If you're looking for an almost indestructible, versatile steel bike, the Genesis Croix de Fer could be the one for you
Genesis has been selling its Croix de Fer for years. It’s a classic do-it-all machine, as happy load-lugging as picking its way along muddy tracks – and anything in between. Genesis markets the Croix de Fer as an adventure bike and, with its wide clearance and tyres, it fits well into this fashionable category.
The Croix de Fer steel frame is a classic heavy-duty frameset. It’s made with round-profile Reynolds 725 tubing with unlugged, welded joints. There’s an old school straight 1 1/8in head tube with external bearings, which supports a steel fork.
All the cables run externally, with brazed-on guides and neat zip ties to hold them in place. There are rather smart-looking brass barrel adjusters on the head tube for the derailleur cables.
You get fittings to bolt pretty much anything you want onto the frame: two sets of eyelets on the front dropouts, low-rider pannier mounts on the fork, rack and mudguard mounts at the back and two bottle bosses (although not a third one under the down tube to satisfy the determined adventurer).
It all feels completely bombproof – as evidenced by the hefty 11.74kg overall weight.
Genesis has kitted out the Croix de Fer 20 with a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset. Tiagra looks neat, with a similar aesthetic to 105 and older Ultegra and Dura-Ace. It also inherits the precise, light shifting of those more expensive groupsets.
The Croix de Fer 20 has a 50/34 compact chainset, coupled to an 11-34 cassette. This gives a huge range, allowing you to progress at reasonable speed on the road and also to tackle steep and muddy off road. It would also give you plenty of range for touring.
Genesis fits TRP Hy-Rd disc brakes. These are cable operated, but have a hydraulic reservoir built into the caliper. They are very effective, with the hydraulic cylinders giving strong, confident braking. It’s a neat solution, allowing conventional mechanical brake levers to be used, but is progressively being eclipsed by fully hydraulic systems, which are now available on lower-priced groupsets and will offer better braking performance still.
Our Croix de Fer comes with unbranded wheels, which carry 35mm Kenda Flintridge Sport tyres. Again, this all feels capable of taking anything in its stride, although the tyres lack a bit of grip for muddy UK winter conditions. They have enough air in them to ride over most obstacles comfortably though.
Riding the Genesis Croix de Fer 20
Despite its off-road credentials, the Genesis Croix de Fer gets along well on road, with those 35mm tyres having a tread with a low enough profile not to offer too much rolling resistance.
It’s quite a heavy beast, though, and you need to sit in and spin up hills rather than try to push harder, as this quickly becomes frustrating. And despite the big tyres there’s quite a bit of road vibration transmitted via the steel fork to the bars, which can result in achy hands after a time.
The ride on road feels very stable, and this is transferred to off-road handling. The Genesis Croix de Fer is a bike which gives a lot of confidence through the mud and puddles that are a feature of UK bridleways pretty much the whole year.
If you’re looking for a steel bike that will manage heavy-duty touring as well as off-road duties, the Genesis Croix de Fer looks just about on the money. There aren’t that many alternatives out there, with the Kona Rove being another option and similarly priced.
But if you’re not looking for so much versatility or specifically for steel, you can find better value alternatives in the endurance road bike and cyclocross arenas – they just won’t be as flexible or as all-round capable.
The Genesis Croix de Fer is a genuinely capable all-rounder which can tackle off-road mud, rides confidently on road and can be loaded up for touring. But it’s quite heavy and low specced and the steel fork gives a less than comfortable ride on UK tarmac.