The Genesis Equilbrium was at the head of a steel revival in the UK which has seen a big growth in UK-conditions sportive machines with comfy frames and room for mudguards. This new 853 version is an excellent basis for building a bike that'll last, although its nature with the matching steel fork pushes it more towards Audax territory than its cheaper-tubed siblings.
The original Equilibrium was made from standard Reynolds 520 tubes and was none the worse for it; I've still got one in the original grey livery and although it's a bit knocked about now it's still great fun to ride. The later incarnations have been higher grade tubing, Reynolds 725, but 853 is another significant step up the ladder. Air-hardening at the weld points, and a higher tensile strength than the cheaper steels, it can be used thinner in the frame tubes for a lighter overall weight.
Unlike the other Equilibriums which all sport a colour-matched carbon fork, this frameset comes with a matching steel fork with 853 blades and a classic lugged crown. It's a lovely looking thing, although obviously it's a fair bit heavier than a carbon fork. All in all the frame and fork (with uncut steerer) weigh in at 2.3kg so it's not going to tempt you if you fancy an über-light build but that's never really been the Equilibrium's raison d'être. Even more so here.
I built up the 853 frame with good quality Audax-style kit for most of its testing period: Shimano 105 triple groupset and handbuilt wheels (with a dynamo hub). I stuck some muguards on it too. And I've done a lot of miles on it, including the 400km Brevet Cymru. And it's very nice indeed.
The geometry is definitely sportive and not race; it's not super-high but the shortish 567mm top tube on the 58cm model sits you up a bit. I ran a slightly longer stem than I normaly would to extend the reach a touch (and give me somewhere to stick my Garmin when I was using a bar bag) but it didn't make the steering sluggish at all.
The steel fork is excellent: forgiving, but not at all vague with excellent tracking at speed. Built like this the whole bike is happiest in cruise mode and it's an effective platform for covering long distances at a decent clip. It's great bike for commuting and general use too, albeit a reasonably expensive one.
For balance I also took the rack, 'guards and lights off and fitted some lightweight wheels and the lower overall weight – and reduced rolling weight especially – revealed the sprightliness of the frame to a much greater degree. It's a fun bike in a light build, just as it is a stable platform with heavier components. The core of any bike is the frame and this is a proven frame in a well-regarded material. It doesn't really do anything wrong, and the fork is a good match.
There's very little flex under power; I didn't attach any strain gauges but a direct comparison with the 520-framed Equlibrium suggests it's about the same, or at least not noticeably different in normal use. Certainly it's not like riding a monolithic carbon race bike, the frame does respond to your input with more than just forward motion. But there wasn't any rubbing from transmission or wheels, everything was well within acceptable limits.
It's a comfy frame and fork too. I ran a carbon seatpost which always adds a bit of extra cushioning but with a full alloy cockpit, and on the well-built wheels with the tyres pumped up nice and hard, it's still a great bike for our pock-marked UK tarmac. The fork deals with front end hits and general roughness very effectively, and the frame itself seems to soak up a lot of chatter too, although individual components can also make a big difference there.
The paintjob wasn't to everyone's taste, although it's worth saying that I spoke to people who hadn't liked it when they saw pictures of it on the site, but thought it looked much better in the flesh. The green extends all the way round the bottom of the downtube – it's not a stripe – and the dark grey finish is good quality. That said, I guess they still won't be selling many to Ipswich Town fans.
The only other niggle is the lack of rack mounts. It's easy to get round this with a seat collar that incorporates a rack mounting point, but really the bike should have them added. You're much more likely to stick a rack on this Equlibrium than one of the carbon-framed full bikes. You could easily run it as a nice lightweight tourer.
At £749 for the frame and fork this Equilibrium isn't cheap. It is likely to stay reasonably exclusive though, and it's on a par with other 853 offerings out there and a fair bit cheaper than some. If you're looking for a steel bike for club rides and sportives, its carbon-forked siblings are a better bet. This one works better as a proper mile-muncher, even though it's happy being thrown about a bit. The lack of rack mounts is a niggle, and the paint job is a bit Marmite, but overall it's hard not to like once you get out on the road.
Would I buy one? Well, possibly. But the main problem the Equilibrium 853 faces for me is that you can have the 725-framed version as a frame and fork package for not much more than half what this costs. Okay it's a slightly different offering; with a carbon fork its lines aren't quite as classic, and it's not made of 853, but in pure performance terms it's a brilliant bike. The 853 version certainly isn't twice as good. In fact it isn't really better at all; just different. They're both a great deal of fun to ride. If you want the cachet of 853 and the look of the lugged fork, it's good to now have that option.
Another very likeable Equilibrium joins the stable. More mile muncher than racer, but none the worse for it .
road.cc test report
Make and model: Genesis Equilibrium 853 frame + fork
Size tested: 58cm
About the bike
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nicely built and finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Reynolds 853 tubing.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
58cm. 567mm effective top tube. 72°/73.5° head/seat tube. 160mm head tube.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
A great long distance frameset, forgiving but efficient.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
There's a bit of whip in it but it's plenty stiff enough to cope with the power.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, although it's not as linear as a big-section carbon frame.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not an issue.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Best when cruising, very stable, excellent tracking at speed.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.