Occupying a spot in the Core hierarchy one rung below the range-topping 50, the Core 40 looks like an affordable way into the long-fork hardtail club. When we tested its more expensive stablemate a while back we loved its combination of pace, agility and rock-swallowing verve. With a lower pricetag and a few componentry compromises, can the cheaper 40 still impress?
Its combination of cross-country pace and unflinching downhill speed makes the Core 40 a compelling trail bike – and one of the best we’ve ridden. Point, pedal... and marvel at what you’ve just ridden over. On a hardtail. It’d be even better with the greater adjustability of an air fork, but that’s a criticism that we levelled at the more expensive Core 50, too. At this price it’s a hard-riding, fun and versatile bargain that’s hard to beat.
Ride & handling: Brilliant combination of big-hit ability and trail comfort
Although it also bears comparison with hardtails designed specifically around the demands of longer-travel forks, the Core doesn’t feel out of place next to lighter, shorter-travelled alternatives. The ride position blends all-day cross-country efficiency with the placeable, flickable front wheel that defines the best of the play bike breed. It’s light enough to skip up the climbs with ease, but burly enough to throw around on the way back down. Few bikes can claim the same. Some are too stiff for all-day duties, others too squirrelly in the rough at speed.
The secret to the Core’s success is in the peculiarly successful blend of a cross-country svelte rear end with a beefy freeride-esque front end. From one point of view, the narrow tube profiles and reasonable weight give it a turn of speed on the flat and uphill that belies the fun you’ll have coming back down. From another, it’s impossible to overstate just how much more precise the 20mm axle and tapered steerer combo is over a quick release and standard head tube. The Core’s front wheel goes exactly where you point it, regardless of what lies in its path. There’s no deflection, no squirming, no shimmy.
Frame: Big hit-worthy front half and cross-country whippet rear end
Long-travel hardtail designers have to balance a tough set of compromises. On the one hand, the frame needs to be tough enough – in terms of both stiffness and strength – to withstand spirited assaults over lumpy bits of terrain. On the other hand, a trail-biased long-forker spends much of its time being ridden relatively gently – and no one wants to be beaten to a pulp by an over-rigid chassis. Early attempts at big hitters erred on the safe side of overbuilding, sacrificing ride quality on the altar of strength.
But times have changed. Genesis’ designers have taken a multi-stranded approach to solving the strength/ride quality conundrum. First, they rejected the current fashion for hydroformed tubes in favour of more traditional round plumbing, albeit with various bulged and ovalised sections where appropriate. This, they argue, enables them to better balance the ride quality of the frame across a range of sizes. We’ll take their word for it.
Second, the front end – which bears the brunt of the impacts dished out by a long fork – is built around a massive tapered head tube, 20mm axled fork and twin reinforcing gussets. There are no half measures here – it’s all designed to be both rigid and immensely strong. Third, to counterpoint the inherent unflinchingness of the front half, the rear of the bike is built with surprisingly slender tube profiles and half an eye on the scales.
At 12.5kg all-in the Core 40 is barely heavier than some of the overtly cross-country biased competition despite its prodigious rock-munching ability. And that modest weight bodes well for ride quality. It is, in effect, the front half of a big hit-worthy machine grafted seamlessly to the rear end of a cross-country whippet.
Equipment: Big front rotor means better braking
Despite costing £300 less than the Core 50, the 40 gives relatively little away on the spec front. Shimano hydraulic discs with a 180mm rotor up front haul everything to a halt without fuss. An SLX and Deore-based transmission provides reliable shifting, although the 9-speed cassette lacks the available wall-climbing ability of the costlier 10-speed alternative.
The RockShox Recon fork with 20mm axle provides up to 120mm (4.7in) of coil-sprung travel with adjustable rebound and compression damping, although lighter riders (in either weight or riding style) may find the stock spring a tad on the hard side – we struggled to achieve better than 110mm (4.3in).