Review: Scott Contessa Genius 700

Sep 7, 2015
by Rachelle Frazer Boobar  

Scott Sports have been looking after the fairer sex for over a decade now, having released their first women's specific bikes back in 2003. Scott's intention at the time was to acknowledge the increasing participation of women in cycling by offering a range of bikes that might be more appealing to the growing number of women riders. In 2004, the line was re-named Contessa, and ten years on the family of bikes is still delivering women alternative options with their range of hardtail and dual suspension bikes as well as road bicycles. The Contessa Genius 700 is an off-shoot of the brand's popular Genius mountain bike, and features a carbon frame, 150mm of rear travel, women's specific Syncros components, Fox suspension, and a Shimano gruppo for $4999.99 USD.

SCOTT Contessa Details

• Intended use: Trail / All Mountain
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• Rear wheel travel: 150mm / 100mm
• Adjustable geometry
• Single pivot suspension design
• Frame material: carbon fiber
• Female specific touch points
• Weight: 27.34lb (medium, actual, w/o pedals)
• MSRP: $4999.99 USD, @SCOTT-Sports

Scott Contessa Genius review
The frame features a direct mount post for the rear brake on the chain stay.
Scott Contessa Genius review
The bottom bracket height and head tube angle can be adjusted with the flip of a chip.

Frame Details

The Contessa's frame is actually the same that you will find in the rest of the Genius range, the design of which was first released in 2013 when Scott updated their platform from 26" wheels to 27.5" and 29" wheels. It's a single pivot design that uses a mono link to activate the proprietary Fox Nude shock and is made from Scott's super light HMF carbon fiber. Scott's IDS - SL Dropouts (Interchangeable Dropout System-Super Light) work with 142x12mm, 135x12mm and 135x10mm QR rear axle standards and the frame also features a direct post mount on the chain stay, which means rear brake caliper is directly mounted to the frame, offering a cleaner look and potentially saving weight. Up front, the swathe of cables at the front of the bike quickly disappear neatly out of view into the Contessa's internal cable routing system.

An interesting feature on the Contessa is the adjustable geometry chip that sits in the shock mount. Flipping the chip between low and high setting allows the rider to adjust the bottom bracket height by 7mm and the head tube angle by .5 degrees. If undertaking the task of flipping the chip and messing around with the Contessa's geometry sounds intimidating, fear not. This was a simple procedure I was able to do so trail side, but you will require two T25 Torx keys, which not all riders will have in their pack.

Scott Contessa Genius review
Your flight deck.
Scott Contessa
The Twin Lock lever is your one stop suspension shop.

Suspension and Set Up

Scott uses its patented TwinLoc system on the Contessa, which is a handlebar mounted switch that controls the fork and rear shock simultaneously. Twin Loc comprises of three ride settings: Lockout, Traction and Full mode options. In Full mode, both the shock and the fork are fully open. Flick the switch once, and the rear shock will switch to Climb mode and 100mm of travel while leaving the fork fully open, flick it again and the fork will lock out too. The idea behind TwinLoc is to give the rider easy access to full suspension control rather than reaching for shock or fork controls mid-ride.

The Contessa comes with a 150mm Fox 32 fork which was a curious choice for me, as the 32 is generally aimed more at XC / trail style riding rather than trail / all mountain. Scott also uses the second evolution of its Fox Nude rear shock on the rear of the bike, which was designed to work exclusively with their patented TwinLoc technology. Both the fork and the rear shock come with a lighter tune on the Contessa, aimed at accommodating lighter riders.

Setting the Contessa up proved to be a bit of a finicky task as there are brake levers, the Twin Loc lever, a Rockshox Reverb lever and Shimano's front and rear shifting paddles competing for space on the bar. I had some trouble getting everything into a position I was comfortable with, and the resulting set-up led to making adjustments to how I ride on the trail. The Reverb dropper lever comes standard on the right side as opposed to my favored left position and was at an angle I couldn't really adjust due to it being sandwiched in between the brake and the rear shifter. I also ended up having to take my hand largely off the bars in order to engage the Reverb and Twin Lock remotes while on the go.

