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Genesis Zero Team review

Genesis Zero Team review
1 May 2015
Verdict:

Will the new carbon pro team bike from Genesis usurp the steel Volare that's gone before it?

In 2013, Genesis joined a small but inspiring movement aimed at putting steel back in the frame for high-end racing, with the Genesis Volare. However, having carried the Madison-Genesis pro team through a successful 2014 season, in the build up to the Tour of Britain the team revealed that they would switch to carbon fibre frames for their season’s biggest race. Some accused Genesis of flip-flopping on its commitment to steel. But given the overwhelmingly positive response to the steel Volare, it seems unlikely that the Volare simply wasn’t up to the job. So we wanted to find out what the Zero does that the Volare doesn’t.

Genesis Zero Team frame

First, the Zero has not simply replaced the Volare. ‘When the team started out we were looking at the shorter races of the Tour Series,’ explains Phil Hammill, brand director for Genesis. ‘As we’ve moved up to events like the Tour of Britain, we decided that we needed to add another bike. That’s where we looked to carbon for an advantage, especially where you want all day comfort and a certain amount of aero gain.’

The Volare still has a place in the team, he says, and will be the first choice for rough and tumble short crits. The Zero meanwhile has become the favourite for stage races. Genesis has invested heavily in the design, using finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics to make the bike both structurally capable and aerodynamically slippery. Once happy with the concept, Genesis worked extensively with rapid prototypes and carbon samples before arriving at the final design. Armed with this, the UK brand sought a Far East manufacturing partner to begin work on the new line of bikes.

Genesis Zero Team fork

That may sound easy enough, but Genesis has actually taken on an impressive chunk of the manufacturing and design process. Many brands entering the carbon fibre market will opt for frames produced by a factory and open to anyone to buy and rebrand – aka open mould frames – but Genesis has invested significant energy in developing its own design and its own carbon moulds. The advantage is that this puts the design and performance of the bike squarely in Genesis’s hands, and gives them control over further tweaks and updates.

It’s an ambitious and admirable move from a newcomer to carbon, and for consumers it means that you should be fully confident that the bike is unique and up to date with modern thinking, certainly when it comes to aerodynamics. That may go some way to explaining how the frame weighs in at a relatively light 950g despite its aero tube shapes.

Counting the cost

Genesis Zero Team Dura Ace

When it comes to buying on a budget, we make no claims to being the most cost-conscious magazine on the planet, and often feature bikes with five-figure pricetags. But my first impression of this particular bike was the clash between the frame price and the total build. At the time of writing, Genesis sells the Zero Team frameset for £1,200, yet this build comes in at a wallet-stinging £4,500.

The Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical groupset and C24 wheelset are certainly not cheap, but I was at a loss to explain how they could add up to over £3,000. And it’s not as if the finishing kit would add a big chunk to the price, as it is all Genesis’s own brand and entirely aluminium. Of course in the real world a very good alloy finishing kit can outperform a middling carbon set-up, but at this price I would expect some more carbon trinkets on my bike. After some frosty first impressions, then, I was looking for something excellent from the bike out on the road to redeem it. Thankfully, the Zero didn’t disappoint.

Genesis Zero Team wheels

Not shaken, not stirred

Entering the world of aerodynamic tubing is a complex mission for any brand, never mind one just starting out with carbon, so Genesis has to be applauded for avoiding some of the most common hazards that aero profiles can throw up. Where aero tube shapes can often make for a stiff ride, the Zero is forgiving. In fact, it’s one of the more comfortable bikes I’ve ridden. Coupled with that is impressive handling accuracy, with the Zero proving to be surefooted on technical descents and crit courses. There’s just enough feedback from the road to let you take aggressive lines at speed, and the smoothness of the bike translates to real confidence that you’ll exit any hairpin comfortably prepared for the next.

There are limitations to the quality of the ride, though. Against the lower-end builds on offer, the frame certainly excels, but this £4,500 version doesn’t quite offer the sprightliness of some similarly-priced brands on the market. Perhaps it’s down to the extra weight – 7.3kg for the total build – which is surprising given the relatively light 950g frame weight. More likely though, is that where the bike has made impressive allowances in comfort, there’s been some compromise in stiffness.

Genesis Zero Team ride

The Zero is certainly not a sloppy ride – it’s definitely more of a racer than a sportive cruiser – but when you enter the territory of World Tour standard frames there’s a certain stiffness and responsiveness that you come to expect when exerting big efforts; a spring into action. That’s especially true of some of the more aggressive aero bikes on offer. The Zero, however, seems to sap punchy attempts at acceleration slightly. It feels as if it takes maybe three pedal revolutions to achieve the same speeds as I would get in one or two revolutions on bikes such as the Pinarello Dogma or BMC Teammachine.

Certainly, the smoothness and comfort of the build makes it an agreeable option for long days in the saddle where speed is still a concern. The geometry also sits happily in a sweet spot between aggressive racy shapes and relaxed sportive curves. With a head tube a full 30mm taller (excluding headset cups) than the steel Volare, the Zero naturally encourages you into a more relaxed and sustainable riding position.

Ultimately, for those buying at the low end of the Zero range, this is a very good bike indeed. For the £1,299 Zero.1 or the £2,999 Zero.i Di2 option, the Zero has popped straight into the forefront of the field, mixing comfort and speed with plenty of upgrade potential. For this Team edition, though, I’m not certain the Zero holds its own against the best in the class. But, given the relationship with the Madison-Genesis pro team and the clear effort that has been poured into design, we expect to see increasingly impressive steps forward at the top end of the range. For now, though, the Zero Team won’t disappoint race-minded riders looking for a rare slice of British homegrown ingenuity.

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