In 2010, British cyclist Vin Cox set a new record for circumnavigation of the globe, taking 163 days to ride over 18,000 miles. Some were less surprised that he smashed the previous record than by the fact he did so on the Croix de Fer, a two-wheeled, mid-price do-all from the rather workaday UK brand Genesis.
That feather in its cap, the Croix de Fer is now marketed as an “adventure road bike”. It was only right, therefore, that I took the latest model on a little adventure of my own. With just a weekend rather than 163 days to spare, I went to Hebden Bridge – West Yorkshire’s answer to Portland, Oregon, an alternative universe famous for having a cafe for dogs and being the lesbian capital of the UK.
I’d joined a cyclocross ride run by Rapha, which despite charging £160 for a pair of the best cycling shorts your crotch will ever have the pleasure of touching, runs free, guided rides near its shops.
Nestled in a Calderdale valley, there is only one way out of Hebden – up. Every escape route is brutal, especially the one to Heptonstall, where Sylvia Plath is buried. We went off-road, which was even harder.
Happily, the bike mostly performed superbly, even if I didn’t. I was glad of thesuper-reactive disc brakes. Once we’d let half the air out of the knobbly tyres, I got decent traction – even when riding through drifting snow. I had a few minor gripes. At over 11kg it was too heavy for me to sling over my shoulder and carry far – a necessary evil during cross rides. And the unyielding (man’s) saddle did not get on with my bottom. It also has a very long top tube, which, coupled with a longish stem, meant even the smallest, 50cm frame was a stretch for 5ft 4in me.
Of course, the whole point of cyclocross bikes is that you can ride them fast both on- and off-road. I’d like to have taken the Genesis up the Croix de Fer itself. Instead, I went for a 60-mile spin in the lanes of Cheshire with my cycling club. I was able to keep a respectable pace, breezily riding through the winter debris everyone else had to swerve. It was good on my pothole-ridden commute in Manchester, too, the steel frame greedily sucking up the road buzz and protecting my wrists.
Rather like your most annoying school friend – good-looking, good at sport andscience – the Croix de Fer really can do it all. And I have to admit there’s nothing annoying about that.