Female Specific Points

The Contessa's difference from the rest of the Genius range lays in the saddle, grips, suspension and colorway. Some may lament the loss of the previous year's stealth black paint job, but the white, purple and black combination of the 2015 model looks pretty sleek. Scott took the time to have custom decals made for the Fox 32 and you'll find purple markings on the Syncros rims as well, which tie everything together into a good looking little rig.

The Contessa is loaded with Syncros parts, including a flat 700mm flat handlebar and a 70mm stem. The Syncros saddle is women's specific, and Scott has stated that the Fox 32 and fork and Fox Nude shock come with a lighter suspension tune.

Scott Contessa Genius review

Scott Contessa Genius 700 Geometry

Price $4999
Travel Front 150mm / Rear 150 - 100 - Climb
Rear Shock FOX Nude / geo adj CTCD 3 modes
Fork FOX 32 Float Factory CTD FIT Air CTD
Headset Ritchey Pro Tapered 1.5" - 1 1/8"
Cassette Shimano XT CS-M771-10 11-36 T
Crankarms Shimano XT FC-M785 Hollowtech 2 38Ax24A T
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT RD-M786 SGS / DM Shadow PlusType / 20 Speed
Front Derailleur Shimano XT FD-M785-E2 / DM
Shifter Pods Shimano XT SL-M780-I
Handlebar Syncros FL1.5 Tbar Alloy 7050 700mm
Stem Syncros Pilot TR1.5 70mm
Grips Syncros lock-on grips
Brakes Shimano XT BR-M785 Disc 180/F
Rim Syncros TR 2.0 28H
Tires Front: Nobby Nic EVO / 2.25 Rear: Rocket Ron EVO / 2.25
Seat Syncros TR1.5 Women Optimized / Titanium rails
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth

Scott Contessa


The Contessa weighs a respectable 27.5 pounds, and rode up relatively smooth trails feeling much lighter than what you'd expect. With the rear shock set in Climb mode with 100mm of travel, you really could get on the gas, with the power transfer ratio delivering that hero-like feeling of being fitter than you actually are. I enjoyed zooming the Contessa up these types of trails (who wouldn't) but on more technical and steep climbs the Contessa's personality was harder to grasp. As I navigated over roots and rocks I spent time bobbing between standing and sitting positions to figure out what worked best - for some reason getting my weight over the front of the bike never seemed entirely comfortable. I tinkered around with the geometry chip and lowered the bars but there was still a bit of height in the front I really couldn't take charge of. Nevertheless, with the Contessa's light weight feeling and angles I was never slogging to get her uphill. Having two chain rings felt like a bit of overkill on the Contessa, especially with handlebar real estate being so tight and one by set-ups offering great gear ranges these days, but overall the Contessa was a good climber for a bike of its class.

One thing to note when getting aboard the Contessa for the first time is dealing with the many controls in the cockpit. As I crested my first steep technical climb I was suddenly greeted with a flat rock garden that required power to navigate through, followed by a steep descent. As I fumbled to switch to my big ring, drop the Reverb and unlock my suspension frustration struck me, followed by an outburst of expletives. I may have been a PowerBar short from sane at the time, but blowing up on the trail is probably the most important time for things to be simple. Your patience will be required in mastering the Contessa's nuances, but you'll feel nothing short of a decorated Air Force pilot when you do, and then the fun can really begin.

Scott Contessa Genius review


One would think at first glance that a 150mm bike is going to be an all-out trail menace, but take into account the Contessa's set up and components and you'll quickly realize that this all-mountain bike is an XC sympathizer. During the test period the Contessa spent much of its time navigating through the relentless rock gardens that New England is famous for. Finding flow here can often be hard work and the sharp bite of the terrain can be unforgiving to bikes and riders. Surprisingly, I found the Contessa to have a very light touch on these trails and it tended to dance between the obstacles I pushed it into. The bike was really quite lively - almost too much so at times, and it made me curious that the Fox 32, a fork that's classed as XC, had been assigned to the Contessa. Despite its 150mm of travel it just didn't seem to offer enough stiffness for the bigger obstacles or higher speeds on the trail. Precision and purpose were required to place the front wheel thoughtfully in order to avoid that warbling feeling on the front end.

