As you might guess from the name, the Croix de Fer Ti is the titanium edition sitting at the top of Genesis' do-a-bit-of-everything range. It delivers a smooth and comfortable ride on many terrains, and with smooth, neat welds it looks the business too. However, its narrow tyre clearance and limited load carrying mean that it isn't quite as hardcore as some other adventure bikes out there for similar money.
- Pros: Comfortable ride regardless of surface; GRX groupset gives a sensible range of gears
- Cons: Maximum tyre clearance of 38mm; could do with lighter wheels
On the road the Croix de Fer (CdF) is easy to ride. The relaxed geometry gives neutral handling and it feels very stable too, making it perfect for a bit of audax, light touring or as a commuter. The comfort from the titanium frame is brilliant too, all of which makes for a great bike if you just want to focus on the scenery and tap out the miles.
This might make the CdF Ti sound a bit boring, but it certainly isn't. Find a fast stretch of road and you can keep this thing moving at a decent lick, or point it at a downhill and it'll carve a smooth line through the bends, especially if you swap out to some grippy slick tyres.
With a 71.5-degree head angle and 50mm fork offset the steering is less precise and slower than a race bike, but there is plenty of feedback from the tyres through the frame and fork so you already know that and can react accordingly.
Not that you're exactly going to be ragging this thing around trying to achieve PBs left, right and centre; its handling works much more in favour for those long rides on unknown roads, when tired or in crappy weather conditions.
I found my riding position on the CdF to be a good balance of aero and upright enough to take the strain off my lower back; coupling that with the easy handling, I could spend hours on it without having to move around a lot. Climbing felt comfortable in the saddle and I could use the lower gears of the Shimano GRX groupset to sit there and tap out the metres of ascent, especially as the CdF isn't exactly the lightest at 9.73kg.
Getting out of the saddle showed a decent amount of stiffness, and the CdF is pretty responsive when you push it hard. On steep climbs I could wrestle up to the peak without any major feelings of flex through the bottom bracket shell.
Even with this easy-to-live-with handling, taking the Genesis off-road gives you a slightly more exciting ride when the ground starts moving around beneath you. I spent a lot of the time on the gravel tracks with the CdF and it was a pleasurable place to be. The feedback I mentioned on the road is just the same off it, even with the extra vibration and ride noise coming through. If the tyres slip, you know about it and can shift your weight accordingly.
On one of my routes you can join a couple of gravel tracks by heading though the woods for about two miles of mud and chalk singletrack. It's fun, not massively technical but does have plenty of ruts and tree roots running across it to wipe you out. It was pretty wet and sticky at the time of testing, and the WTB semi-slick tyres weren't exactly perfect, but the CdF showed how that feedback from the frameset still works here.
The CdF Ti doesn't necessarily excel at any given thing, but that's not doing it a disservice – it is simply very good at getting on with the job. If you want loads of excitement on or off-road there are better options, but the Genesis offers a good ride on or off-road without much in the way of sacrifice. Riding a route where you are spending large chunks on differing terrains is where the CdF delivers, and you can cover a lot of miles in comfort.
Frame and fork
Titanium is the ideal material for a bike like the CdF. The 3Al/2.5V (3% aluminium/2.5% vanadium) grade is stiff, reasonably light, offers a comfortable ride if the tubes have been selected and created correctly, and, more importantly, will take a whack or two. That's perfect for a bike that could possibly see a bit of abuse away from the road.
Genesis describes the tubing as double-butted, which means it has two different wall thicknesses – thicker at the ends where tubes are welded together and need extra stiffness to resist forces, thinner in the middle to allow for a bit of flex to promote comfort.
I like the look of the frame overall. The tubing profiles look pretty traditional, with no massive oversizing except for the tapered head tube, and the brushed finish will remain looking good for many years to come.
Internal cable routing might make things a look a little cleaner but it can be a faff to achieve on thin-walled metal tubes, and also this is a bike to be ridden out in the wilderness; having everything exposed makes for easier maintenance and replacement.
The frame does work with electronic groupsets and does have internal routing for the wires entering on the top of the down tube and reappearing near the mechs. The only downside to the electronic option is that you'll end up with two redundant cable guides on the head tube.
With no paint to cover it up, the welding on a titanium frame needs to be top notch and I'm impressed with how clean the CdF looks throughout. It really does look like a quality frameset, which goes a long way to justify the £2,299.99 price for that option.
Even around the smaller bosses, like those for the three bottle cage mounts, the flat mount for the rear calliper, and the mudguard and rack mounts – all are attached neatly.
The bottom bracket shell is designed to be used with BSA threaded bearing cups, which is perfect on a bike that is likely to be used in all sorts of weather compared to press-fit if the tolerances between frame and bearing cups aren't perfect, allowing in water and grit, plus it is easy to replace with simple tools.
