PEZ Reviews: Scott SOLACE 10
The Scott Solace 10 road bike offers in impressive mix of performance and comfort – two traits that used to be impossible to find together in one bike. But mix in some technology and smart thinking, and they’re no longer mutually exclusive. Pez discovers the Solace 10 is a distinct addition to the brand’s line-up alongside its FOIL, Addict, and CR-1.
After years of making a name in the road market as one of the stiffest frames out there, Swiss-based Scott Bicycles launched a new bike for 2014, created from their knowledge and expertise gained from years of refining their carbon development of highly responsive race-tuned bikes like the FOIL, CR1 & Addict. The new bike was aimed at the fast growing segment of gran fondo road riders. Ok – ‘gran fondo’ might be a tad generic – but it’s easier to write than “riders who prefer a slightly less aggressive position but still want to ride fast on a bike that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve been sitting on a jackhammer for the last 4 hours in chamois-less shorts”. You get my drift.
That bike is called the Scott Solace – itself race-tuned in a way that will appeal to guys who still want responsive handling and power transfer, but offering an overall ride and riding position that’s just more comfortable than what most of us think pro-level riders want.
The Solace is defined by a slightly shorter cockpit, and taller head tube to allow a more upright (and for a growing segment of riders = more comfortable) riding position without an uncool and ugly stack o’ spacers. What’s not different is its geometry which is virtually the same as Scott’s Addict. The Solace’s chain stays are about 1mm longer, and the whole design is built to be snappy and responsive with a more comfortable ride than Scott’s FOIL and Addicts.
Let’s not forget that Scott know a lot, and by that I mean a LOT… about carbon use in bicycles. They pioneered resins and tube forming and produced one of the first sub-900 gram framesets on the planet. The FOIL went a step further showing tubeshapes refined in a windtunnel. And as a Swiss company, we can safely assume they’re very into details.
From the moment I saw the bike on display at a couple of Interbikes ago, my expectations were pretty high and I couldn’t wait for the tester to arrive. I’ve logged a lot of miles on the Solace this past season, and for 2015 the Solace is back with an added disc braked version that should add more appeal to what’s proven a very popular model.
The Solace’s big selling feature is the frame’s two zone design where arbon lay up and tube thicknesses & shapes are manipulated to execute different stiffness characteristics. A stiff and rigid Power Zone (see the gray areas in the illustration above) to most efficiently transfer power from the pedals into forward motion & aid the predictable & crisp handling , and a more flexible Comfort Zone (marked in red above) across the top of the frame and at the lower fork blades to allow some flex and absorption of road noise and bumps designed to smooth out the ride.
The Power Zone: Looking Good
The power zone of the Solace is easy to see – just follow the big fat tubes from the head tube, downtube, through the oversized bottom bracket and along the chain stays. Consider it an immovable spine that’s sole purpose is to harness your energy and send every last watt you can crank right to the rear wheel – resulting in the desired forward propulsion that could make your buddies envious, or even small dots in your rear view mirror.
The frame is made from a blend of Scott’s HMF & HMX carbon fibres. Both are versions of high modulous carbon, known for its high tensile strength and thinner fibres that allow for less carbon use – and therefore weight savings, throughout the frame. HMX is even more high modulous than HMF, and is used in specific areas like the bottom bracket and head tube junctions, to add strength by adding more material, but helping to keep overall weight down. The whole bike you see here, equipped with Shimano Dura Ace, Syncros wheels, bars, stem, saddle & seat post weighs about 16.3 lbs – including those heavy Shimano pedals. Lighter component spec will shave a pound or more off that, and they even offer a “Premium” model that weighs just over 14lbs.
Comfort Zone: Feeling Good
One of my favorite things about the evolution of carbon fibre frame production is the ability to tune each frame’s feel and ride qualities by using carbon blends, and layup patterns, and even tube shaping. Remember way back double- or triple-butted metal tubes were the gold standard for tuning ride qualities?
Lucky for us, carbon fiber refinement, layup designs, infinitely controllable wall thicknesses, and tube shapes offer builders pretty much complete control over how a frame will feel. The Solace is a primo example – and here’s a good place to note that all of the seven frame sizes are built with size-specific tubes, so every size is designed to feel the same. The illustration below shows exactly how and where Scott is using different size dimensions and shapes, on different tubes and across different sized frames. And note the added detail on those size-specific tubes – as an example, the 58cm frame has a wall thickness 3mm thicker than the 49cm frame in certain points.
Let’s Start At The Back
What caught my eye first was the clean lines of the rear triangle. Visually it meets all the req’s of what a rear triangle should be – it joins the rear wheel and drive train to the rest of the frame, and it’s shaped like a triangle. But in actual fact – it’s a whole lot more sophisticated than that.
Look at the chainstays – they’re a girthy extension of the downtube that carries all the way back to the dropouts. They’re asymmetric too – each one shaped specifically to best deal with the uneven forces that go with pedalling a drivetrain (and most of us have a less than uniform pedal stroke) that’s mounted on the right side of the frame. That adds up to a lot of unbalanced force to control before it gets to the rear wheel, and the Solace addresses that with some smartly designed tubes that also look like they mean business.
