Gear Review: Genesis Croix de Fer

I’ve put more miles on this bike than any I’ve owned before. Find out what spending more than 20,000 miles in the saddle of the Genesis Croix de Fer has revealed about the bike…

Brand new Croix de Fer, 2010

Brand new Croix de Fer, 2010

This is going to be less of a traditional gear review and more like a write up of an extremely long-term product test. I bought my Croix de Fer in late 2010, since then I’ve ridden it over 20,000 miles across 13 different countries. I’ve spent countless hours commuting on it, touring on it, and even

racing it. The tag line on the Genesis website calls the Croix de Fer a ‘boundary blurring’ bike, and I think that might just be the best way to describe it.

It’s definitely not perfect — the wheel base is a touch too long, and the frame weight is a little too heavy — but these are minor flaws next to two qualities that it has in abundance: comfort and reliability. I’ve ridden my Croix de Fer well over 300 miles at a time and taken it on tours of over 4000 miles in length; not once in all that time have I ever felt unduly uncomfortable in the saddle. It’s a bike that invites you to push yourself harder for longer, without niggling aches and pains distracting from the ride. The lightly sprung steel frame takes the sting out of any roughness in the road, making your endurance the limiting factor — not the quality of the bike.

About to embark on the Croix de Fer's maiden tour. Nordkapp, Norway

About to embark on the Croix de Fer’s maiden tour. Nordkapp, Norway

This awesome ride quality is coupled to the reliability and versatility of the frame: I’ve run my Croix de Fer in a number of different configurations — heavily loaded for long-distance touring, lightly weighted for adventure racing, and with odd bits and pieces strapped to the back while commuting. I’ve never had it let me down in all that time, whenever I want to go, it’s ready. To some this might sound like an odd statement — all bikes are ready to go, right? But I like bikes that run quietly and efficiently, and some bikes, no matter how much you tweak and fiddle with them, always seem to have odd creaks and clicks (Cannondale *ahem*), not so the Croix de Fer. It seems to just work — and in a distance / commuting bike, there is nothing better than a bike that doesn’t cause you stress.

Nearing the end of the road, Gibraltar

Nearing the end of the road, Gibraltar

As I said above: the Croix de Fer isn’t perfect — it’s long wheel base, which gives it awesome stability, means sinuous mountain descents have to be taken a touch more cautiously. Riding down the Passo dello Stelvio earlier this year, I certainly felt that I would have like a bike with sharper handling. The frame weight is also a bit of a limiting factor: while for some applications this isn’t an issue (i.e. fully loaded touring) in other’s it’s a pain — the front fork alone, with steerer tube cut, weighs in at nearly a kilo. I know, I put it on the scales when I swapped out the headset. The weight in particular bothered me during the Transcontinental Race — I’d honed my gear down to make it as light as possible, but not much could be done to make the bike frame lighter! Although, having said that, I was glad I had such a robust frame later in the race when my route selection put me on Serbian goat tracks for 20 miles!

If it’s not the bike I’d choose for future adventure races, it’s one that’s going to stay in my stable for a good few years yet — I’ve never had such a versatile bike, and it’s a testament to how highly I rate it that in the three years I’ve had it I’ve upgraded just about every component and been through countless chains, cassettes, and chain rings. After all the places it’s taken me — Norwegian fjords, Alpine cols, Pyrenean passes, American plains, Spanish sierras, and Canadian coastlines — I can’t see ever getting rid of it.  It’s a tough call, but if I could just have one bike, this might just be it.

N.B I’m in no way affiliated with Genesis. This is just my opinion! Next up I’m going to be reviewing the dynamo lighting and charging system I’ve used on this bike. Watch this space…

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13 thoughts on “Gear Review: Genesis Croix de Fer

  1. Hi Ed
    Thanks – really helpful comment. I’m looking at getting a Genesis – my criteria is that I want to be able to do light/medium weight touring but also have a bike that doesn’t feel to heavy when you leave the panniers behind for a couple of days and ride some cols without them. Sounds like you would recommend for this ??
    And also – I’ve always had rim brakes in the past – are the discs a pain or a risk of being damaged when you box the bike up for an airplane.? Sometimes the available packing has been pretty impromptu.
    Thanks
    Kerry

    • Hi Kerry,

      Sorry it’s taken a while to get back to you — it’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas. I would definitely recommend the Croix de Fer for lightweight touring. It’s a great multi purpose bike that’s equally at home with or without luggage. The dics are brilliant — it takes a bit more know-how to be able to keep them working perfectly (no rub etc.) but for environments where there’s a lot of grit and grime (e.g. touring) they perform much better than rim brakes.

      One thing I’d note is that the Croix de Fer is a heavy bike, the front forks alone weigh nearly a kilo. If you’re going to be doing light weight touring with a load less than 10kg, it might be worth considering a lighter bike. If weight doesn’t bother you that much and you want a true ‘do it all’ bike this is a brilliant choice. I think it’s the most versatile bike I’ve ever owned!

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

      Ed

  2. Hello,

    Great review. I’m planning to buy a Genesis Croix de Fer frameset for a custom build in 2014.

    I’d like to know as I will have no chance of trying the bike for size before I buy, how tall are you and what framesize are you riding?

