by Nick Legan
A disclaimer: I love Advocate Cycles. What its founder Tim Krueger has done is something entirely new in the cycling world. Thanks to progressive legislation in Minnesota, it is possible in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and 29 other states) to create a “benefit corporation.” This means that Advocate forwards 100 percent of its profits to bicycle advocacy. Half of that profit can be donated to outside nonprofit groups, such as the Adventure Cycling Association, International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), and People for Bikes, and 1% for the Planet. The other half is taxed, with the remaining profits going to the company’s own advocacy efforts.
So while I’ve always maintained that cycling can help solve many of the world’s problems, Advocate Cycles is doing just that in a very direct way. The company produces a fat bike, the Watchman, and a 27.5+ mountain bike, the Hayduke (I’m also a sucker for Edward Abbey). The company showed off two of its newest bikes at the Montana Bicycle Celebration, the Seldom Seen and Sand County, both designed with touring cyclists in mind. Stay tuned for more on them.
For now we present the Lorax, Advocate Cycles’ road and gravel bike. Essentially a versatile dropbar bike ready for commuting, weekend centuries, or gravel racing, it rides well and comes in a very affordable package. It can also serve duty for light touring, thanks to its low gear, disc brakes, and rear rack mounts.
The Reynolds 525 steel frame offers a comfortable ride, but it’s stiff enough to feel efficient without being a noodle under power. The oversized head tube and full carbon fiber fork keep steering precise while large 38mm tires take the edge off the inconsistencies on any road. To describe the Lorax as buttery is a bit too far, but it is a very comfortable bike no matter the road surface.
The Lorax geometry prioritizes stability over maneuverability, but that’s something I enjoy. With a bottom bracket drop of 75mm, it’s low compared to other models on the market, a full centimeter lower than Niner’s RLT. Although it requires a bit more finesse to navigate tight situations, the Lorax is wonderfully at home at high speeds on gravel or pavement. That said, I also took the it on a few singletrack sections and never felt like the bottom bracket was too low for exploration fun.
Much like the Dr. Seuss character, the Lorax is a great way to commune with nature. With 40mm of clearance, it’s easy to mount tires that will allow you to venture onto trails. The stock tires roll well on the road and manage gravel fine if ridden with care, but a knobby option would work well on the Lorax.
Despite somewhat heavy wheels, the parts selected for the Lorax are a killer package. Shimano’s Tiagra recently received a sweeping makeover with its shifters now borrowing their ergonomics from more expensive Shimano groups. The front derailer is now of the long-arm variety, making shifts easier at the lever, and the crank is an asymmetric four-arm job, again like its higher-end brethren.
Perhaps most important, the 10-speed group also offers a 1:1 gear ratio, thanks to the 34T small cog and 11–34T cassette. While it’s not as low as a touring bike, the Lorax’s gearing is great for adventurous, mixed-surface riding. I never found the gear steps to be too large either. If a rider did need more range, it would be easy to install a 36T cassette with the addition of a Lindarets Roadlink.
Stopping duties are handled by Avid’s excellent BB7S mechanical disc brakes, the longtime gold standard of easy-to-use disc stoppers. Much has been said on these brakes, and all of it is good.
The handlebar, stem, and seatpost are fairly generic but entirely serviceable. The WTB Rocket saddle will work for many, but, like most stock saddles, it acts as a placeholder for the rider’s preferred perch.
The wheels are also budget affairs, but they are nothing if not strong. With a semi-aero–depth aluminum rim from Alex laced with 32 spokes to Formula hubs, the wheels are built with reliability in mind. For some they may be overkill, but heavier riders will appreciate the extra strength. Those seeking to liven up the Lorax’s ride should consider a second set of wheels, perhaps with a shallow-section, tubeless-compatible rim.
The Innova Pro Flint tires are a nice choice for the Lorax. With folding beads and a mildly grooved tread, they roll like a large road tire but handle dirt lanes easily. While I’m a big fan of tubeless tires, I never experienced a puncture on the tubed Innova tires. As I mentioned earlier, the Lorax has great tire clearance with room for 40mm tires, or 35mm tires with fenders. With all that on offer, I would be hesitant to ever suggest going narrower. Wider tires offer a surefootedness and comfort that is hard to beat. If you’ll be predominantly on dirt and gravel, I would recommend a tire with more tread to it though. WTB’s Nano 40mm or Clement’s MSO 40mm tires both come to mind. They would transform the Lorax into a gravel and mild singletrack monster. If you’re sticking to tarmac, consider a pair of Compass Cycle’s 38mm Barlow Pass tires.
