I've been riding the Genesis Croix de Fer, in a variety of builds, for the past six months and it's been a huge amount of fun. The bike needs little introduction, of course, having cemented its capability when Vin Cox rode one around the world in a Guinness world record breaking time back in 2010.
Genesis Bikes will sell you the Croix de Fer in a number of different builds, or you can buy the frameset and build it up just how you want it. And that's what I did, putting SRAM's new hydraulic disc groupset on it and using it as my daily ride, for everything from commuting to training and social rides.
Frameset: Steel tubing and carbon fibre fork
I wanted a bike that was comfortable, had all the necessary mounts for the mudguards and racks I wanted to be able to fit for different cycling adventures I planned to use it for, and I wanted a steel frame for the ride quality. And it had to have disc brakes. The Croix de Fer ticked all those boxes. And, at £474.99 for the frame and the new carbon fork, it's not startling expensive, leaving plenty of budget to build it up any way you want.
What you get is a Reynolds 725 tubeset (the same as used on the Croix de Fer 20 and 30 models) which, while admittedly not as posh as Reynolds 853, is still a fine tubeset. The tubes are skinny with slender stays, and it's compatible with Shimano Di2 routing, with old fashioned external guides for a mechanical drivetrain. It's a disc brake-specific frame, with the rear brake mounted on the chainstay. The Burnt Bronze paint job won a lot of fans with my riding group and local club, very appealing.
Also included is the new carbon fibre fork. It uses a straight, non-tapered 1 1/8in steerer tube, and there are mudguard eyelets above the dropouts. The fork is longer (401mm axle-crown) than the previous steel fork, which provides a bit more tyre clearance.
The Croix de Fer has changed quite a bit over the years. It essentially started out based on a cyclo-cross frame, but has moved away from those origins over the years. It's more in line with the latest adventure models that are popular right now. The bottom bracket is a more road-friendly 70mm drop, 5mm lower than previously. The head tube has been stretched a bit too, to raise the height of the front end. You could say the changes have moved it into the burgeoning gravel and adventure road bike market.
The beauty of starting with a frameset like this is that you can build it however you want – just let your imagination, and budget, carry you. I used the frame to test SRAM's latest Red hydraulic disc groupset. I first used a pair of Zipp 404 Firecrest clincher wheels before swapping to Stan's Grail tubeless wheels with Schwalbe One 25mm tubeless tyres.
A Thomson stem and handlebar, 3T seatpost and Fabric saddle completed the build. With the Zipp wheels, the bike came in at 8.65kg (19.07lb), a pretty respectable weight for a steel frame and hydraulic disc build. An expensive build, too, but it does represent one possible direction you could take the frame in.
Ride: Comfortable and smooth
Six months on and I've battered the Genesis through all sorts of weather and riding. I wanted a bike that would be reliable and comfortable, able to look after me on long and lonely wet winter rides but with enough spring in its step to be fun and rewarding on faster paced summer rides.
The Croix de Fer has been all those things to me. With mudguards on it's an admirable daily commuter and grinds out the miles. Strip away the mudguards and slap on some fast wheels and it's exciting and reveals a surprisingly rapid turn of pace, with enough energy to make pacy Sunday club rides exciting.
The Croix de Fer has a good reputation and that was impressed on me during the testing period. I can see how it would be a good choice for any long distance challenge, like riding around the world or the Transcontinental Race.
It's comfortable over longer distances, with a delightful springiness to the frame and, of course, the space for bigger volume tyres. The frame cushions you from the harshest road surfaces. With the right tyre choice, it easily tackles off-road sections as well, so you can throw in the odd bridleway or byway to spice up an ordinary road ride.
At times the frame does exhibit a bit of unwanted flexing. It's not a frame for snappy acceleration, it's better if you gradually build up speed. Not a frame for hustling along the road, more for wafting down country lanes at a decent, if not electrifying, cruising speed. There's no lack of speed once you've wound it up, though, and it'll keep up with regular road bikes.
As well as saving a chunk of weight over the previous steel fork, the addition of the carbon fibre fork provides a stiffer and more direct feeling front end, with improvements to the handling at higher speeds. It does, though, further highlight the flexiness of the frame, and a steel fork might be a more suitable balance.
With the market for adventure bikes currently exploding, the Croix de Fer remains a solid choice that is capable of being pressed into service for daily commuting, winter training, Sunday club rides and, with the right tyres, following the path less travelled. Comfortable and decent handling manners and the weight saving carbon fork make the Genesis a compelling choice, and with a price tag that could encourage more cyclists to entertain the notion of building their own bike from scratch.
Good value disc brake steel frame with great handling and smooth ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Genesis Croix de Fer - frameset
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Genesis says: "Sharing the same heat-treated Reynolds 725 base as used on the CdF 20/30, for 2015 we've added internal Di2 compatibility (alongside traditional mechanical) for those wanting to go uber posh and swapped out the Cr-Mo fork for a carbon model, helping drop weight further whilst keeping the generous clearances and mudguard eyelets we've all grown to love and expect from the CdF."
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?
Genesis says: "Classic seamless Chromoly (as above) but heat-treated to boost tensile strength. Think of it as Chromoly on steroids. It's heated to around 1600F whereby a structural change in the steels' crystal lattice occurs (a stronger, more uniform orientation). As it's stronger we can away with using less of it so thinner butts are the order of the day here (varying wall thickness down to 0.7/0.4/0.7mm), helping to achieve a lighter overall frame weight.
"Generous clearances and eyelets for full-length mudguards and a rear rack mean the 'Croix morphs quickly and effortlessly into an all-weather load carrier."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Really nicely made Reynolds 725 steel frame compatible with electronic and mechanical drivetrains.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Reynolds 725 Seamless Heat-Treated Chromoly. Frame - 2.25kg / Fork - 0.66kg (56cm).
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
More road-friendly than in the past and that provides good handling, but it's still good for mixing it up off-road as well.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Really good, the front end is quite high providing a relaxed position.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The frame cushions you from the harshest road surfaces.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It does lack stiffness around the bottom bracket, it's not a race bike.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Not as efficiently as a race bike.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a 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?
Very nice handling, the high front end makes it easy to pilot through the lanes and up the hills.
Could be better, quite a flexy rear triangle.
Not a frame for snappy accelleration, but it piles on speed nicely.
Sprinting isn't really its forte, but that's not what it has been designed for.
Smooth composure on the descents.
Good balance and stability at cruising speeds.
Easy to handle at lower speeds.
The lack of stiffness is noticeable on steeper gradients.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A really high quality frame at a good price, offering a lot of performance and adaptability. It's not without its minor flaws, but they're easy to overlook when you take into account how much fun it is and how wide a range of riding applications it suits.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.