A budget kid brother to Genesis' popular steel road all-rounder, the Genesis CdF is a solid urban and light-touring ride, as long as you're not in a hurry to get from A to B.
The Genesis Croix de Fer has a good reputation; it was even used to set a world record when Vin Cox rode a Croix de Fer around the world. Genesis say the Croix de Fer is one of their most popular bikes, so they decided to introduce a little brother: the CdF. The frame has the same dimensions, but is made from Reynolds 520, as opposed to the Croix de Fer's 725.
Genesis say this strategy - using the same geometry and the same material, albeit a different grade - has "retained the handling and ride quality their steel framed cross style bikes have become known for".
When I first picked the CdF up from road.cc HQ, I was expecting a steel framed racer with clearance for bigger tyres and disc brakes. I was disappointed - the CdF will not set any PB's; that's not its style. Riding it a bit more though, I discovered that if you put the racing thing to one side, it's a really nice ride. As much as the comfort and springiness of steel is a cliche, that is the ride experience.
That steel-feel makes the bike a great commuter or light-tourer. The frame isolates you from most of the road buzz, and handling is solid, though certainly not the most lively I've ridden. There are braze-ons for mudguards, two bottle cages and a front and rear rack, as well as for a bolt-on front mudflap on the downtube.
While that's great, you'll need to choose your pannier rack carefully to make sure it doesn't foul the disc brake caliper which is seat-stay mounted rather than a more rack friendly chain stay mounting. I managed to fit a Tortec Ultralite rack with just a couple of washers to space it out a little on the caliper side. There's eyelets for mudguards too if you want to fit them. I didn't - because there isn't enough clearance between the fork crown and the 35mm Continental Cyclocross Race tyres for a comfortable fit.
The choice of Reynolds 520 chromoly means the CdF is no lightweight. Unfortunately this is exacerbated by a distinct lack of suitable gears to get up hills. The 34 x 25 bottom gear is provided by a Shimano Sora compact chainset, shifters and front and rear mechs. This may well be low enough to get up hills on a lighter and racier bike but, unless you like a battle, it isn't low enough for the CdF. Even when I swapped the chainset out for a triple (resulting in a 30x25 bottom gear) I could have done with lower gears at times.
Shimano Sora 9-speed is functional, but doesn't give the same buttery smooth shifting feel you get from the new 10-speed Tiagra. While the hood grip ergonomics feel less Spartan than 8-speed Sora, comfort is not in the same league as the more expensive units. I also didn't really get on with the thumb downshift. The lever is a bit small, and can't be reached from the drops, unless your hands are as big as our Dave's.
Braking is courtesy of Avid's BB5. It's a cheaper version of the BB7, which has a reputation for being the best mechanical brake on the market. The BB5s work really well too, though you get more adjustability and bigger brake pads from BB7s - and a bit more braking power.
Handlebars, stem and seatpost are Genesis own brand and do the job just fine. I quite like the handlebar shape; the drop is shallow enough to actually spend some time there. The saddle is also Genesis own brand. I didn't get on with it, but that's no biggie; saddles are a personal thing.
The wheels, though a bit on the heavy side, are comfortable and sturdy, and they stayed true throughout testing. The Continental Cyclocross race tyres work surprisingly well on the road and on really shift on dry towpath and singletrack. You'll probably want something a bit knobblier for proper mud though.
All in all, it's a good all-rounder as long as you don't expect to get there first.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Genesis CdF
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Reynolds 520 Steel
Headset: 1-1/8 Threadless
Colour: Glossy Pale Blue
Shifters: Shimano Sora 9spd
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Sora
Front Derailleur: Shimano Sora
Chainset: Shimano Sora Compact
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Hollowtech
Chain: Shimano CN-HG50
Freewheel: Shimano 9spd 12-25
Hubs: Shimano M475
Rims: Alex G-2000
Spokes: Stainless Black
Tyres: Continental Cyclocross Race
Brakes: Avid BB-5
Brake Levers: Shimano Sora Sti
Handlebars: Genesis Compact Drop
Stem: Genesis Alloy
Grips: Microfibre Tape
Saddle: Genesis Road CrMo Rail
Seat Post: Genesis 6061 27.2mm
Pedals: Shimano PDM-520
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
This is what Genesis say: "Following the popularity of the Original Croix de Fer, we introduce the CdF. Using the same geometry as its sibling it combines a Reynolds 520 tubeset and Cr-Mo fork, retaining the handling and ride quality that our steel framed cross-style bikes have become known for.
