Words Dan Baines | Photos Chris Catchpole
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The forgiving ride of a good steel frame still conjures up nostalgic memories of yesteryear. But how does steel stand up against the competition using the latest wonder materials?
Genesis obviously has faith in steel, since the brand has been producing, refining and selling this range for a few years. Designed in Britain with our rough roads in mind, it makes sense to keep faith in this old, tried-and-tested material, well known for its comfortable and forgiving properties.
Not only that, you can be confident that, if looked after, a well-made steel bike will last you decades — yet another reason why steel holds a place in the hearts of seasoned cyclists.
A big part of the character of this bike is its look. The striking metallic paint offered across the range is a welcome relief from all those stealthy-looking bikes or multi-coloured monstrosities (dis)gracing the nation’s tarmac. The brown saddle and bar tape nicely complement the classy paint job and give a nod to the Seventies.
I can’t help feeling, though, that a horizontal top tube would have been a neat feature; the sloping lines are a dead giveaway of the bike’s contemporary status — but at least it will help to shave off a few grams. Likewise, the Shimano Tiagra gear levers still use the exposed cable system — it seems a shame to go to all that effort to have the aesthetics compromised by such a trivial detail.
Unfortunately, the current trend at Shimano is to make its higher groupsets in various shades of anodised grey. I can’t help thinking that it is missing a trick by not producing an option that would please the traditionalists.
Furthering the Brit appeal is the Reynolds 725 tubeset. It’s part of a new wave of tubes from the company synonymous with bike frames. Offering ease of use and decent weight savings, it is the obvious choice and in perfect keeping with the rest of the bike. The machining is neat and tidy and, despite being punished by the worst of the winter weather, the paintwork cleaned up like new time and time again.
Mudguard eyelets are a bit of a giveaway of the intentions of this bike, and although mudguards don’t come as standard, rest assured that fitting is easy, with plenty of room to run bigger tyres, should you choose.
Picking the bike up, I was immediately struck by the weight — being steel, it’s certainly no lightweight, but don’t let that put you off. Although the tubes are butted, the heftiness reminds me why other materials became popular. But bikes aren’t for being carried around, and if you haven’t ridden a steel bike in a while, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Though you might be expecting a forgiving but sluggish ride, what you get is a sure-footed yet responsive feeling. There is no doubt this bike is stiff, and trying to get the frame to flex under power is simply an exercise in futility. Work with it, though, and you are rewarded with a smooth, reassuring ride.
On the climbs, it’s easy to maintain a decent pace with the direct transfer of power. Handling is confidence-inspiring, and feedback from the road is very good, encouraging you to sweep confidently round fast bends and enjoy the challenges of the terrain.
The groupset is predominantly Tiagra — the fourth-tier gruppo from Shimano. It’s a good groupset in its own right and is capable of delivering years of reliable service.
The Equilibrium comes as standard with a compact chainset, offering you a wide enough spread of gears to get over the most demanding terrain. The only part of the groupset that isn’t Shimano are the Tektro R317 brake calipers which unfortunately don’t quite live up to the rest of the components.
In the past, I’ve had trouble with Continental Ultra Sport tyres, which so often come fitted as standard, finding that they sacrifice puncture resistance for grip. I was just starting to come around to liking these thicker 25mm versions when the inevitable happened and the rear deflated. Tyres may be one of the least sexy bits of kit, but upgrading to something better in this case is a worthwhile investment.
The wheels continue the Shimano theme, with Tiagra hubs teamed with Alex AT450 rims. Personally, I feel that silver rims would have added to the retro theme, but they’ve proved to be solid and reliable.
The fork is carbon and is raked, in keeping with the style of the rest of the bike. Along with the wheels, it’s another contributing factor to why this bike is so stiff.
The contact points are good all-rounders, matching the rest of the spec well. The shallow bars may not allow you to get super-low but are nicely curved and long, allowing you stay comfortable on the drops.
This is a year-round bike that is equally happy being ridden for long periods at a sporty pace, or dealing with potholed city roads. At the heart of the bike is its ability to soak up the worst of the environment and with a change of tyres it should offer you years of reliable riding.
Genesis Equilibrium 10
Frameset Reynolds 725 steel
Gears Shimano Tiagra
Chainset Shimano Tiagra Compact 50/34T
Brakes Tektro R317
Wheels Tiagra hubs, Alex AT450 32H rims
Tyres Continental Ultra Sport 25c (wire)
Bars Genesis AL-6061 DB compact drop OS/31.8mm
Stem Genesis 3D forged OS/31.8mm
Saddle Genesis/Velo VL-1200
Seatpost Genesis AL-6061 27.2x350mm
Size range 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm
Weight 10.2kg with pedals and mudguards
Condor Classico Road frameset £899.99
If you want to spec your bike and have a bit of cash to splash, the Classico from London bike shop Condor is available as a frameset-only option. You can also choose to customise the colours, too.