This thing is a marshmallow. More so than any other bike I’ve ridden in recent memory, the Genius LT uses all of its travel all the time, and that really defines how the bike rides.
We’re going to get a little technical here for a second, so bear with me. The vast majority of full suspension bikes these days are, to some degree or another, progressive. That means that, as the suspension compresses, it gets more difficult to compress at the end of the travel. On any bike with an air shock, this is combined with the natural progressiveness of the air spring, and together, that “ramp up” can help keep the beginning of the travel supple for small bumps, but keep the shock from bottoming out hard late in the travel. This is a simplified explanation, and some bikes are more progressive than others, but you get the gist.
The Genius LT is one of a small handful of bikes that is regressive, meaning that the suspension gets easier to compress deeper into the travel. Now, it still has an air shock, so there’s still that natural progressiveness that you get from an air spring. But compared to most other bikes on the market, the Genius LT doesn’t ramp up much as the suspension is compressed.
On the trail, that means that the Genius LT uses its travel much more easily than most other bikes, and I found that meant that I bottomed out the rear shock a lot. I added a bit of extra pressure to the shock so that I was running around 23% sag, which isn’t all that much for a 160 mm bike. Even at that pressure, I could still easily bottom out the shock just by thumping on it in the parking lot.
That regressive suspension means the shock doesn’t offer much support. Pressing the bike into a banked corner means the bike uses pretty much all of its travel. Pumping over a roll in the trail means the bike uses pretty much all of its travel. A stiff breeze would likely use pretty much all of the bike’s travel. And to be clear, I think 99% of this is the design of the frame — the Fox suspension could almost certainly be tweaked to improve the situation a bit, but at the end of the day, there’s only so much it can do.
But how that suspension and frame design works with the Plus tires mounted up is where things get a bit more interesting, and not necessarily in a good way. I noted in my Spark Plus review that there are some inherent downsides to Plus tires — they have some durability issues, some weight issues, they don’t accelerate particularly quickly, and they sometimes don’t feel very precise. And a big part of the reason why I liked the Spark Plus was because that frame did a really good job of minimizing those downsides wherever possible. In other words, you got all of the upsides of the big tires (a smooth ride and lots of traction), and the frame made the downsides a lot less noticeable.
The Genius LT, however, doubles down on the Plus tire conundrum. The tires don’t accelerate very quickly, and neither does the frame. The tires feel big and imprecise, and so does the frame. When you bolt some big Plus tires to the Genius LT frame, you end up with a big squishy monster truck. Line choice should be completely disregarded, as should most attempts to pump, pop, or otherwise work the bike down the trail. The ride becomes an effort to point the bike vaguely in the right direction and call it good.
And ultimately, I think that makes the bike less fun. The suspension is configured to completely obliterate every little obstacle on the trail, but the big tires already kind of do that, so the whole package just feels a bit excessive. And while the bike does level the trail impressively well, attempts to pop rollers, load the suspension into a corner, or otherwise ride the bike in a semi-active manner are rather futile.
If that all makes it sound like the bike would be pretty fast on rough trails, in actuality, the opposite is true. It wallows in corners, it gets overwhelmed on big hits (and even some medium hits), and it feels pretty lethargic when trying to lay some power into the pedals.
I’m of the opinion that, to properly utilize Plus tires, the frame needs to complement their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. That means the suspension doesn’t need to fret as much about absorbing every little bump, because the tires already do that nicely. And it means the bike will often do well with slightly quicker handling, because the tires feel big and stable. But the Genius LT takes the opposite approach, and I think it misses the mark because of it.
That said, there is something to be said for riding a couch down rough trails, particularly for trails that aren’t so much technical as they are just bumpy. The Genius LT handles that sort of thing really well. Between the big tires and the “bowl of hot pudding” suspension, bumpy trails are actually pretty comfortable.
And there’s also the fact that the Genius LT does a really good job at climbing the sort of rocky, messy puzzles that there are a lot of in Moab. The Plus tires give loads of traction. The “warm brie on a soggy cracker” suspension also makes sure that traction is maintained whenever needed (at least at a climbing pace). And the Twinlock lever on the handlebar means you can firm up the suspension on a moment’s notice, which is nice because the Genius LT isn’t a particularly efficient pedaler. Plus, those long chainstays keep the front end from getting too wandery. 34 lbs of heft mean I wouldn’t be too excited to log massive amounts of vert on this bike, but for short technical climbs, it’s actually pretty good.
Aside from the “flaccid noodle draped over a dead hamster” suspension and Plus sized tires, the bike is more or less what you’d expect from a slack, heavy, long-travel bike. When the suspension isn’t getting overwhelmed, the bike is quite stable at speed; slack angles, big tires, and a long wheelbase mean that the Genius LT Plus is far from twitchy. And while that also means it’s a bit of a handful in tight spots, that’s somewhat par for the course on long-travel, slack bikes.
And at the risk of stating the obvious, the upsides of the Plus tires are certainly still present. They give loads of grip, and they plunder through small debris without a care in the world. Especially in the sandy washes that are pretty common in Moab, the meaty tires instill a bit of confidence.
Zorbs. They’re those giant inflatable balls that you can climb inside of and roll down a hill. Aside from that one video from somewhere in Europe (I’m assuming Russia) where the Zorb bounced off course and flew off a cliff, they look pretty fun. But Zorbs are passive fun — you get in, someone pushes you down a hill, and you just kind of sit there while this massive balloon trundles along and absorbs everything in its path, including rocks, bushes, and small children.
And that’s pretty much what the Genius LT Plus feels like. It’s passive fun. It’s a big, heavy Zorb that smoothes out bumps, but it does so at the cost of any feeling of playfulness, and really any feedback at all from the bike. And I’m sure there’s a market for that — the Genius LT makes riding through rough terrain easier. But at the same time, it’s far less rewarding to ride the bike actively. It’s more of a “sit there and let the bike do it’s thing” type of experience.
There are some bikes that like to be ridden actively, and they work best when given a lot of input from the rider. There are other bikes that work better just plowing through chunder, and don’t require the rider to do quite as much. I’m firmly of the belief that bikes at both ends of that spectrum can be pretty fun in the right situation. The Genius LT sits heavily on the latter end of the spectrum, and while that doesn’t make it un-fun, I do think it means that there is a fairly narrow subset of riders who are really going to fall in love with this bike.