If it's good enough for Vin Cox...

My search for a bike as traditional, elegant, comfortable, understated and solid as I am.

by Martin Thomas   March 25, 2014  

Can there be many things in life that offer more satisfaction than getting a new bike and making it your own? I don’t think so.

I wanted something tough enough to take onto the Downs but quick enough to use for winter club rides. I wanted to be able to stick a rack on it if I ever get round to the touring I keep promising myself I’ll do. I wanted old man gearing, none of your 46/36 11-25 CX nonsense. Perhaps the deciding factor, although it took me a while to identify it, was that I wanted my new bike to be made of steel. Garish carbon CX racers are all wrong for me; I wanted something traditional, elegant, comfortable, understated and solid – a bit like my good self I suppose.

My search led me fairly quickly to the Genesis Croix de Fer 931, which I found on offer at Evans. Riding the Genesis after my Enigma Etape, the only sticking point was its weight, which weighed heavily on me for a few weeks before I took the plunge. My other choices – a Canyon, a Giant, a Rose, and a Kinesis – are all lighter, CX race-orientated machines that would undoubtedly have been nimbler and quicker than the Genesis. But my Enigma’s lighter and nimbler than the Genesis. That’s not what I needed, I told myself, repeating the old ‘it’s not a race’ mantra while every other cyclist on the road overtook me with depressingly little effort.

Weight aside, the Croix de Fer was remarkably comfortable straight out of the box. My Enigma was made for me and I’ve had four years to make marginal comfort gains on what was already a very plush ride, but there still wasn’t a huge gulf between that and the unadjusted Genesis.

But of course a bike’s not your bike until it’s been tweaked so I got tweaking pretty much straight away. First was the saddle. Out with the uninspiring Genesis perch and in with a beautiful, black, Ti-railed Brooks Swallow. It looked at home immediately.

Next were the tyres. Off came the wire-rimmed Conti CX Speeds, which seemed too smooth to be of much use off-road and too lardy to be any fun on the road. As it’s in winter trainer mode, I chose 28c Gatorskins, which brightened things up immediately (once I’d got the buggers onto the Alex rims, which nearly cost me my sanity and the use of my hands). I put some guards on too, to save that lovely saddle.

Then the bars: there was nothing inherently wrong with the own-brand bars it came with, so I could have left them well alone. But I spotted the Salsa Cowbell 2s at the London Bike Show and immediately knew they were for me. They’re shallower than the Genesis bars, with a smoother curve and a slight outward flare and that makes them super-comfortable. I can sit in those drops all day long – and I’m guessing it’ll be my position of choice when I take the bike off-road.

That left two obvious upgrade possibilities: the wheels and the fork. I turned to Strada for the wheels. I knew I wanted H Plus Son Archetype rims and the Strada team suggested Novatec hubs and Sapim D-Light spokes to build something strong, comfortable and not too expensive. They were right: the new wheels didn’t save much weight but the ride was clearly smoother and more comfortable straight away. And they do look the business!

And finally, the fork... My friend at the bike shop wants me to swap the functional chromoly Genesis fork for a carbon Kinesis CX alternative but I’m not sure I agree. It might save me half a kilo but I’m not sure carbon would be right on this bike. And anyway, who cares about half a kilo (he asks, through gritted teeth)?

32 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

nice, what size is yours? this seems more appealing than the standard one.

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
25th March 2014 - 14:27

381 Likes

If you were after weight saving on the wheels what would you have chosen?

posted by vw_mtbiker [36 posts]
25th March 2014 - 14:40

378 Likes

To be honest I'm not sure. I don't really know my CX wheels - which I think is what I'd want to feel safe off road. I'd have asked the chaps at Strada for their advice I guess. But I imagine it would cost a fair bit to achieve the same kind of strength while losing any appreciable weight.

