I do a lot of commuting. The avid reader will know it’s about 18 miles each way, day in day out. Not quite 365 days a year, but generally 5 days a week, 40 somethings weeks of it. And if I’m not commuting I’m out on the bike, or writing this stuff.
I waded through my bike history the other day. Some 16 bikes since 2005 or so. That’s not awful given that I use them for racing, CX, MTB, commuting, recreation etc. It’s not even pushing N+1 that hard. Indeed, I seem to have found the happy(ish) medium of N=3. But while wading through that list it struck me that 3 of them have been Genesis bikes and each of those has, broadly, been all about the commuting. Because while you can press a lot of bikes into being used for commuting, some of them seem to be quite naturally sorted for that role.
The first one I bought was a Day One. The one denoting a single speed. But not, thankfully, a fixie. I don’t think my knees would have liked me. It was a tank, in a good way. You could maintain a decent speed on the flat, gradients were ok. I once happened upon a 15% hill on the way home. That’s getting off territory. But it was possible to do shortish 10% sections. It was noticeable, come spring, of how much extra strength there was in my legs. There were issues, dealing with punctures raised the spectre of sliding the rear wheel out and that’s almost impossible with mudguards. So on went Marathon+. That dealt with the risk of punctures but killed the otherwise lush ride.
And then there was the legendary Croix de Fer. Essentially a geared Day One with discs (Genesis latterly introduced a Day One disc too). It started with Tiagra 10 speed and got SRAMified. The stock wheels went (lots of spoke issues) and some handbuilt H Plus sons Archetype came in. It was bombproof. I miss(ed) it. It was my go to commuter. It was also a bit big for me, the dealers having mistakenly ordered in a 56 instead of a 54. But I survived on it for years……
I’ve commuted on many different bikes since. A lot of them have been about ‘making do.’ A lot of them have been CX bikes. Great for the rubbish weather, but not as comfortable as they could be.
Enter the Equilibrium Disc 10. Or, to put it another way, the bog standard entry level one. 10 speed Tiagra, steel frame, carbon fork. I’ve made some changes though and I’ll come to those a little later.
First, the why. I had a perfectly good stable. CAADX for CX and commuting, SuperX for CXing, Supersix for going fast. But, here’s the thing. For me, there’s practically no speed difference on a CX course between a CAADX and a SuperX. So the SuperX got the wet weather road duties, I didn’t mind getting it wet. The CAADX got the commuting duties, I didn’t mind putting guards on it. But, and you might think this to be a silly minor issue, I sometimes used the CAADX on really crappy CX courses, off came the guards, off came the commuting tyres, CX done, reverse process. 1/2 hour or so each occasion, once a week. Irritating, mad, frustrating.
So I thought about it. Was there a fast commuter that I could stick guards on and just leave them there? That I could even use on a summer’s day and not care that there were guards still on it? Something that would take a rack (the CAADX would too I admit). Something that’s not a compromise. And something within the budget of selling the SuperX, keeping a few bits and picking up something without spending any money. Out went the SuperX, in came the Genesis. Yes, I got rid of a superbike for a steel frame commuter. But, it’s not quite as mad as you think.
Genesis know how to make steel bikes. They’re reasonably priced in terms of RRP but it is often better to wait for reductions. Mine was heavily reduced because it was used, but I’ll tell you that story later on. The Equilibrium Disc range runs from the £550 Reynolds 725 frameset to the £1249 Tiagra (10), the £1649 105 (20) and the £1999 Ultegra (30). The latter models gain hydraulic brakes. Mine is a 2016 model when the 20 model had ‘only’ TRP Hy Rd brakes. Otherwise there’s no real difference in terms of performance. All are a bit heavy, all are comfy.
While the 20, 30 and frameset only options are all Reynolds 725 steel, the 10 is not. Boo! But it is Genesis’ own Mjölnir Seamless Double-Butted Cromoly. Yes, it’s made from the same stuff as Thor’s hammer. So, it should be good enough for the Welsh roads as long as I’m canny enough to avoid the Asgardian Goddess Hela. Is it less comfortable or springy than the higher models? I’ve not tested them back to back, but it compares well to the steel bikes I’ve owned (Condor, Genesis and Ritchey). It’s not quite as zingy as the Ritchey Swiss Cross but it’s not far off. It’s not light either, coming in at almost 11kg. But it moves in a manner which belies that weight. The carbon fork is beefy and seems well damped. It’s just a nice thing to be on.
Frame detailing is nice. The colour is lustrous and seems pretty good at warding off chips and scratches so far.
It’s well equipped. I have to say, returning to my experience of Tiagra on that old Genesis Croix de Fer, 105 on my current CAADX and Ultegra 6800 on my Supersix, that Tiagra 4700 is absolutely bloody lovely. If the theory about Shimano trickledown is correct, i.e. that 4700 is old 105 10 speed, then they are indistinguishable. Frankly, the difference between feel and shifting is little different to 6800 Ultegra. Being 10 speed I can’t easily swap wheels with my 105 CAADX. But, there we are. CRC are knocking out the non disc for £270. If weight bothers you, it’s not for you. But it’s a fantastic groupset for that money. If you’re building something for winter I’d not bother with anything else.
