It seems that as the big bike makers move more to carbon for their hi-end rigs, the door opens a crack wider for the small guys working with titanium – the material least favoured by the big guys. And as consumers get more used to the price of fancy carbon rigs, titanium becomes more affordable for many. We talked to Genie Bicycle Works founder Tim To about what he’s doing differently from other builders…
Genie bikes are designed as race bikes with stability and a more comfy ride in mind, and feature a slightly extended head tube and slightly lower BB than many stock bikes. The feel is more ‘sit in’ than ‘perched on top’. The head tube is extended .8 cm over most typical non integrated designs of that size bike.
We had this photo bike for a few days, but regular PEZ Fans will know we don’t pretend to evaluate a bike in a couple of rides. My initial impressions of the ride were good though – for sure consistent with the lively feel of well-built titanium. We’ll hope to have our next Genie long enough to give it a proper shake down.
Pez: What is your own cycling history and how did you come up with the name Genie?
Tim: I started Genie only last year but it had been under development for some time. I’ve always been into the design of things and even have a patent on a TT frame design – bikes are always something I’ve put thought into. I had a couple previous prototypes of first and second generation Isolated Seat Tube (IST) designs that I spent time on before finalizing the version you see now. The name Genie came up after I had exhausted the normal gamut of ‘fast’ sounding names and really landed on what I wanted the bikes to represent – a magical ride, like a magic carpet! Plus the association of flight, lightness, of being closer to childhood (and first cycling experiences) were images that appealed to me with the ‘Genie’ name. It wasn’t a typical ‘faster, smarter, better’ kind of vibe I was after.
Genie’s “IST” – Isolated Seat Tube – incorporates damping between the seatpost and seat tube to help soak up road buzz.
IST – we’ve seen different ways of separating the rider from frame-transmitted road buzz – how does your Isolated Seat Tube work?
Tim: The frames are built with a very large seat tube (35mm), but inside of the main seat tube floats a standard size (smaller) seat tube section, call it the inner seat tube, that is 4 inches long (30mm OD/27.2 ID). The inner seat tube is held in place by a very high strength urethane which is what isolates the inner seat tube section from the Internal Diameter of the oversized seat tube of the frame. That inner seat tube (which the post goes into normally) is completely ‘isolated’ from the frame structure by urethane that dampens vibrations and is the secret to the frame’s unique ride. The large ST contributes to the stiff platform and firmess front to back.
Design – Tell us about your design philosophy, what makes you different and better than other bike makers?
Tim: I’m of the ‘simple is better’ school – I like round tubes. I like metal (ti and steel). I like classic design. From first glance, most people’s impressions of my bikes are of “clean” lines, form and style. But I also like innovation. I’ve always had a hard time reconciling the real world benefits of extreme tubing manipulation, or multi material configurations. They had an academic kind of benefit but not something I could intuitively put a finger on.
The IST (Isolated Seat Tube) is really what separates my bike from others – the design is a fundamental and clearly comprehensible solution to reducing road buzz from the frame to the seat. Essentially the rider is separated from the frame. All buzz HAS to travel though a membrane to get to the rider.
Clean lines all around the Genie – from front to back. Nothing fancy here just a straightforward design that works.
I’ve had time on very nice carbon and I love the stuff but I love the feel of durability and the ride that metal bikes give. I’d look to carbon to lighten a bike or to increase torsional stiffness but not for smoothness – the IST will do a better job. With the weight of the current tube sets, and the stiffness with the tube diameters I’ve chosen, I’m very happy with the outcome. I don’t want Genie to focus solely on the lightweight game. Paramount is the ride quality and a product with timelessness – for me that is Ti and Steel.
The collaborative design process is also a strong point of Genie – I have great geometry from a respected designer, I have an amazing painter and a fantastic couple of builders on my side. They see the vision I have and help me realize it. That cumulative experience is tough to come across. It took me a long time to build these relationships.
Over-sized tubes (38mm downtube and 35mm seat tube) set the frame up for stiffness, without losing the ‘crisp’ feel so many folks love about titanium. As you can see here – the welds and frame finishing were top notch.
The Road Ahead: What are the biggest challenges facing the smaller ‘craftsman’ builder like yourself?
Tim: I thought that I had overcome the biggest challenges during the design and prototyping stages… these pale in comparison to what it takes to finding your audience. Finding those people willing to put your vision of a bike ahead of the many great bikes out there is probably the toughest thing – but as my builder told me – each customer I have will be out there promoting the great bikes they are on. I have patience, perseverance, resources and most of all – I believe in my bikes. Steady effort and the goals of delivering something timeless, worthwhile and unique and of quality are what keep me going.
The detail around the rear dropouts is typifies Genie’s attention to the small stuff.
What’s in the future for Genie?
Tim: I’ve developed an interest in the local TT series and as such thought up something quite interesting in the area of a TT frame. It’ll likely not be UCI legal so my sponsored triathlete (Logan Swanson) will likely get to put it through it’s paces at Ironman. Her aluminum aero tubed bike and the long distances she does was a perfect fit for the IST concept – she’ll get the carbon / metal hybrid bike likely next year…
As with most custom builds, the bikes can be kitted up with your choice of components. The bike shown here was kitted with full Dura-Ace, and would retail for about Cdn $4400.00.
For more info and to reach Tim directly, see their website: