Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bike Review – Genesis Croix de Fer, 2013

What the bike had to put up with

The 12,000 km of the 2013 Tour d’Afrique, bike race from Cairo to Cape Town, about 25% of which was off road.

The Frame

The frame is made of Reynolds 725 steel. I am 1m73 and I used the 54cm frame.  The geometry was great. I was very comfortable on the bike after it was fit for me. I had no nagging aches or pains at any time. The paint chipped and abraded down to raw steel at several places. I chose steel because it can be repaired just about anywhere. But no repairs were needed. We were advised not to take carbon but several people did and not one of them had a problem. You can do some repairs to carbon anyway. Alloys seem to be less reliable. One alloy frame had a break and had to be scrapped.

The Wheels

The Croix de Fer comes with Alexrims XD-Lites. These were excellent. They took a real pounding and stood up to it. I had them trued twice but just as part of preventive maintenance. They never went really out of whack.


I used Schwalbe Marathon Plus – one set of 40mm and one set of 28mm They were superb. I had no punctures on the road. I did have one mysterious puncture in camp one evening. The bike came with 35mm Continental Cyclocross Race tires. I didn’t like these at all. I had several punctures while training before I left for the Tour. They are lightweight and thin and not suited to long rides in tough conditions. I didn’t even take them with me.

The Brakes

The bike came with Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes with 160mm rotors. They worked very well. They are easy to adjust. The original brake pads disintegrated in wet and muddy conditions. I replaced them with resin pads, which held up better.  When the break pads disintegrated one of the rotors became very scarred. I replaced it.

Front and Rear Derailleur

The bike came with a Tiagra group set. Both derailleurs bent under the tough conditions and handling. I replaced both with 105 derailleurs. The front derailleur performed better, not much difference in the rear derailleur.

Front Chainrings and Rear Cassette

The bike came set up for racing, with two front chainrings (52/34) and an 11/26 ten speed rear cassette. I stayed with the front chainrings but soon switched to a 12/32 rear cassette. This helped on the hills but I still didn’t really have a granny gear. There was lots of sustained climbing of 12% and more. In future I would get three chainrings on the front.


The headset is a weak point on this bike. It is a cheap 1 1/8th threadless headset. Fine dust and sand gets in easily. I repacked it 4 times on Tour. It was not up to the very tough off road conditions. The headset became pitted and scarred. By the end, a couple of ball bearings had come out of one of the bearing races and the bearing race was bent and twisted.

Front Fork

The front for is a fixed fork. This made off road riding unpleasant. You could do it. But you suffered, especially your ulnar nerves. There is also not very much top clearance. The tube that goes into the headset extends down into the fork. I had to file this away to put my 40mm tires on. Even then I only had a few mm of clearance. In dry conditions this is ok. In wet and muddy conditions it means you are always stopping to clear away the mud that is acting like a break. In future I would fit a front suspension fork. Genesis should consider making this available as an option.

Rear Stays

Once again there is a problem of clearance. I could fit the 40mm tire but there was a real problem in muddy conditions.

Crank and Bottom Bracket

The Crank is Tiagra and came with SPD pedals. Both were fine. The bottom bracket is a standard English threaded one. The first one lasted only 5,000 km (about 1000km pre-Tour and the first 4000km of the Tour). I might have expected a bit more out of it.


I had no problems with the chains. There was a standard bit of stretch. I used three chains over the 12,000km. I changed it as part of regular maintenance rather than because of failure. I used Shimano 10 speed 105 replacement chains. I cleaned the chain and used dry lube very frequently.

Cables and Cable Housings

I had no problems with these but I did change them during the tour s part of routine maintenance.


The bike came with Tiagra Brifters. They worked well. I had no problems at all. They were sometimes were infiltrated with sand and grit but were not difficult to clean.

Bars and Bar Tape

The bars fit me well and I liked them. The cushion in the bar tape didn’t last very long in wet conditions. The tape became hard and crusty. I soon replaced it with better bar tape with good cushioning – and in bright orange, with goes so much better with the black frame.

Seat and Seat Post

The seat was a Genesis own brand. I found it very comfortable and had no saddle sores for the 6000km+ that I rode it. Unfortunately it broke on tough off road conditions. I had to ride 26km to the finish line on sharp rocks corrugation and sand with no seat. By the end of the Tour the seat post was firmly rusted into the seat bar. I had put some lubricant in at the beginning but it obviously didn’t last and I hadn’t checked it over the course of the long ride. But this is now a real pain.

Please donate if you can

The link at the ‘Donate Here’ logo to the left now works. Please use it if  you are able.


