Plenty of bike makers now offer a cyclo-cross inspired, do-anything machine. Genesis were among the first with their Croix de Fer, a bike designed to blast bridleways or tackle tarmac equally well.
We praised the 2011 Croix de Fer's comfort and ability to mix it with mountain bikes in the rough, but considering a modified version had been ridden around the world by Vin Cox in a record-breaking 163 days, the lack of mounts for a front rack undermined its touring credentials.
The 2012 machine puts that right, though you’ll still need a disc-specific rear rack to clear the seatstay-mounted disc brake. Changes to the gearing also make the bike better suited to loaded riding. The cassette is now 10-speed instead of nine, and rather than bottoming out with a 25, there’s a 28-tooth sprocket to keep you pedalling rather than pushing.
The lower bottom gear makes the Croix de Fer even more at home off-road. ’Cross racers may be happy to get off and run, but we got plenty of use from the 28T sprocket on steep bridleways. Point the bike back the other way and you’ll be glad of the steel frame and fork’s forgiving ride.
It’s noticeably more comfortable than similarly priced aluminium cyclo-cross bikes, but the fork’s lateral stiffness and the frame’s sorted geometry keep the bike on course. In fact, it makes mountain bikes seem like overkill for a lot of off-road riding.
You do notice some drag from the 35mm Continental Cyclocross race tyres on tarmac, especially when climbing, but pump them up to 85psi or so and they roll surprisingly well. As a tyre for all surfaces and weathers they’re a good compromise, though a change to durable slicks would be a good call for on-road commuting.
Make use of the mudguard mounts and you’ll arrive at the office clean and dry, while the Avid BB-7 cable disc brakes give reliable all-weather stopping once they’ve bedded in. If you harbour ambitions in the local ’cross league, bear in mind the Croix de Fer’s weight. It’s trim compared with full-blown tourers but lardy next to a ’crosser, and the skinny Reynolds 725 frame does flex when you stamp on the pedals.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.