The Contessa has what feels like a high center of gravity and I found that when cornering it never really Velcroed in as I would have liked. This feeling may have been highlighted by the 700mm bars and the long-ish 70mm stem, which left me slightly uncomfortable when applying weight over the front of the bike as I couldn't get into the aggressive position that I desired. I spent time working through the fork's rebound settings and air pressure, along with switching the geometry chip between the low and high settings in an attempt to get the best ride set-up that I could, but I just couldn't quite nail it. I think ultimately for me a wider handlebar and a stiffer fork may have elevated my ride experience to that fist pump "yes" level.

Don't be mistaken, the Contessa is a very capable bike that I was able to ride on the type of terrain that its 150mm travel was intended for. A lot. We rode down steep rock rolls, went off of drops and through endless rocky chunder in the time we spent together. The Contessa handled everything I threw at it even when I wasn't sure it would. Except for flatting. I flatted the Rocket Ron on the rear three times during testing, but I just don't think Ron and sharp East Coast rocks were ever meant to be friends.

Scott Contessa Genius review
The Syncros grips' ergonomic shape forced my hands to grip the middle of the bar, leaving me feeling a little cramped with the already skinny 700mm bars.

Component Check

• Syncros lock-on grips and Syncros Bar: These grips feature an ergonomic balloon shape that the palm is forced to hold on to. This molding sits in the very center of the grip, which forces you to hold the bar a lot closer to the center than I would have preferred, making the narrow bars feel even narrower. Next year the Contessa will have 720mm bars which is a step in the right direction, but it would be nice for female bikes to come with wider bars that can be cut to size. The rubber also wore off the grips fairly quickly leaving what used to be fresh looking white rubber a bit grimy which was a bummer.

• Syncros TR1.5 Women Optimized / Titanium: I barely noticed this saddle - that is a good sign...

• Fox 32 For a fork listed as XC, it could definitely do it all, but if you're looking for an all-mountain weapon the Fox 32 may be stretching it. We're stoked to hear that the Contessa will be coming with a Fox 34 next year which should really elevate the bike's descending capabilities.

• Nobby Nic and Rocket Ron: The Nic was grippy yet fast, but didn't love the slick rocks and roots in the wet. Ron took a beating from the East Coast rocks and flatted three times during testing.

• Shimano XT Drivetrain: Functionally I had no issues with this system, but I've been spending a lot of time on 1X systems lately and forgot how noisy a 2X set-up can be.

Pinkbike's take:
bigquotesFor a 150mm ride, The Scott Genius Contessa is the kind of bike you could take on long epic backcountry adventures that won't leave you feeling as though you dragged around a klunker all day. It will descend more like a trail bike than an all out enduro weapon, but it is a capable, fun ride with a light touch on the trail. We felt the Contessa would really have shone with a bit more simplicity in its set-up, but if go-go gadgetry and user control are important to you, this bike will tickle you pink. - Rachelle Frazer

Visit the high-res gallery for more images from this review.

About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 30 something • Height: 5'6” • Inseam: 31" • Weight: 115lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
In a classic case of city girl meets outdoor world, Rachelle's relationship with mountain biking began when she moved to Whistler, B.C., in 2005. Initially she formed strong bonds with the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and the other rats that inhabited it, but over the years her love for the sport has grown to embrace all types of riding, along with the adventures, community and friends that come with it. Rachelle Frazer


  • 48 0
 More cables on the cockpit please !
  • 15 1
 it´s only seven.
  • 2 1
 Lol my missus has enough trouble figuring out what remote works for the t.v..
  • 23 0
 As I am currently looking for a capable AM/light EN bike for my girlfriend, I (and her, too) am really struggeling with the approach manufacturers take on "women bikes":

- standover height: With my girl being 158cm (5 feet 2), almost none of the XS bikes is low enough at the top tube to enable her a simple standover. Don't even think of her being able to have some cm air between crotch and top tube. E.g. Canyon Spectral: 77cm standover height at XS. My girl's legs are 72cm. Radon Slide: 75cm. You might guess it. This list continues almost endlessly with some exceptions (Liteville 301, Cube Sting 13,5", Tyee Flo)

- Colour: My girl is really annoyed by the "women-specific" colours: Pink or purple or sky-blue, flowers, stars. C'mon really?