Kit Review – Stuff I took, stuff I used, stuff I didn’t use


1, 55 litre soft duffel bag – the bag that everything else went into when I had to get on a plane; worked well, could fold up into almost nothing and store in my locker without taking up too much space.

6, 10 litre dry bags – one each for 1) bike clothes, 2) casual clothes, 3) cold weather stuff, 4) spares and tools, 5) medicine, 6) washing and hygiene stuff – this worked very well; stuff was easy to find quickly; it made packing the locker quick and easy and made setting up and tearing down camp efficient.

1 small backpack – I took a small North Face Borealis bag. I used this for my computer, electronic stuff and valuables. It worked well.

1 post bag – I took a Topeak 5 kg seat post bag. The fitting broke on the second off road day. Waste of space. I borrowed a small, camelback sized backpack that I used for the rest of the trip that I carried spares and stuff in. I don’t like carrying things on my back when I cycle but ended up doing it for lack of any alternative.

1 top bar bag – I took a small Topeak top bar bag that velcroes to the headset and the top bar.  I put sanitizer, a Swiss army knife, ORS sachets and lip balm in it. Worked well.


1 cable lock – served its purpose. Locked the bike every night.

Multi tool – I only took 1, it had allen keys and screw drivers on it. It was useful. I left behind the one with torque wrenches on it. I could have used this when I had to replace a disk brake rotor. But it was easy to borrow one.

Assorted small tools – small screw drivers (slot and Philips), 4 tire levers, small pair of needle nose pliers, spoke wrench, chain tool -mostly stuff I carried with me on the bike. The Tour is well equipped with tools for major and minor work.

Chain lube – I took one bottle of wet lube. I didn’t use much. The Tour people give everyone a bottle of dry lube. Given the conditions this worked better and I used a lot of it.

4 one-litre bottles – broke 1 the first day out but never again. The other 3 lasted me well for the rest of the tour.

Mini pump – good quality pump; no flats on the road so didn’t need it myself but did lend it to others who did.

Spare bottle cage – I did not take a spare bottle cage but should have. I broke one.

Cable ties – a few dozen of varying sizes. I used several and gave many more away. Very useful for quick fixes.


4 sets of BB7 Disc Brake Pads  – used two sets.

Disk brake rotor – needed one but didn’t take any so had to get one off a sectional rider who had an unused spare.

2 Schwalbe marathon plus 700 X 40mm tires – used these off road. They were great. Only 1 puncture and that was in camp not on the road.

2 Schwalbe marathon plus 700 X 28mm tires – used these on road. They were also great. No punctures.

2 Bontrager cyclcross tires – 7700 X 35mm – didn’t use these at all since the Schwalbes worked so well.

15 spokes – had my wheels trued twice and didn’t brake a single spoke, so didn’t need them. But have broken many spokes before so would always take them.

3 Patch Kits and 2 dozen extra patches – didn’t use any myself but gave almost all of them away.

Bar tape – took and used one extra but could have used two.

1 Seat Clamp and 1 seat post – didn’t use either.

1 Saddle – I broke a saddle in Kenya and was glad I had a spare.

1 Shimano10-Speed Cassette 12 – 32 (original was 11 – 26)– I used this and was glad I did. I only had two chain rings on the front (52 and 34) so didn’t really have a granny gear. The larger rear cassette helped. But I still had to work harder than most on the hills. I would rethink gearing if I did it again.

4 sets of derailleur cable – I used three and gave one away. Very useful.

4 sets of brake cable – replaced brake cables once.

2 metres of derailleur cable housing – used half and gave some away.

2 metres of brake Cable housing – used half.

2, 10 Speed chains – used both and bought another en route to have a spare.

8 Tubes 700×28/32  – didn’t’ use any but gave a couple away.

12 Tubes 700×35/42 – used one, gave a couple away.

1 Shimano 105, 10 speed front derailleur – used it and was glad I had it. Could have used two since the spare got bent and had to be hammered back into shape.

1 Shimano 105, mid-cage rear derailleur – I didn’t take this but needed it and had to order one to be delivered en route.

2 bottom brackets – I needed one after only 4000km. I needed another about 3000km from the end when a mechanic tightened the existing one too much and mashed it. I had to order one en route.


1 MEC Tarn 3 person tent with groundsheet and fly – glad I had the extra space. Poles and pegs were good quality. The mosquito netting ripped early on. I sewed it together and it worked fine. The fly also ripped early on. The material was not the non-rip type so it ran on for a bit until I repaired it. The zips were nylon and did not work well. They were a total pain. I gave the tent away at the end of the Tour. I would choose something else next time.

