Genesis's Croix De Fer hardly needs an introduction. You most likely already know that it's a do-it-all bike, and that its credentials were firmly established in 2010 when Vin Cox got the Guinness World Record for riding it around the world faster than anyone had done before.
For 2013, it looks a whole lot more black, and hasn't changed much otherwise since last year. Why fix it if it ain't broke, right?
First things first then; who's it for? According to Genesis it's "equally well suited to year-round commuting on asphalt, hammering down sun-baked bridleways, or even exploring the world". I pretty much agree with that.
While it's not sluggish, it's not really a bike for racing on. Having said that, the Croix De Fer is a good choice to do pretty much everything else on. With a set of mudguards and some decent road tyres, you've got commuting, audaxing and club rides sorted. Stick some decent 'cross tyres on, and you'll find it surprisingly capable off-road - to the point where your mountain bike might find itself staying in the shed.
That sounds familiar, I hear you saying; that's exactly what Genesis say about the CdF, which is £250 cheaper, too. So why would you want to stump up the extra for the Croix de Fer?
First to mention is the lovely Reynolds 725 that the Croix De Fer is made of, a much posher version of the more utilitarian Reynolds 520 of the CdF. It makes for a livelier ride, and keeps the weight down a bit; which addresses two of the niggles I reported when I reviewed the CdF.
While the Avid BB5s on the CdF are functional and work well, the BB7s the Croix De Fer comes with just work better. Similarly, while there is functionally nothing wrong with the Sora 9-speed drivetrain on the CdF, the Tiagra 10-speed specced on the Croix De Fer is a joy to use.
While cassettes are easy to swap out, I appreciated the much more practical 11-28 the Croix de Fer comes with, compared to the 11-25 on the (heavier) CdF. I'm a spinner, not a honker; low (appropriate?!) gears are Good.
Further, while both versions use Shimano's M475 disc hubs, the rims are upgraded from non-disc Alex G-2000 to Alex XD-lite; I didn't really notice a difference in how they ride, but they certainly remain a sturdy, dependable, heavy-ish, wheelset. The seatpost and stem are also different.
In my book those are all proper, worthwhile upgrades. The kind that you won't regret, and will enjoy every time you go out on the bike.
I mentioned the Croix de Fer's off-road capabilities, but what's it like for racing 'cross on? Compared to the CdF, which I think too heavy and sluggish to race, the livelier and lighter nature of the Croix de Fer certainly make it viable to have a go. I did, and enjoyed the racing; though if you're planning to go beyond having a go, you'll want a proper, lighter cyclo-cross bike.
While the top tube is not shaped specifically to make shouldering more comfortable, it didn't cause me any discomfort over and above the state you might expect to be in running up a muddy hill mid-race. Mud clearance, however, is not generous - especially at the fork crown.
Just like on the CdF, there are braze-ons for mudguards, two bottle cages, a rack front and rear, as well as mounts for a downtube-mounted mudguard. Unfortunately, the braze-ons suffer the same shortcomings as on the CdF: the rear disc brake is mounted on the seatstay, making it fiddly to fit a normal rack and guards. I managed it with a Tortec Ultralite rack, mounting both the rack and mudguard stays on the rack braze-on. If you are going to fit mudguards, you'll need to swap out the tyres for 32mm or smaller; there isn't enough clearance under the fork crown to go bigger.
The 35mm Continental Cyclocross Race tyres are not bad on the road, and work well on dry towpaths and singletrack - though I recommend swapping them out for road tyres on the road and better 'cross tyres off road to make the most of the bike.
While there is nothing wrong with the CdF, the Croix de Fer is undoubtedly a better and more versatile bike. Easily £250 better. Utility or utility with added fun, your choice.
Capable on- and off-road steel milemuncher; well worth the extra money over its CdF stablemate
road.cc test report
Make and model: Genesis Croix de Fer
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 725 Steel
Forks: 1-1/8" DB Cro-Mo unicrown (w/ double eyelets & low rider bosses)
Headset: VP-A51A 1-1/8" Threadless
Shifters: Shimano Tiagra 10spd ST-4600
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra RD-4600 10spd
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra FD-4600
Chainset: Shimano Tiagra FC-4650 Compact 50/34T
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Hollowtech II
Chain: Shimano Tiagra CN-4601 10spd
Freewheel: Shimano Tiagra CS-4600 10spd 12/28T
Hubs: Shimano HB-M475 / FH-M475 6-Bolt Disc
Rims: Alex XD-Lite Disc 32H
Spokes: Stainless Black w/ brass nipples
Tyres: Continental Cyclocross Race 35c (wire)
Brakes: Avid BB7 Mechanical Road (160mm rotors)
Handlebars: Genesis AL-6061 DB Compact Drop OS/31.8mm
Stem: Genesis AL-6061-T6 OS/31.8mm
Grips: Microfibre Shockproof Tape
Saddle: Genesis/Velo VL-1200 Road CrMo Rail
Seatpost: Genesis Twin-Bolt AL-2014-T6 27.2x300mm
Pedals: Shimano PD-M520 SPD
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?
