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In this article CTech editor Matt Wikstrom puts the Scott Solace 10 through its paces and considers where this new addition to the Scott road bike line fits when compared with existing models.
Scott recently expanded its road catalogue with the addition of the Solace. While the new bike has been developed with comfort in mind, Scott has produced a bike that offers plenty of performance thanks to a stiff chassis that compares well with race-oriented designs.
Scott has a long history of developing innovative products for action sports. The company began with the introduction of aluminium poles to skiing in 1958 followed by motocross goggles in 1970, mountain bikes in 1986, and aerodynamic handlebars for road cycling in 1989.
The latter was used to great effect by Greg Lemond to win the 1989 Tour de France by a handful of seconds. Since then, the company’s commitment to cycling has deepened and expanded into a comprehensive catalogue of bikes for road, off-road and city use.
Scott’s recent innovations have been in carbon frame manufacture. In 2001, the Team Issue road frame was proclaimed the world’s lightest at less than 1kg. Two years later, Scott trumped itself with the CR-1 which weighed 890g. Both breakthroughs came at a time when the reliability and durability of carbon was still being questioned but 100,000 cycles of fatigue testing by the German testing lab EFBe proved the frames were as strong as they were light.
Scott’s lightest road frame, the Addict SL, now weighs 710g thanks to further refinement in materials and engineering, and it has endured EFBe’s most demanding test protocol too. The CR-1 continues to be offered, now serving as Scott’s entry-level carbon bike. The remainder of the road catalogue comprises the aluminium Speedster series for novice riders, the Foil, and a new bike called the Solace.
The Solace is designed to appease riders looking for a blend of performance and comfort. The frame has been engineered with discrete “Power Zones” and “Comfort Zones” and the geometry provides a relaxed fit that will suit endurance/gran fondo riding. There are four models of Solace in Scott’s 2014 catalogue: Solace Premium (11-speed Dura Ace Di2), Solace 10 (11-speed Dura Ace), Solace 20 (11-speed Ultegra) and Solace 30 (10-speed 105). For this review, Scott’s Australian distributor, Sheppard Cycles, provided a Solace 10.
Before the ride
The Solace 10 frame and fork is constructed from Scott’s HMF carbon blend that weighs a little more than its premium HMX formula but costs considerably less. The frame uses a BB86 bottom bracket, standard 1.125″ headtube and a seat tube diameter of 27.2mm. A direct-mount brake is used for the rear and all cables are routed internally through the frame.
Compared to Scott’s race-oriented bikes such as the Foil, the Solace has a shorter top tube and taller head tube at every frame size, as set out below:
The relaxed fit of the bike is afforded by a steep seat tube angle. Scott uses a fork with a generous axle-to-crown measurement that adds to the stack of the bike. Taken together, the Solace will suit riders that prefer a more upright position and minimal handlebar drop.
The Solace 10 frameset is finished in gloss black with gloss white sections and lime highlights. The paint is flawless, however the white chainstays will be a challenge to keep clean. The highlights are subtle and are complemented by more lime peppering the wheels, stem and bars. Overall, the Solace has simple, pleasing lines. One tube flows cleanly into the next, though the front dropouts disrupt this effect as they trail behind the leading edge of the fork blades.
The Solace 10 is built with Shimano’s 11-speed Dura Ace mechanical groupset with an Ultegra rear brake, cassette and chain. Syncros provides the carbon FL1.0 seatpost, RR2.0 saddle, FL2.0 stem, RR2.0 bars and RP2.0 wheelset. The latter is built by DT Swiss with wide low-profile rims, 18 spokes at the front, 24 spokes at the back, and is fitted with Schwalbe One tyres.
The Solace 10 has a recommended retail of $6,480. Total weight for size L/56 was 7.21kg sans pedals and bottles cages. For more information visit the Scott website.
After the ride
Scott’s marketing stresses the comfort of the Solace, so I was surprised to find that it was quite stiff. Indeed, it comes close to many race-oriented frames by offering a large dose of responsiveness and efficiency, regardless of whether I was in or out of the saddle. However, the stiffness never dominated the Solace like it can for other bikes.
Some comparisons are in order to put my impressions into perspective. For example, the Solace is a lot more comfortable than the Foil. The chassis does not suffer from road buzz and it does a good job of dampening shocks and vibrations, but the overall ride cannot be described as plush.
I’d place the Solace into the same category as Trek’s Madone. Some riders will be shocked by the amount of feedback coming through the frame, but for those riders that like to push the bike hard, they will take delight in the stiffness of the Solace.
The steering of the bike was direct, but the extra height of the head tube seemed to undermine the handling to some degree because it forced me away from my centre of gravity. This bike (indeed, any bike with a tall head tube) would benefit from a lower bottom bracket to improve its stability, especially for descents, as demonstrated by Trek’s Domane. There’s no need to preserve pedal clearance on a bike that is unlikely to be pedalled deep into corners.
Scott has assembled an appealing package in the Solace 10. Shimano’s Dura Ace groupset was exceptional and the level of the rest of the build was very sound. The Syncros RP2.0 wheels were excellent — they are a great set of low-profile aluminium wheels. The wide rims were comfortable without being inefficient and Schwalbe’s One tyres were equally impressive.
The only shortcoming for me was the skewers: DT Swiss’ RWS mechanism is effective — the lever acts as a ratchet for securing the wheel — but it takes more time to operate than a conventional skewer.
Final thoughts and summary
The Solace fills the gap between Scott’s race-oriented offerings (the Foil and Addict) and its entry-level bikes (CR-1 and Speedster) by offering a performance-oriented chassis with relaxed geometry for a more upright position. The bike offers a measure of comfort by protecting the rider from road buzz and chatter but it does not extend to a plush ride.
At $6,480, shoppers won’t have any trouble finding a cheaper alternative to the Solace 10 (e.g. a Trek Domane 5.9 with Dura Ace retails for $4,999), but at this price-point, there are other considerations, such as the fit of the bike and the blend of comfort with performance.
Is the Solace a race-oriented gran fondo bike or an endurance-oriented race bike? In this instance, both labels apply equally well.