The term sportive bike is on the way out and will soon be buried. Partly because manufacturers have never been overly keen on the word and partly because the image of middle-aged men squeezed into Lycra, riding 70 miles for Facebook bragging rights, was not one that appealed to the cycling media mainstream.
However, sportive-type bikes are the biggest selling platform and bike manufacturers around the world should be very grateful to the 'Fish & Chips' cyclist (not my words) that helped coin the phrase. After all, these were the riders who pushed for comfort over speed and spent their cash by the bucket load when sportive bikes appeared during the cycling boom.
The investment in the platform has meant that sportive bikes have enjoyed most of the technical advances, of the few that have been around, in recent years. Sportive bikes have seen the introduction of ISO Speed de-coupling and disc brakes, whereas race bikes, in comparison, have undergone very little change. A lighter carbon here, a more aero profile there, but nothing revolutionary.
But, the sportive rider is evolving with the bikes they ride. The typical sportive rider of five years ago has slimmed down as the 'bike fit' idea spreads and gains momentum. Performance and comfort are not mutually exclusive terms anymore.
�Sportive� is dead. Long live �Endurance Road�
Scott's arrival at the endurance party has been a relatively late one in comparison to its rival manufacturers. Their dabble in the sportive bike market was the CR-1, which does a brilliant job of feeling smooth thanks to its S-Bend stays, but has never really been a bike to set a Strava PB on. Scott's focus was always on all-out race hooliganism. Their pro-team were the most successful professional unit ever assembled and based all their victories on perfect execution of the sprint train. The Addict was the Scott bike of choice and perfect if you wanted to beat your mate in the sprint for the local village sign.
Scott's true endurance offering is the Solace. But whilst the likes of Trek, Specialized and Giant shout loudly and proudly about their endurance credentials, Scott and the Solace are a much subtler beast. There are no in frame bearings and no elastomer inserts in the Solace. It's all in, and about, the frame design.
The top tube on the Solace is shorter than on the 'racier' Addict, but not really by that much. When you jump on it, you soon notice it is much easier on the neck and shoulders. But crucially, you still feel like you could hijack a sprint train, or sit on the back of the family SUV that's just pulled out in front of you. The head tube is tapered and the BB shell is oversized, which is standard fare for any carbon road bike now, but this means climbing seems to take on a magical ease compared to the sportive bikes of yester-year.
The comfort portion of the bike is handled almost entirely by the back end. Its asymmetrical seat stays join the top tube ahead of the seat tube, which allows for a decent level of flex. It also boasts a 27.2 seatpost, which is designed to flex backwards, taking the sting out of the lumps and bumps on the British roads without wobbling back and forth. Clever stuff.
Overall, the bike looks thin and elegant and has a certain aero look about it. It's not a Specialized Venge by any stretch of the imagination, but small flourishes in the frame design certainly give it that 'slippery' feel.
Where does the Solace sit compared to its competitors?
Well, Giant's adoption of disc brake technology has seen them produce a pretty unbeatable all-rounder this year, in the Defy endurance package. Specialized's Roubaix remains a firm favourite with the riding public and the rumoured fork design for next year may see them challenge Giant's current dominance.
The Solace is clearly an endurance bike with racing ambition, something which seemingly resides firmly in the DNA of all Scott bikes. There are certainly more comfortable endurance rides out there, but the Solace is no stretching rack. After riding the Defy for 50 miles you only really need a little stretching off, rather than a full blown sports massage. However, with the Solace you might need a good, hot bath. What makes the Solace stand out, is that it lets the little devil sitting on your shoulder, whispering 'go on, do them in' as you spy a pack on the horizon, win. If you want to be that wolf who puts on a woolly jumper and stealthily stalks around in a field full of fluffy lambs, ready to pounce, the Solace is for you.