    Cheers,

    David

    • Hi David,

      Thanks! I’m 6.0ft on the nail and ride a 56cm Croix de Fer. I’m often just between a 56 and a 58 cm frame on manufacturer’s guidelines — I tried both sizes of the Croix de Fer and felt that the 58 was a touch big. It’s a personal choice though and as most people can fit on more than one sized frame, it’s worth thinking about what you’d be using the bike for.

      If you’re going to be using it for cyclocross then a smaller sized frame that you can throw around a bit might be the best option, but if you’re going to use it for distance riding then a bigger frame with a longer, more stable, wheelbase could be the way to go.

      Good luck with your build — let me know if you have any other questions!

      Ed

    • Hi John,

      Sorry it took me a while to get back to you — I had a busy Christmas and the website took a back seat! I used Stans Alpha 400 rims, built onto a SON Delux dynamo front hub and an XT rear with DT competition spokes (32 front and rear). I’ve found this combo to be absolutely bullet proof when put together properly. As for tyres, I’ve variously used Continental GatorSkins, Continental Four Seasons, Schwalble Ultremos, and Schwalbe Duranos. Of these the Duranos are the best I’ve used – they’re easy to mount on the rim, wear well, and they’re very puncture resistant. I wouldn’t bother with the Durano Plus, I find that adds weight but not much in the way of extra puncture protection. I managed over 4000 miles on one set of standard Duranos in the last few months of 2013 and in that time I had 3 pot-hole related pinch-flats, but no other punctures — amazing record.

      Hope that helps,

      Ed

  3. Hi Ed

    Great review, just what I wanted to read as am thinking of buying a Croix for touring duties. Having toured before on a steel mtb, with a triple up front, I could ride up anything! Just wanted to know what set up did you use, in particular, when touring in the Pyrenees?

    The 2014 has a 50-34 up front and 12-30 on the back, would that get me up the Tourmalet!? 🙂

    Regards

    Antony

    • Hi Antony,

      Thanks! Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you — it’s been a busy few weeks! The Croix de Fer is brilliant for general touring duties — would highly recommend it. As for gearing, I used a triple chainset with a 11-27 cassette in the Pyrenees. I found that gearing to be just about right — it provided a good range and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t tackle even with 20kg of gear on the back.

      I think the 50-34 chainset with 12-30 cassette on this year’s model would be perfect — that’s pretty close to the gearing I used during the Transcontinental Race last year. I reckon it would definitely get you up the Tourmalet without too much grinding! A compact chainset with a wide range cassette can end up providing a greater range of gears that a traditional triple with a narrower cassette. The only disadvantage is a slightly greater jump between gears, but that’s not so much of a trade off when you consider that you’re saving some weight and going to a less complex (and easier to maintain) system.

      Hope that helps,

      Ed

  4. Thanks for your blog, it is great to see how you have tweaked your Croix de Fer and about your trips been. I was wondering if you could share more info regarding your specs for touring, and what you could recommend please. You have talked a bit of your setup but could you list the specs and what you would recommend for touring light-medium as I would like my bike for long commuting as well?

    I hope this find you well, I am looking forward hearing from you, Guillaume

    • Hi Guillaume,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about my Croix de Fer set up for touring — just shoot me a message. For touring I had the bike set up with a 9spd tiagra groupset (triple chainset), tubus rack, ortleib panniers, Profile Design aerobars, and a Brooks saddle.

      I think you could easily get away with a compact chainset (50/34) and a wide range cassette (12-32) — that would give you a seriously easy gear as well as the ability to put a bit of power down when commuting etc. In general I’d definitely recommend the Croix de Fer for touring / commuting — it’s a great bike.

      Hope that helps!

      • Hi Ed,

        Thanks for those info. I am so sorry to hear about your bike being stolen… you will need to sleep with it at all time! And well I don’t think you will get high prio on the bike unfortunately, may be rather focus on getting some money back, I hope you are covered well. Have a good meal in Lyon, it is nice place to enjoy French food at least.

        I have further inquiry to make about setting up the bike, where should I write you to?

        all the best and good good luck!

      • Hi Guillaume,

        Thanks — the fight back is on now and I’m going to do my best to be on the start line in Astoria. Post any questions about the bike here and I’ll get back to you either on the page or via email — I’m happy to help.

        Ed

      • Hi Ed,

        Well being a noob at custom build I am looking to have my LBS to help me out but would really to know what setup I should aim for. This would be an investment to make for a durable light performing touring/commuting bike to last 🙂

        I would like then appreciate details more or less regarding the following:
        Frame: Croix de fer
        Brakes: Avid BB7?
        Groupset: SRAM ?
        Saddle: Brooks B17 or something else I have
        Mudguards: SKS Chromoplastics/ Gilles Berthoud PlanetX mudguards
        Tyres: Schwalbe Duranos
        Schmidt Son 28 dyno-hub would a nice to have
        Bars: Drop bars Vs Bullhorn bars? / Jones H bar http://www.jonesbikes.com/h-bar.html/ Profile Air Wing
        Wheels/ Seat post/ Headset/ Stem/ Pedals/ Chainset/ Front derailleur/ Rear derailleur/ Cassette/ Bottom bracket/ Levers/ Bar tape…

        I would greatly hear from your advise, thanks again

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