Scott Tigua test

Scott Tigua

Let's be honest. The Scott Tigua isn't the sort of bike that you lie awake at night dreaming about. It isn't expensive. It doesn't have suspension. While the paint job is tasteful, it doesn't elicit admiring glances from passers by. The tires are better suited to street use and the odd canal towpath than serious off-road work. No, this is the sort of bike you buy because it's reasonably priced and you think it'll do the job. The only question is, how well does it do its job?

The Tigua is the entry point to Scott's Solution series: a line of bikes designed for women. The fact that it's a women's bike seems well known. A few times I've had people coming up to me to talk to me about it and ask me how I get on with it.

The frame is straight-gauge 7005 aluminium in a standard diamond. There's no fancy bending of seatstay or exotic tube shapes, although there are some nice cutouts at the rear dropouts. There's a gusset on the underside of the down tube at the head tube, but it's welded at the end as well as along the edges, which concentrates stress at the end weld. At least it looks the part. It has a plain curved steel fork which is extra tall, so if you replace it with a suspension fork the geometry shouldn't get too messed up. The paintwork is neat, but not very durable: the cables of my lights rubbed through it on one night ride. It has all the braze-ons for rack and mudguards, although the tall fork would make attachment of a full front mudguard a fiddle.

in Thetford Forest

The wheels are decent, although budget. The "Formula RBP" hubs are alloy, and there are 32 14-gauge stainless spokes laced to Alex rims. The rims are a simple U shape, without eyelets, and the braking surface isn't all that wide, making precise alignment of brakes a necessity. The surprising thing about the wheels is that despite the basic components, the quality of the wheelbuilding is excellent. These are very well-tensioned wheels, and as long as the hubs don't go belly-up I expect them to give good service until the sidewalls wear thin. I don't know if this quality of wheelbuilding is standard for Scott, or if it was tweaked by the shop I got the bike from, Bothy Bikes in Aviemore.

Since this is a woman's bike, it's worth examining how well it fulfills that role. See my article on What to look for in a women's bike. First, let's consider the top tube length. I have the 17.5" model, the second smallest. Its top tube is, according to the geometry charts, 53.5cm (about 21") long. The charts for my old Trek 950 (a non women-specific MTB) list its top tube as 56cm (22") long. However in reality, the head tube is the same distance from the seat tube on both bikes. Trek gives the "effective top tube" measurement, which is how long the top tube would be if it were horizontal, while Scott gives the actual length of the tube which is shorter. If you measure the "effective top tube" length of the Scott you find it's also 56cm (22").

So the Tigua isn't a real winner here, but it is quite short for a Scott. The geometry charts list the 17.5" Sport models as having a 55.5cm top tube, and the Racing versions a 56cm top tube. Assuming the same method of measuring, that would be a heck of a stretch. In contrast, the 17" versions of Trek's women's specific 6500 and 8000 have effective top tubes of 53.4cm (21"). So if you're looking for a really short reach, look to Trek.

Returning to my two bikes, the top tube on the Scott slopes more than the Trek. Although the seat tubes of the bikes are the same length, the top tube on the Scott joins the seat tube well below the top. This gives you more crotch clearance, but prevents the use of a big waterbottle on the seat tube. Not a problem if you're a Camelbak fan.

bars and stem

Now let's look to the handlebar and stem to see what sort of a riding position you'll get. The Tigua comes with a fashionable (although heavy steel) riser bar. At 24" it's of moderate width, and it should help to bring the grips up and back to the rider. However as soon as I sat on the bike I felt way too stretched. It's the stem at fault. It's 115mm long with almost no rise. Since the headset is threadless and there is only a slim spacer, there is no chance for height adjustment. What is this doing on a small ladies bike? My old Trek, not specifically designed for women, came with a stem of the same rise but a centimeter shorter. Since it didn't have a threadless headset, I could raise the stem by quite a bit. I wonder if Scott had some leftover stems from their mens race bikes, and they stuck them on the Tigua to get rid of them. Whatever, it certainly doesn't belong. My local bike shop sorted me out with a stem about 85mm long and with about a 20degree rise. Ah, much better.

A quick trip around the block told me that the Scott Solution saddle didn't suit me. Now, women usually have wider sit bones than men, and I certainly don't have a very slim backside. But this saddle was too wide for me, getting in the way of my legs and preventing me from getting the weight properly over the sit bones. So I ditched it. Instead I put on a plastic-covered Bontrager FS+10 which I find works well for me: it's not too wide or narrow, and it has a fair amount of padding, but not so much that I sink in.

