The Genesis Altitude is that rarest of beasts: a full production bike with an honest-to-goodness steel frame at its heart. Available as a complete bike only with a variety of spec and frame tubing options, we plumped to test the range-topping Altitude 30.
Boasting Reynolds’ peerless 853 plumbing throughout and a full Shimano Deore XT component group with an air-sprung RockShox Reba Race fork up front, it’s all the trail bike most riders will ever need. The question is, can a steel production bike hold its own against the specialist frame builders?
Ride & handling: Decent handling, but outgunned by the competition
Whether you’re a rider rediscovering your hardtail roots or a relative newcomer to the delights of unsprung simplicity, the Altitude 30 turns out to be an easy-going trail companion. With a geometry that’s neither laid-back nor nervy and a comfortable stretch from saddle to bars, Genesis’ steel range-topper makes light work of most common trail scenarios, with only a hint of front end wander on steep climbs to worry about.
Thin-walled 853 main tubes put some spring in its step, although the rear end can’t match frames like the Cove Handjob or Pipedream Sirius for overall comfort despite its narrow stays. The Altitude 30’s real problem is that it’s now expensive for a 100-130mm trail hardtail.
It’s £300 more than a similarly specced Sirius and £600 more than an On-One 456 with a full XT spec, albeit with a lower grade DN6 chromoly frame. Although the Genesis has scored well in previous years, it's looking a tad pricy for a bike that's good rather than excellent.
Frame & equipment: Classic steel chassis decked out with good kit
Pared down practicality is what the Altitude is all about, and to that end the complete absence of shape-shifted or curved tubes will come as a welcome relief to many. The few design ﬂourishes simply add to the bike’s down-to-earth appeal. There’s an open-ended reinforcing gusset to add strength at the head tube/down tube join, a pair of Crud Catcher-friendly bosses beneath the down tube and a set of threaded eyelets at the rear for attaching a rack. And that’s it.
Throw in the magic air-hardening properties of Reynolds 853 main tubes and a geometry corrected for forks up to 130mm, and the Altitude is very much a classic steel hardtail subtly tweaked for trail riding in the 21st century. Despite notably uncurvy stays and a complete lack of clearance-increasing crimps, the Altitude has enough room at the rear to run decent sized tyres, and down tube gear routing means cleaner shifts, for longer.
There’s little to complain about on the kit front, too. The through-axle fork and oversize SLX front hub add useful extra front end precision at the expense of a small weight gain. Heavier or more aggressive trail riders will love this but lighter or more sedate singletrackers may ﬁnd it slight overkill. If the Altitude 30 appeals but would stretch your budget, the cheaper Altitude 20 looks like a good buy.