremely fast.
Just behind that bottle (and again, requiring the +45mm stem) sits a nice long storage box, integrated into the overall aero design. In another brilliant stroke, Scott opted to mount this box with the industry-standard 63mm M5 bottle boss spacing. That means, if you want, you could swap the integrated box for anything made by XLAB, TorHans, and others. Awesome! I really, REALLY like that Scott opted to use standard interfaces on some of their integrated components.
The box here is nothing too fancy; just a big cavity covered by some rubber. One slight annoyance is that the front flaps of the box, which help it integrate into the shape of the stem in front of it, tend to sit out of place a bit. That is, they don't really want to stay put. Making these out of (or reinforcing with) plastic instead of rubber could cure this issue, and I'm sure it's something Scott will be working on as a rolling change at some point. As is, I'm informed that you can take a hair dryer or heat gun to these flaps to help encourage them back into shape from time to time.
With the front end all wrapped up, let's move on to the rest of the frame.
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.