Before the ride
Scott create even their endurance models with race elements and the rear stays immediately catch the attention when first looking at the Solace 15. Missing the usual brake bridge, the Contessa Solace 15 instead features a direct mount rear brake, which hides under the chain stays, attached to the bottom bracket shell.
This allows for tiny, delicate-looking, flexible seat stays, easily flexed by hand. The removal of the brake bridge allows movement of the stays without being held in place above the wheel.
Tubing is all asymmetrical, Foil inspired, with an increased aerodynamic shape. Round tubing has been left behind, focusing more on wind-tunnel-tested designs.
An incredibly light frameset and componentry makes for a lighter-than-average women’s bike, tipping the scales at 7.19kg for the medium size.
The endurance component of the frame is noticeable, but doesn’t immediately stand out, as with some other endurance models. The head tube is a little longer, the geometry a little slacker and more compact. A long-cage rear derailleur has also been employed, allowing for a 30T cassette.
The bottom bracket area has even been extremely oversized, providing rigidity around the area where most movement generally happens: the crankset. This ensures each pedal stroke goes into moving the bike forwards, instead of flexing the frame sideways.
The blacked-out matte finish paint is quite divine, not screaming “women’s bike” at all, with just a subtle few touches of dark purple in the decals. Bartape and saddle match perfectly, and black appears everywhere, with a little purple appearing on the saddle.
The tested Contessa Solace 15 is equipped with full Shimano Ultegra 11-speed, even through to the brake calipers and crankset, and comes in at $3,780. Two other models exist in the range, beginning at $2,600 for the Tiagra/105 mix, and $2,800 for a full Shimano 105-equipped model.
You can read more about the Scott Contessa Solace 15 at the Scott website.
After the ride
Immediately, on any bike, the three points noticed are those in contact with the machine. The saddle, of course, is one of the most noticeable. Women are shaped rather differently to men, and saddles should reflect this. Ideally, a test bike should be ridden as stock standard but when a saddle can’t get past the door, it’s not going to last.
This bike has been designed beautifully; the change of rear brake position and the slight seatstay flex means the bike absorbs everything. Even situations that would normally cause a bit of careless chain slap now become a silent, smooth experience. Getting down from gutters no longer even requires a second thought, as the back-end absorbs any misjudgment in distance. The longer headtube means lifting the front end is almost effortless, for getting back up curbs.
This said, the bike does somewhat resemble the geometry of a race level cyclocross bike. It features a slightly longer wheelbase, short top tube and the longer headtube you’d generally find in a road bike designed for riding dirt. This somewhat affects the bike’s riding comfortability over long distances, but does make for a fantastic adventure machine.
Equipped with a standard crankset and a 30T maximum cassette any hill can be tackled, and the bike feels at home on rolling gravel roads. When roads reach an extreme gradient, however, the high front end becomes a hinderance, as keeping the front wheel on the ground is difficult when weight is distributed so far across the back of the bike.
Generally having a longer wheelbase means a clumsy, lazy-feeling bike on descents, but Scott seem to have tested this well, and made the length between the wheels a perfect balance of stability and comfort, without losing the ability to turn a corner or change direction quickly.
This is a bike that has been thought through, and designed well. The choice of Shimano on women’s specific bikes with ergonomic bars still confuses me somewhat, as the smaller hands of many ladies require the brakes to be wound right in toward the bar to allow for any level of finger contact with the lever, and this doesn’t often fix the problem.
Having a moving lever (as opposed to SRAM’s DoubleTap, say) also means the lever moves away from tiny hands, meaning bumps and corners aren’t as enjoyable as they could be. A standard bar or a different choice of groupset brand would fix this common problem.
Final thoughts and summary
Overall, this is a bike that I would recommend as a machine to take riders further, and to new places. The ability to comfortably tackle gravel roads will give riders confidence to discover new lines on a map, and take their fitness to places where they forget they’re riding to get fit, and end up enjoying the places they’ve found.
- Amazingly light
- Handles well
- Smooth, no chain-slap
- Not comfortable for small hands
- Difficult to balance weight on steep inclines
- Saddle is unfriendly