The Scott Contessa Solace is designed with endurance in mind, and it gives a comfortable, compliant ride that smooths out road imperfections, keeping you feeling fresh over long distances.
Contessa is the designation that Scott give to its women-specific line of bikes, and in the case of road bikes, this means a distinct geometry on the frame, designed for female riders, in addition to women-specific finishing kit. In this case, it means a shorter reach than the unisex/men’s Solace, and a comparatively more upright position.
The Scott Contessa Solace 25 women’s road bike Phil Hall / Immediate Media Co
Scott designs the Solace around what it calls ‘bi-zone construction’, a variation on a theme that is common across road bikes. Essentially, the aim of the game is to ensure a comfortable ride by having enough strategically placed flex in the frame to absorb tiring vibrations from the uneven road surface, but enough stiffness for efficient power transfer when riding.
In the Solace, this means that the mid portion of the frame – head tube, down tube and chainstays – is designed to be stiff, aided by an oversized bottom bracket that helps turn that pedal power into forward momentum efficiently. The forks, top tube and seat stays are designed to have more compliance, enabling them to flex and absorb vibrations from the road, rather than transferring them up to the rider.
Most noticeably in the geometry are the narrow seat stays, which visibly blend and flex when riding over rough ground. The result is unquestionable effectiveness in taking the rough out of the ride, though the flex feels almost too springy over bigger potholes and bumps.
The narrow seat stays that flext to absorb vibrations and bumps from rough roads Phil Hall / Immediate Media Co
Endurance bikes are also designed with a more upright position, and the Solace geometry is in line with this.
Chunkier tyres, more comfortable ride
Another concession to comfort are the 28c Continental Grand Sport tyres; that larger volume also serves to help soften that hard road surface. The wheelset comprises Syncross Road Disc wheels with Formula hubs.
Both wheels feature through axles, which give a firm controlled feeling when applying the powerful Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. Those brakes allow a smooth and easy to control brake feeling, which really comes into its own on long descents as you don’t need as much pressure to operate them, which means less stress on the fingers.
They also give consistently powerful braking when the weather turns wet.
A Shimano 105 2×11 groupset with a 50/34t crankset and 11-32t cassette provides plenty of range for powering up climbs and getting up to speed on flatter sections.
However, the Solace doesn’t have a particularly lively feel or zippy acceleration. Steady, reliable power transfer is the name of the game here, so that stiff frame helps you to power up mountains or along the flat, but you don’t feel like you’re breaking any records doing it.
That said, after hours in the saddle on some very rough surfaces (and the odd unpaved, gravel-riddled trail and canal towpath) I emerged fresh as a daisy, and I feel this is a bike you could quite happily ride for miles and miles, or hours and hours. It’s a good bet if long distance explorations are your thing.
The Solace is finished off with a women’s-specific Syncros FL2.5 saddle, which generated a mixed response from our test group. Personally, it wasn’t for me, but saddle choice is a very personal matter.
The women’s specific Syncros saddle wasn’t to our taste Phil Hall / Immediate Media Co
Syncros RR2.0 alloy handlebars and a 100mm stem provided a mostly comfortable cockpit, though some of our testers with smaller hands found that the chunky hoods were too bulky, affecting their reach to the brakes
Weighing in at 8.77kg (for a 53cm frame size), the Contessa Solace is one of the heavier bikes in this price range. This is partly due to the heavier 105 groupset, those disc brakes, and the carbon/alloy forks.
A little additional point of interest: Scott bikes tend to use bolts that require torx head tools rather than the more common hex/allen heads, so make sure you have a multi-tool with the right bits when you’re out riding, in case you need to make adjustments.
The ‘bi-zone’ frame construction of the Scott Contessa Solace 25 with those narrow, flexible seat stays does provide noticeable compliance, resulting in a smoothed out feeling over rough terrain. It’s a bike that you could comfortably ride for hours and hours.
Powerful hydraulic disc brakes give confidence on descents with reliable stopping power even in the wet, though the large hoods compromised on comfort and handling for some of the test panel.
The Scott Contessa Solace 25 women’s road bike in action Phil Hall / Immediate Media Co
Price, sizing and availability
The Scott Contessa Solace 25 is available in sizes 46, 48, 51, 53 and 55, and is available to buy now from Scott dealers and a variety of local and national retailers.
Price: £2149 / $2750 / AU$3590
How we tested
This bike was tested as part of BikeRadar’s Women’s Road Bike of the Year, run in conjunction with Cycling Plus magazine, also published by Immediate Media Co.
Each bike was tested extensively over a variety of terrain types and in a range of conditions, from long climbs to steep descents. The majority of the testing took place in the South West of England, around the Somerset Levels and Mendip Hills.
In addition, all bikes tested as part of Bike of the Year were put through their paces by a panel of six BikeRadar Women readers over several days in the Mendip Hills in South West England. Each bike has been ridden by at least three testers and their feedback and verdicts have been incorporated into the reviews and overall judging.
Additional reporting by Aoife Glass.