Love at first sight with Genesis Tour de Fer 20
After weeks of eye scratching Internet research, we thought we had found THE bicycle that was going to take us all the way around the world. At that time, in 2017, we were living in Barcelona (Spain), so we travelled 500km to a specialised retailer in Toulouse (France), took them for a test drive and realised that we actually hated them. Luckily Guillaume, the friendliest man ever, had a couple of Genesis in stock and it was love at first ride! Why? Well, let’s see…
Although we are bike travellers, we are also humans, and the first thing that makes you fall in love is undoubtedly looks. Genesis Bikes know this way too well and have been making beautiful two-wheeled machines which scream handsomeness for a few years now. This is, of course, also true of their touring bikes; the Tour de Fer series (hereafter TdF). It does not only have impeccable geometry, but also comes in wicked colours. Again, cyclists, but also humans 😉
Touring bicycles are designed to be comfortable since we tend to spend much more time than the average cyclist on them and for longer periods of time. Some manufacturers sacrifice performance in order to offer a very comfortable ride but Genesis seem to have found an incredibly good working balance. We have been on our TdF 20 since 2018 and not once did we have posture related soreness in limbs, joints or muscles.
Ok. It rides well and it looks swell, supposedly these are personal traits which we could argue over for hours so let’s have a look at some specs;
To start with, the frame is constructed using heat-treated Reynolds 725 steel tubing which are extremely well suited for a bicycle which is made to go around the world. Steel you say? Isn’t that a very archaic material for a bike? Maybe, but it has endless advantages; pretty much anyone can repair a steel frame, it provides better vibration absorption and offers more durability. All of these properties scream longer lasting and more peace of mind when choosing a new travel machine. Also, steel’s stronger structure also allows for smaller tubes (compared to aluminium) and, let’s admit it, steel bikes have a special thing to it 😉
Secondly, this bike also boasts some pretty good wheels; 36 spokes means more resistance and, again, better shock absorption, Sun Ringle Rhyno Lite 36 holes rims are pretty much ideal for a touring bike giving some extra resistance when fully loaded. In over 44,000 kilometres (as per today, November 2022) we’ve only ever broke one spoke (touching wood). All TdF come fitted with Schwalbe Marathon Mondial which is an excellent road touring tire which gave us our first puncture after over 6000km. Eventually though, we changed them and we decided to fit a slightly more off road model, the Marathon GT365, and so far it has amazed us both on wet tarmac/mud and on very loose gravel/sand. Still on the wheels, these come fitted with Promax mechanical disc brakes which are not the best on the market but are easily maintained wherever you are. And, last but not least, to finish this wheels paragraph, our TdF 20 came fitted with a SP PD-8 dynamo which is great for lighting those powerful B&M Lumotec IQ-X lights or used with a dynamo charger to power up your devices as you ride. However, Genesis has since changed the brand of this component and is now installing Shimano Alfine instead.
Another great component is, of course, the drive train. We firmly believe that Shimano Deore is probably one of the best choices for any bike tourer who looks for climbs (instead of avoiding them). We had thought about upgrading to a TdF 30 which comes with Shimano Tiagra but we must admit that we were worried about our knees suffering way too much on those steep hills. Deore is also durable and easy to maintain which, again, is something that should always be on your mind when considering travelling to faraway places. Quick word about the cassette; we travel fully-loaded meaning that our bikes easily weigh 50 kilograms and we have recently installed a 11-42 cassette on our TdFs for our South America tour in order to feel more comfortable on very steep climbs. The downside to this is that we had to use a derailleur hanger extension (technically, our Deore model only accepts up to 40 teeth sprockets), the upside is that, even in the Andes, we feel confident that we can go up pretty much anything.
The last reason why we seriously loved this bicycle from the very first few strokes is the handlebar. We define ourselves as mountain bikers hence we don’t have too much experience with drop bars, but if you’re currently looking for a bike, you will know that this is probably one of the biggest debates when it comes to bike touring. Our only advice on the matter is to go with whatever you find more comfortable and in our case it’s definitely flat bars. The TdF 20 comes fitted with a 12 degrees back sweep flat handlebar which are not just comfortable, they also feel very natural whichever position you’re riding. Another benefit of flar bars is that there is plenty of space left-over for whatever gadgets or accessories you want to stick on there. Genesis fits some very comfortable ergonomic grips which offer two hand positions and are very resistant; it took over 2 years of constant sun, cold, rain and sand before we replaced them with some awesome Ergon GP3.
Apart from these “must haves”, the TdF 20 also comes with a pack of fun little extras, which are always nice, such as a very functional and practical spare spokes holder on the seat stays (life saver), a very nice set of pedals (although we love our SPDs), not one, not two, but three bottle holders, back and front Tubus carriers which are simply the best on the market and the previously mentioned B&M lights which are just out of this world.
A quick update about our carriers; due to the fact that in Patagonia, where we are currently cycling (2022), we’re carrying a lot of gear, we decided to add an extra carrier at the front of the bicycles in order not to overload the back. This was a very easy task partially thanks to the fact that the fork has an extra pair of eyelets at the bottom allowing for a very simple installation.
Donwsides of the Tour de Fer 20
However, nothing is perfect and we have noticed a couple of issues which might give the guys at Genesis something to lose some sleep over. The first is the fact that, although all models come with three bottle holders, it took us a while to find a small enough bottle to fit in Aurelie’s XS sized frame; there is very little space between its allocated space beneath the downtube and the front wheel.
Wheel Clearance and Mud Guards
Another quite important setback is the wheel clearance. After 4 years of wearing 700x35C (Schwalbe) tires, we have recently decided to try fitting 38C and it worked. As a result, it’s safe to assume that it’s possible to fit one size more by removing the mudguards. This, of course, brings us to talk about a very sensitive subject; mud. Similarly to the “flat vs. drop bars” debate, the bike touring world is also divided on whether or not touring bikes should use mud guards due to the fact that, yes, they are a pain in the backside whenever things get muddy. We have had troubles with this element in the past but only in places where it was particularly sticky. It must also be said that on those specific occasions, the mud was so bad that we would have had trouble even if we had been using 29” mountain bikes!
And to pack thing in, just a quick note about the saddle provided. Although it has a nice, leathery feel and looks good, we found it rather uncomfortable after many hours of riding. We quickly changed them for something more apt to bicycle touring. Comically, in the specs they refer to this as the Genesis Comfort.
We have often talked about the importance of simplicity when considering a bicycle which will carry you across the globe. Although we do have some mechanical knowledge, we are certainly no engineers BUT we managed to give our beloved bikes a total overhaul when we finished our first long-distance trip. Being locked inside for 2 months (thanks again Covid!) gave us the time to treat them to a well-deserved SPA and allowed us to check that the frame was still intact and changed some worn out components. Having said this, we’d like to remind everyone that the best way to keep your bike young and to avoid ugly surprises while on the road is regular maintenance; chains must be cleaned and lubed, cables checked, etc
Our overall verdict is that we love our TdF 20. Considering that we bought them back in 2017 when they were a fair bit cheaper, we find them incredibly good value and very close to the ideal touring bike. It must be said though that we have been following Genesis’ progress in the market and have found that they seemed to have increased the prices of its TdFs bicycles and, at the same time, have decreased slightly the quality of some of their components.
Genesis Tour de Fer 20 drives well when loaded but it’s also a good choice for a commuter bike given all the extras and, very importantly, it can be used straight out of the box. Are you looking to undertake your very own bike trip but are unsure on how to go about i? There is a very interesting section of our blog called “Anyone can do it” which will definitely help you to get the wheel turning; LINK