Chris Snook's 5th generation Genesis Volare 953 race bike

Racing on the Madison-Genesis professional team, we take a look at Chris Snook's Volare 953 race bike

by David Arthur   July 21, 2014  

We were at the Otley Crits evening race before the Tour de France a few weeks ago and caught up with Chris Snook, who juggles the demands of being Press Officer for Madison (the company behind Genesis, Shimano, GoPro etc) and racing with the Madison-Genesis team.

The team have famously brought steel racing bikes back to the professional peloton. With a handful of wins along the way during the past two years, they have proved that metal still has a place in the carbon era. We've been following the development of the frames in that time, and we've even tested the top-end Volare 953, the production version of the frame the team are racing.

The team have been very involved with the development of the Volare from its initial launch, giving feedback to the Genesis designers to hep hone the product for the demands of racing. They're now racing the 5th iteration of the Reynolds 953 tubed bike.

Right before Chris was about to hit the race circuit, we had a nose around his bike and asked him a few questions.

road.cc: You've been racing a steel frame for the past two seasons. How has that been working out?

Chris: When I got into cycling on the road it was all about carbon fibre, so this was my first experience of a steel road bike and I was quite excited to see how it would compare. 

It’s been good to be involved from the start as we have progressed the bike massively from its first incarnation two years ago. I’ve learned a lot about the properties of steel and about different aspects of frame building and what impact different tube shapes and wall thicknesses can add to the ride characteristics of a steel frame.  What we have now is a proper race bike that handles brilliantly.

Do you think there is space for a steel frame in road racing? There is a weight and stiffness penalty?

Clearly yes. We’ve had a lot of success in racing with this bike.  This season in particular has seen victories in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, London Nocturne and Spring Cup Series (formerly Premier Calendar) as well as podium in UCI one day and stage races including the Ras (where Alex Peters finished second overall and took the young riders classification).

There has been no compromise in stiffness. In fact one problem we had with the first prototype was it was overbuilt, so too stiff resulting in a harsh ride.  What we ride now is a slightly slimmed down version. The frame naturally weigh more than a carbon equivalent.  However, when in race trim, the bike are just over 7kg, so pretty close to the limit.

What has changed on this latest (5th) generation frame since it first launched two years ago?

There have been a number of changes to almost all aspects.  The top tube diameter has been paired down and bi-ovalised which provides a bit more compliance at the front end while retaining lateral stiffness for out of the saddle efforts.  The head tube angle has been steepened and the wheel base brought in slightly which is what had helped deliver quicker handling.  The most obvious change however, is the lack of paint on the new models.  The bikes are stainless, so why paint them?  This has shaved 100 grams off the frame weight.

Can you sum up the main attributes of its performance?

As said earlier, the new bikes handle really well.  You can have great fun throwing them into tight corners at speed with confidence.  The new bi-ovalised top tube that has been introduced into the new frames has brought in more front end comfort which is great for helping keep you fresh in the saddle.  It’s a rewarding ride.

You're known as a sprinter, how does the bike perform in a bunch sprint?

The bikes have stiffness in spades, so it’s a great bike to sprint on.  The XX44 headtube means the front end remains stiff and composed even when pulling hard on the bars.

Do you make many changes to the bike for crit or longer road races?

Wheel choice can vary depending on the course.  For tight circuit races where you are having to repeatedly accelerate out of corners, I will tend to use something shallower like a C35.  For longer road races I will tend to opt for a C50 paired with either an 11-25 or 11-28 depending on the terrain.

For crits with rough surfaces, or with cobbles, I’ll run my tyre pressures slightly lower (around 100psi) to try and keep the tyre in contact with the road surface and prevent it from bouncing and skipping too much.

Here's the full specification of his bike

  • Genesis Volare 953 Team Frame and Enve fork
  • Size: 56cm
  • Weight: 7.3kg (16.09lb)
  • Enve 2.0 Tapered Carbon Fork
  • Chris King Headset
  • Full Shimano 9070 Dura Ace Groupset – 53/39 175mm cranks, 11-25 cassette with internal battery
  • K-Edge Pro Chain Catcher
  • K-Edge Garmin Out Front Mount
  • Garmin Edge 510
  • Shimano Dura Ace C35 Tubular Wheels
  • Continental Pro ltd Competition Tubular Tyres (25c) – these are pro team issue only
  • Elite Cannibal Bottle cages
  • PRO Vibe Carbon Stem – 130mm
  • PRO Vibe Carbon Bars – 42cm compact drop
  • PRO Bar Tape
  • PRO Falcon Saddle – 142mm

Thanks to Chris for his time. You can learn more about the team at www.madisongenesis.co.uk

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It is beautiful, but I still have weight reservations. And price reservations.

posted by DrJDog [141 posts]
21st July 2014 - 15:08

15 Likes

DrJDog wrote:
It is beautiful, but I still have weight reservations. And price reservations.

Agreed. I visited a new bike shop in Manchester recently, who are a rare stockist of the Italian Ciocc brand. They have a very smart-looking steel frame in Columbus SL which he said I could have for 'just over a grand', and that is lighter than 953. Italian-made, and with a custom paint job too. 6-week turnaround direct from Italy.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3227 posts]
21st July 2014 - 15:41

5 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
DrJDog wrote:
It is beautiful, but I still have weight reservations. And price reservations.

Agreed. I visited a new bike shop in Manchester recently, who are a rare stockist of the Italian Ciocc brand. They have a very smart-looking steel frame in Columbus SL which he said I could have for 'just over a grand', and that is lighter than 953. Italian-made, and with a custom paint job too. 6-week turnaround direct from Italy.