BTW, thanks to MNgraveur for not taking the piss out of me for calling the bars Cowhorns Smile

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
25th March 2014 - 17:18

376 Likes

Looks like you did a pretty good job of fitting those guards. I hear discs are pretty difficult to negotiate.

posted by flandrianbest [2 posts]
25th March 2014 - 18:20

377 Likes

The newest Kinesis CXDISC wheels look good...

http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/products/wheels/crosslight-cxdisc

posted by wrevilo [49 posts]
25th March 2014 - 18:38

384 Likes

I wish I could claim credit for the guard fitting. It's a beautiful job - but it was the very skilful Paul at Rule 5 Bikes in Brighton who did it. I have enough trouble fitting them to the other bike...wasn't going to get into bending struts etc.

And yeah those Kinesis wheels look good - but I don't know how much lighter they'd be once you factor in the discs.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
25th March 2014 - 18:57

371 Likes

I've just bought the vanilla Croix de Fer and am really enjoying it. Using it for my commute at the moment. Was thinking about the bike on the ride in - there's almost a perverse illogic to it but in a way it's a bike that I didn't know how much I needed until I bought it.

posted by richcc [45 posts]
25th March 2014 - 21:13

371 Likes

why has the Day One Alfine 11 never been reviewed? this being THE Vin Cox bike.

posted by n1cko [3 posts]
25th March 2014 - 21:17

374 Likes

Two words: 'bike', and 'porn'.

Mate, that is a sexy bike, well done.

There was a Croix de Fer parked outside the Sainsbury's near Greenwich the other day. I salivated profusely.

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [229 posts]
25th March 2014 - 21:53

381 Likes

That bike looks awesome

I have just fitted a kinesis cx fork on my Equilibrium disk, purely cos I had one for another build (tinkering for tinkering's sake), a lot lighter and looks ok but think there is a bit of juddering under hard braking.. May swap it out again, or just tinker some more

What guards are they?

posted by Butros [5 posts]
25th March 2014 - 22:37

371 Likes

Martin Thomas wrote:
To be honest I'm not sure. I don't really know my CX wheels - which I think is what I'd want to feel safe off road. I'd have asked the chaps at Strada for their advice I guess. But I imagine it would cost a fair bit to achieve the same kind of strength while losing any appreciable weight.

BTW, thanks to MNgraveur for not taking the piss out of me for calling the bars Cowhorns Smile

We're very nice here in MN, USA.

I've got HED Belgium wheels btw. Like them a lot. But I don't obsess over wheels that much, so what do I know?

posted by MNgraveur [37 posts]
26th March 2014 - 0:22

370 Likes

Butros wrote:
That bike looks awesome

I have just fitted a kinesis cx fork on my Equilibrium disk, purely cos I had one for another build (tinkering for tinkering's sake), a lot lighter and looks ok but think there is a bit of juddering under hard braking.. May swap it out again, or just tinker some more

What guards are they?

Interesting that you're getting juddery braking with the carbon fork. I wonder if you still would if you went for a more exotic fork. Did you really notice/appreciate the weight saving?

The guards are regular SKS Chromoplastics, good for up to 28c tyres. Bit tight, but no rubbing.
http://www.sks-germany.com/?l=en&a=product&r=mudguards&i=999999999&CHROM...

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
26th March 2014 - 8:21

375 Likes

Nice writeup. I recently did almost exactly this for my wife's new ride:

Genesis CdF
Conti GP 4 Seasons
SKS Raceblade Long's (note custom-tuned front LHS stay Wink )
Specialized womens saddle
Bontrager narrow bar / shorter stem (after having bikefit done)
Tektro RL721 topmount brake levers
Shimano Deore CS-HG-61-9 12-36T cogset
Shimano Deore RDM-592 rear mech, capable of 36T
Shimano A530 touring pedals

Certainly not the lightest bike out there - but we know it fits her perfectly, has bomb- and weather-proof brakes, rattle-free quick-release full mudguards, can climb up anything, and the whole package was under £1000.

Photo 28-01-2014 21 21 15.jpg

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [601 posts]
26th March 2014 - 9:34

384 Likes

Martin Thomas wrote:
Butros wrote:
That bike looks awesome

I have just fitted a kinesis cx fork on my Equilibrium disk, purely cos I had one for another build (tinkering for tinkering's sake), a lot lighter and looks ok but think there is a bit of juddering under hard braking.. May swap it out again, or just tinker some more

What guards are they?

