‘Horses for courses’ I muttered as I leaned into yet another waterlogged bend, 50 miles into a rutted road ride in weather that could only be described of as ‘British’.
There are hundreds of great bikes to choose from – the art is in picking the one that’s best designed for your style of riding. If you’re into long miles, want a comfortable and confidence inspiring platform and components designed to perform in all conditions, this bike could be for you.
The Scott Contessa Solace is an endurance ready bike that’s been engineered specifically for women based on feedback from customers and dealers. It’s been fitted with components that see it veering dangerously close to the ‘adventure road’ genre – which is dangerously good if you fancy getting off the beaten track.
In fact, as I’m rolling along in a group, describing the hydraulic disc brakes and 28mm tyres, a fellow rider asks me “is it actually a road bike?" – and I have to confess – this bike certainly blurs the distinguishing lines. Here’s the lowdown…
Scott Contessa Solace 15 Disc Women's 2017 Road Bike frame
Scott have been manufacturing women’s specific bikes under the ‘Contessa’ name for years – and this carbon frame has been created from the ground up to suit the requirements Scott believe the majority of female riders have.
Speaking to Women’s Marketing Co-ordinator at the 1958 founded brand, Sarah Merminod tells me: “The Scott Contessa Solace has designed using feedback from focus groups, customers and dealers. It’s got a shorter top tube, and a taller head tube, which puts the rider into a more stable and upright position. If women are looking for a real racing machine, we’d point them more in the direction of our [unisex] Addict or Foil frames."
In a size Small, 51cm frame, the head tube measures 155mm, the stack 560mm and reach is 365mm with a 90mm stem. Compared to the men’s small (the men's range offers 'in between sizes', so a small is a 52) – the measurements only differ by 10-12mm – but that’s enough to show that Scott have taken clear steps to implement the desired position fed back to them by their female customers.
If all of that just sounds like numbers – it means when I swing my leg over the fit feels fairly upright and I don’t have to round my back over to reach the Shimano Ultegra shifters.
The character of this frame isn’t just about the women’s-specific-ness, though. Both Contessa and unisex Solace bikes have been treated to some serious comfort technology – all of it focused on dampening out road fatigue, without reducing power.
Engineers have designed what they call ‘comfort zones’ and ‘power zones’. To boost the comfort where it matters, they focused on the rear triangle – attaching the incredibly skinny seatstays directly to the toptube. At the front end, they worked to ensure that the top of the fork is rigid enough to allow for optimum handling and braking, whilst the ground-facing end of the fork uses more compliant carbon lay up for a smoother ride.
‘SDS’ – or ‘Shock Dampening System’ tech has been applied to the fork dropouts, seatstays, and where the top and down tubes meet the seatpost. Effectively more compliant carbon was used to separate these crucial comfort areas from the ‘power’ generating regions, which have been designed to be much stiffer. Where power really matters, Scott have worked to optimise it with a tapered headtube, beefed up dowtube, oversized bottom bracket shell and asymmetrical chainstays - all in aid of quick accelerations.
It’s clear, when rolling through the lanes on this mile-munching endurance machine, that this is a bike which favours comfort over sprinting prowess. That's not to say it's not capable of a good turn of speed, though. Whilst jumping out the saddle might not give way to a fleeting moment of rampant acceleration, the ease of ride did lead to some fast miles. Most notably, road conditions seemed almost irrelevant to both my enjoyment and pace.
The claimed weight is just over 8kg – so this is no featherweight machine, but it’s certainly light for a bike dressed with discs and winter tyres and the frame is brushed with the high quality luxe of matte carbon.
Scott Contessa Solace 15 Disc Women's 2017 Road Bike specification
- Scott have created three models of the Contessa Solace:
- Shimano Tiagra equipped version at £1,749
- Shiamno 105 model at £2,149
- Shimano Ultegra version at £2,799
The Scott Contessa Solace is available in several guises – we tested the Ultegra fitted version that comes with Continental Grand Sport Race tyres in 28mm, with flat mount Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes. These two spec choices made it an absolutely excellent choice for winter rides over mud strewn paths and rutted roads.
Sailing round the corners of country lanes, the handling felt on-point - tracking the perfect lines with ease. Though much of this will be down to the frame design around the fork, I’d attribute equal weight to the tyres and RP2.0 Disc rims from in-house brand Syncros which they sit upon.
Come summer, this winter ready handling would I’m sure translate to miles of sunny smiles, thanks to the fatigue reducing squish of the easy rolling set up.
The hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano of course bring the bike to an expert stop, and this inspires confidence that you just won’t get from rim brakes once the roads are wet. Thru-axles make for added oomf and a stiffer ride, plus better handling - but fitting them front and rear means you might have to invest in an adapter if you want to fit the bike to a turbo trainer.
The 50/34 Shimano Ultegra crankset is coupled with a Shimano 105 11-32 cassette – which offered plenty of room for when I sought the lower gears once the hills arrived.
At the front end, Scott have fitted a Syncros RR2 handlebar and stem – the stem being a wide affair that has whiffs of aerodynamics and offers plenty of room for movement if you want to drop the bars lower. The bars themselves have been wrapped in an incredibly thick bar tape – again an asset if you want to keep road buzz to a minimum, though I’d swap this myself. The saddle is a Syncros FL2 women – again a component I did swap in testing for my own firm favourite (with a cut out..).
One point of note in the Scott Solace Contessa is that almost all basic fit adjustment bolts require Torx keys, as opposed to the standard Allen key bolts most are accustomed to. This is no problem if you’ve got a set of Torx keys handy, and some multitools do feature them. The 'pro' here is that it’s harder to round these off – the 'con' is that you might find that the average multitool doesn’t have what you need if you want to make a change when out and about.
The verdict on the Scott Contessa Solace 15 Disc Women's 2017 Road Bike
I took endless pleasure from sailing through the country lanes on the Solace, and the fit and spec certainly made the winter miles pass by more comfortably. As a summer bike, it would lend itself to enjoyable sportives and happy club runs for a rider who wants to arrive at the finish line (or cafe stop) feeling relatively fresh.
This machine isn't a speed demon - but for many riders the limiting factor is not the bike but their legs. A happy, comfortable body makes for fast legs, too, so though the Solace might not win a sprint, it could still be first over the line of a long endurance event.
Interested? Check it out here.