Something that ought to feature on women's bike, but rarely does, is short cranks. These are needed because women, being on average shorter than men, typically have shorter legs. I find I get on best with 165mm cranks, and I have put these on my Trek. I can tolerate the 170mm cranks that come on all sizes of the Tigua, but anyone who's small enough to ride the 16" would be much better off with shorter cranks.

After getting the bike sufficiently adjusted to suit me, I slapped on some clipless pedals and took it for a ride. Quite a few rides in fact, over a couple of months. At first it impressed me by being quite nimble in the singletrack. It's not particularly light (about 28 pounds according to my bathroom scale), but the riser bars really help with control. My Trek has flat bars, just shy of 23", with bar ends. I found with the risers I got alot more leverage to both guide the front wheel and to lean the bike into the curves. Before trying this bike I hadn't been a fan of riser bars, dismissing them as simply the current fashion. But hey, they work. At least these ones do. I still don't think I'd get along with the ultra-wide bars you get on some bikes.

The bike is at its best in smooth, twisty tracks. Taken out on rough surfaces, you either find a line between the bumps or you get jolted about and have to struggle to keep the bike on course.

I was quite pleased with the shifting, provided by Gripshift ESP 5.0 shifters and rear derailleur, with Shimano sneaking in with an Acera front mech. This was my first experience with Gripshift, and I found I get along with it very well. I like the fact the I don't even have to move my hands to shift: just tighten a couple of fingers and twist. Simple. Gear changes were usually reliable, but a couple of times it acted up in the mud, refusing to shift. Similarly, the brakes work fine too, although they're currently in a squealing mood and I need to sort them out.

tire pattern

The tires weren't quite up to off-road riding. Scott seemed to be assuming (not unreasonably) that this bike would be used mostly on the road. So it came with tires that are almost perfectly smooth in the middle, with a row of knobblies on the edges. The knobblies do help provide grip in corners, but they don't help much when you're going straight over soft ground: staying upright becomes more a matter of balance than traction. For winter use I've swapped in some skinny 1.7" mud tires. They give far superior grip, and at about 500 grams each, they reduce the weight of the bike almost 1 pound per tire (the original tires were a porky 900 grams).

In summary, this is a great bike to get you out on the trails. With the exception of a far too long and low stem, the geometry is good, and as long as you put some knobbly tires on it it'll attack the singletrack with enthusiasm. Simply put, it is great fun. I didn't expect to like it this much, so I'm surprised to find myself ignoring my heavily upgraded Trek to take out the Scott when the tracks aren't too technical. Since the Tigua has a pretty good frame, you can upgrade at your leisure to make the bike lighter and more suitable for difficult terrain (via things like clipless pedals and a suspension fork).

The more things change, the more they stay the same

2000 Tigua

The Tigua I have is the 1999 version. The 2000 version has been significantly revamped. The most noticiable changes are in the frame, which is used for all but the top bike in the Solution series. The color and shapes of the frame tubes of the new Tigua really catch the eye. My bike is a mild-mannered black and white with red bits. The new Tigua is a vibrant orange and blue-black. You wouldn't think that tube shapes would catch anyone's attention, but these certainly do. They are flattened and squashed into some interesting profiles that change along the length of the tubes (Scott calls this Bi-Axial tubing). This certainly adds interest to the look of the frame, although I don't know whether it changes the ride of the bike. There are lots of other changes too when you look closely. Gone is Gripshift, replaced by a basic Shimano drivetrain. The wheels are now shod in MTB semi-slicks instead of the fat slicks, which should result in better grip off-road. The threadless headset has been replaced by an old-fashioned threaded one, although at least the stem is a much more appropriate 85mm length and can be raised.

The geometry and riser bar seem to be unchanged, so I expect the new Tigua will be just as fun slaloming down the singletrack. In addition the orange bits and cool tube profiling will help prevent those boring bike blues. Thus the new Tigua is likely to be as good an investment as the old: a bike that will get you rolling right away, with a frame that is worthy of upgrades should you choose to make them.

me pulling Ellen

Update 2003

Now that I have a baby I'm spending lots more bicycle time hauling my daughter around town than slaloming along singletrack, and so the Scott has been revamped into a round-town bike. This bike is sufficiently flexible that this was an easy conversion to make, and it serves its new purpose marvellously. I am still an enthusiastic owner of this bicycle!

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