6 extra strong spare tent pegs – somehow I didn’t lose or break any pegs so didn’t need them, but I did lend them out on several occasions.

Small rubber mallet – very useful; there is some tough ground out there.

2-season sleeping bag – I chose to go with a 2 season very lightweight (rated at 5C) sleeping bag. It worked quite well but I did have to wear almost everything I owned on some of the colder nights – but then so did most people.

MSR plastic dishes, 2 high sided plates (1 big, one average), 1 cup – these worked fine; it was good to have the bigger sized dishes with sides on them; you eat a lot and you balance things on your knees – no tables.

Plastic Ikea cutlery, fork, 2 spoons, knife – worked fine.

Swiss army knife – always good to have, especially the bottle opener; but after carrying it with me for four months I forgot to pack it away and had it taken away from me at the airport when I flew home. Sad, but my fault.

1 LED headlamp – had a powerful one, worked very well; used 15 AAA batteries in it over the four months (it takes 3).

1 stuff bag camping pillow – packed up very small and was a very welcome thing to have. Sleeping well is very important.

1 silk sleeping bag liner – I didn’t use this very much. Some people used theirs instead of a sleeping bag when it was warm. But since I live in Africa and am tropicalized I didn’t feel the heat as badly and used my sleeping bag every single night.

1 thermarest luxury-lite cot – a bit of a phaff to set up and take down every day bur very comfortable to sleep on, so a very welcome bit of kit. After 4 months though it is very much the worse for wear. Wont’ last much longer.

1 lightweight, mutli-fibre towel – not the fluffiest towels in the world but did the job and took up very little space.


1 rain jacket/windbreaker – I forgot to take this and wish I hadn’t.

1 warm wicking jacket – forgot to take this and bought one en route. Very much needed.

1 long sleeve cycling jersey – I used this a lot; very much needed.

1 long sleeve base layer – I used this a lot and could have taken two. They are lightweight and don’t take up much space.

1 pair of arm warmers – I used these a lot as well.

5 short sleeve jerseys – I used them all. You sweat a lot and they get smelly and filthy.

3 pairs cycling shorts – I should have taken at least 4 pairs. Some times you ride for 8 days straight. This meant I had to wear my shorts 3 days running. Two days is ok. Three days is less than ok.

1 pair long cycling tights – wore these often in the mornings and then would take them off when it warmed up.

8 pairs lightweight cycling socks – used them all.

1 pair MTB SDL shoes – all I needed. They got dirty and the laces wore out but they lasted well. I would take a spare set of laces (if your have shoes that use laces).

1 spare pair of cleats – I didn’t need them but several people did.

4 pairs short gloves – used them all. They get as sweaty and dirty as your jerseys. Get well padded palms.

1 pair long gloves – used them frequently, especially on cold mornings.

Sunglasses – bit the bullet and bought prescription Oakleys. Didn’t wear them every day but was glad I had them.

Neck scarf – wore it fairly frequently, good both against cold and the sun.


1 pair long hiking pants – wore them often.

1 pair short hiking pants – wore them often

1 pair short sports pants – wore them often.

1 bathing suit – used it more than I thought I would.

1 fleece – forgot to take so bought heavy sweater in Egypt before I left. Fleece would have been better.

1 long sleeve jersey – wore it often.

4 t shirts – and bought a couple more en route.

Shirt with collar – didn’t take one but it would have been useful at times.

4 pairs boxers – of course.

1 pair long underwear – forgot to take; would have been good to have.

2 pairs warm woollen socks – used these as well, mostly to sleep in.

2 baseball caps – forgot to take; picked one up en route; hats are very useful when the sun is out.

1 pair hiking shoes – took a lightweight pair and wore them out.

1 pair flip flops – forgot to take; they would have been useful.

Sewing kit – took a small one but could never find it when I needed it.


Passports – I have three, carried them all and used them all.

Yellow fever certificate – not asked for it once, but always good to have.

10 photos – used two.

Insurance certificate and policy – didn’t need fortunately, many people did.

Credit cards  – used mostly cash until we arrived in Nairobi, then mostly credit and debit cards.

Cash – took $2500 and spent about $1500. But also put about $2500 on credit cards.

Photocopies of all docs – took them all but they became quite ragged since I carried them in my backpack while riding. Never used them. Used originals when I needed ID.

Notebook and pens – didn’t need notebooks, used laptop; should have taken more pens; lost one, broke one etc.