The Lorax has both front and rear fender mounts, making it a great commuter for those in wet climates, and a set of rear rack mounts allows for light touring. The fork has no provision for a front rack, but considering the geometry and gearing on the Lorax, this isn’t a failing. The Advocate isn’t designed as a touring bike. To use it as such would be unfair to its designers.
But as a road and dirt-road bikepacking bike, the Lorax would excel. By keeping the load light, the gearing would likely be adequate. Credit-card touring cyclists could certainly carry essentials for a weeklong tour, especially if they planned to stay at hotels along the way.
Advocate certainly had travelers as well as gravel racers in mind when it put three water-bottle cage mounts on the Lorax. It’s a small thing, but something that is so inexpensive to add to a bike that we can’t really see an argument for not including them on any bike that uses “adventure” as part of its marketing. Even if you decide not to carry three bottles, the extra mount creates a handy place to carry spares in an extremely low position, keeping the handling stable.
The Lorax uses a modular rear dropout that enables Advocate to offer a swinging dropout for tensioning a singlespeed drivetrain. It could also conceivably enable Advocate to offer a thru-axle version if it decided to in the future.
The bottom bracket on the Lorax is a BB86 press fit. We aren’t the biggest fans of press-fit bottom brackets, but the Shimano unit installed on the Lorax never creaked during our time on the bike. In a perfect world, the bottom bracket would be threaded, but this is a bit more expensive for manufacturers and can also mean that longer chainstays are required to achieve a given tire clearance. As it is, the Lorax rode beautifully so there’s no need to dwell upon this small detail.
Sold as a complete bike for $1,799, the Lorax offers far more value for the dollar than many other bikes in this category. There are a few things that could be upgraded as items wear out, but as it sits the Lorax is a fantastic bike ready for road cycling, light touring, gravel riding, and even cyclocross racing (with a change of tires). With a change of wheels, the Lorax could be quickly transformed into a road rocket. But even in its stock configuration, the Lorax is more than capable of taking you to new places, whether physical or philosophical.
Although it’s hard to top a new bike, Advocate Cycles offers an additional sense of satisfaction thanks to its business model — advocacy and cycling go hand in hand. As we ride, we discover both the beauties and the blemishes of the planet. It is then natural to want to correct some of the mistakes and oversights that we humans have made. Whether we encounter wilderness, a need for urban planning, poverty, or some other social or environmental injustice, cycling empowers us to take steps. Advocate Cycles has created a way for cyclists to feel good about their consumption of cycling goods. Bravo to them!
Nick Legan is Adventure Cyclist’s technical editor; you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sizes available: 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 61cm
Size tested: 56cm
Weight: 22 lbs. (without pedals)
1. Seat tube: 530mm (center to top)
2. Top tube: 565mm (effective)
3. Head tube angle: 72°
4. Seat tube angle: 73°
5. Chainstays: 440mm
6. Bottom bracket drop: 75mm
7. Crank spindle height above ground: 280mm
8. Fork offset: 50mm
9. Wheelbase: 1038mm
10. Standover height: 810mm
11. Frame: Lorax Reynolds 525 heat-treated, double-butted chromoly
12. Fork: Lorax full carbon, post-mount disc, QR 9mm
13. Rims: Alex CXD disc
14. Hubs: Formula, Centerlock, 32h, QR 9mm front and rear
15. Tires: Innova Pro Flint 700c x 38mm, folding bead
16. Bottom bracket: Shimano press fit
17. Crankset: Shimano Tiagra, 172.5mm, 50/34T
18. Cassette: Shimano Tiagra 11–34T 10spd
19. Brake levers: Shimano Tiagra ST-4700
20. Shift levers: Shimano Tiagra ST-4700
21. Brake calipers: Avid BB7S mechanical disc brake
22. Front Derailer: Shimano Tiagra 4700
23. Rear Derailer: Shimano Tiagra 4700 GS cage
24. Seat post: Zoom SP-218
25. Stem: Zoom TDS-345
26. Handlebar: Premetec Ergo bend Alloy, 440mm
27. Headset: Cane Creek 10 series, tapered
28. Saddle: WTB Rocket Comp
Gearing in inches
11 84.4 124.2
13 71.5 105.1
15 61.9 91.9
17 54.6 80.4
19 48.9 71.9
21 44.2 65.0
23 40.4 59.4
26 35.7 52.5
30 31.0 45.5
34 27.3 40.2