Scott Contessa Speedster S15 £1,199.00

Versatile, comfy and agile

BikeRadar score3/5

The Scott S15 sits at the top of the three-bike alloy-framed Speedster range and its girly looks and low price belie a nippy nature. It's a versatile, comfy and agile machine, equally happy nipping through the streets or riding roughshod over country roads. At this price (£1,200) you’re looking at a step up from the most entry-level rides (like the cheaper models in the Speedster range) and newer riders will appreciate the difference in performance over a ride you’d pick up for around £600.

Ride & handling: Confidence-inspiring ride for anyone stepping up from an entry-level ride

Out on the road we were pleasantly surprised by the agility of the S15. Its looks beginner-friendly (that could just be the colour scheme) and, as you’d expect from an alloy frame with mid-range kit, it falls short on the one-hand-pick-up test. But the easy control of the female-fit bars coupled with the light and well-performing 105 gears meant that we sailed around quite happily for hours on our first ride.

Admittedly, you won’t be overwhelmed by the bike’s acceleration, and it’s probably not going to win you too many sprints; it’s not that this is a slow bike, but its more conservative shaping and its alloy base lacks the stiffness and size at the bottom end to really jump forward. Compared with a couple of similar bikes in this price-range, climbs also felt like a bit of a heave, thanks to the extra weight and less direct power transfer, and we found the wheels were slower to get started too.

But careful attention to fit and kit meant we could get low on the drops with confidence, so despite its appearance it was nimble in handling and the upside of that lack of stiffness is an easier ride over rough road surfaces.

Frame: Neat, compact design

The Contessa has a neat, compact design and a brilliant white and blue paintjob that is bound to get you noticed. The hydroformed top tube is the only quirky shape here, with neat indents running along each side. Smooth welds and proportionate tube girths keep things tidy, if a little conservative – we weren’t expecting a blistering ride on first glance, though the surprisingly square, boxy chainstays show this is a bike that can take a bit of stomping.

A carbon fork keeps weight down and, together with the relatively small tubing and decent kit spec, you’re not gaining too many pounds from going with an alloy frame (though obviously it is heavier). Although it looks like a very feminine bike, a relatively steep head tube angle and short head tube give you a good set-up for racing in the drops.

Equipment: Contact points offer great comfort without handling compromise

The S15 is rigged with reliable kit that really improves the ride experience over an entry-level bike. Shimano’s third-tier 105 groupset does most of the hard work, so smooth shifting is a given. Braking with the non-groupset Shimano equipment is assured enough, though our test did show up a less sharp feel – but this might not be a bad thing if you’re an uneasy rider who likes to feather the brakes a lot.

When it comes to contact-point comfort, the Contessa has an edge over some pricier rivals, though. Scott’s own-brand Contessa saddle is plush without being intrusive and we didn’t feel the urge to swap it after a couple of hours’ riding – that’s no mean feat. The female-specific bars kept us feeling in control, with levers well within reach and shallow drops that allowed for a really intuitive ride where we could forget about handling and just enjoy it.

Alex aero-profile rims are a solid choice at this price-point and, though not especially light, handle well and hold straight-line speed easily. We’d be happy to train on them through the worst winter weather and rack up miles without fear of damage. Their clean white finish matches up with the rest of the livery too, if colour coordination is high on your wishlist.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.

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