Macbook and power supply – hard drive died in Khartoum; finally got it repaired during rest days in Arusha. Good to have when it was working.

Samsung galaxy smartphone and charger – excellent; bought SIM card in each country; used it only for phone calls and texts. Many people used the data feature on their smartphones so could update blogs and send emails wherever there was 3G. I had to wait until we found wifi, which was infrequent and often slow. I think next time I would use the data feature on a smartphone.

Kindle and charger – used a lot, was excellent; is not backlit so you need a headlamp.

Garmin Edge 500 and charger – worked well for two months then the battery seemed to die.

GoPro Hero HD 2 and charger – used it as we were leaving the pyramids and then once more. Just didn’t get into it. I’m not much of a photo taker anyway. Others who had them used them much more often and with good results.

Solar charger – very useful on the first half of the Tour, after that it was easier to find power outlets.


Sanitiser – took two bottles, didn’t use much. There is hand washing soap and water on all the support vehicles. Used this a lot.

3 Tooth brushes – used two (lost one).

Toothpaste – used two tubes.

2 packs baby wipes –  didn’t use any, gave them away; preferred bucket baths or water left over in a drinking bottle. On the second half of the trip showers were available most days.

Comb – didn’t need for a couple of months (had hair cut off in Cairo).

Nail clippers – took two pairs; take big ones.

Razor – tried to shave every few days at least.

Shaving cream – useful for shaving.

Lip balm – take stuff with sunscreen added, used a lot

After sun cream  – used once.

Chamois butter – took two tubes and didn’t use any. Had chafing during last month but use nappy cream instead, works better.

Nappy cream – used Sudocrem; works well.

Soap – used small soaps from hotels.

Shampoo  – used small bottles from hotels.


Antimalarial Tablets – took Larium.

Antibiotic for travellers diarrhea – Ciprofloxacin 500 mg, 10 tabs – didn’t use.

Antibiotic for wound infection – I have a Penicillin allergy so took azithromycin (250 mg, 60 caps); used one dose for leg infection.

Simple painkillers – took Brufen; used a couple of tablets for a headache once.

Anti inflammatory – took Brufen; didn’t need.

Throat lozenges – took Strepsils; didn’t use.

Anti-diarrheal – took Imodium 12 caps; didn’t use.

Anti-spasmodic – took Buscopan 10 tabs; didn’t use.

ORS  – took lots and used at least 1 packet a day; excellent for replacing salts and electrolytes from excessive sweating.

Antiemetic – took Metoclopramide 10 tbs; didn’t use.

Ear drops – took Garasone ear drops; didn’t use.

Eye drops – took Ciloxan eye drops; didn’t use.

Zinc cream – took big pot of Sudocrem; used for nose, lips and saddle sores; very good.

Moisturizing cream – took E45; used once.

Anti inflammation (saddle sores) – took Voltaren cream; didn’t use.

Antibiotic cream – took Bactroban; used once on leg infection, didn’t help much, ended up taking a dose of antibiotics.

Disinfectant spray – took alcohol swabs; used quite a few for scrapes and scratches.

Sunscreen – took one bottle of SPF30; didn’t use any; gave away.

Clinical thermometer – didn’t take one; didn’t need one.

Malaria test kit (2 per kit) – took one box; didn’t use.

Nasal spray – took Otrivin; didn’t use.

I have updated the ‘Donate Here’ logo to the left to go directly to paypal

New way to make donations

I have just found out that if you have a paypal account you can make a donation directly to my paypal account (I am slowly catching up to the 21st century).

To make a donation to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania and Cycle for Sickle Cell

Go into your paypal account

Choose ‘send money’

Enter my email address:

Tick ‘I’m sending money to family or friends’

Click continue



Fundraising update


On May 15th we held a corporate fundraising event for Cycle for Sickle Cell at the Sea Cliff Hotel in Dar es Salaam. Six corporate teams entered 5 man teams in a series a cycling competitions to win prizes donated by sponsors. We raised over 13 million shillings on the night and have now raised over $US31,000 towards our goal of $US50,000 to establish the day treatment centre for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

Thanks everyone who came, participated and donated

!SCFM logo

End of the tour – Leaving Cape Town

Leaving Cape Town early Monday morning after finishing the race on Saturday was both easy and difficult. It was easy because over the last four months we had all become very adept at packing and sorting and getting to the starting line on time. It was difficult for the same reasons. Routine took over and before I knew it I was on an airplane. Fifty of us had just spent four months living in each other’s pockets. We had developed good friendships, suffered and celebrated together. How do you then say goodbye to somebody you know you may never see again. It all seemed very perfunctory and inadequate. But perhaps that is for the best. The French don’t say goodbye. They say “au revoir,” “until we see each other again.” Holding out this hope, even if we know that in many cases it is an empty hope, and getting back on the freight train of routine may be for the best.

