If you want a bike for cruising through your local woods, zooming through parkland or just enjoying a ride without spending a fortune, the Contessa 720 from Scott is worth a look.
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For a ride sporting a lower price tag, the Scott Contessa 720 has eye-catching looks, with neon green cables loudly matching its green and purple frame graphics.
Short and steep
The Contessa features steep head and seat tube angles, combined with its women’s-specific design giving a shorter reach. The result is a bike that feels great at a steady pace around more sedate trails, but starts to become twitchy and nervous when you pick up the pace – I felt like I was perched on top, with the high centre of gravity definitely not adding to my confidence.
On the plus side, the hardtail design and sturdy alloy frame give excellent power transfer when pedalling, and the Contessa easily generates a good lick of speed on the flat.
It is however relatively heavy at 14.4kg, which you do feel in the climbs. Thankfully the 3x8 Shimano gear set gives a wide range, and popping it in the smallest ring at the front allows you to spin up steep inclines fairly easily. I found that changing to the smallest ring with the chain under tension sometimes caused it to skip, and gear jumps are large, but shifting was mostly reliable.
Uneven kit selection
I was impressed to see Tektro hydraulic disc brakes on a bike at this price, which give smooth and powerful braking, and confidence inspiring control on descents. The levers did sit wide of the bars, however, which may cause problems for riders with small hands.
Front suspension comes via the coil sprung Suntour XCM-HLO forks, with 100mm of travel which smoothed rough trails, but dove through its travel far too easily over drops and bigger hits. I also found the cheap Kenda treads to be unnervingly sktechy – they should be number one on your upgrade hitlist.
Overall, while this bike is good for getting started, and will work well around parks, smoother forest trails and some easier trails, we found the high centre of gravity, short reach and narrow bars unsuited for harder trails or technical terrain. On those simpler trails, you can get a fair lick of fun speed, but bring drops into the mix and the bike feels nervy.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.