Converting a Genesis Croix De Fer into a Touring Bike

7 minute read

Genesis Croix De FerMy Genesis Croix De Fer will be taking me to the other side of the world (much like it did for Vin Cox), so I've had the task of converting it into a suitable touring bike. It's a rugged steel bike and has all the necessary characteristics to be a tourer. However, it wasn't as simple a conversion as I would have liked, mainly due to the disc brake calipers and gearing ratios. Given I couldn't find much on Google from other Croix De Fer owners, I thought I'd document the changes.

Update

While the below article will have a few helpful nuggets of information, I've since improved my Croix De Fer set up even further! It did mean rebuilding a lot of the transmission though (something I did when my original set up became tired).

The Bike

My Genesis Croix De Fer, stock build, 56cm, weighing in at 11.8kg.

Rack

My Croix De Fer in FranceMadison Ridge Disc (460g) - I opted for this rack over the Topeak Super Tourist. Firstly, it's about £10-15 cheaper than the Topeak. If you google around you should be able to find it for £15-20. It's also lighter than the Topeak rack by around 200g weighing in at 460g. It is simple is design, sturdy, and fits my Ortlieb Back Roller Plus panniers very well. The maximum load it can take is 25kg which is well within what I'll be carrying on the rear (usually no more than 13kg). The only thing I don't like about the rack is how wide it sits, meaning my panniers stick and inch or two further out. Not a huge problem, but it makes my bike wider and less aerodynamic.

Fitting the rack was fairly easy. It comes with small tubes that the bolts pass through, and then screw into the frame mounts. I found these to be too long, and had to force the frame wider than it naturally was so that it would fit. Instead I used a hacksaw to take around 8-9mm off each tube. This meant the rack fitted perfectly without needing to force it.

There is the possibility of lowering the rack too. It has holes drilled so you can set the height, but on the lowest setting the rack still sits comfortably above my rear wheel. I've not done it yet, but it would mean drilling an additional two holes on either side of the rack to lower it another 2-4cm. It would lower the weight on the rear of the bike slightly... no idea if it'll make any difference!

I could actually, with a couple of washers, fit the rack without the spacing tubes but it meant squeezing the rack by 32mm (or so). If set perfectly upright, it only makes fractional impact on part of the brake caliper (hence using a couple of spacers to avoid that). However, squeezing it puts a bit too much tension into the rack and won't be good for the weld points. It did make me wonder if I really needed a disc specific rack though. Having said that, for the price and weight it's hard to find a better rack.

I recently contacted Madison, who advised on not squeezing the rack inwards as it'll affect the integrity and also invalidate the warranty. They wouldn't advise me on cutting the tubes so that the rack didn't need to be forced outwards, but did say that cutting them so that the rack sat naturally sounded like a good idea.

Mudguards

Front MudguardSKS Chromoplastics 45mm (530g) - a fairly decent set of mudguards if a little bit fiddly to get on. 45mm is just about perfect for a 35mm or 32mm tire. I'm just hoping that during long tours, and flights they'll be ok. They weigh around 530g so a fair weight to add, but what they add in weight they save in crap getting flung all over you and your bike.

To fit them I did have a few issues. For the rear guard you have to bend one rod ever so slightly on the disc brake caliper side. The Croix De Fer has a second set of mounts (first set are for the rack) for the mudguards. The bolts provided didn't fit, so in the end I used two spare bolts from the Madison Ridge Rack, and used the cut-offs of the tubes for the rack as spacers. The bolts still didn't fit quite right, but they're in now. I just hope I haven't ruined the mounts.

Rear MudguardFor the front guard, you have to bend one of the disc brake caliper rods quite a bit for it to fit. I did this by hand once the guard was fitted. For both mudguards I had to cut around 1cm off the end of each rod so that the mudguards were uniformly flushed to the tires. I also had to bend the brace on the front guard that attaches to the front fork. I bent the top of the brace slightly, so that the brace can sit as high as possible for reasonable clearance from the tire. I didn't have a proper way of attaching the brace, so used the longest bolt supplied, passed it right through the fork, and secured it using a spare nut I found in my toolbox. You should be able to see it in the pictures. There's quite a bit of spare thread. I either place on shortening the bolt (by cutting the end off) or leaving it as is, as I may fit a dynamo light to the front fork.

Cassette

11-28T CassetteShimano Deore HG61 9-speed 11-28T - by default the Croix De Fer comes with a compact chainset 50/34T and a 12-25T cassette. For road use this is great but for touring, fully loaded, I quickly run out of gears. The most expensive solution is to replace the chainset with a triple, but that requires a new chainset and bottom bracket. The second option is a 32T cassette, but this would mean a long cage rear derailleur and longer chain. I opted for a 11-28T cassette (cheapest option as I only need the cassette at around £30) and used some of the smaller cogs from the Croix De Fer's original cassette to make a 12-28T cassette. On the two largest cogs the rear derailleur is fairly tight, and rear mech stretched, but for now I'm happy with it. The additional 3 teeth make quite a difference.

To get the optimum setup I did need to screw the b-tension screw on the rear mech out just about all the way so that the mech could handle the chain being on the biggest front and rear cog.

Saddle

Brooks B17 (+350g) - an investment (they last for years), and far more comfortable saddle than the stock Genesis one. It adds more weight, and costs around £60, but I think it's well worth it as I usually don't need to wear padded shorts when using it. I just need to put in some mileage to get it broken in.

Dynamo

SON28 Dynamo HubA Schmidt SON28 hub (with disc mount) on a set of Rigida Snyper rims (36 spoke for more strength) and a new 6-bolt 160mm rotor. Annoyingly the SON28 has a 6-bolt disc mount instead of the centre-lock mount used by default on the Croix De Fer. So it now means I have two types of disc mount. It's hard to judge but I think the wheel (without tire) adds around 200g over the stock wheel.

I could have gone for a Shimano T665 hub, which does have a centre-lock mount and is cheaper, but it wasn't available anywhere. The SON28 in the long run, should be a better investment.

Tyres

Schwalbe Marathon 32C tires - a steal at £20 each and much smoother than the stock tires. They are a solid choice of touring tire. In retrospect though, I think I should have gone for Marathon Supreme's 28C, at £7 each more. Slightly narrower, and much lighter. The Marathon's are 620g each whereas a 28C Supreme is 310g. That's a saving of 0.6kg over two wheels. The Supreme is a folding tire too, so easy to carry one as a spare.

Final Weight

With all of the above changes my 56cm Croix De Fer weighs in around 13.6kg. It's fairly heavy for a lightweight tourer, I had hoped it would be closer to 12.5kg all in, but for now I'm happy with it. A change of tires and it could be 13.0kg.

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