I thought they were same weight ~1.8kg for the bare frame. The Ciocc has the advantage (to my mind) of coming with a steel fork - if you were looking at the "vintage" range that is. I agree that the Genesis has always seemed expensive compared to Rourke's prices for example.

But you can't really compare 953 with Niobium steel in the durability stakes either as it should last a lot longer. Mind you my old Columbus SL (non-Niobium) will probably outlast me even so!

posted by daccordimark [8 posts]
21st July 2014 - 18:36

12 Likes

DrJDog wrote:
It is beautiful, but I still have weight reservations. And price reservations.

Price yes but weight? Really? Apologies if you are the owner of several Strava KoMs and local climbing legend but I seriously doubt the frame weight will be much of a factor.

I love this bike and the idea of bringing Steel (or Ti) back to the racing ranks.

posted by kitkat [206 posts]
21st July 2014 - 20:23

16 Likes

kitkat wrote:

Price yes but weight? Really? Apologies if you are the owner of several Strava KoMs and local climbing legend but I seriously doubt the frame weight will be much of a factor.

Of all the "100" climbs I've done (all three of them), I'm top in my workplace Strava club. I'm not your average Sunday spin MAMIL, me.

If I had £2k to spend on a frame (my current best bike cost a little less than that [and if I'd got the anodised frame it would have weighed the exact same as the 7.3 kg the bike above does]) I'd be considering this on aesthetics alone. My head would say carbon.

posted by DrJDog [141 posts]
21st July 2014 - 22:09

12 Likes

Cycle Gear recently had the Volare Team down from £5k to £3k but I guess they've sold out, they've still got a 58cm Volare 20 (931 & Ultegra) at half price:

http://www.ukbikesdepot.com/m16b185s6p11595/2014_GENESIS_Volare_20_Steel...

thegibdog's picture

posted by thegibdog [75 posts]
21st July 2014 - 22:41

6 Likes

kitkat wrote:
I love this bike and the idea of bringing Steel (or Ti) back to the racing ranks.

Same here, and I think it looks fabulous. Cool

I wouldn't worry about a few hundred grammes weight difference, which will make sod-all difference on a climb. The pleasure of owning and riding a bike like this would far outweigh the couple of extra seconds it would take.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1979 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 9:35

15 Likes

I'd like a go on this bike. I was racing titanium last year, and there were some real benefits to the ride compared to carbon. However, there were negatives too, and I was glad to be back on Carbon this year.

However, I'd like to try this bike out. I bet it will handle sweetly, and if it does transfer power as effectively as they suggest, I should imagine its a great ride.

Quality steel gives a beautiful ride, which when paired to power transfer would make for a winning combination. The only challenge is carrying around the extra 800grams in frame weight over a good carbon. That in itself is not a major thing... 7kg overall bike weight is plenty light enough.

Everyone is far too wrapped up in frame weight.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [293 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 10:07

5 Likes

daccordimark wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
DrJDog wrote:
It is beautiful, but I still have weight reservations. And price reservations.

Agreed. I visited a new bike shop in Manchester recently, who are a rare stockist of the Italian Ciocc brand. They have a very smart-looking steel frame in Columbus SL which he said I could have for 'just over a grand', and that is lighter than 953. Italian-made, and with a custom paint job too. 6-week turnaround direct from Italy.

I thought they were same weight ~1.8kg for the bare frame. The Ciocc has the advantage (to my mind) of coming with a steel fork - if you were looking at the "vintage" range that is. I agree that the Genesis has always seemed expensive compared to Rourke's prices for example.

But you can't really compare 953 with Niobium steel in the durability stakes either as it should last a lot longer. Mind you my old Columbus SL (non-Niobium) will probably outlast me even so!

To clarify, his words were that the Ciocc 'could be built up as a lighter bike' than the 953 Madison-Genesis. I was looking at the new stuff, so a carbon fork.

I don't know enough about steel, can you tell me more about why Niobium SL can't be compared to 953? Or, to put it another way, why pay the premium for 953? Thanks.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3227 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 11:04

10 Likes

Having gone from ultra light carbon fibre to a Ti frame this year, I hold no reservations about the weight. Clearly it would be noticeable going up a french alp, but then I would be a lot more stable coming down the other side. For day to day riding, i'm more comfortable and therefore faster (strava says so), I'm not going back....but I might get back on steel in the future.

I rode on my shop ride the other night, the only person on metal, and enjoyed riding off the front on the steepest hill, the bike is only 1 element.

I love the fact that steel is still proving to be a good material, but there is enough choice of materials out there for everyone. If you are the person that weighs every component and is convinced that 0.5kg is going to make a difference then go carbon, it has a lot of merits but weight is not everything.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [324 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 12:44

12 Likes

Simmo72 wrote:
Having gone from ultra light carbon fibre to a Ti frame this year, I hold no reservations about the weight. Clearly it would be noticeable going up a french alp, but then I would be a lot more stable coming down the other side. For day to day riding, i'm more comfortable and therefore faster (strava says so), I'm not going back....but I might get back on steel in the future.

I rode on my shop ride the other night, the only person on metal, and enjoyed riding off the front on the steepest hill, the bike is only 1 element.

I love the fact that steel is still proving to be a good material, but there is enough choice of materials out there for everyone. If you are the person that weighs every component and is convinced that 0.5kg is going to make a difference then go carbon, it has a lot of merits but weight is not everything.

I like the idea of my next bike being metal, but I am developing a 'thing' for loads of BB stiffness and that 'chuckable' side-to-side feeling when out of the saddle. Do you think still leaves steel and Ti in the picture for me?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3227 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 16:22

3 Likes