The Cross bikes have become our most popular export. As popular in Scandinavian countries as it is in the UK - it's a road bike that won't get bogged down in the winter, can join in on summer singletrack rides and copes with all-weather cross-terrain riding in a way that few bikes can match. With improved, wider, separate rack eyelets its perfect for lightweight touring. The drive is reliably provided by Shimano 9 speed components, whilst Avid BB5 Disc brakes give responsive braking in any weather. This is simply a cross-boundaries, cross-continent, cross-inspired kind of bike. Wherever you find yourself, there's fun to be had."
The CdF uses the same geometry as the Croix de Fer, but the steel is not as fancy, making the frameset heavier. It is a good bike for all-day riding, but it's not a cyclo-cross racing bike. It doesn't look it was designed for the latter anyway, as there is hardly any clearance between the fork crown and the 700x35 Continental Cyclocross Race tyres.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame and fork look well put together; the finish has stood up to muddy lanes in very wet weather commuting.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The CdF frame is made from Reynolds 520 steel, as opposed to its more expensive sibling, the Croix de Fer, which is welded together from Reynolds 725. The fork is made from non-specific Cr-Mo.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
While the geometry is, on paper, very similar to a proper cyclocrosser, the bike feels much more like a tourer. For me this fits with the "do anything" badge Genesis have given it.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Height and reach were fine on the 56cm model tested; it felt really quite comfortable.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike is very comfortable as long as you're not trying to get up any steep hills, when the lack of suitable gears puts a downer on things.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Considering that this is not a racing bike, it's stiff enough to do what it is designed for: all day in the saddle with or without a (modest amount of) luggage.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Considering the weight and cyclocross tyres, efficiency's really not too shabby - for a (relatively) lightweight tourer.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
There is a small amount of overlap. I didn't find it a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Steering is pretty neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handles just like a decent touring bike, which is not a surprise given that it's made from the same material and has almost the same geometry (on paper) as my touring bike. The handling is solid; don't expect any surprises either way.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I didn't get on with the saddle, and swapped it for something my shape after the first ride. I'm not a big fan of the Sora style downshift. If you're planning to mainly ride on the road, I'd go for a road-specific tyre.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I wouldn't swap out anything to change the bike's stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
If you wanted a more lively ride, a lighter wheelset would make a difference. Having said that, if you're after a lively ride, you're probably better off looking elsewhere.
Power transfer is OK for a touring bike.
The bike is a bit too heavy to do much quick accelerating.
You'll need something else to be quick off the lights.
It feels stable at speed
Cruising is what it's good at.
It needs a whole other set of gears to be any good at climbing. Like a triple AND a bigger cassette.
This bike is seriously overgeared.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
A compact chainset with a 12-25 cassette is nowhere near low enough for my commute, which admittedly is pretty hilly. This bike would benefit from mountain bike gearing in my opinion, especially if you're carrying stuff.
Wheels and tyres
While not lightweights, the wheels were absolutely fine and stayed true throughout.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The tyres worked surprisingly well on the road.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I don't like the Sora style downshift. My hands are too small to be able to shift down from the drops. Or is the thumbshifter too far away?
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The Avid BB5s work better than I expected. Once they are set up, there isn't that much difference to the BB7s
Did you enjoy riding the bike? I did on the flat, but not up hills. And I love riding up hills.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Not unless they lived somewhere flat and didn't mind the weight.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
It's too heavy to be a cyclocrosser. While the frame has the makings of a good tourer, it will need lower gears to be ridden comfortably anywhere that is not flat.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cervelo Dual
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, fixed/singlespeed, Audax