Genesis Zero SL Ultegra review

Madison Genesis team machine for the masses

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Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £2,300
Genesis Zero SL Ultegra

Our review

Great frame, gears and braking but could do with a few upgrades to unleash its full potential
Pros: Superb stable ride, great groupset at this price too
Cons: Some of the components are a little basic

Britain’s Madison Genesis team has been central to the development of the Zero model: it debuted in 2015 and has been ridden by the team ever since.

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More recently, the Zero range’s focus has been on disc brakes, but Madison has continued to develop the rim brake model too. This latest generation SL blends a mix of 24/30t standard fibres to create the lightest Zero yet. With a reported 1.3kg weight for the frame, fork, headset and seat collar I reckon the frame alone is in the sub-900g category.

  • The Genesis Zero SL Ultegra is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

The frame uses Kammtail tube shapes — a truncated aerofoil used in most modern frame designs because it stays within UCI regulations — while the crown of the straight, tapered blade fork interlocks into the head tube and down tube for a clean, aerodynamic line.

The bottom bracket shell is oversized and is a Shimano standard BB86 press fit design to add ample stiffness, and the seatstays are pencil thin for rear-end flex. Instead of an aero post, Genesis has opted for a round, slim 27.2 seatpost to assist comfort.

The ride position – 400mm reach, 602mm stack – hits the mark for a modern race bike. The long reach means it’s easy to get down into a flat-backed aero position (the mid-drop bar helps with this too), yet when you’re up on the hoods or tops it’s a fine place to be when spending long hours in the saddle.

The drivetrain is nearly all Ultegra, with only the 11-28 cassette coming from the lower 105 group, which will pretty much go unnoticed by all but the most particular of spec sheet nerds. In practice, shifting is exacting and quick, and the 52/36, 11-28 combo is a useable range for day-in-day-out riding.

This SL frame uses direct-mount rim brakes and the bike comes with Ultegra’s brilliant units. The feel and power of direct-mount rim brakes is vastly superior to traditional central-mount brakes for two reasons. First, the twin bolt mounts mean the brake is always centred correctly – an out-of-line rim brake rubbing your rim is annoying. Second, the two fixed points give you a totally rigid brake with no flex and that translates into brake feel and performance that’s only bettered by the very best disc brakes.

With the SL it’s a case of so far, so very, very good. It’s a bike that responds brilliantly to pedal inputs and handles with assured confidence. The steering response is steady rather than swift and makes for a balanced, stable ride.

The wheels are where Genesis has made some savings, although it’s been clever here too. The wheels are unbranded, mixing dependable Formula hubs with Jalco’s alloy rims and 14g stainless spokes. Yes, it’s a basic wheel build but it works.

Formula provides hubs to plenty of ‘brand’ name wheels and these are light and slim, with hardy cartridge bearings laced to a decent-quality rim. I admire that Genesis hasn’t created some pseudo-wheel brand which would have meant a decent part of the budget being spent on design and decal creation.

Yes, these are very much ‘training’ or ‘winter’ wheels, but they are shod with some seriously plush rubber. You may not have heard much about Donnelly Tyres, but you’ve probably heard of Clément Tyres, and Don Kellog the founder of Donnelly Tyres, which has been licensing the Clément name since 2010.

These Strada LGGs in a 28c are some seriously supple tyres; compliant and comfortable, yet fast rolling and tough enough to handle some pretty diverse road surfaces.

During testing, I took the Zero down an unmetalled road that I usually reserve for gravel bikes, or bikes such as the Synapse SE – certainly not a race machine with rim brakes.

The choice of the Donnellys shows that someone at Genesis rides, and rides UK roads in all conditions. It’s a clever choice and makes the Zero a capable all-rounder with a racing attitude.

Add a set of lightweight wheels and it’d be a ready-to-race fast flyer. As it stands, it’s a joy of a bike and one I’ve really enjoyed riding.

Genesis Zero SL Ultegra specifications

  • Sizes (*Tested): XS, S, M, L, XL*
  • Frame: 24/30t Modulus Carbon
  • Fork: Genesis Carbon SL Road Race
  • Chainset: Shimano Ultegra, 52/36
  • Bottom bracket: Shimano
  • Cassette: Shimano, 11-28
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
  • Wheelset: Jalco alloy rims, Formula hubs
  • Tyres: Donnelly Strada
  • Stem: Genesis
  • Bar: Genesis
  • Saddle: Genesis road comfort
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra direct mount rim

Genesis Zero SL Ultegra geometry

  • Seat angle: 72.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 73.3 degrees
  • Chainstay: 41cm
  • Seat tube: 58cm
  • Top tube: 59.2cm
  • Head tube: 18.5cm
  • Fork offset: 4.5cm
  • Trail: 5.5cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 6.8cm
  • Wheelbase: 1,014.5mm
  • Price: £2,300
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BikeRadar would like to thank Stolen Goat, Lazer, Northwave and Effetto Mariposa for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.