With sublime handling and rapid performance, the Genesis Volare is proof, if ever it were needed, that steel still has a place at the top table of performance road bikes. The Madison Genesis Pro Team have been ambitious in putting steel bikes back in the professional peloton, and in doing that have developed an exciting bike that should appeal equally to racers and non-racers alike.
To ride, the Volare Team 953 just feels good; really good. Boot it up the road with all the watts you can summon from your legs and it rips along at a terrific pace. Drop into a descent and it is stable and predictable. The Volare gives you the confidence to explore some high speeds through the corners. Pin it through an apex and it feels settled, almost calm, unlike some bikes which can start to get nervous at such speeds.
Point it at your favourite hill and, whether seated or out of the saddle, climbing reveals just how stiff the frame is, the front half especially feeling exceptionally tight. The oversized head tube together with the Enve carbon fork give the front end a very solid feeling. Push and pull on the bars shows not a hint of flex or limpness. It's responds sharply to such inputs, at any speed.
The Volare isn't compromised because of its race-crafted design though. That's a good thing because I think the Volare is right at home with anyone simply wanting a fast road bike for blasting the lanes of a Sunday morning. It's comfortable if you want to take it easy; you can cruise along and take in the views.
It's a comfortable bike most of the time, in that distinct way of a good steel-framed bike. On smooth Tarmac it quietly buzzes along, just the sound of the tyres for company. Get it on a less well maintained road though, and the ride is a touch jolty, and the rougher the road gets the more it feeds vibration through to the handlebars and saddle. This is no doubt a consequence of the oversized tube profiles and enormous head tube and bottom bracket. At times it feels more like a stiff carbon frame than a steel frame, which just shows how much stiffness they've managed to add with all the oversized tubes.
Thankfully it never gets harsh though, and the large volume 25mm tyres (which I found felt best at about 90-95psi) certainly help take the edge off. You could probably get a more more vibration damping by fitting carbon fibre handlebars and seatpost.
It's a very fast and brilliant-handling bike, and if you want a genuine alternative to aluminium or carbon fibre for a high performance road bike, the Volare is easy to recommend.
Some people pointed to the weight penalty of the bike during the test period, and that is a consideration. Genesis have worked hard to bring the weight of the frame down, and the bike pictured tipped the scales at 7.91kg. Not really that heavy is it?
A quick look through the reviews archive to see what a carbon bike for the same money gets you, and we arrive at the Storck Fenomalist. Full carbon and five grand, and it weighs 7kg on the nose. So, a 0.8kg weight difference. I don't think that's much of a penalty. If you're a weight weenie, if every gram matters, then the Volare isn't for you, but you'll be too busy weighing your latex inner tubes to be reading this review.
In the real world, the weight difference is negligible. Yes, at times you can feel the weight, but I never found it holding me back on the climbs. Against a stopwatch I know I'll be quicker up my regular climbs on a lighter carbon bike, but probably not all that much. On one test hill I've set a PB on the Volare against a sway of carbon bikes. There's a lot more than a light bike to going fast up a hill.
Everywhere else, the Volare just excels. The ride is classy and well balanced, it feels really nice to ride, it is fun to ride, it's a cracking bike.
Would I have one in my garage? Well, that's a tricky question. If I was wanting a race bike, I'd probably be tempted by carbon or alloy and a cheaper groupset for a bike of about the same weight, and for non-racing, just riding fast for fun, then I'm not sure the frame really benefits enough from the oversizing to warrant the tradeoff in total ride comfort.
The fact is, the Volare Team 953 is a fantastic bike. It's so good in fact that I spent so much time with it that I wore out the brake pads. I don't usually wear out brake blocks on test bikes.
What have Genesis done to produce such a fine riding bike then? Well it started a couple of years ago with the intention of supplying the then-new race Madison-Genesis, and it has been fettled, tweaked and honed before it was finally launched to the public this year. Genesis have been back and forth to Reynolds, tweaking the shape and profile of the tubes, and changing small details based on feedback from the racers.
The team have been critical in the development of the frame since its inception. That's the advantage, and attraction, of working with professional riders; you get a lot of feedback very quickly, because they rack up the miles and are usually very demanding. Based on that feedback they've made changes like giving the top tube more slope, and decreasing the diameter of the tubes to build in a little more compliance and reduce the weight. Genesis claim a weight of about 1,650g for a size 54cm frame.
Oversized tubes are the order of the day, visibly in the down tube, top tube and chainstays. The head tube is a 44mm diameter tube and an Enve Road fork with a carbon tapered steerer tube slides into the headset bearings. The bottom bracket is Shimano's press-fit BB86, the wide shell providing plenty of surface area for the oversized down tube, seat tube and chainstays. To provide some comfort they've fitted a 27.2mm seatpost.
The tubeset is Reynolds 953, a specially developed 'martensitic-aging' stainless steel alloy that Reynolds claim offers a tensile strength in excess of 2000MP (853 is around 1400MP), giving a very high strength-to-weight ratio. It's a lovely tubeset, and gives a noticeable performance increase over 853 or one of the other non-stainless steel tubesets, with a bit more tautness when you wind it up to speed. It's also very forgiving, but the oversized head tube, bottom bracket and chainstays perhaps undoes some of the compliance just a touch.
