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 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 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 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.
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.
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.