Now let’s look at the seat stays – those two skinny rods are indeed thin (and I’m talking outside diameter here) – as is common practise today amongst the world’s best builders. The shape and diameter of the seat stays vary considerably along their length from the drop out – where they start with a larger diameter and shape designed to stabilize the rear wheel against pedalling forces, then become thinner in the middle & top as they reach into the Comfort Zone, where more vertical flex is needed to help absorb the bumps, and to make the bike more comfortable for long rides, or if you just like a less-than-harsh ride.
The length of the stays is also important, since a shorter length will flex less than a longer length. Note how the Solace seatstays actually extend past the seat tube, and effectively join the main frame at a point on the top tube, just in front of the seat tube. This longer length allows for a bit more flex – maybe not enough to see, but enough to notice when riding. Scott’s helpful diagram compares the seat stay – seat tube junction of the CR1 race bike (known for its racy stiffness) with that of the Solace, to give a better idea of how this will works.
That longer extension of the seat tube above the stays allows a tiny bit more fore-aft movement of the seat tube/ seat-post which adds to the ride comfort. And – see how the seat tube is thinner diameter on the Solace? – yep – that’s allowing a tiny bit more seat-post movement as well. Everything here is designed to work towards a better rider experience in the long term comfort arena.
Finally – keen observers will notice something missing from the stays – the brakes! By placing them under the chainstays behind the bottom bracket, Scott has eliminated the brake mounting bridge needed between the top of the seat stays – and this allows each seat stay to do a better job of absorbing bumps and grinds.
But the comfort part of this equation doesn’t stop at the back – the front is just as important since that’s where you first contact all that tranquility-disrupting road junk in the first place.
The front fork has two roles in fact: control and comfort. The in-moulded carbon dropouts connect the front wheel to that section of the lower fork blades that moves a tad bit more fore & aft to absorb (and smooth) the bumps before they reach you up there in the cockpit. The fork flexes to absorb energy and the larger / fatter portion of the fork blades is designed to limit that flex to the lower part of the fork and do a better job of keeping the front wheel in line (the further up the fork the flexing happens, the more the front wheel can come off line). The blades widen noticeably towards the top, eliminating flex and trading comfort for control and adding precision to the handling.
Holding the fork’s steerer tube in place is a tapered headtube – nicely shaped, flawlessly finished, and ready for your choice of shifters – electronic or good old fashioned manual. This also really the start of the “Power Zone” – that part of the bike responsible for getting you moving forward and fast with the least amount of wasted energy. This section’s stiffness is critical in two ways: of course it’s the control center, keeping the handlebars and fork in-line; but it also ties in directly with the down tube (and the down tube likewise anchors the head tube).
The big fat downtube leads to a the very substantial bottom end, which itself is specially shaped to offer the widest possible home for BB86 bottom bracket, and still enough clearance for crankarm and chain rings. And that brings us back to our starting point of the chainstays.
To The Ride
If you’re like me, you have (or had) some reservation about just how “fast” these gran fondo / endurance style road bikes can be. How can you go fast if you’re not hunched over in a super-pro aero-tuck, right? Yeah, well,… wrong. I’ve also been riding long enough to know that the biggest influencer (ok, limiter) of my own speed is my legs and just how good I feel on the bike. Riding between 6-10 hours a week in my current phase of life, and also the reality of a less flexible back than I had in my young-man days have forced me to shift both my physical and mental attitude about the bike. I’m pretty sure that given enough time to ride, that the best fitness of my life is still ahead. I’m also pretty sure that the opposite is true of the best flexibility of my life. But I’ve come to accept that a slightly more upright riding position is just more comfortable – especially on longer rides of the kind I still expect to do in the years ahead. That also means I can ride faster, and more importantly, have more fun on the bike.
Another reality answered by the Solace is that setting the bars with just one small spacer on the stem puts them in a place that’s pretty close to what I’m used to, and still looks cool. That’s also why they still make road handlebars with drops – so you can get down in there when you need to.
The biggest initial difference I noted when riding the Solace was the more upright position and the setting of handlebars in a slightly higher place than I was used to. But about 30 minutes into my first ride I was feeling right at home – and immediately noticed the difference the position made to my back – it doesn’t get as tight after rides when I’m on the Solace.
But none of the ultimately important traits of a bike like this – accelerating, sprinting, climbing , & descending – are compromised in any way. If anything, Scott’s design and carbon fibre technology have only made them all better. The frame geometry on my size Small tester has virtually the same head tube- (72 degrees) and seat tube-angles (74 degrees) as pure-race FOIL and Addict models. The most notable difference is the Solace’s wheelbase in about 1omm longer, which enhances the comfort qualities of the ride, and also makes for a slightly more stable feel than you get with a shorter wheelbase.
The Power Zone section does the business of making for efficient feeling power transfer. Like the Scott racers that came before the Solace, this one wants to go fast – and it wants you to make it go fast. Standing for climbing or sprinting yields as much acceleration as I was willing and able to give. The stability and predictable steering make for some inspired descents – again pretty much limited only by pilot skill (or fear).
This is the kind of bike that a lot of PEZ-Readers will like. It comes in five versions – the Solace 10, 20, 30, and the new for 2015 disk-braked 15 & 40 models, each with a different level of spec.
• MSRP as Tested: US$4999
• See more at the Scott website.