Ever since trying out some budget single speeds last year, I have been somewhat hooked. I really enjoyed riding the Mango a lot more than I was expecting, but in comparison to my nicer touring bike, I felt the comfort was a little lacking for a regular, go-anywhere commuter bike. So being the gear head that I am, I started looking at what you could get if you spend a little more money.
After a lot of research, I narrowed the multitude of choices down to a few bikes that should provide a better riding experience, but still not break the bank. However, would the specs on paper add up to an improvement over the budget single speeds? The top pick came out as the Genesis Flyer priced at £649.99. Luckily enough the guys over at Pavé Velo in Stratford were willing to lend me one to ride around for a few weeks so we could bring you an in-depth review.
What is it?
Genesis are a British brand bringing steel bikes into the mainstream with their most popular and well known offering: the Croix de Fer. They have a full range of performance road and off road bikes in most gearing options. The Flyer is based on their Equilibrium road bike, pared down to one gear to make a nearly bomb proof winter trainer or commuter bike.
The main frame of the bike is made from Genesis’s own brand 4130 chromo steel, called ‘Mjölinr’, with an alloy and carbon fork. The wheels are Joytech track hubs with Alex rims, all in silver. Combined with the navy frame and silver component finishing kit, the bike has a definite classy-retro look.
The Flyer has been produced for a number of years now, always based around standard horizontal track dropouts at the rear. This year however Genesis have changed it up and the bike come with vertical Campagnolo style dropouts. These mean that the wheel is easier to remove when mudguards are attached, handy as for the first time the Flyer ships with full length mudguards attached. These changes are partly what drew us to this bike as a viable London commuting option.
The frame is stiff when it should be and does not flex or dampen any acceleration. This is particularly important on a single speed as you are going to be standing up and really hammering the bike up hills sometimes. It is not too stiff though. One of the problems I had with the budget single speeds I tried was the harsh ride. There is none of that here, the Flyer is smooth and comfortable but still capable of translating your peddling effort to momentum.
It is also nice and light, the bike weighs in at just over 9kg (9.36kg for the medium minus peddles). The low weight certainly helps with the superb handling but it also makes it easy to carry up and down stairs and all the fun things you often have to do with bikes in London flats.
The riding position on the bike is quite sporty. It took a few rides for adjust to it from my touring bike, but with a couple of minor adjustments (flipping the stem up and shifting the seat forward) it is now perfectly comfortable and I feel that the position really helps make this a fast bike, even with one gear, and certainly does not make it uncomfortable in rush hour traffic.
I have taken the bike on a variety of surfaces and it has coped with everything. Obviously, on smooth pavement it is great, but even on rough road it does not feel uncomfortable or unstable. I have ridden it up grassy slopes, deep gravel paths and through dirt. Even though it has 25mm tyres it has handled all of these surfaces with ease and the Maxxis tyres feel grippy even in the wet and so far have seemed to be pretty puncture proof.
The handling on the bike is great. It is easy to feel the sportive style geometry and response from the bike. When accelerating it gets going very easily, and it can happily be thrown into corners. As I am a little short I needed the smallest size of frame, xs, but there is no hint of overlap or instability.
The components it comes with are great and I do not feel that I need to change anything, unlike other bikes I have tried in the past. The mudguards really do provide pretty full coverage – that extra few mm at the bottom on the front make a significant difference between getting soggy feet and not. The saddle, whilst subjective of course, is actually pretty comfortable and I have not been tempted to change it yet. There are mounting points for 2 water bottle cages and a rear rack, so it really can carry everything you would need for work or a weekend of riding.
Personally I find the gear ratio to be pretty perfect at 65 gearing inches. I don’t really enjoy grinding up inclines and pushing a huge gear, especially as it is not completely flat around my area of East London. It won’t really let you get much above 20 mph, but in town that is really not much of a problem. The bike comes fitted with a freewheel, but it is supplied with an additional fixed cog for addition to the other side of the wheel, giving you a flipflop hub. I didn’t use this, but it is very nice that it comes supplied should you wish to ride fixed.
The bike itself is beautiful. Genesis are somewhat known for the quality of their paintwork and finishing. The paint has a metallic sheen to it and is flawless (the bike ships with a little tube of touch up paint as well for bike rack induced scrapes). It is classic looking without sacrificing a still somewhat sporty look thanks to the carbon forks and geometry. Its the sort of bike that makes you want to pick beautiful accessories and wear classy commuter clothes (a Lumo jacket and commuter jeans kinda look). It has got a lot of love from my colleagues for sure.
The Flyer has rim brakes, which are sufficient but they do feel a little less powerful than I would like, especially coming from disc brakes. That said, I have never failed to stop or felt at risk. Part of the problem is that the brake levers are not very friendly for small hands and so I cannot reach the best point on the lever.
The bike looks so nice it stands out a little. I have noticed people staring at it when I am wandering around with it or standing nearby when it’s locked up. It is nice in some ways to have a desirable bike, but it does make me worry that it increases it’s risk of being stolen. The cheap single speeds don’t have quite the same problem. I would definitely invest in some locking skewers for the wheels to increase safety.
I have very much enjoyed riding this bike for the last few weeks (in fact I think I may buy it rather than return it!). It is a very capable commuting bike as well as being perfect for around town weekend jaunts, I would even consider going further afield on it. I had been riding a bike with 27 gears most of the winter and forgotten exactly how much I enjoyed the simplicity of a single speed and just how capable they are for London riding.
The Flyer is an amazingly comfortable bike. It is smooth and responsive, handles exceptionally well and can handle most surfaces you throw at it. Moving up to a somewhat performance single speed means you give up the ability to leave your bike anywhere without worrying, but you gain the ability to cycle anywhere in comfort and efficiency.
The quality is very good and for £649.99 it is good value for a such a nice bike – it is well within the cycle to work limit. Given it comes with everything you need to get riding around London, rather than having to factor in better tyres and some mudguards.
Do you have a Flyer or are you thinking of getting one? Do you have a different high-end single speed bike? Let us know below!