- Handlebar: Why fit a 70cm bar on a AM bike? Nothing learned from the lads?
  • 15 1
 If you're after standover, Mondraker don't do women-specific bikes, but they have super-low standovers - one of my fiancés friends is even smaller than your girlfriend and she has a Foxy that she loves. Rocky Mountain also do very small bikes.
  • 5 1
 Have a look at the Pivot XS bikes. I'm 157cm and ride a Mach 5.7. Bonus points: as they're not "female specific" you can choose to go either with a pink bike (if that's your thing), or one of the standard colours.
  • 2 1
 I am currently looking at mountain bikes for my gf also. She is 5.2 can anyone recommend any more bikes or other bikes than ^^ with low stand over and short reach
  • 4 0
 @mattwragg @mags-zh : Thanks for your kind responses! Will have a look into it!
  • 11 0
 The kona process also have very low standover, and the process 134 SE is made for smaller people.
  • 7 0
 I convinced my better half to buy a "men's" bike with a low standover and she loves it.....
Generally they are specd better anyway except maybe a swap out to thinner grips and a different shaped saddle, and are way easier for re-sale purposes also.
Because she is only slightly shorter than me also means I've got another bike in my quiver.
May have put carbon wheels on it too ....... lol
  • 2 1
 Also in the 5'2" camp. The Spesh Rumor has a very low standover height and is high in the running for us.
  • 4 1
 @PulledByAMalamute Thanks, that's true. But I have to say, Spesh is no option these days, their bang for the buck ratio is one of the worst in the industry Smile
  • 5 0
 The Transition Patrol has a standover height of 68,5cm with size SM. The Scout is even lower (67,1cm) if it features enough travel. Perhaps those are an option?
  • 5 0
 The Kona 134 SE in small or extra-small seems like the best bike in this category both have a stand-over height of 65 cm (25.6 inches) and has been designed for the smaller rider in mind so a dropper post and lighter components... can't seem to find to much in terms of competition for this size range...
  • 1 0
 Look for a nukeproof mega 2012, at 5 foot a small fits me perfect, with a pretty low stand over and short reachas well, but if you're looking for a longer bike the 2013 or 2014 model may be better. They come specced with wide bars and short stem too so no problem in terms of upgrades
  • 3 0
 Kona Process! Superlow standover and very funny bikes to ride!
  • 3 0
 @Tamasz My wife is 5'1(ish)" and she is riding a 2014 Giant Intrigue 1 extra small. It had the best stand-over clearance on a 650b bike we could find, and she loves it!

