Solace is not a word that features frequently in the day to day vocabulary. Solace is a reference to comfort, specifically in a time of distress or hardship. The Scott team must have been chuffed when they came across such a fitting name for their new comfort focused bike. The comfort segment is a new one for Scott, and their soft rider is up against some metaphorically stiff competition.
The Solace debuted as a 2014 model at the same time as the reborn Addict line. The Scott premium line now boasts the aerodynamic Foil (used by most of the Orica Green Edge team), the feather light Addict, and the comfy cobbler Solace. It’s a broad arsenal of bikes that allows each to pursue it’s own distinct personality, and echoes the multi-platform approach of many of Scott’s competitors.
From day one the Solace is up against very well established and well known competitors, such as the Giant Defy, Specialized Roubaix, Trek Domane and Cannondale Synapse. Almost every major player has a comfort-oriented machine on offer. The regular Joe has never been so spoilt for choice, or quality. Fittingly Scott sent us their Solace 30. This is the entry level Solace. They could have sent us the spanky Solace 10, decked out with Dura Ace no less, but the 30 is the Solace that talks directly to the recreational rider. The spec is solid, the fit is relaxed, and the asking price is very reasonable. A lot of people should find this machine appealing.
Regardless of the parts, the main event is the Solace frame and fork. As noted, this is Scott’s first foray into the comfort bike segment. The Solace is new from top to tail. Comfort bikes are typically characterized by taller head tubes and shorter top tubes than their racier siblings, and the Solace is no different. These geometry changes put the rider in a more upright position compared with the Foil or Addict. For the given size, the Solace is 5mm shorter in the top tube and 20mm taller in the head tube. Unlike most of its competitors, the Solace maintains a short 405mm chainstay length. The wheelbase of the Solace is slightly shorter than a Foil or Addict.
Scott refers to the Solace as having two ‘zones’; Power and Comfort. The Power zone is the lower portion of the frame, the down tube, bottom bracket and chain stays. It’s the solid foundation that the rider is separated from, and it is solid. The downtube is a large rectangle where it meets the bottom bracket, looking no different to any high stiffness race bike, and the chain stays are quite chunky. The Power Zone of the bike makes the Comfort Zone look comparatively malnourished, especially the slender seat stays.
The seat stays are not much bigger than a pencil in diameter at their narrowest point, and meet the top tube and side of the seat tube, rather than ramming into the back of the seat tube as per most bikes. They have a slight arc, and the seat tube length of the Solace is longer than most. These features contribute to the generous overall length of the stays, which Scott has designed to absorb vibrations and bumps from the road. The longer the stay, the more stay available to do the comfort work. It’s a similar idea to the Volagi Liscio that we had for test a few issues back. The rear brake is the other really noticeable piece of work, hidden under the chain stays. This is usually associated with aero bikes but Scott has located the brake here to allow the seat stays to be super skinny, and bridgeless. Again, all in the name of comfort.
The top tube has also been designed to further the plush ride. Its flat shape should be stiff side to side, but allow some amount of vertical deflection. The carbon Syncros (Scott’s in house component brand) seat post is 27.2mm in diameter and designed to flex a little to isolate your behind from coarse road buzz. Naturally, the fork is also optimized to smooth the ride. The blades have a reasonable curve which is apparently better at absorbing bumps than a straight blade fork. The dropouts are set back slightly from the end of the curve to compensate for the additional rake of the fork. The steerer is not tapered, an intentional compromise between stiffness and ride quality.
The word comfort keeps coming up, but it’s important to note that comfort is relative to the rider. The goal of making the rider happy on the bike is twofold: first, a happy rider will want to ride more. Secondly, a fresh and happy rider will be far more efficient than a sore and grumpy one, regardless of how aerodynamic they are. The Solace is instantly relaxed and easy; the bars come to hand without too much hip rotation, even with all the spacers removed from under the stem. The nice Shimano 105 hood shape and short reach Syncros bar greet your hands with a warm smile, and off you go.
