- Genesis Altitude 2.0
- UK-designed steel hardtail
- 853 frame, LX bits
The Genesis brand is only a couple of seasons old, but for 2007 it’s got a healthy array of UK-designed bikes covering pretty much all of the cycling bases – mountain, road, hybrid, ‘cross and others. The two Altitude bikes address the undoubted demand for a steel hardtail in the classic mould. The 2.0 is the more expensive of the two bikes – there’s also the Altitude 1.0 with the same geometry but in Reynolds 725 tubing and a slightly lower component spec.
All dimensions based on Large frame
- Effective top tube length (TT) 23.2in
- Seat tube, centre to top (ST) 19in
- Chainstay (CS) 16.6in
- Head angle 71°
- Seat angle 73°
- Weight 12.3kg (27lb)
Reynolds 853 has an enviable reputation. It has two key characteristics – an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and magical air-hardening properties. Unlike most tubing, 853 gets stronger in the areas where heat has been applied during welding. Clever stuff. 853 is used in the front end of the Altitude frame, with butted chromoly stays at the back.
Genesis has chosen reasonably substantial tube diameters and gauges to boost stiffness, and they vary with frame size too. The stays are manipulated to give ample tyre and chainring clearance without crimping or flattening. It’s disc-only, with a forged disc mount and additional bracing.
There’s a host of neat details on the Altitude. The forward-facing seat tube slot is a common UK-designed characteristic, and you also get Crud Catcher bosses on the downtube. A welcome tweak is the inclusion of a third brake hose guide in the middle of the top tube, eliminating the rattle that you can get from a tubes-length of unrestrained hose.
Up front, the frame is beefed up with ring-reinforcement on the headtube and a neat part-welded, part-brazed downtube gusset. The idea here is to avoid welding across the end of the gusset (which introduces an unwelcome stress riser on an already highly-stressed tube) but to do something to close the end off to avoid corrosion. A bit of low-temperature brazing is intended to seal the gusset without compromising strength.
Genesis is owned by mighty parts distributor Madison, which is responsible for bringing Shimano components into the UK. It’s no surprise, then, to see a Shimano-dominated spec on the Altitude 2.0. Genesis has spurned the mix-and-match approach often taken to components in favour of an almost-complete Deore LX groupset – the exceptions are the XT rear mech and Deore hubs.
It’s interesting how things come around. Fifteen or so years ago, manufacturers like Kona started to try to set their bikes apart by not speccing complete Shimano (or, occasionally, Suntour) groupsets but choosing components from several manufacturers. And here we are in 2007 looking at a bike that stands out from the herd by virtue of having all of the going and stopping bits from a single Shimano group.
LX is, in some ways, a bit of a “lost” groupset. A lot of manufacturers skip it in the line-up, choosing to jazz up a Deore-level spec with some XT parts or a non-Shimano crankset or brakes. A complete LX group is definitely something of a rarity. Which is something of a shame, because it’s all good stuff – Hollowtech II outboard-bearing cranks, reliable brakes and a transmission that feels a distinct cut above Deore.
The wheel package comprises Deore Centerlock disc hubs laced to DT Swiss X455 rims with stainless steel spokes. The hand of a UK product manager is clear in the Continental Vertical tyre choice – Verts have been a UK favourite for some time, although they’re a bit love/hate. They’re good in soft-to-medium conditions but can be a bit sketchy on hardpack or rocks. We also much prefer them mounted on a wider rim than the X455 – they come out a bit tall and pointy on XC-width hoops.
Another perennial favourite is the Marzocchi MX Pro fork, a budget champion in previous years. It’s still a solid, reliable choice, but rival forks outshine it in straight performance terms. The MX Pro is a simple fork and doesn’t hide it – the damping isn’t sophisticated enough to deal with most things equally well, so you’re likely to end up with a set-up compromised towards those situations you encounter most. With just air pressure and rebound damping to fiddle with your options are limited, although on the upside you won’t get confused.
At a penny under a grand, this is a respectable enough spec, particularly taking into account the extra cost of an 853 frame produced in relatively small numbers compared to a major manufacturer turning out thousands of aluminium ones. Competition is pretty stiff at this price, though, with plenty of well-specced hardtails and a bunch of perfectly reasonable full suspension bikes. The Genesis can certainly hold its head up in this company, but it’ll be the desire for a chromoly bike that’s likely to steer buyers in its direction.
The Altitude is one of those bikes that it’s difficult to find a great deal to say about when it comes to riding. It is, after all, a steel hardtail with largely conventional geometry – you wouldn’t expect too many surprises. That’s certainly not a bad thing, though. The ride qualities of a frame made with top-end tubing in a well-established shape are such that any surprises would be likely to be unpleasant ones.
It feels a little more relaxed than you might expect, which we put down to the Marzocchi fork being a little taller than most for its travel. It’s still got an agreeably nippy feel, but it’s not got the super-sharp attitude of, say, a Cotic. If you’re looking for that steel zing, though, you won’t be disappointed – there’s a definite spring in the Altitude’s step.
Really, the ride delivers what you’d kind of expect from the spec – straightforward, reliable and confident. It doesn’t try to be too clever and is all the better for it.
Ups and downs
Positives: Solid spec, confident handling, steeliness, respectable value
Negatives: Fork a bit unsophisticated (and tall), tyres slightly unhappy on narrow rims
It’s great to see an addition to the small field of complete steel bikes. If you want a frame to build up, you’re spoilt for choice, but those looking for a complete off-the-peg package are less well-served, so the Altitude is certainly welcome from that point of view. It’s a very good bike, too, managing to be competitive on spec while still offering something a bit different. We think that there’s room for improvement on the fork and the tyre/rim combination isn’t our favourite, but it’s tough to beat a complete Shimano group for consistent performance. Allied to a sound, UK-designed frame, it makes for a package well worth a closer look.