Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time in Park City, Utah, for Scott Bicycles annual ScottWeek trade show, wherein the brand showed off its upcoming 2015 model year bikes and products. And while there, I was able to take out what was widely considered the Scott’s most significant new road bike, the Solace 15. What makes the Solace 15 so special, you ask? Quite simply, disc brakes. And while we’ve already seen several bicycle manufacturers begin slapping the round stoppers onto a variety of cyclocross and road platforms, Scott has been conspicuously absent from the disc brake revolution. In fact, the 2015 Solace 15 is Scott’s first-ever bike with both drop-handlebars and disc brakes. And they sure picked the right bike with which to check off that particular item.
THE SOLACE, NOW WITH DISC BRAKES
The Solace endurance road bike was unveiled at last year’s ScottWeek. And since then, we’ve been able to get a long-term test of the bike, which was featured in the June 2014 issue of Road Bike Action magazine. That particular Solace served up a very comfortable ride, but its biggest selling point was its hearty amount of performance-riding capabilities (i.e. stiffness for pedaling efficiency). It truly is a terrific bike, one that our test riders thoroughly enjoyed. Well, the Solace is back for 2015 in a variety of builds and new color schemes. But the significant model is the Solace 15 thanks to its utilization of disc brakes. And they’re not just any disc brakes-they’re some of the best in the business.
THE THRU-AXLE EMERGES
The Solace 15 frame and fork are both the same as on the original version, except for two key changes. First, the fork now features an internally?routed cable for the front disc brake. Second, both the fork and the rear dropouts now feature a thru-axle design: 15mm on the fork, and a 12mm x 142mm standard on the rear. Scott says that the reason for adding in thru-axles came about because ‘thru-axles provide increased axle-stiffness compared to standard quick releases.’ This concept was especially important when it came to the fork. Because fork blades form an open triangle-shaped structure (meaning that the ends are not connected to each other), they’re key to controlling the bike’s front-end compliance, but they’re not among the most rigid areas of the bike.
In order to make sure a fork with quick-release skewer dropouts can handle the extra braking forces brought about by disc brakes, bike manufacturers often add extra carbon material to reinforce the area. But, this means extra weight. Scott says that a thru-axle design provides all the reinforcement necessary, so extra material need not be added to the bulk of the fork blades. As such, they say that the Solace 15 offers the same front-end compliance as on non-disc brake versions. Finally, Scott also says that a thru-axle design ensures that wheels can be installed with greater precision than disc brake-equipped quick-release systems, thereby ensuring that the brake rotors don’t begin rubbing against the calipers due to misalignment. Speaking of rotors, the Solace 15 can accept either 140mm or 160mm rotors.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT
Apart from the aforementioned modifications to make the bike ready for disc brakes, the Solace 15 features the same frame and fork technology that was first unveiled and last year’s ScottWeek and has gone on to become a popular model for the Scott brand. The carbon frame was designed in two parts, the Power Zone and the Comfort Zone-this is a similar design philosophy as some other recent endurance road bikes, most notably the BMC GranFondo. The Solace’s Power Zone is comprised of the headtube, downtube, bottom bracket shell and chainstays. This is the area of the frame that handles most of the pedaling forces for the bike, and like the chassis of a motorcycle, is the foundation for a stiff, efficient ride. A very wide, yet relatively flattened, downtube is a shape that Scott says provides plenty of front-end torsional stiffness. The bottom bracket shell is wide, as well, as is the tapered seat tube design. The Solace’s chainstays are nearly as thick as the downtube at the bottom bracket junction before tapering towards the rear thru-axle dropouts.
The Solace 15’s ‘Comfort Zone’ is comprised of the top tube, seat tube and seatstays. The top tube is quite flat, while the seat tube features a tapered design that forms a wide, boxy shape at the bottom bracket and gradually morphs into a round tube at the top where a 27.2mm seatpost is inserted. The most significant and eye-catching feature on the Solace frame, however, is the seatstay design. Similar to the triple-triangle design featured on the recently released GT Grade, the Solace’s seatstays are incredibly thin and sit outboard of the seat tube. Originally created with caliper rim brakes in mind, Scott’s engineers removed the traditional seatstay bridge mounting location in favor of placing the rear brake underneath the chainstays. An added benefit of this, Scott says, was slightly improved aerodynamics. But the main reason was to free up the seatstays from their duties of managing braking forces for the rear brake, thereby allowing for the development of a compliance-focused design.