It is perhaps too early to reflect on the last four months. I have now been home for four days and know that I have not yet really begun to absorb the experience. Being back home with Liz and Catherine and Laura is spectacular. Without them I am sure I would feel much more rudderless right now.

The first thing I did when I got home was put my bike back together. It got pretty beat up in the plane. The box was ripped and skewered. But the apart from a punctured tire (valve separated from tube somehow) the bike was more or less ok. I have been out most days since – no long rides, just local rides, doing chores and getting things done. But tomorrow I am going on a 60km off road ride in the Pande Forest with the morning cycling group. I am looking forward to it – even though I still do not have shocks on my front fork. We meet at 6am at the Butcher Shop.

There will be a postscript I am sure.

For Rick – see his comment below

naked mile 2 naked mile 1

somehow this didn’t get posted – added here to complete the record

Day 108, stage 83, 83km

Start, Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch

Finish, Sesriem, Sossusvlei Lodge

Another early morning but at least it was warmer. We are about 700 metres lower today than we were yesterday so it is a bit warmer. Namibia seems to have a booming tourist industry. We cycle for mile after mile and see no signs of habitation or commerce and then all of a sudden, after 60 or 70 or 80km of nothing we come across a luxury lodge. Sesriem is a good example. It is at the gate to a National park that includes the famous Dunes of the Namib dessert. We cycled over 80km from Solitaire and saw nothing. Then all of a sudden we come across the Sossusvlei Lodge just outside the gates of the park. This is not a roughing it in the wilds lodge. This is a fully paid up member of the ‘opulence is great’ club. And it has prices to match – about $300 a night per person, single or sharing. This includes dinner and breakfast. But still, we are in the Namib dessert in the middle of nowhere, Namibia. I went into reception and started to negotiate. In the end I got a room for the equivalent of about £90 a night, including dinner and breakfast. Several other riders took advantage of this rate. But we could only get it for one night (it was a rest day and we would be in Sesriem for two nights)  because the next day they had a group of 60 people coming and were fully booked. There isn’t a paved road in a hundred miles! They do have there own landing strip though. The 60 were all being ferried in on small planes. Nowhere is remote these days.

Today was a short cycle and not a particularly difficult one. We had a 30km individual time trial early on and then the naked mile. I had my usual crap time for the time trial. I just do not ride well against the clock. I need to see the bum in front. Too bad we didn’t do the naked mile first. Lots of bums. The time trial took us into an early lunch and then we had a short ride, including the naked mile, to Sesriem after lunch. The naked mile was a rather tame affair. All the men went off in a group, or most of us anyway, and then a mile or so from the lunch stop doffed out kit and posed for photos. James Campbell, a professional photographer who is also one of the riders, lined us up in echelon formation and did the bum shot, then on the side of the road for the full frontal – all very tasteful I am sure. We then road off with the breeze in our dangly bits for a while. To give some comfort to my saddle sore I tied my cycling short around my saddle with the chamois side up. Worked well. Out in the middle of nowhere like this very few vehicles pass you, and when they do they are usually going about 130kmh. during our dangly bits on view period about half a dozen cars passed. They all stopped and stared. Word got to Sesriem before we did.  I went into the shop at the camp to buy a coke and the cashier asked me if I had had a nice ride today. ’Yes, thanks.’ ‘And didn’t the hot sun burn your naked skin?’ I could hear the giggles as I walked out the door. Apparently a half hour earlier an older lady had come into the camp and said ‘Close the gates! Close the gates!  There are 20 naked madmen riding bicycles towards us!’ the gates were wide one when we arrived.

The women were very organized. They waited till all the men has passed and then doffed their kit and road off as a group for a while. James was the only man allowed within 20 miles. He was invited to be official court photographer, a task he performed reluctantly, I am sure, but with great integrity.

At the Sussusvlei Lodge that night we had a marvelous dinner. In addition to all the starters and soups and salads, there was a bbq that grilled everything you could get at Carnivore’s in Nairobi. There were a dozen different types of game. I had springbok Kudu and warthog – also a couple of pork chops. It was the typical Tour circus, eight or ten of us going back and then back again. I had two starter courses, three full meat courses, several deserts and cheese – also some good South African wine. And the room was marvelous.


The six over 50 riders who finished EFI (2 of us are over 60)!

over 50 EFIs 3