Last years' boundary-blurring, runaway success story returns for another year in a fresh new practical paintjob. Loved equally by commuters and weekend adventurers, the Croix De Fer is the ideal 'fun' bike to have in the shed. A bike for "someone who rides whatever is in front of him rather than aligning to a particular tribe."
Now synomous with the Genesis brand, we were unsure as to how the Croix de Fer would be recieved when we first introduced it back in 2010. We needn't have worried though; the Croix de Fer has become one of our greatest success stories.
Equally well suited to year-round commuting on asphalt, hammering down sun baked bridleways or even exploring the world. It's a versatile and beautiful bicycle that crosses many boundaries.
For some time it was the holder of a Guinness World Record when in 2010, in pursuit of an often-contested record, Vin Cox rode his Croix De Fer around the world faster than anyone had managed before. To prove this bikes versatility further, in August 2011 the Montane Icemen used a pair of Croix de Fers to circumnavigate the 1600 mile coast line of Iceland in just 14 days.
The spec hasn't really changed much since its' inception - testament to the fact that we got it right first time.
Utterly timeless and subtly beautiful, we think the new Croix de Fer looks better than ever.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are of a decent build. The paintjob has stood up to cross racing and muddy lane commuting.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from lovely 725 Reynolds steel while the fork is made from double-butted chromoly.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry feels like somewhere between cyclo-cross racer and tourer; slightly closer to cross-racer than to tourer.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
At a 56cm effective top tube, it was exactly what I'd expect and fits me (178cm / 80kg) like a glove. It's slightly more upright than an out-and-out cross racing bike, which actually works really nicely.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, without sacrificing too much liveliness. Whereas I'd never have taken the CdF cross racing, I would (and did) take the Croix de Fer to my local painfest.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Given that it's billed as a do-it-all bike, at home (but not perfectly suited) on a racecourse, but also with a set of panniers, the designers got the stiffness right. Yes, there is some flex, but not so much that it gets in the way of enjoying the ride, on or off road.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Not as efficient as a proper racehorse, but a lot more efficient than the CdF. Happily efficient.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
There is toe-clip overlap, especially with mudguards. No problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
On the road, the bike handles like a light-weight tourer should. It goes where you point it, with no surprises. Some might call it a little on the slow side.
Off-road though, the slightly slacker head angle comes into its own, and inspires enough confidence to tackle most routes you normally reserve for the mountain bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I didn't like the saddle - easily swapped out, no biggie. Yet again, I'm impressed with how far Tiagra has come, comfortable hoods, the shifting is buttery smooth and keeps on shifting.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
If you're worrying about stiffness, you best look at another, more performance-orien ted bike. This one is fine as it is.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The compact chainset with the 11-28 cassette is just right. So much better than the 11-25 on the (heavier!) CdF.
It's a tad on the heavy side for accelerating quickly.
Slightly let down by its weight.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano Tiagra works really well and keeps on shifting, even with mud plastered all over the bike.
Wheels and tyres
The wheelset is solid, rather than racy.
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?
You could swap out the wheels for something a bit lighter. If you're considering that, though, you're possibly missing the point of this bike and you might be better off with something else.
The tyres I would swap out; I used the Maxxis Razes I reviewed recently for any off-roading/cyclo-crossing and a bombproof set of Continental Contacts for commuting.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
If only the STIs didn't have cables coming out everywhere - the only reason to go up to 105 in my opinion.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
I'm hardly telling you anything you don't know already, but the Avid BB7s deserve a special mention here. They work really well, noticeably better than the BB5s specced on the CdF, and in a different league to any cantis I've ever used.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, if I was in the market for a light-weight tourer.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, depending on what they're after.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The Croix-de-Fer is a very capable mile-muncher that is not afraid to tackle the stuff you normally reserve for your mountain bike.
About the tester
Age: 32 Height: 1.78m Weight: 76kg
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