The wheels supplied are Fulcrum’s formerly OEM Racing DB CX. £150 ish to buy and just over 1800g. That’s heavy, real world, but in relation to stock wheels actually a fairly lightweight choice. I’ve swapped them out in favour of the 100g or so lighter Fulcrum 5 disc because they’re a little better but, frankly, I needn’t have bothered. The DB CX have gone onto the CAADX to take advantage of the double seals in poor conditions. But that’s a reason why they’d work well for commuting in the wet too. I may even put the 5’s back on the CAADX to save some CX weight and put the DB CX back on here.
The brakes are TRP Spyre, cable operated. They work particularly well. They don’t self adjust so you have to dial them in with an allen key. That procedure is prone to be affected by damp so you have to keep them clean. This year’s model has the Hy-Rd instead. I’ll probably swap them out for some Juin Tech in due course. There’s a revised version of the R1 out there. But for now, good enough. One thing to note is that the bike comes with 160mm front and 140mm rear. So I added a convertor to make the back into 160mm rather than buy new rotors.
Finishing kit is good. Genesis’ own bars, stem, post and saddle. The saddle is flat, decently comfortable if a little narrow. The cables are compressionless Jagwire items which add to the effectiveness of the cable brakes.
Out the saddle went in favour of a Brooks C15 Cambium. That has the effect of increasing the weight of the bike by another 200g or so (The Brooks is 405g) but it does wonders for comfort. The Brooks is very sensitive to position and angle. Mine is fairly flat, slight nose down, set back to the right place. It didn’t start that way, it was a little pitched up. It’s also important to get it dead straight because, given the slightly wider than normal nose, you’ll notice a bit of thigh rubbing if you don’t. I had one previously and wasn’t keen on the finishing at the hull/side as it had a tendency to abrade bibshorts. That seems to have been fixed. It’s a cracking little saddle. RRP is £104.99 and it should outlast you.
The guards are SKS chromoplastic P35 versions. The bike initially ships with 28c tyres (Conti Gran Sport Race which are surprisingly good). I found it very difficult indeed to get the mudguards to fit using 28c tyres. A call to Genesis to find that they recommend 25c with guards. So off the Race went and on came the venerable GP4000iiS tyres in 25c. Clearance is still tight, comfort has been marginally reduced, but it works. And then some. Indeed, even on the dry days recently the almost half the weight Supersix has been left in the garage and I’ve gone out on this. I’ve also been tackling some 10-20% gradients and it handles those with little fuss. The gearing is compact (50/34) with a 11-28 cassette. It should be possible to squeeze a 30t rear cog in there with minor adjustments. Swap out the mech and a 11/12-32 will go on easily. That’s actually an easier climbing gear than a triple with a 28 cassette. So this is more than capable of being a good tourer and it’s especially good as an audax prospect. I’d like slightly better clearances for 28/30c tyres, but, there we are.
The ride is very good, very safe and quite laid back. It’s not super tourer and it’s not crit ready either. It’s snappy enough to dart around but not twitchy. A good compromise. Despite its weight it’s not limited. Sure, 100 miles of hauling it round will require a bit more, but it’s pretty great. I bought it because it was cheap. £595. From an original price of £1249. But you can even get discounted new ones for £799 or so. And I think that a) I nabbed a massive bargain and b) there are plenty of bargains still out there. It also has the benefit of being so cheap that it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get money out of it in the future meaning I’ll want to keep it. But, at the moment, I’m so bowled over by it, that keep it I will.
There have been other modifications.
The rack was a mega bargain. It’s a Blackburn interlock rear rack. It’s made from 6061 aluminium. It’s RRP is £80 but I paid a mere £22 from Chain Reaction. That might be bargain of the year. It’s my first rack but fitting was a piece of cake. There are two mounting holes on the rear of the frame so I am using both. But it’s easy enough to mount the rack then mount the guards to it. Or bolt through the rack and guard holes into the frame. Getting it level is a piece of cake, the bottom section has a number of different height settings and the cross member slides up and down and is tightened by an allen key. Capacity is 20kg or so. Which is fine and almost twice the weight of the bike so I don’t fancy having that on there anyway.
The interlock refers to the metal plate which hinges up, slide your bag over it, then lock it back down again. Removing the bag is a cinch. There are holes at the back to attach your rear lights. Indeed, this is something I’m going to need to look at. I normally run a pair, including my see sense on the seatpost. That’s not going to work now, so I’ll look at some way to put the see sense on the rack.
The bag is Blackburn’s central trunk bag. That cost me about £20 too.
It has a 9 litre storage capacity though you can stuff it a little more. There are removeable compartments, pockets etc. Open up the bottom pocket and there’s a rain proof cover. It’s tidy and nicely appointed. It’s water resistant for most of the time but not water proof, hence the rain cover (which is bright orange). It’s interlock compatible so putting it on is just a case of lifting the hinge and sliding it on. To sort out all that storage for £40 is pretty good IMO.
And there we are. A super commuter/audax/tourer for a very reasonable price. It’s something I’m bound to use and the weight should give me a decent workout over the winter to make sure that when I get onto my light bike come Spring, it really should be easy to push along. I always loved my Croix De Fer, but this tops it. It’s become almost the default choice to come out of the garage. And I can’t think of higher praise than that.