We are upgrading the bike this winter to make it more like the SX model.
  • 2 0
 As mentioned previously, Kona Process.
  • 1 0
 Commencal Meta AM V4 in small = 705mm standover
Totally agree with everyone who's commented on the bars and stem. Ridiculous on an AM bike in 2015
My 9 year old daughter uses a wider bar than that to comensate for her lack of arm strength......
  • 3 0
 I'm 5'2 and ride the spesh rumor. Don't rule it out, awesome bike, has given me oodles of confidence. As a previous XS canyon owner I would say don't be taken in by components alone. Yes spesh is more expensive with seemingly cheaper components but personally it is the geometry of the bike that has been damn near perfect. Mate rides one as well and would agree 100%
  • 3 0
 Thanks so much, guys and girls! Smile
  • 1 0 - XS standover is 66.19 cm. In Germany, and carry Pivots.
  • 1 0
 My wife is would love to be 5'2 but she is closer to 5. I bought her a small Giant Reign and the stand over height is good for her, mind it is an older version with the lower sloping top tube. It is a but long so I put a 35mm stem on it. I think her next bike will be a XS Giant Reign.
  • 1 0
 @Tamasz, maybe also check out the Alutech Fanes. A friend of mine got one recently and is shedding on it. The price is reasonable (and it's in Germany!) and the standover is only 670mm.
  • 1 0
 Second this. Giant (now Liv for the ladies) has great clearance.
  • 22 0
 so girls bike = bit of pink and girly name
  • 4 0
 Plus some grippy grips and tuned suspension. The pivots squeak unexpectedly on really nasty climbs.
  • 5 0
 It looks like "girls' bike" also = outdated spec. A 32 and 700mm bars for a 150mm bike? That's a travesty. Women might be smaller and lighter on average, but I didn't think they also had a preference for just plain wrong component choices, and it looks like the tone of this review confirms that. I know the Swiss tend to underdo stanchions, but the equivalent mens' bike for that year had a 34 and 720mm bars. Thankfully, this year's Contessa changes to meet those parameters.
  • 4 0
 I read all the time about how bad a 32mm fork is compared to a 34/36. My Genius 10 has a 150mm Fox 32 and it seems ok. What would I stand to gain from a 34/36 besides more weight? I get that it will be stiffer, but I'm not sure how much better that will make my rides. I go down pretty good gnar and don't think twice about it.
  • 3 0
 @HK-Mazur: You have a good point. I think acclimation plays an important role here. My first bike, for example, had a cheap fork with measly 28mm stanchions, but I didn't have a problem with how it behaved because I didn't realize I was missing out on anything. When I moved on to more modern 32s (@120mm travel), the improvement in stiffness was dramatic, and I certainly wouldn't willingly go back. I'm also somewhat faster now than I was back then. But am I faster BECAUSE of the stiffer fork? Maybe not.

Bike reviewers, here on Pinkbike and elsewhere, have ridden Lyriks and 36es and the like, with carbon wheels to boot. Even 120mm Pikes. That means they have the highest possible standards for front-end stiffness, so they're more likely to complain about a 150mm 32 than you are. If you're used to a 150mm 32, then it'll behave as you expect and you won't feel like you need more stiffness. But have you ridden a fork with bigger stanchions at the same travel? If you haven't, maybe that would raise your standards and change your mind on how much stiffness you need.

Or maybe not. What do I know? I hope you don't go drop a grand on a Fox 36 because you feel disillusioned. As they say: "Go ride your damn bike!" Smile
  • 1 0
 @HK-Mazur: tl;dr: To answer your question directly, maybe nothing. If you're happy with the amount of stiffness you have, there's no reason to mix it up.

(The theory is that more stiffness lets you track better through rough stuff and change lines accurately while cornering. Less stiffness can make for vague, less-accurate steering under load. Better lines, of course, make you faster, and so being able to choose with more precision increases the number of lines you can choose from. This idea is tempered by the theory that too much stiffness (i.e.; 26" Fox 40) makes steering less accurate again, because the fork can't flex to compensate for lateral impact and will therefore knock you off-line in some situations.)
  • 2 0
 Thanks for the replies guys. I'm definitely acclimated as this is my first serious mountain bike which I bought a couple years ago. I once rode a Santa Cruz Bronson on a favorite loop of mine, which I believe had the 34, but it didn't leave that much of an impression on me. If it was better on the downs, I would have attributed it to the 650B tires. For me though, the weight made the biggest difference (6 pounds heavier) and made it feel like a pig of a bike to me.

I weigh 165 fully geared, and my bike is a 26er, so stiffness probably isn't the biggest concern for me.
  • 2 0
 @HK-Mazur in long travel applications 34 is the way to go (or 36 if you are big or ride really aggressively). I really notice the difference under breaking. With a 32 the front wheel feels like in folding under you when you nail the brakes, with a 34 front wheel stays out in front of you.

