Genesis Col du Glandon Part 1: Choosing the one

Fitting things to the human body is a bit of an art, road bikes are generally based around the standard size range of adult males. If you don't fit this range then finding a good fit can be difficult. This is particularly true of the average sized UK adult female who is right off the bottom of this range.

This presents a problem as the smallest road bikes traditionally go down to about a 52cm top tube/seat tube measurement with 700c wheels. Much of this is covered in this article

In summary, cramming 700c wheels into a frame smaller than about 52cm results in a multitude of compromises such as odd geometry or excessive toe overlap.  My partner and I were searching for a drop bar bike to fit her, at 161.5cm tall she would not fit particularly well on a standard small men's road bike, this led to a search for a bike that would.

Wheel size

Smaller wheels should go with smaller bikes and vice versa, correct?  Well not really in the world of road bicycles.  Almost all bikes are built around the 700c size, so someone who is 160cm tall would use the same size wheels as a 190cm tall person.  There are a multitude of wheel sizes of varying popularity and use smaller than 700c ISO622mm, the most popular being the 26" ISO 559mm mountain bike which has a vast array of choice.  Between these two sizes is the 650 series, currently gaining in popularity is the 650B ISO584mm size, praised for it's agility and nimbleness it also happens to be suited to smaller riders...

Choices choices choices...

There are more limited choices for smaller riders, before committing to any we were determined to try out as many as possible. The main criteria was as follows:

  • The bike must be a drop bar style for multiple positions on the bike for long distance riding

  • Ability to fit largish tyres for some unpaved riding

  • Mudguard and rack capable

  • Below the £1000 limit for UK cyclescheme

In summary the type of bike she needed was a versatile road bike, there were plenty of road racing style bikes however they could not accommodate larger tyres for unpaved riding so these were ruled out.  The strategy was to try a range of different bikes to try to get a diverse range of experience with different sizing and setups which would help inform her decision.  

The hardest part was determining fit as she had never really ridden a drop bar bike.  Firstly a friend lent her bike which is a drop bar road bike in 52cm sizing with a short and upright stem.  Even this was too large for my partner, also the brake levers were difficult to use as the reach on them was too big being standard Shimano STI levers.  This was no surprise as the owner of the bike is about 165cm tall and has larger hands.

Giant Liv Invite

Next we decided to look at the Giant Liv Invite series which is a drop bar disc brake bike meant for women.  This series of bikes comes with reasonably wide tyres and a triple crankset which are both pluses however it is a 700C/622mm bike which would mean some compromise somewhere.  The head angle was a bit slack at 70.5º and it had quite a steep 74.5º seat angle.  My partner had a ride of it and it generally fit, I had a ride as well but something felt a bit weird.  I suspect it was a product of the geometry and the wheel size, they tried to squish in big tyres into a small frame and it felt odd.

The other factor was the aesthetics, neither of us was particularly excited about it, it was in the typical "women's bike" colours of pastel purples.  The good part of the bike was that it was disc brake equipped and it generally fit, however it was really the odd handling and the looks that was the bad part.

Genesis Col du Glandon

There was little else choice but a handful of models which fit the criteria.  One of my first suggestions was the Genesis Col du Glandon or the Surly Straggler which was an alternative.  Both these bikes come in 650B wheel size and actually have near identical frame geometry to the Giant except for a slightly slacker seat tube angle at 74º.   However the Surly Straggler 650B retails at £1499 which was out of her price range.

This left the Genesis Col du Glandon as the only other contender.  We looked and looked but couldn't find any shops that had it in stock for a test ride in London, however we thought that Genesis might have one at the annual London bike show.  Sadly we were disappointed and there wasn't one which was frustrating, there doesn't seem to be much of a market for road bikes for smaller riders, particularly women.  However we did get the chance to try one of the road bikes from Islabikes which is a specialist manufacturer for smaller riders and children's bikes.

With these experiences we called around and managed to find a shop out in Surrey which had one in stock.  We caught a train out to Surrey and finally caught sight of the bike in the flesh after months of trying out different bikes.  My partner test rode it and she said it felt right straight away, the reach was a lot shorter, much like the Giant however it didn't have the odd handling and it also looked a lot better.  This was to be the bike, also priced at a little over £500 was well within the cyclescheme cost and would allow the remainder of the money to be spent on accessories and clothing.


Frame: Double butted 6061 Aluminium Alloy
Drivetrain: Shimano Claris 8sp shifters
Wheels: Alex 32H rims and Shimano Claris hubs w/ Michelin World Tour 650B tyres
Brakes: Tektro Oryx cantilevers w/ cross top levers
Finishing Kit: Genesis branded seatpost, stem and bars. The stock saddle was mightily uncomfortable and was swapped out for a Fizik item.

First Impressions

The bike was bought already assembled from the shop, however there was one glaring issue in the way that the shop set it up.  The brakes were weak and required a lot of hand effort to bring the bike to a stop, this was caused by sharp turns in the cabling which caused a lot of unnecessary friction.  I changed the setup so the cable run had a lot more gentle turns and I also changed the cantilever straddle cable so it was shorter which increased the brake leverage.  The cables and outers were replaced with a braided compressionless kit all around.  All these changes increased the power of the brake and reduced the hand effort significantly.  My partner would not have been able to brake properly the way it was setup originally.

Despite the setup issues, the frame quality is good with lots of clearance for bigger tyres, there are some nice little details like the reinforcement gusset at the head tube and the metallic paint decals.  The overall style of the bike is nice, it's a little bit retro with the gumwall tyres and monochrome paint job.  Minimal with a bit of flair is how I would summarise it.  The thing that really appealed to both of us apart from the fit, was how it is not specifically marketed at women, It has a more neutral look to it.

Thanks for reading

to be continued in Part 2: First Impressions


  1. I've been reading your blog for a while now, but never got around to comment. Thanks a lot for all your interesting and honest post, I think I learned a lot from them.
    It was because of your expieriences with your bike Phil that I was looking to buy a Genesis Tour de Fer, even though I got a Soma Saga Disc in the end.
    Now I am looking for a road/gravel/touring bike for my girlfriend who also has a more petite stature. So I'm looking forward to the next part of your series on the Col du Glandon!

    Keep up the good work! Greetings from Vienna!

  2. ditto - always reading, never commented. cheers, munga.