The Scott Solace 20 was a stable, but not overly aggressive descender.
This article is part of RoadBikeReview's $3,000 Endurance Bike Shootout. See an introduction to the test here and head over to our Shootout Round-Up Page to read the rest of the reviews.
It was like a sofa on wheels - in a good way. This was the overriding sentiment from our test crew after spending time pedaling the Scott Solace 20 on the roads (paved and dirt) in and around Boulder, Colorado. Launched in mid-2013, the Solace, whose name derives from the definition "to comfort," was indeed designed to be comfortable. That meant splitting the frame into two areas, the comfort zone (top tube, seat tube, seatstays and the lower half of the fork), and power zone (chainstays, bottom bracket, down tube, head tube, and the upper portion of the fork).
It also meant embracing a somewhat radical design. In order to take the sting out of rough roads, the Solace's rear brake is positioned underneath the chainstay, which frees the seatstays from having to support a brake bridge, allowing them to be thinner and more compliant. You can actually squeeze them together with one hand.
The seatstays upper attachment point is also lower than usual, flowing past the seat tube and melding into the top tube, creating a bike that's as visually stunning as it is pleasing to ride. Comfort is further enhanced by a 27.2mm seatpost that has a subtle rearward flex that when combined with the spindly seatstays yields noticeable bump-absorbing deflection when careening along rough pavement or dirt.
Larger diameter chainstays are part of the Scott Solace 20's power zone.
"It really is like a couch," said one tester after a spin around some of the bumpy dirt byways north of Boulder, Colorado. "This bike soaks up imperfections of all kinds."
The Solace 20 also goes uphill fairly well thanks both to an easy-to-spin 11-speed Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with a compact 50-34 crankset and 11-28 cogset, and an overall weight of 16.49 pounds (size 58cm, no pedals). That's more than a half pound lighter than any other bike in the test, which included some 56cm frames and one 55.5cm frame. (It also must be noted that at $3400, the Solace 20 is the most expensive bike in this test by as much as $450. The Solace 30 retails for $2,550 and comes with a Shimano 105 groupset.) Here's a full breakdown of prices and weights for all bikes in this test.
While the premium Solace models are built up using Scott's higher end HMX composite blend, the Solace 20 is strung together with HMF carbon fiber. That's not a major downgrade by any means, but one tester felt the bike lacked some liveliness when climbing or during out-of-the-saddle efforts. "Might a higher grade carbon resuscitate the bike some?" he wondered.
All the Solace models utilize tapered head tubes, and feature internal cable routing, Di2 compatibility, asymmetrical seat and chainstays, pressfit BB86 bottom brackets, carbon races that increase fork stiffness, and a downtube that is claimed to be 25 percent stiffer than the 2013 Scott CR1, the bike the Solace effectively replaced in the Scott line-up.
Like every bike in this test, the Solace 20 passed our tire check test, which meant swapping on a set of 27c Challenge Paris Roubaix tires that actually measure closer to 30c. (The bike comes stock with 25c Schwalbe Duranos). However, getting the wider rear tire to squeeze through the chainstay-mounted brake caliper took a little wrangling, which brings us to that rear brake.
By mounting the rear brake underneath the chainstays, Scott engineers were able to drastically reduce the size of the seatstays, creating a bike with greater vertical compliance.
Concession for the sake of progression
As we've already made abundantly clear, there was general consensus among our test group that the Scott Solace 20 was arguably the most comfortable bike in this test, eating up rough road chop like a famished bike racer at an all-you-can eat pasta buffet. It's the kind of bike that demands to be ridden all day, its pilot comforted by the knowledge that they'll feel fresh - not beaten up - when the sun finally sets on their ride.
But there is a downside to all that plush. Any way you slice it, the chainstay mounted brake is not ideal. For starters it's Shimano 105 (not Ultegra). But more importantly, its bottom-of-the-bike locale makes it trickier to work on than a traditionally mounted brake, and it's highly susceptible to road gunk build-up, which over time could lead to performance degradation. That didn't happen during our test session, but we logged just a couple hundred miles and never rode in the rain.
"There is good engineering involved because it's a Shimano brake," said one tester, who's also a former WorldTour team mechanic. "But it's a style of brake that's more common on time trial and triathlon bikes, and they generally don't have the best stopping power. For me, it's a little odd that bike in this category, where riding on dirt roads is part of the attraction, went this direction. As soon as it gets dirty there's going to be a drop in performance."
It's absolutely no surprise then that for model year 2015, Scott is adding a disc brake-equipped version of the Solace that comes stock with 28c tires. The Scott Solace Disc will retail for $3500 and come spec'd with a mechanical Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Syncros components, and Syncros wheels with a 15mm thru axle in the front and a 142x12 rear end.
The rear brake is released via this lever underneath the handle bars. Cable routing is internal -- and Di2 compatible.
Another quibble, as is often the case in the endurance bike category, was the size 58cm Solace 20's front end height. While the more upright position afforded by an 20.5cm headtube certainly enhances all-day ride comfort, bikes of this genre will never dive in and out of corners like their race-day brethren. The size 58cm Scott Addict 20's headtube is 2.5 centimeters lower. "Steering just felt a little slow," said one tester. "Flipping the stem and ditching spacers can get rid of some of the vague response, but it will never feel like a race bike."
That's obviously not an issue unique to the Solace 20. Every bike in this test is built for comfort first, precision handling second. Here's a comparative look at some of the key geometry measurements, including head tube height.
Finally, we weren't entirely impressed with the DT Swiss RWS skewers, which utilize a ratchet to secure the wheels. The concept is sound (simply twist to tighten) but ours rattled some and took longer to tighten than a traditional quick release.
In the realm of endurance bikes, the Scott Solace 20 ticks all the right boxes. It's unique frame design delivers a tremendous amount of all-day comfort, while maintaining just enough stiffness for the occasional all-out efforts. Spec is top-shelf at this price point, and overall weight is on par with bikes that cost hundreds more. And while we're not huge fans of the chainstay mounted rear brake, it's nothing that can't be solved with a little regular maintenance. Or just wait a little while and buy the disc brake-equipped version.
Continue to Page 2 to see an extended photo gallery and full spec of the Scott Solace 20 »
Tall stem aside, the Scott Solace 20 was one of the best looking bikes in this test.
Scott Solace 20 Key Details
- Price: $3400
- Frame Size: 58cm
- Full Weight: 16.49
- Front wheel with skewer, tire and tube: 1090grams
- Rear wheel with cassette, skewer, tire and tube: 1540 grams
Scott Solace 20 Full Spec
- Frame: Solace Carbon HMF
- Color: black/red/white
- Fork: Scott SDS
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra (11-28)
- Crankset: Shimano Ultegra (50-34)
- Chain: Shimano
- Brakes: Shimano 105
- Seatpost: Syncros
- Wheels: Syncros RP20
- Tires: Schwalbe Durano, 25c
- Bars: Syncros RR2.0
- Stem: Syncros FL2.0
- Saddle: Syncros
- Seat post: Syncros
- Headset: Ritchey
- Cable Routing: Internal
- Cables/Housing: Jagwire CGX
For more information visit www.scott-sports.com.
Check out the extended photo gallery to see and learn more about the Scott Solace 20.