The technical specs for the $1,299 Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 cut right to the chase: “Best use: bike touring.”
Truer words, etc. Some bikes in this price range suffer from marketing-induced multiple-personality disorder. “I’m a road bike! No, a gravel bike! A commuter? Cross-country tourer? Just buy me, for the love of God! I’ll do anything, I swear!”
Not the ADV 1.1. It knows its capabilities and limitations. It will perform specific functions and balk at others. It may be represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The ADV 1.1 will probably not be your only bike. You will not take it out on Sundays for the proverbial “fast club ride.” If you steer it onto a gravel road, it will not be from sheer whimsy but because you’re shortening Day 9 of a self-supported, fully loaded tour or skirting a ragged-edge ribbon of high-speed highway where the only flat bits are the roadkill.
If it is your only bike, your daily driver — to work, to the grocery, to the gym — it’s probably because you’re training for the glorious day when you leave all that behind and, like the bear, go over the mountain, to see what you can see.
The first thing you’ll see is a sturdy steel frameset rigged for loaded travel, with racks front and rear, disc brakes, and a triple-chainring 10-speed Shimano Deore LX-Microshift drivetrain with a granny gear of 26x34 (20.9 gear inches).
You’ll love your granny, too, especially if by “you” we mean “me,” because a large ADV 1.1 weighs nearly 35 lbs. without pedals, water bottles, or an emergency packet of Purina Bear Chow.
Before you shudder and flee to the Swiss Army Bike Shop, I should note that this figure includes those racks; a handsome, matte-blue 4130-chromoly frame with pump peg, kickstand plate, and spoke holders (plus two spokes); a fork suitable for a dynamo upgrade; the customary bottle and fender mounts; and a pair of double-wall, tubeless-compatible WTB rims with 700c x 38mm Schwalbe Marathon GreenGuards bolstered by thorn-resistant tubes filled with sealant (at my request).
Repeat after me: “Best use: bike touring.”
The ADV 1.1 reminds me of the Novara Mazama (reviewed April 2015), and both bikes share DNA with the venerable Novara Randonee (reviewed February 2012). Maybe REI should have called this latest iteration the Déjà Vu.
For our initial get-reacquainted sessions in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, I gave the ADV 1.1 Shimano PD-A520 touring pedals, two Blackburn bottle cages, Cateye Velo 8 computer, Cygolite Dash and Hotrod running lights, Mirrycle Incredibell, and an Inertia Designs wedge with tools and tubes.
That brought the beast up to 37 pounds. I was tempted to add a two-legged kickstand because why not? I wouldn’t enjoy military pressing the ADV 1.1 onto and off of my Subaru’s rooftop rack, but it’s not designed to be up there. It’s transportation, not cargo. You’re supposed to ride it.
And it rides quite well. Steel remains real, the plush saddle and gel-taped handlebar have the guts to go hand to hand with the Infrastructure of the Living Deadbeats, and those tires aren’t going flat anytime soon. Not with thorn-resistant, sealant-filled tubes, they’re not.
There are a few price-point items. The crank is a generic Shimano FC-M543 (oh, for the Randonee’s Deore LX with its 42/32/22 chainrings). The Co-op brand adorns the stem, seatpost, and bar. The unmarked headset is from FPD, and the bar-cons from Microshift.
But the derailers are Deore LX. The hubs are Deore. And the brakes are TRP HY/RD discs, a mechanical-hydraulic hybrid with reservoirs at the calipers instead of the levers.
The cable-actuated TRP Spyre was deemed good enough for the ADV 3.1, a 650b “adventure touring” model. But Courtney Gearhart of REI public affairs said Co-op wanted its loaded road tourer to have a brake with the power and modulation of hydraulics but the easy upkeep and durability of cable actuation.
Is the HY/RD the best of both disc brake worlds? As a savagely incompetent mechanic and retrogrouch hoarding rim brakes against the Hydrocalypse, I’m the wrong person to ask.
But James Huang pronounced himself impressed in a 2013 review for BikeRadar. And Red Kite Prayer’s Patrick Brady, no fan of cable-actuated discs, tried a set in 2016 and spoke highly of their power and control.
Strapping on my usual bare-bones bike overnight rig — Arkel TailRider rack trunk and Dry-Lite panniers with a dozen pounds of spares, tools, electronics, and streetwear — felt silly, like using seven-league boots to stroll to the mailbox.
Next time I upped the ante, hanging 10 pounds up front in Arkel B-26 bags, stuff I’d like to have on a longer credit-card tour. Easy peasy. I had to shift into the granny once on a mile-long climb with a steep kicker in the middle, but I was fine otherwise, even when a dust devil dope-slapped me rounding a corner.
The pièce de rolling résistance was nearly 40 pounds of what I always think is a fairly spartan self-contained load until I try pushing it around outside the office. Four Ortlieb panniers, a Jandd bar bag, that Inertia Designs wedge, and my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 lashed to the rear rack.
I spent more time spinning that granny and challenging those brakes, but the ADV 1.1 soaked up the extra weight the way our Chihuahuan Desert landscape does the all-too-infrequent rain.
And there’s an upside on the downside — descending feels like riding an escalator in an armchair.
Its closest rival for your purchasing power may be the similarly priced Fuji Touring Disc (reviewed March 2018). The Fuji has a slightly lower granny (19.7 gear inches), comes in seven sizes to the ADV’s five, provides two bosses per fork blade for carrying additional bottles or gear, and stops via cable-actuated Spyres. Only the one rack, though, the rear, and I think Co-op has the Fuji beat on looks if that matters to you.
All in all, the ADV 1.1 feels like a modern version of that $1,200 Novara Randonee that Pelkey reviewed back in 2012. He liked it so much that he bought it, then passed it down to his son.
Six years later, here’s the Randonee’s offspring, with all its newfangled notions. But it’s still steel, still a steal, and would make a prized family heirloom.
Best use? Bike touring. Follow that bear.
This review originally appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Then put on your reading helmet.