Fit and Geometry
The Addict is a pretty typical road racing bike, while the Solace is part of the now established class of grand touring or endurance bikes, typified by the Specialized Roubaix. It’s easiest to demonstrate their differences with their stack and reach figures. Both my review bikes were size large, ostensibly a 56cm frame. For the Addict, the stack and reach are 56.8 and 39.4cm respectively. For the Solace, the stack and reach are 59.2 and 38.4cm respectively. That difference in position for the headset top cap—1cm less reach and 2.4cm higher stack—means Scott is serious about the Solace being not just a different ride, but also a different fit.
For me, it meant that I needed all the spacers beneath the stem to achieve something like my preferred fit with the Addict. The Solace allowed me to actually shift a few spacers above the stem; it’s not often I encounter a bike that accommodates such a range of position.
Geometry-wise, the bikes are both really sensible designs. In the large (56), the head tube angle for both bikes is 73 degrees and fork rake is 45mm, resulting in 5.69cm of trail. This falls in a range I really like, as it’s not so quick as some of the bikes out there, but because the BB drop is only 6.7cm, you have to trim the trail a bit to make sure the bike will corner. I’d have expected a bit more drop on the Solace, though. I don’t expect the buyer of this bike is worried about pedaling through every corner.
What’s curious about the geometries of these two bikes is that I’d have expected the Solace to have a longer wheelbase in order to yield slightly calmer handling, but that isn’t the case. The wheelbase on the Addict is 99.4cm‚ just what I’d expect for a road racing bike in this size, while the Solace has a wheelbase of 99.1cm. It’s not a huge difference, but it plays out in a noticeable way, which I’ll get to in a bit. The wheelbase is shorter because the bikes feature the same chainstay length, while the top tube is shorter on the Solace. A slightly steeper seat tube angle on the Solace (73.5 degrees as opposed to the 73.3 degrees on the Addict) accounts for the rest of that difference.
One minor quibble with their geo chart is that while both bikes have 6.7cm of drop, both bikes are listed as having a BB height of 27.2cm. Neverminding for an instant that if you give one you don’t really need to give the other, because the Addict specs 23mm tires and the Solace specs 25mm tires, they can’t have the same drop and the same height. Someone shortcutted a bit of math. Don’t get caught up in that, though; it’s a tiny point.
What’s worth shouting about from roofs is the fact that Scott offers both of these bikes in seven sizes. That extra size comes on the small end. They offer XXS (47), XS (49), S (52), M (54), L (56), XL (58) and 2XL (61).
On the Road
I usually go into these comparisons with some idea of which bike I’m likely to prefer. I try to be open-minded, but I’m familiar enough with my fit needs and my preferences handling-wise that after looking the geo chart over I can’t help but identify an affinity here or there. Again, I try to remain neutral, but we are talking about bikes, and I’m an excitable sort, so sooner or later my emotions get inflamed like a sesame seed stuck in a gum. That’s actually a good thing, at least, in my case.
The Addict arrived first and after some of the other bikes I’d ridden recently, it was as welcome a relief as that first post-ride beer. Road bikes have gotten so stiff and their handling so sharp that in some cases they really aren’t much fun to ride. The Addict thanks to a tad more trail than some competing bikes and the 1 1/4-inch lower bearing in the headset is a bike that is noticeably stiff and maneuverable, but it doesn’t suffer the mistake of engineering from the “more is better” school. Sometimes, 11 isn’t the answer, and the Addict is a bike that was created with the understanding that even bikes need balance and nuance.
So while I’ve ridden bikes that felt like they delivered more wattage to the pedals during sprints and out-of-the-saddle efforts, the Addict was a bike that tracked with less error, left me with more confidence. And on long rides, it offered enough vertical flex that I didn’t arrive home with the feeling that I’d been strapped to a lawn mower all morning.
As much as I liked the Addict, when the Solace arrived, I tossed it aside as readily as a dead battery. Ever since I’d seen the Solace at Interbike, I’d been eager to ride one. I think there have been too many grand touring bikes, or endurance bikes as some companies like to call them, that go too far in vibration damping. I was hoping that the Solace would yield a livelier ride and offer greater road sensitivity than some of the other competing bikes out there. It turned out to be the case, too. While the Solace didn’t offer as much road feel as the Addict, it did give a better sense of the road than some competing bikes.
One challenge that many of these grand touring bikes face is that with a higher bar position, the handling out-of-the-saddle handling will suffer. Sprinting on one can feel like trying to charge over the final 100 meters of a race on a 3-speed. The Solace offered a surer feel than that while also avoiding the pitfall of sluggish handling I’ve encountered on a couple of these bikes.
While I think that the direct-mount rear brake probably made for a slightly more comfortable rear end by allowing a brake bridge-less design in the seatstays, the mount itself was problematic in that the brake squealed under hard squeezes. And I couldn’t chalk the noise up to a carbon wheel because they were aluminum clinchers. I tried adjusting the brake shoes some but didn’t make any headway on a fix. The harder the stop, the louder the brake was.
Any time I have two bikes from a manufacturer to review back-to-back, I like to take them up into Malibu for a circuit I call the Crucible. The loop is just shy of 10 miles and takes in the climb up Encinal Canyon, which is arguably the most gentle and consistent climb in the Santa Monica Mountains, and then descends Decker Canyon. A short span on Pacific Coast Highway connects the two.
Decker is among the top five most difficult descents in the Santa Monicas; while it doesn’t have as many off-camber turns as Tuna, my speed usually tops 45 mph and that is a bit nerve-wracking given the number of homes that line the road in the final half mile, where the road reaches it’s steepest pitch, 17 percent.
Decker is where I find out just how good a bike handles, how well the whole package comes together. Some bikes remain calm at speed and are such fun that I want to get shuttled back to the top. There have been a few where I was simply glad to get down in one piece. For this session, I invited RKP contributor Michael Hotten to join me. While I chose to step away from racing a number of years ago, Michael is still actively racing and his fitness and skills made for a great confirmation to my experience. We each did four laps, two per bike. Normally, I do six laps, but I reached a conclusion so quickly and suffering form gave me the out I needed to head home without completing all six.
What I expected to find was that with the slightly more comfortable fit and shorter wheelbase, the Solace would allow me to drop down Decker more quickly, with greater confidence. I also figured the 25mm tires would lend a flourish of assurance in some of the tightest turns. As it turned out, the Addict was more in keeping with what I look for from a bike when descending in the mountains. The amount of weight on the front wheel will never stop being crucial. As you start taking weight off the front wheel, handling quickens and that straight-line tracking begins to fade. Out of the mountains and on tamer terrain, the Solace was reminiscent of some of the steel bikes I was reviewing back in the ’90s. It’s quick enough to make its way through a group ride and calm enough for a day at a fondo.
The fact that I preferred the Addict in the mountains was almost a disappointment … almost. I wanted the Solace to be the be-all carbon bike that I continue to look for. That’s not a failing of the Solace, but a testament to how difficult it is to make a jack-of-all-trades bike, and just how well designed the Addict is.