Interesting that you're getting juddery braking with the carbon fork. I wonder if you still would if you went for a more exotic fork. Did you really notice/appreciate the weight saving?

The guards are regular SKS Chromoplastics, good for up to 28c tyres. Bit tight, but no rubbing.
http://www.sks-germany.com/?l=en&a=product&r=mudguards&i=999999999&CHROMOPLASTICS

It's very faint juddering, could be down to my lousy fitting (not convinced the crown race my LBS put on, but that could be lack of knowledge on my part), it's first attempt at fork change. Also I wasn't aware it was a possibily until I read about it the other day so maybe I'm looking for it.
I have noticed a handling difference, could be down to subtle reduction in wheelbase? Feels lighter anyway.

posted by Butros [5 posts]
26th March 2014 - 9:38

380 Likes

The Kinesis fork will give you loads more clearance (though with 28s under the guards, you probably have enough with the Genesis fork), as well as weight saving.

Brake judder: check that your headset is as tight as it could be. That fixed it for me.

Iwein Dekoninck's picture

posted by Iwein Dekoninck [119 posts]
26th March 2014 - 9:42

386 Likes

This is a lovely looking cycle, I have the boardman CX which I have to say is a lovely do anything piece of kit. I looked at the genesis as a possible but couldn't get a ride on one to compare.

Have you ridden the board man if so how did it compare? I find myself thinking that I should sell the mtn bike and the boardman and get myself something like this, I do enjoy off roading though so would fit wider tyres. But the ability to have a rack for touring is a must.

Lastly how much did the build cost you if you don't mind me asking ?

posted by 124g [16 posts]
26th March 2014 - 10:55

371 Likes

General question for you knowledgable types; I have some schwalbe durrano 700x28c tyres, will they fit the h-plus archetype rims? I would have thought so

posted by Butros [5 posts]
26th March 2014 - 10:56

376 Likes

Lovely looking bike, big fan. I bought a second hand Croix last year, so it's the old white one. I've been treating it to new bits and pieces- saddle, post that sort of thing. I replaced the rear mech for a long cage 105 so could run a 32 big sprocket at the back which really helps for touring. My big splurge though was some new wheels- Hope Pro2 hubs with Mavic open pros, which have made it so much more responsive and comfortable than the stock wheels. If I was starting again (and had some money!) I'd go the 931 frame, same wheels but a triple up front- then it'd do anything!

posted by psychonabike [14 posts]
26th March 2014 - 18:52

377 Likes

I had 28c Schwalbe Durranos in the Criox De Fer I broke the around-the-world Record on. I think they'll be okay in a newer model too.
BTW, they last a long time. One set got me to Singapore from the UK!

Vin Cox

posted by Vin Cox [49 posts]
26th March 2014 - 22:05

364 Likes

124g wrote:

Have you ridden the board man if so how did it compare? I find myself thinking that I should sell the mtn bike and the boardman and get myself something like this, I do enjoy off roading though so would fit wider tyres. But the ability to have a rack for touring is a must.

Lastly how much did the build cost you if you don't mind me asking ?

The only other bike I tested before buying this was a Kinesis Decade Tripster ATR, which was completely gorgeous and would have been my 1st choice if only my boiler hadn't exploded and thus punched a big hole in the new bike fund.

All in, this cost me around £2.2k I think - but the saddle was a gift (would normally cost a stonking £250 on its own) and the bike was on offer at Evans. £1.8k instead of £2k. Not cheap - but then it will hopefully last a bit Smile

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
26th March 2014 - 23:16

367 Likes

Butros wrote:
General question for you knowledgable types; I have some schwalbe durrano 700x28c tyres, will they fit the h-plus archetype rims? I would have thought so

Don't see why not.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
26th March 2014 - 23:19

359 Likes

Vin Cox wrote:
I had 28c Schwalbe Durranos in the Criox De Fer I broke the around-the-world Record on. I think they'll be okay in a newer model too.
BTW, they last a long time. One set got me to Singapore from the UK!

