Carbon fiber has re-ordered our expectations for bicycle frames and forks. Today we have frames that weigh what some steel forks used to weigh. It has given brands a palette from which to create visually striking bikes, bikes that trumpet their brand even at a distance. And we’ve learned that what we used to think was stiff for a steel bicycle frame wouldn’t be considered acceptable in carbon.
Many of these changes in our idea about what’s possible, what is achievable, what we as consumers have even come to expect can be traced back to a significant engineering milestone. Ten years ago Scott Bicycles introduced the CR1, the first bicycle with a frame that broke the kilogram threshold.
Scott is a Swiss brand that has had an alternately big and nonexistent presence in the United States. They were huge in the heyday of mountain biking, but sales faltered and they pulled out of the U.S. market before returning with the CR1. Since then, they’ve been making strides in their dealer network, meaning that you no longer have to drive 50 miles to find one.
The Addict Team is the bike that stepped into Scott’s top slot for road racing and is the bike that IAM Cycling riders run. Meanwhile, Scott added it’s first grand touring bike to its lineup, the Solace. It features a slightly longer head tube (not to mention more headset spacers), a longer wheelbase and bigger tires for a gentler ride.
The bikes arrived over staggered dates. I began riding the Addict a few weeks before the Solace arrived and I had the opportunity to get to know it before my first ride on the Solace. The Addict Team isn’t even the lightest bike in the Addict lineup; that titles goes to the Addict SL. My 56cm Addict Team was 13 lbs., 9 oz. straight out of the box, thanks to a frame I’m told weighs 790 grams. That the bike could be so light with a mechanical Dura-Ace group was a surprise.
Because the Solace isn’t available in a Team edition, I was sent the Solace 10, which is a slight step down the hierarchy of bikes. The Addict uses Scott’s HMX/IMP Superlight Carbon Technology (to yield that 790g frame weight), the Solace used Scott’s HMF/IMP Carbon Technology for a slightly heavier frame. The IMP stands for “Integrated Molding Process,” which concerns the use of as few joints as possible in creating the frame.
Aside from the Dura-Ace group, that’s almost all the two bikes shared, component-wise. Where the Addict Team received carbon fiber clinchers, bar and stem, the Solace 10 got an aluminum bar, stem and clinchers. As a result, the Addict weighed in at 13 lbs. 9 oz., while the Solace tipped the scale at 15 lbs. 8 oz.
These differences in spec result in noticeably different retail prices for these two bikes. The Addict goes for $7499, while the Solace goes for a less astronomic $4999. These are not cheap bikes—no bike equipped with Dura-Ace gets filed under “bargain” but when you begin to compare these bikes to many others with similar spec, the value here starts to come into focus. I’ve noticed consistently that smaller brands like Scott, Focus and Felt are delivering bikes that outstrip their competition. The big guys need to watch out.
The Addict and Solace are produced by the same engineers and share a number of design features. Both feature a tapered head tube that uses a 1 1/8-inch bearing at the top and a 1 1/4-inch bearing at the bottom of the head tube. That’s a bit smaller than some companies are using, but if there’s one thing I’ve experienced on several bikes this year that I didn’t like, it was too much front end stiffness due to an exceedingly oversized fork steerer and head tube.
Both the Addict and the Solace featured oversize bottom brackets. Scott even claims that the BB for the Addict is the widest of any bike on the market currently. I’m not going to get into that claim, but what I can say is that the difference in stiffness between an oversized carbon fiber BB and a more traditional BB in a steel frame is as hard to miss as a power outage.
The other feature that the two frames share is Scott’s IMP design, which removes material from the head tube as well as the final layer of carbon weave to produce a lighter frame that loses no strength or stiffness relative to previous generations of Addict and Solace. It’s a strategy most companies are pursuing to one degree or another.
While these two bikes share some design features, they are meant to do vastly different things and as a result are more different than they are alike. The Addict is a classic road frame. Nimble and light, it’s perfect for threading through small holes in the group and for carving lines through corners with the precision of a draftsman. The Solace uses Scott’s HMF carbon, which can be found in many of its carbon models. We don’t really know what goes into the HMF carbon, but that’s hardly surprising. There’s not a company out there that is being fully transparent about just what material is being used. The Addict steps up a level to Scott’s proprietary HMX carbon, which increases stiffness in key areas by 20 percent, I’m told.
Where the Addict has been designed to offer race-specific stiffness, the Solace has been designed for comfort. Scott’s SDS (Shock Damping System) places material in the rear triangle to mute vibration that would otherwise head for the rider’s hind quarters. Similarly, the Solace has been designed for maximum vertical compliance, and one notable feature in that quest is the company’s decision to use a direct-mount brake beneath the chainstays. With no caliper brake mounted to a brake bridge, the brake bridge was eliminated, giving the seatstays a greater length over which to flex and increasing their flexibility by removing material meant to support the presence of the brake bridge.
The Solace also benefits from what Scott calls Bi-Zone Construction. The upper half of the frame—that is, the seat tube, top tube and seatstays—is called the comfort zone and is built to allow for deflection and vibration damping, while the power zone—the head tube, down tube, bottom bracket and chainstays—are engineered for great torsional stiffness and unyielding power transfer.