British brand Genesis offers a wide range of bikes, from professional race rigs to fat-tyred mountain machines, but historically its biggest seller has been the Croix de Fer – a tough, all-steel road bike.
HIGHS: Fun and tough long-haul traveller
LOWS: The brakes lack top-end bite
BUY IF… You want a high-value disc equipped bike with a fun, stable ride
It is built around a nicely appointed 725 Reynolds steel frame, which will handle anything from cyclocross racing to sportives, and will reward you in spades as it does so. You could even load it up with racks and panniers and tackle an around-the-world challenge. British adventurer Vin Cox did just that on an earlier model – and broke records along the way.
Practical and versatile, the croix de fer has a very wide-ranging appeal: Robert Smith
The Croix de Fer’s shape is pitched smack bang between a cyclocross bike and a traditional road ride, making it engaging and reactive to your steering inputs. Its stable and neutral feel is ideal for riding through city traffic and it has none of the twitchiness that can reveal itself in some ’cross race-derived, high bottom bracket, shorter reach urban machines.
Going off-road doesn’t hamper the Croix de Fer either, and with the addition of a 30-tooth sprocket to complement the 34-tooth inner chainring, you’ll still be pedalling even when you reach the longest, steepest hills when others might resort to pushing. The 12-30 cassette should also mean that you’ll never have to leave the big ring when riding in town.
With the latest Croix de Fer, Genesis has listened to the criticisms that we’ve levelled at it in the past. The older model had Continental’s 35mm Cyclocross Race tyres, which were great rubber off-road but slightly sluggish when you hit the tarmac.
This year the tyres are the same volume, but Genesis has specced Conti’s semi-slick Cyclocross Speed version instead. These are fast on tarmac but will still perform off-road – providing you’re not plugging through the very worst wet sludge.
Cyclocross speed tyres make the bike quicker on the road: Robert Smith
There has been an even more major change with the braking, though perhaps the result hasn’t been as uniformly positive. Genesis has moved the disc mount for the rear brake inboard between the seatstay and chainstay, which does make fitting a rear rack much more straightforward. But it has also switched from Avid’s high-performing BB7s to Hayes’s new CX Expert cable discs.
These feel very different to the Avids, lacking the BB7’s instant bite for an action that has a fair amount of neutral lever travel before engaging brake force in a linear, progressive way. It takes a while to adjust to these after riding the Avids, and we did find ourselves playing with the calliper-mounted barrel adjuster to try to induce a quicker response. This did work to some extent, but overall we’d say the new brakes do have a far more ‘polite’ action.
The disc mount is now inboard, but the new brakes lack bite : Robert Smith
As disc-equipped bikes go, the Croix de Fer is one of the best around, and certainly one of the best value. The stable, instantly familiar ride is infused with enough fun so that you’re never going to confuse it with a utility commuter machine.
We also think that Genesis should be praised for listening to comments from its customers and acting upon this feedback. This year’s bike has made significant improvements over previous models – and that was never going to be an easy achievement.