Nice to see your name pop up here Vin. Having used my Croix de Fer for an overnight ride from London to the Essex coast and back last weekend, I am even more full of admiration for your round-the-world feat than I was before - which is saying something! Hats off to you Smile

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
26th March 2014 - 23:22

366 Likes

I've got a Croix de Fer frame for my commuting bike. As a disc equipped utility frame, it is well designed, but the paint work quality isn't great. Mine is less than two years old and it is rusting all over the place; around welding holes, cable mounts, joint welds, etc. It's a work bike, so I can live with the fact that that it looks really tatty, but if you're the sort of person who worries about how your bike looks, and you are going to be using it a lot, beware!

posted by kcr [74 posts]
27th March 2014 - 11:56

362 Likes

Butros wrote:
Martin Thomas wrote:
Butros wrote:
That bike looks awesome

I have just fitted a kinesis cx fork on my Equilibrium disk, purely cos I had one for another build (tinkering for tinkering's sake), a lot lighter and looks ok but think there is a bit of juddering under hard braking.. May swap it out again, or just tinker some more

What guards are they?

Interesting that you're getting juddery braking with the carbon fork. I wonder if you still would if you went for a more exotic fork. Did you really notice/appreciate the weight saving?

The guards are regular SKS Chromoplastics, good for up to 28c tyres. Bit tight, but no rubbing.
http://www.sks-germany.com/?l=en&a=product&r=mudguards&i=999999999&CHROMOPLASTICS

It's very faint juddering, could be down to my lousy fitting (not convinced the crown race my LBS put on, but that could be lack of knowledge on my part), it's first attempt at fork change. Also I wasn't aware it was a possibily until I read about it the other day so maybe I'm looking for it.
I have noticed a handling difference, could be down to subtle reduction in wheelbase? Feels lighter anyway.

Could the shift in weight distribution be to blame? Not enough weight on the front end relative to the weight of the rest of the bike...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3427 posts]
27th March 2014 - 13:25

361 Likes

kcr wrote:
I've got a Croix de Fer frame for my commuting bike[...]and it is rusting all over the place [...] if you're the sort of person who worries about how your bike looks, and you are going to be using it a lot, beware!

That's not good. Mine's 931 though so it should be much more resistant to rust. Here's hoping...

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [583 posts]
27th March 2014 - 15:07

364 Likes

Never heard of a croix de fer rusting like that before.

What sort of warranty do Genesis offer on their frames? Can't find anything on the website.

posted by Birney29 [8 posts]
28th March 2014 - 9:07

363 Likes

That is a fantastic looking bike Mr Thomas.

I'd absolutely love a bike like that - I'm sure carbon/hydroformed alloy is very good/light/stiff etc. for racing but it is so incredibly ugly, especially with massive blocky logos and acronyms all over it. This Genesis is gorgeous - sleek, classy and understated. It would suit the riding I do - different types over different terrains at a mid-to-reasonable pace (I'm too lazy to get involved in any racing).

I'd also love to do a massive tour somewhere. Some day...

My one reservation about the bike would be the bottle cages...different colours and look a bit race/weight weenie to me. But then it's not my bike.

posted by jellysticks [86 posts]
4th April 2014 - 10:31

365 Likes

Never heard of a croix de fer rusting like that before.

There's another one parked in the racks at work, and it's rusting in the same places, so doesn't seem to be unique to me.

posted by kcr [74 posts]
6th April 2014 - 0:14

363 Likes

Nice, I thought you'd stolen a picture of my own steed for a second. A well thought out ride, just missing a neat dynamo setup.

posted by Choco [5 posts]
7th April 2014 - 6:34

364 Likes

Lovely looking bike. I've had the standard, black Croix de Fer for about 18 months and have really been enjoying it. Yes, its a bit heavy, but its so versatile. I'm able to keep up on the intermediate level club runs and I'm sure the extra weight is good for my fitness - I'm continually telling myself that it'll pay dividends when I buy a lightweight racer.....we'll see about that.

posted by snifter83 [12 posts]
2nd June 2014 - 20:39

213 Likes