I used to commute 15 hilly miles each way on a daily basis, on a road bike. 700c x 25 tyres may be light and fast, but they sure aren’t designed to take the knocks that rural Devon lanes offer, especially on a cold, dark, and often wet winter commute.
My road bike has rim brakes, too, and I once wore out a set of Mavic Aksium rims in six months.
Back in 2016, I started looking for a new bike, and I had a clear idea of what I wanted: a bike that I could take on club rides, if I wanted to, that would take tyres of at least 700c x 35, have support for full mudguards and a rack, have disk brakes and dropped bars.
In other words, I wanted a go-anywhere machine, which could tackle rough tracks and tar with relative ease, would easily handle what my commute threw at it, and could be used for touring. Oh, and as I was going to get it on the Cycle To Work scheme, I had a £1000 spend limit.
After much searching, I decided on a Genesis CdA – an aluminium-framed gravel bike, which came standard with 700c x 35 tyres (sadly, they were Continental tyres, which I avoid, due to a significant minority of riders having suffered sudden sidewall failure on those tyres). I soon enough upgraded to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres.
It also came with cable disk brakes, and though neither mudguards nor a rack, it had mounting points for those.
I was delighted when the bike arrived. After fitting SPD pedals (mountain bike pedals, if you will – they allow me to walk normally when off the bike, as the cleats are recessed) and adjusting the seat to suit me, I took it for a ride, and returned with a grin on my face.
Make no mistake – the Genesis CdA is far from a top-end bike.It leans more towards a budget bike, which explains some of the components it came with. It’s not particularly light (nor heavy) uses a Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset, with double chainrings, and it came with Promax brakes. Promax cable brakes work, provided the brake pads are very new, and you keep adjusting them.
Beyond those parameters, you don’t use them to stop, as such. Instead, you do the equivalent of sending them a polite request, asking them to please consider – with no sense of urgency – if they would start to gradually slow you down. That’s not particularly helpful if you need to suddenly stop, and so I soon replaced them with BB7 brakes.
I also added SKS Blumel mudguards, and a rack, and then did the biggest and best upgrade to the bike: I relaced the front wheel around a Shimano hub dynamo, and added dynamo lights. I am beyond surprised at why more bikes don’t come with dynamo lights as standard – they really are exceedingly good. No more faffing with having to charge battery lights – as soon as the front wheel starts turning, the lights are on.
The last upgrade to my bike was a Nidd leather saddle, from Spa Cycles. Essentially a Brooks B17 copy, but made from far thicker leather, and it sells for far less. A word of warning though – these saddles take considerably longer than a Brooks to break in.
Also, if I could buy another saddle, exactly the same as the bike came with, I would’ve done so, as it was very comfortable, and crucially, waterproof.
I’m exceedingly happy with my bike. Over the past nearly five years, it has proven itself to be a sturdy, durable and reliable machine, and comfortable handled any terrain I pointed it at. The greatest praise I can heap on this bike is simply this: I see no reason whatsoever to replace it.