Review By Susy Pryde
It is no surprise that despite the varied technicoloured trappings of bicycle frames on the market today, it has been carbon-fibre that has stormed the industry in recent times, fetching such name variations as carbone, carbonio and carbon-monocoque.
Luckily for us, the composite innovation of carbon-fibre has inspired New Zealand company, Genius Bikes to create their own carbon flagship, the 2005 Genius HM Carbon Squadra. Having been in the business of bike-building since 2003, you could say the company has over 20 years experience with former champion cyclists, directors Tim Pawson and Rick Reid, now devoting their energies to the design process at Genius Bikes. Their philosophy? To carve a market in NZ for finely crafted quality bikes. A process undoubtedly complemented by their dual experiences as internationally recognized cyclists who realize the need to incorporate an affordable price-point, at least so there are a few gold coins leftover for an ice-cream stop.
For three months I have been in the favourable fix of test driving the Dura-Ace equipped Genius HM Carbon Squadra, just time to discover the bike's assets and oddity's.
My first ride was akin to a bouncer grabbing a drunk's lapels, a reawakening of my sense of speed that seemed like a dream I might have had once a long time ago. Undoubtedly the responsiveness was due to the 'HM' component of the bike's namesake, that is, 'High Modulus' carbon. A technical term that refers to the density of carbon, and HM favours a higher carbon component over poxies and resins. Indeed it appears to be a calculated attempt to exploit the best of carbon's qualities, scant weight, stiffness and performance orientation.
As their piece de resistance, the HM Squadra Carbon boasts specially crafted wingtip blades on the forks and rear seat stays. It is obvious that some thought has gone into the design process, as aside from providing a flatter surface area for bold branding, the construction aims to increase aerodynamics and act as energy absorbtion to dampen road shock. These rear triangle tubes are neatly bonded into the oversized top and down tubes, as well as boasting a reinforced bottom bracket join. Once again, these over-sized tubes provide a nice surface for their post-modern 'Genius' decals. The finish of the frame features the raw physical finish of carbon in the centre of the tube which subtely fades to solid black in the frame joins.
My sample is a size small (50) compact, and with the standard Shimano Dura-Ace componentry, American Classic Wheels, carbon ITM 'Super Over' handlebars and stem, ITM Milenium seat post, and race performance Hutchison Fusion Comp tyres, this 16 pound bike could well be hospitalized for undernourishment. And so, as a featherweight, I was keen to test it's handling and tracking capabilities.
While acceleration received the big tick, it took some high speed cornering tactics to truly feel comfortable and confident with the corner track. But this was just a familiarization ride, and before long, I began to feel more at home on the bike. And even with the stiffer High Modulus technology, the Carbon Squadra's weight is evenly proportioned, rolls smoothly and provides a stiff yet forgiving ride.
This forgiving dynamic was a pertinent and important feature for our buzz-saw roads in the more rural environs of Auckland (yes there are such places). And the Fi'zi:k Arione saddle may have helped out, as this is a supremely comfortable seat. But even more, when the road pointed upward, the bike really wanted to unleash itself, providing minimal flex in the bottom bracket and fork when standing out of the saddle. With a compact wheel base, descending took a moment to get used to, but delivers a comfortable and stable ride.
As a consequence of the ITM 'Super Over' handlebar shape and the length of the Dura-Ace hoods, the reach of the bike seemed marginally too long at first (for me atleast). But with more frequent rides and varying speeds, this was a minor inconvenience that was is easily overlooked.
Aesthetically the bike is easy on the eye, endangering the livelihood of some of the more precious art pieces in the living room. However the alloy ITM Milenium seatpost, while easy to adjust, doesn't quite match the carbon finish and weight dynamics of the rest of the bike.
Overall, the Genius HM Carbon Squadra is a rather exciting experience to throw one's leg over. It is very easy to fall in love with carbon, and this is one bike that is at least worth an on-going affair of the affordable kind.