Getting one's hands (and bum) on a custom carbon Guru Geneo road bike starts with a professional sizing with an authorized dealer, and ends with a dream ride made in Montreal. Our US$5,600 sample was custom-fitted based on several variables, including height, weight, pedaling style and primary intended use.
There's no shortage of quality carbon bikes, and after riding bikes made by Trek, Cannondale, Ridley and others, we were interested in a custom, made-to-measure model. The 17lb Campagnolo Centaur-equipped Geneo was our choice, and five weeks after a 90-minute sizing session at PK Cycling in Fairfax, California, the bike arrived.
There are many fine North American-made carbon bikes available, so what makes the Guru special? If you're looking for something other than what your neighbour has in the garage for your next bike, the Geneo is one of our favourites.
Ride & handling: smooth all-rounder
The Geneo is stable, stiff and comfortable, and the confidence gained after just a few pedal strokes was a sure sign that Guru knows what it's doing.
Our Geneo was built to spec based on the data provided by our sizer, Christopher Kautz, a Serotta-certified expert who has sized thousands. We described our ideal road bike, one designed to handle riding long distances in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sharp switchbacks and twisty curves, both uphill and down, challenge both the rider and the bike in these parts, and the Geneo handles it all gracefully. In short, a sportive/audax racer with none of the 'sit-up-and-beg' positioning that typically robs the performance seekers of their fun.
From our maiden voyage to the most recent jaunt up a local climb, the Geneo always delivered crisp handling and smooth pedaling, regardless of the terrain. Unlike most carbon road bikes on the market, the Geneo wasn't designed or made to be the lightest because our testers don't fall into that category. The Geneo isn't your average off-the-peg racing bike; it's custom made for its handler. It's a fun, comfortable and zippy carbon road bike that was designed specifically for a non-racer that doesn't lose any performance because of the shorter top tube or longer chainstays.
That said, the Geneo handles superbly in all conditions, making it one of our favourite all-rounders. Rough roads, twisty descents and false flats were all neutralized on the Geneo. But like most carbon bikes, the gentle road buzz makes it way into your shoulder blades, and the Geneo was no different after more than two hours in the saddle.
Frame: premeditated carbon origami
Kautz determined that I needed a frameset with 73-degree parallel head and seat angle for a more neutral ride, with a 43mm fork rake. A somewhat short 57.6cm top tube (compared to my standard 58.5cm) with a 59.61 seat tube settled me nicely in the cockpit immediately, a reflection of Kautz's expertise.
He also recommended Guru's heavy-duty layup, a reflection of my 185-pound frame, for extra stiffness for larger riders. All told, the frame, fork and headset weighed 4.1lb/1.86kg, nothing to brag about on club rides, but the ride quality overshadowed what the workshop scale was telling me.
Guru uses a seamless carbon manufacturing process, achieving a 70/30 fiber-to-resin ratio in the final product. This, Guru says, costs more compared to the standard way of making and joining carbon, but the goal is a significantly higher fiber content.
From there, each part of the frame is laid up in a mold and cured, pressurizing to compact the fibers as tightly as possible. Each frame part is machined to optimize the final shape, and the final painted frame is glass smooth with a matching Alpha Q GS10 carbon fork.
In an exercise in premeditated carbon origami, the Geneo frame comes to nearly flattened points where the down tube meets the head tube, and where the top tube flows into the seat tube. The wide wishbone seatstay flows into a rather sharp and wide chainstay, accentuating all the stiffening points while adding graceful style points to match the handsome graphics.
At first glance, the Geneo resembles an early Kestrel frame, with its sharp and flowing lines. A closer look reveals an oversized bottom bracket area and sweeping curves that reflects Guru's modern approach to manufacturing not only for looks but for riding pleasure. We think the frame resembles a shark, with a dorsal top ready for slipstreaming in any group ride or echelon.
Equipment: Campagnolo delivers
Guru equipped our Geneo with Campagnolo's affordable Centaur group. We made a few substitutions, swapping the Ritchey Pro bars, stem and post with some new 3T carbon and aluminium parts, topped off with the always-fine Fi'zi:k Arione saddle and matching bar tape.
The Campagnolo Centaur components performed smartly out of the box, and the clean lines of the hidden cables, coupled with the smaller brake/shift levers, was a nice change of pace from the more bulbous Shimano levers. The comfortable reach to the shifters, both from the tops and bottom of the bars, saved us a little more energy in the long haul.
Shifting and braking were spot-on and crisp, and it appears Campagnolo has made some refinements. Typically there's a frustrating break-in period for all Campagnolo components, but beyond a little chain drag on the maiden voyage, everything felt right at home.
Wheels: plush and strong at half the price
The US$449 Reynolds Solitude wheels, like the Geneo frame, are plush and strong. They're radially laced except for the two-cross rear drive-side with 20 DT Swiss Revolution spokes front and 24 rear. The 1,590g wheels have a just-right 31mm rim depth, providing the right amount of stiffness for climbing and cornering.
The Reynolds-branded aluminium hubs rolled as silently and smoothly as wheels twice as expensive. The evenly-tensioned spokes meant the wheels stayed true. That was a blessing because you have to remove the tyre, tube and rimstrip to true the wheels, which frankly bewilders us. The design doesn't appear to offer any advantages rotating-weight wise, but we were happy to have perfectly trued wheels after a few months of hard riding. Continental Ultra Race 700x23c tyres rolled perfectly, and stayed flat-free during our testing.
Verdict: when custom is needed, Guru delivers
For some riders, a stock bike will suffice. A tweak of the stem length and saddle height will get most people in the ballpark, and most people are content. A custom frame, on the other hand, can address lower back or flexibility issues. And depending on the expertise of the professional sizer, the recipient of a custom frameset can benefit greatly from smart geometry decisions.
If you're looking for something other than a Trek or Specialized for your next bike, and are willing to spend US$5,000-plus, you'll do quite well to consider a custom Guru Geneo. The challenge might be finding an authorized dealer, but that can be easily sorted by the Guru folks. The quick turnaround time and Campagnolo options make the Guru Geneo a true contender for your wallet, especially if you have a soft spot for fine Italian componentry.