Unlike the steel models in the range that get a steel fork to match, the CdF Ti has a full carbon fibre offering which sheds a fair amount of weight. It has internal routing for the brake hose, which stops it getting snagged on foliage and the like, plus there are mounts inside the legs for fitting a mudguard.
Unlike a lot of modern gravel bikes, tyre clearance isn't massive on either the frame or fork, with just 38mm being available; over 45mm is pretty much the standard these days.
For the type of riding the CdF is designed for, though, I don't think that width is overly restrictive. I found it fine riding around on hard packed gravel, canal paths and byways, and if you use it as a winter commuter or tourer you're still going to be able to fit 30mm slicks in there with full mudguards.
Both frame and fork use 12mm thru-axles for wheel retention, making it compatible with most disc brake wheels on the market straight out of the box.
For 2019 the CdF Ti came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset, but for this 2020 model Shimano's release of its new gravel-specific GRX groupset suits the riding style of the Genesis much better.
GRX comes in three levels and the CdF Ti has the top-end 810, which is equivalent to Ultegra. We tested the GRX 600 setup here, if you want the basics.
It's a really good groupset. The shifting is spot on, even when the chain and cogs are covered in mud and grit, and the brakes are awesome just like Shimano's road offerings, giving plenty of power and modulation, especially in the 160mm rotor diameter option that Genesis has gone for.
I did get quite a bit of noise to start with from the pads and discs, but they quickly quietened down once they were bedded in on a wet and muddy ride.
The main difference, though, is the gearing, most notably the chainrings. In Shimano's road line-up the compact chainset has 50/34-tooth rings, but GRX goes lower with the 48/31t fitted here.
Pair that with the 11-34t 11-speed cassette and you get a decent spread of gears that I certainly found worked on all the terrain I encountered. Climbing up a steep gravel climb that goes on for about half a mile, with the bottom half nudging 20 per cent, is often a bit of a ballbreaker on other 2x groupsets, but I found it noticeably easier on the Genesis.
The GRX rear mech also has a clutch mechanism so it doesn't matter how fast you are going on the gravel, your chain will be near-silent as there is no slapping about on the rough stuff.
Genesis provides the finishing kit, and it's functional rather than exciting. To be honest, if I was spending nearly four grand on a bike I'd like a bit of branding.
The handlebar is 420mm wide on this medium model, and its compact design means you'll use the drops just as much as you do the hoods or tops. It also has a 12-degree flare from the top to the bottom. If you haven't ridden a flared bar on the gravel, you really need to – the extra width when in the drops adds more stability in the corners on a loose surface, and it works on the road too. I've been using a flared bar, the Easton EA70 AX, on my winter/wet weather bike for months now and it gives more confidence when the road surface is wet and greasy.
The stem and seatpost are both alloy too, and... that's pretty much all there is to say about them, to be honest.
The Genesis Road Comfort saddle is a nice shape and I really didn't notice it, which is a good thing. Its slim profile is unobtrusive, though it still has a decent amount of padding to take the sting out of the rough stuff.
Wheels and tyres
Wheel-wise, the Genesis is wearing a set of Jalco SR240D rims paired to 32-hole Formula hubs. They are strong, if a bit weighty, but I'd definitely expect something better on a bike of this price.
I never had an issue with them throughout testing, in terms of reliability and build quality, but swapping them out for the Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc X-Wide wheels I was also testing made quite a difference to how the Genesis responded to acceleration and climbing. At £329 it's not exactly an expensive wheelset either.
The tyres are WTB Riddlers and at 37mm come in just under the maximum width recommended by Genesis. With a knobbled shoulder and smoother centre section they are a decent balance between road and off-road use.
They are pretty useless on mud in the wet, but for dry stuff and gravel they work fine, and grip on the road is okay as long as you don't bank the bike over too far. Tyres are a consumable, though, so you can easily change them for something more suitable for the type of riding you do.
Titanium might be one of the most abundant metals on Earth but it is difficult to work with, which is why the price of a decent quality frame often looks to be on the high side.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Croix de Fer Ti is available as a frameset for £2,229.99 which puts it pretty close to the Kinesis ATR. The new V3 design at £2,200 offers more load-carrying capabilities thanks to a new fork and it'll take wider tyres too at 45mm in 700C size, so has the edge on the CdF if bikepacking is your thing.
Another contender is the Ribble CGR Ti. Our sister site off.road.cc recently tested the alloy version and was very impressed. The titanium model is available as a frameset for £1,799 or you can have the GRX 600 build (a step down from the 810 on the CdF) for just £2,299, which is a cracking price. It has clearance for up to 45mm tyres too, or 42mm with mudguards.
We haven't ridden it, though, so can't comment on the ride quality.
Overall, the Croix de Fer Ti is ideal if you like to spend a lot of time dipping in and out of differing terrains. It offers a comfortable and stable ride on and off-road, and its standard build means it's capable on either, though there are some cheaper alternatives out there.
