Scott Contessa 30 £449.99

Top-performance women's bike at a budget price

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Scott’s Contessa 30 has a brilliant little frame that will inspire your riding, combined with well thought-out contact points. It’s hampered by the basic fork, and its V-brakes don’t provide adequate stopping power, but those are aareas for later upgrading that don’t stop it being a fun, nimble hardtail that will inspire you to greater things.

Riding the eye-catchingly beautifu Scott Contessa 30, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised by top performance at a budget price. It soon became a favourite with our testers, its subtle and surprising ride begging us for more wherever we rode it.

It would make a great beginner’s bike, with the capacity to take you on to bigger and better things with a bit of well directed upgrade cash, and it never failed to raise a smile.

Ride & handling: balanced, poised & cheerful

This is a bike that far out-rides its meagre price. The riding position is beautifully balanced, allowing you to maintain perfect poise when pushing hard through tricky technical steps or on the climbs.

This bike is a cheerful little thing that always entertained us on the singletrack, and was as happy knocking out marathon-distance loops as it was in the twists of our favourite woodland playground.

Starting from the contact points up, Scott has created a bike on which we felt completely at ease right from the start. Extra slim grips with a bulge for your palm are easy to keep a grip on, and the saddle was among the comfiest we’ve tried on any bike.

The 22.2in top tube on our large test model inspired confidence without feeling too racy or stretched.

There’s a tendency for manufacturers to go too short on female-specific frames, but unless you have real T-Rex arms, then a top tube with a sensible amount of length will make you feel much more balanced and less ‘perched’, particularly on steep descents.

It also offers a much more efficient platform to get the power down, and it impressed us uphill. Long, seated climbs were a breeze, and short out-of-the-saddle grunts were dispatched without quibble, helped by the low front end.

Frame: proper women’s geometry

Scott produces two ranges of bikes under its female-specific Contessa banner: Race and Allround. While the Race bikes are simply standard men’s frames with extra pink paint and tweaked contact points, the Allrounds (of which this is one) feature proper women’s geometry to keep you riding sweetly.

The frame is 7005 aluminium, butted to reduce weight and bolster the ride feel, and gusseted at the head tube for strength. An integrated headset allows for a lower handlebar position and helps keep lines smooth. We found the ‘cheese wire’ head tube cable stops a little disconcerting (although we suffered no mishaps in testing).

The kickstand mount on the chainstay alludes to the European ‘utility’ attitude towards bikes – lazily, it hasn’t been removed for the UK market, although it doesn’t impinge on the ride in any way.

Fit is spot-on for a women’s frame  – not too short and not too long, with a nice low top tube for plenty of standover clearance.

The layback post and mid-length stem give room to manipulate size within the frame’s parameters, too – if you find it too long or short, simply tweak the saddle and bar position.

Equipment: better forks & brakes needed

The great frame was slightly hampered by the performance of the 80mm RockShox Dart fork, which is a common sight on low- to mid-range bikes. Damping is inadequate, even on the soft spring version, making it a bit of a pogo stick, although we did appreciate the lock-out while climbing.

At the end of testing, ours spat out its oily innards. Scott acknowledged a manufacturing defect and says that if you have a leaky set, you should return the bike to the original retailer for inspection and repair.

The other sore point is the braking. Although at this price point it would be greedy to ask for disc brakes, the Scott-branded V-brakes failed to impress due to cheesy, flexible arms that visibly squirmed and wriggled under hard braking.

While we don’t expect V-brakes to stop us on a dime like our favourite hydraulics, we do know that better-quality rim brakes would have stopped us ramming the front end into gates on more than one occasion, and an upgrade would really benefit the bike. The fork and frame both sport disc mounts but the hubs don’t, so a wheel package upgrade is required should you wish to get some proper stopping power.

The drivetrain is an effective mix of Shimano LX and Deore, which behaved impeccably throughout. It might not be the lightest kit in the world, but it offers great value for money and we really like the new two-way shifters for small hands.

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