Rolling out is smooth due to the generous gearing range of the Solace. A compact Shimano crank turns an 11-32 cassette (I remember riding one of those on my mountain bike!). There is almost always an easier gear to shift down to via the fantastic 105 level derailleurs and shifters, and the ratios encourage you to spin fluidly rather than mash a hard gear. The tall head tube means that the bars sit high. The drops are just a touch away, and you find yourself using all the positions available without a second thought. A flow-on from this is that you’re likely to spend a lot of time in the saddle on the Solace. The Syncros saddle looks hard and small, but the padding is deceptively good and to my surprise I really enjoyed it!
Scott’s engineers have most certainly hit their target, as the Solace really takes the edge off the road. The stenciled concrete Mc Pavé’ of my suburbia is always a reference point for road feel: the Solace took on the stenciled cobbles and raised them a hot mix. The Solace has a pronounced effect in separating the rider from road surface buzz. Riders that spend lots of time on chip mix country roads will appreciate the qualities of the ride, especially after a few hours. Some bikes take the leading edge off the chatter, but still manage to give the rider significant feedback about the road surface. The Solace doesn’t fit this category; it really smothers the whole lot out.
It’s not perfect (but the rider won’t be either, let’s be honest!) though. Forks are still the toughest part to engineer for comfort. A fork has two blades which attach to a long skinny steerer, and has to support a wheel, deal with steering forces, and do most of the braking. The fork isn’t as plush as the rear end of the Solace, or as stiff. In big sweeping corners you can lean the Solace in, the fork budges a little and then finds its line. Chattery corners are beautiful, as you can choose the best line and let the bike glide through without being pinballed off track. Every cloud has a sliver lining.
When you get out of the saddle and get excited the Solace lacks the real snappy, tap dancing feel that a genuine thoroughbred has, although the heavy entry level Shimano RS11 wheels and Schwalbe Durano tyres don’t aid matters. Climbing is best in the saddle, and heavy or aggressive riders might prefer one of Scott’s stiffer models. The short wheelbase and upright handlebar position make for awkward sprinting aboard the Solace. The bike wants to twitch around, but lacks the long and low handlebar position to mellow the excitable front wheel. Again, the best option is to get down in the drops and gradually wind up the speed from the saddle.
The Solace is about fluidity. Smooth cadence, light gears, sweeping corners and consistent, measured efforts on long climbs. In every obvious facet of technique which relates to efficient long distance riding, the Solace plays the rider to the optimal execution. Even though this is the entry level Solace, there aren’t many epic rides that couldn’t be taken on in the stock format. Some lighter wheels would be nice for those big climbs, but the huge gearing spread and ability to use all the positions on the handle bar would handle the rest. For short and sharp efforts the Solace is the pool noodle at the sword fight, so look elsewhere, but remove sharp from the equation and the Solace will go as short or long as you ask.
Scott consistently produces lovely carbon frames. The Solace is beautifully finished, and a quick peek inside the frame reveals a finish that is equally nice. There are no dud parts on the Solace, although the frame is the real standout.
A lot of time and effort has gone into designing this frame, and it shows on the road. The Solace is super smooth, and equipped with bomb proof parts that will work day after day, although they are heavy which slows the Solace down a touch.
The Syncros parts are all very nice, they may be perceived as inferior, but they’re easily the measure of many aftermarket items. The investment is the frame and fork, which are excellent, and a prime candidate for upgrades over time.
The Solace is a real mile muncher. It’s efficient because it’s smooth and provides the rider with the correct tools to ride in comfort all day long. The Solace is a great machine for weekend warriors all the way through to seven days a week, big mileage riders. It’s a serious contender in the comfort segment.
Frame: HMF Carbon
Fork: HMF Carbon, 1 1/8 steerer
Stem: Syncros FL2.0
Headset: Ritchey Pro Drop-In
Handlebars: Syncros RR2.0 Anatomic bend
Saddle: Syncros FL2.5
Seat Post: Syncros Carbon FL1.2, 27.2mm
Shift Levers: Shimano 105 5800
Brakes: F: Shimano 105 5800 R:Tektro 740 direct mount
F Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800
R Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800
Cassette: Shimano 105 5800 11-32
Chain: Shimano HG600
Crank: Shimano RS 500 50-34
Bottom Bracket: Shimano internal
Wheels: Shimano RS11
Tyres: Schwalbe Durano 25mm
Distributor: Sheppard Industries www.sheppardindustriesltd.com