The old 34s were pigs but new 34s are close enough in weight to the 32s that you will be seeing them everywhere.
  • 1 0
 "equivalent mens' bike for that year had a 34"
No it didnt. Genius had a 34 the year it was released, then moved to 32 when the LT was launched.
Genius ONLY goes back to 34 for 2016.. as said in the article.
It should never really have been spec'd with a 32, but they wanted to differentiate from the LT. However, 34 is where it should be and where it will be.
  • 2 0
 I am underwhelmed by Scott. My shop sells a few once in a while. Not bad bikes, but all there really offer is remote locks. They ride right in the middle: climb okay, not very playful, descend okay. The moment you hop off one and on to a rocky mountain you feel like you turned off the elevator music and cranked up the rock n roll.
Of course then your RM breaks and you and up watching Netflix while you wait for the warranty parts to come it.
Scott's are fun because biking is fun, but they certainly don't turn any heads.
  • 1 0
 Keep in mind not every 32mm fork is the same: just because the outer stanchion diameter is the same, doesn't meant the wall thickness is the same, which will also help with stiffness. FOX tends to optimize for weight for each platform, so in a FOX, 32s tend to be flexy. RS on the other hand doesn't go to the same extremes, & also has more than one fork at each diameter, so for instance, a Revelation won't feel as flexy as a 32.
  • 1 0
 True. I have had the float 32 and it flexed and twisted. I have had the revelation and it was actually pretty nice.
  • 8 0
 Dear Scott. Horst Link patent has expired. You can now use other setups for the rear than that faux bar.
  • 3 0
 And there are still some places where a faux-bar linkage is better, like for bumps coming from ahead of the wheel as the swingarm will arc up in a better path for absorbing the impact. This is why many MANY DH bikes still using single-pivot linkage layouts.
  • 1 0
 I have to disagree. I've had a Kona and a Commençal. My last three bikes have been VPP rear ended and their ability maintain speed over rough terrain is much better than faux-bar with low main pivot, like the one seen on this Contessa. If the pivot is located higher like on a Gambler, it will munch the bumps much better. This is just my opinion based on my experience.
  • 2 0
 So basically a bad geometry for descending without the features of a bike that really pedals well. Do yourself a favor and if you're looking into a women's specific bike in this travel range and check out the Juliana line from Santa Cruz. Specifically the Roubion. The colors aren't too girly, and the bike is actually pretty much a Bronson with some women specific parts to help women better fit the bike. Either that or just build up a "mens" bike.
  • 4 0
 I got the feeling that this bike it's an old model from 3 or 4 years ago.
  • 2 0
 Was thinking the same. Pretty ugly. and seven cable ? don't get it.
  • 2 0
 More like a refurbished bike to women specific.
  • 1 0
 That's actually last year's bike. This is the new one.

Trades purple for pink, basically, but it does get the new XT and a 34.
  • 2 0
 Is this the 2014 model? According to Scott's website, the 2016 Contessa is specced with a Fox 34.
  • 2 0
 I meant to say is this the 2015 model.
  • 1 0
 Correct. The bike tested here is 2015 spec.
  • 1 0
 Hope the next batch of Women specific bikes come in better colors. Girls liking pink is such an overstatement. Sometimes they even have better taste :/
  • 1 0
 Lock out lever. Seat post lever.two brake levers and four shifter paddles. thats eight different buttons to push. Perfect for beginners!
  • 1 0
 It doesn't look to girly for me... I won't mind swinging a leg over that. Good job Scott. Beautiful bike nonetheless.
  • 3 1
 So I'm a male, and I would ride this.
  • 2 0
 I'm male and would probably ride a completely pink if it was my dream bike. Trek Project One here I come?
  • 1 0
 I ride this pink one all the time and it is just as fun as the black one.
  • 1 0
 Just out of curiosity, what is the difference between Scott's suspension system and a Split Pivot?
  • 2 0
 Rear pivot place meant. The rear pivot isn't through the axle on the Scott, it's just above it. Though at a glance it does look like a split pivot.
  • 3 0
 You're completely right! I totally missed that. Thanks!
  • 1 0
 a dropper post with a leaver would free up some space. maybe speech activated controls please, less cables.
  • 2 0
 Looks like a Superfly
  • 1 0
 I hate syncros grips. all kinds.
  • 1 0
  • 2 3
 ooh cool

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