Ridgeback was one of the first brands to launch a UK mountain bike brand 25 years ago, but over time they've gradually shifted to more urban-based bikes. That's all changing now though, as they've launched an entirely new premium bike brand: Genesis.
While Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel are nowhere in sight, the 'invisible touch' Ridgeback is certainly evident in its ability to create instant classics for the UK mountain bike scene it helped pioneer so long ago. As well as the slimlined Altitude 2.0 we're testing here, they've also made a fully rigid, disc-braked singlespeed in Reynolds 725 tubing, which could be a perfect winter hack bike for only £500.
With its slick 'Mercury' finish and unmistakeably slim steel tubes, the 2.0 already looks a classic from a distance. Get close enough to clock the numbers on that green yellow and black Reynolds badge though, and anyone with some metallic know-how will get properly excited.
853 is Reynolds' premium steel alloy. Super thin-walled for low weight, yet still extremely tough and resilient to fl ex or impact, it also manages the neat trick of actually increasing its strength where it's welded. Genesis has based the 2.0 around a relatively skinny down tube, but with a fat top tube with vertical flaring at the seat tube junction for extra stiffness. A tiny 'pair of pants' gusset behind the reinforced head tube spreads stress, and welding is neat throughout.
Other details include a mudbeating forward-facing slot and a neat bolted collar on the seat tube, plus cowled dropouts at the end of slender tapered A-frame stays. There are Crud Catcher mudguard bosses on the down tube too, although there's no rack or mudguard eyes.
Seat post aside, the basic thing to understand is we absolutely love the Altitude. The top-class steel feel is obvious from the first time you press the pedals and load up the natural 'spring' resilience of the frame before unleashing it on the trail.
It floats over cobbles and rock edges as though it's running tyres 5psi softer than it really is. It sometimes takes two or three pedal strokes to wind it up, but once it starts releasing stored energy, it sticks to the ground with astonishing tenacity and literally flings itself up climbs or out of corners. You'll cavort down your favourite singletrack in a giddy series of whips and leaps from every slight berm, bank or kicker you can catch, but it'll still dance over any evil surprises on trails you don't know as well.
It certainly doesn't feel anything close to its actual weight when you're ripping along, yet still manages to be anchored enough to not just ping straight off the trail if it gets a big clout. The fork is an ideal match too, gobbling up rocks, roots and dips to keep front wheel traction pinned as much as possible.
The handling is also spot on, with classic 71/73 XC geometry, but based around a working fork height rather than a static or passively sagged measurement. This means it never feels sketchy, and it loves to surf the Conti tyres sideways before snapping over to the other ear to rip the next corner. The spring in the steel frame also helps the bike to cope with drops or serious impacts.
Another sign that this is a real rider's bike is the fork, and the MX Pro is probably our favourite Marzocchi. Not the most complex or 'belled and whistled' by a long stretch, but still have all the smooth, succulent low pressure air sprung stroke and interminable reliability that make Zocchi's great trail forks. An alloy steerer also saves a bit of weight, while the 100mm travel is plenty for all-round use.
The XT/LX stop-go mix is all fine and faultless in terms of function and the Deore hubs will run forever. We're new to the DT rims but previous hoops from the Swiss firm have been excellent, and these certainly gave us no grief, despite some heavy impacts. Watch you don't drop the pressure too much on the Conti tyres though, as while they're agile and always popular among trail riders, they are relatively easy to pop.
Production bikes will have a slightly wider 26in bar than we had, but we've no beefs with the lightweight Ti saddle, 4-bolt stem or rat tail patterned lock-on grips. In fact, the heavy single bolt 326g seat post is our only gripe, and only 'direct to you' specialists like Merlin will outgun it on overall spec value.
Whether you sit back and cruise comfortably for mile after mile, or throw your weight forward and carve the turns and whip up the climbs on your favourite singletrack, the Altitude 2.0 is simply a joy to ride. With fantastic spring-heeled steel character, our favourite no-nonsense fork, superb stop/go equipment, impeccable handling balance and decent completion kit, it's a truly timeless trail bike.
At £1000 it's cracking value too, and shames a lot of 'separately available' framesets.