Quality frameset that covers the miles quickly whether on or off-road, and looks the business too
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Genesis Croix de Fer Ti
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME: 3AL-2.5V DOUBLE-BUTTED TITANIUM
FORK: GENESIS CARBON CX
CHAINSET: SHIMANO GRX
BOTTOM BRACKET: SHIMANO
SHIFTERS: SHIMANO GRX
REAR DERAILLEUR: SHIMANO GRX
FRONT DERAILLEUR: SHIMANO GRX FD-810
CASSETTE: SHIMANO CS-HG800-11
CHAIN: KMC X11
BRAKES: SHIMANO BR-R810 HYDRAULIC BRAKES
BRAKE LEVERS: SHIMANO GRX ST-R810
SPOKES: STAINLESS STEEL 14G
TYRES: WTB RIDDLER
HANDLEBAR: GENESIS ADVENTURE
HEADSET: GENESIS INTERGRATED TAPERED 1 1/8" - 1 1/5"
SEAT POST: GENESIS ALLOY / 27.2X350MM
SADDLE: GENESIS ROAD COMFORT
GRIP TAPE: VELO BLACK CORK W/ VEXGEL
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Genesis says, "Our original go anywhere bike. Imagined in 2009 with adventures in mind ever since, the Croix de Fer is that annoying but endearing friend who can naturally turn their hand to anything and yet remains modest throughout. Equally happy commuting in the city one year, before turning into a supertourer the next, the Croix de Fer has always been in it for the long haul and is ready for whatever, whenever you are.
"Shimano's all-new GRX groupset gives you more gearing and terrain options to go further, faster than ever before. Tube profiles are carefully selected and designed to give the new double-butted titanium platform a stiff and efficient pedalling platform, retaining the same connected feel and 'in-saddle' comfort for which the steel CdF is famed. The fully oval Ø28.6/35mm toptube and cleverly swaged seat tube are all engineered to deliver high levels of comfort. The large diameter Ø44mm oval-rounded trapezoid downtube, beefy S-Bend mountain bike-derived chainstays, tapered Ø56-46mm headtube and Ø34.9mm lower seat tube OD help ensure direct and efficient power transfer and pinpoint sharp handling. You'll also find we've kept the mudguard eyelets, rear rack mounts and generous tyre clearances that help enable it to take on many different incarnations. The one bike to rule them all?!"
It is a very capable and comfortable bike that delivers on versatility.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Ti sits at the top of the Croix de Fer lineup, with various steel models below it: the CdF 30 (£1,999), 20/20 ALT (£1,349) and the 10 at £1,099. Flat bar models are also available. It's also available as a frameset for £2,299.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame is neatly welded and finished to a high level throughout. The fork is also quality and the shape of the legs suits the tube diameters of the frame nicely.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses 3Al/2.5%V grade titanium alloy which is then paired with a full carbon fibre fork including the tapered steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is pretty typical for this kind of bike with a slack head angle and a long wheelbase/chainstays for stability and balanced steering off-road.
Full geo details can be found on Genesis' website, linked above the review.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
On our 54cm test model the stack is 591mm and the reach is 385mm – pretty much what I'd expect for a bike of this size and its intended riding style.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. The CdF has that typical titanium feel to it where it seems to cancel out some of the high frequency road buzz. Running the wide tyres at lower pressures also helps too.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is decent enough throughout. Climbing hard out of the saddle didn't show up any issues.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is good but would feel even better with lighter wheels.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling suits the bike. On the road it is easy to live with and nicely balanced, while off-road it feels a little more lively. There is plenty of feedback, which gives you a good idea of what the tyres are up to at all times.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Genesis saddle has a good balance of padding and the shape is easy to live with. The bar tape is well padded too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The GRX chainset offers the usual high levels of stiffness expected from Shimano, and the wheels are stiff as well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The lower gearing of the GRX over road groupsets makes for easier spinning and efficiency on rolling, rough terrain.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The top-end Shimano GRX groupset is very good indeed, offering crisp gear changes, excellent braking and comfortable ergonomics.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The wheels are a bit weighty if you are going to spend a lot of time on the road wanting to travel at speed, but they are robust enough to deal with the abuse from off-road trails. A second set of wheels for road use would make a big difference.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Decent enough all-rounders for mixing terrains but don't really excel anywhere. Something like the Schwalbe G-Ones would be a good upgrade.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's a basic collection for the money, but it all works. I especially like the flared handlebar which works well on the road and on gravel.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Kinesis ATR V3 is a similar type of frameset although it accepts bigger tyres and has more mounting options. As a frameset it is £100 cheaper than the CdF Ti.
Ribble offers its CGR in titanium as a frameset for £1,799 and a build price with GRX 600 for £2,299, the same as the CdF's frameset.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Croix de Fer is well made and offers a comfortable and reasonably fun ride on most terrain. There are cheaper options out there, though, and it is a little bit behind the trend when it comes to tyre clearance and frame mounts.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!