ENDURANCE GEOMETRY, RACE GEOMTERY
One of the best attributes of the Solace, as we discovered during our long-term test of a 2014 model year version, was its geometry. Like most other endurance road bikes currently on the market, the Solace features a relatively tall headtube to allow for more upright riding positions. It also sports a longer wheelbase for greater stability and tracking, and its head and seat angles are both slightly slacker than, say, Scott’s racier Foil and Addict options. But all of these more comfort-minded lengths, angles and measurements are less extreme than many other endurance road bikes we’ve come across. As such, the Solace serves up a light steering feel and quicker handling than other ‘comfort’ bikes. In this sense, we liken the Solace to Scott’s Foil model. Whereas the Foil is considered Scott’s ‘aero road’ bike, it’s not among the most aerodynamic road bikes around, but rather is a stiff and efficient racing bike that is more aero than some other models. The Solace may be Scott’s ‘comfort’ road bike, but it’s really more of an all-purpose road bike that serves up a bit more comfort than the average bike with enough pedaling stiffness and vertical compliance for the masses.
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES
The Solace frame also features an integrated chain catcher for helping to prevent dropped chains. Its internal cable routing can be adapted for both mechanical and electronic drivetrains. Frame weight for a size 54cm is 890 grams, while the fork weighs in at 330 grams. There’s tire clearance for up to size 28c rubber. There are 7 different frame sizes available: 47, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm. All of these frames feature size-specific carbon layups.
THE PARTS: SCOTT SOLACE 15
Shimano takes center stage on the Solace 15 with Ultegra 6800 mechanical derailleurs, an FC-RS500 crankset with a compact 50/34 chainring combination, and a set of R785 hydraulic brake/shift levers that includes 160mm Shimano RT99 ICE Tech rotors. The handlebar, stem and 27.2mm seatpost are all from Scott’s house brand of components, Syncros, as is the plush saddle. The low-profile aluminum disc brake wheels are also from Syncros, and they’re wrapped in size 28c Schwalbe Durano clincher tires.
FIRST RIDE: SCOTT SOLACE 15
Descending Guardsman Pass is always a white-knuckle joyride, and is an ideal testing ground for any bike boasting of words like ‘comfort’ and ‘endurance.’ This ride, and in particular this first part of the descent, confirmed for me what we originally found with our previous Solace test bike. And that is that it’s not the most comfortable endurance road bike on the market, but it certainly serves up plenty of deflection for smoothing out the bumps while providing a light steering feel for aggressive riding. It’s a great bike, and it’s only made sweeter by the Shimano R785 disc brakes. Dry conditions ruled the day, so the benefit of disc brakes on this ride is improved stopped power. And that translates to later braking into turns and carrying more speed through corners.
I’ve made this particular descent a dozen times, but never with discs. And I found myself applying the brakes as I normally would at certain distances before tight switchbacks, and each time I would slow a bit earlier than I would have preferred, thanks to the greater stopping power over rim brakes. After some quick mental adjustments, the descent became all the sweeter. As always, I’ll throw in the disclaimer that one ride does not make a true test of a bike. But this particular Solace was very familiar to me, thanks to my time on the previous model year’s version. Another event attendee asked me, ‘So what do you think that bike gives up with the addition of disc brakes?’ For now, I’d have to say, ‘nothing.’ But we’ll suspend final judgment until we get a long-term test bike back home on familiar roads.
PUNCH LINES: SCOTT SOLACE 15
– Price: $3499.99
– Sizes: 47, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
– Scott’s first-ever drop-bar bike with disc brakes
– Shimano R785 hydraulic disc brakes with Ultegra Di2
– Endurance road bike with a racy feel
– Only one paint scheme: black/silver/red