Geometry is fairly racy, as you might expect, and sticks to tried-and-tested numbers, so there are no real surprises in the handling. The head angle is 73.3° and the seat angle 73.25°, the effective top tube is 56.1cm, the wheelbase 985mm and the chainstays are 407mm. One thing worth pointing out is the 14.5cm head tube, that's very aggressive and just how racers like it (they love getting as low as possible on the bike) and while Genesis do stick a few spacers above the headset, it's really very specific in its focus.
Just like the team race, the Volare Team gets a full Dura-Ace 9000 11-speed groupset with a 52/36 chainset and 11-28 cassette. The groupset is wonderful to use. Shifting is light and crisp and very accurate, front shifts are fantastic with plenty of trim options, and the brakes are extremely powerful. The brake blocks don't last all that long in the rain and grit of a UK winter/spring though.
The 52/36 chainset was something I instantly grew to like. It just takes the hurt off trying to push a 53/39 in winter training mode without resorting to a compact.
The Shimano theme continues with the RS81 C24 wheels. They use the same carbon laminate rim design as the more expensive Dura-Ace wheels, but have slighter heavier hubs. There's nothing wrong with these wheels at all, they spin up fast, are a decent weight and very reliable, but Dura-Ace wheels would have been nice at this price.
Wide tyres are all the rage at the moment. The team have been racing 25mm tyres, and so the bike is fitted with Continental Grand Sport Race 25mm tyres. They're not Conti's best tyres, but they're fast and a good weight. I found their puncture resistance lacking on my local roads, though. They're a good tyre to get you started, and when they wear out you can upgrade them anyway.
The bike is finished with Genesis 0.4 inhouse handlebars, stem and seatpost, all made from alloy and featuring smart decals. The saddle should be a San Marco Concor, but that went missing somewhere so a Genesis branded saddle was fitted. I replaced it with a Prologo Scratch saddle anyway so I could get properly comfortable on it. It's all nice kit, but you might reasonably expect some fancier PRO branded finishing kit.
Five grand is a lot of money for a road bike, and they've probably had to work quite hard to get the £2,249 frame and fork and a full Dura-Ace groupset and decent wheels to squeeze in under, given a Dura-Ace groupset retails for about £2k.
The smart money might be to buy the Volare Team frame on its own for £2,249, and pick up a Dura-Ace groupset which can currently be bought discounted at various retailers for £950 (half the retail price). Use the money saved to buy some faster wheels and fancier finishing kit, and you'll either end up with a better specced bike for the same money as the complete bike, or save yourself a few quid.
The Volare Team is a great package that provides a fast and lively ride that can live with most carbon fibre or aluminium race bikes. It's a wonderful looking bike too, really standing out against a backdrop of carbon bikes in a club run and is easy to live with on a daily basis, doing everything you want of a high performance road bike. For just riding or racing, the Volare Team delivers. My one caveat is that good as it is as a complete package buying a frameset and building it up yourself might be a better financial move and you'd end up with exactly the bike you wanted. That said it's a well thought out build as it comes and you might not want the hassle of searching for parts - plus of course, if you're spending this amount of money saving a few quid may not be high on your list of priorities. So, if you want something a bit different and unique, the Volare Team 953 is a bike that should be on your shortlist.
Fast and inspiring ride with great handling and fine looks; a true contender for any performance road bike shortlist.
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Make and model: Genesis Volare Team
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
953's unparalleled UTS (Ultimate Tensile Strength) of 1750-2050 MPa results in a far superior strength to weight ratio of any other steel currently offered within the cycle industry, enabling Reynolds, in combination with oversize tube profiles, to draw very thin walled tubes (down to 0.3mm in places) and give an overall frame weight comparable to that of Titanium (circa 1600-1700g for 54cm), but much, much stiffer.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Developing a bona fide, modern day race frame from steel, presented us with a real engineering challenge. Could we make it competitive in a race context (stiff enough, light enough)? Would it satisfy a group of riders who have spent the majority of their racing lives on carbon? What we've tried to do is push the boundaries of what's possible with a steel road race frame - some elements experimental (in the context of steel), others pre-proven.
So, what makes 953 so special? Its big trump card is its strength. It's off-the-scale strength that results in a superior strength-to-weight ratio, enabling Reynolds, in combination with oversize tube profiles, to draw very thin walled tubes (Reynolds will butt down to 0.3mm in places) and give an overall frame weight comparable to that of Titanium but nearly twice as stiff.
Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it's an absolute b**ch to work with (in its off-the-chart tensile strength lies both its biggest strength and biggest weakness), but, in 953 Reynolds now had a steel tubeset to trump Titanium, clawing back some much needed, long-lost ground to the favoured modern materials - stainless, stiff, competitively light yet still retaining that unmistakable compliant and road-connected ride feel for which steel is famous.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Fantastic finish and build quality, lovely welds.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The tubeset is Reynolds 953, a specially developed 'martensitic-aging' stainless steel alloy that Reynolds claim offers a tensile strength in excess of 2000MP (853 is around 1400MP), giving a high strength-to-weight ratio.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Fairly racy as you'd expect from a race-tuned bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Mostly yes, but on very rough roads it becomes a bit jolty, more akin to a stiff carbon or alloy bike.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, loads of stiffness detectable in the head tube and bottom bracket.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Loves cornering, where it feels stable and planted. Very accurate steering too
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Carbon fibre bars and post might alleviate some of the road buzz.
The brake pads didn't last long
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Probably.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.