Words and photos by Katherine Fuller
When I started cycling nearly 20 years ago, there were three options for the aspiring roadie: high-end race bikes, lower-end models based on race bikes and dedicated touring rigs. That was about it. Hope you liked 120 mm stems and an aggressive riding position or heavy steel with a heavy mountain drivetrain.
In many ways, the current diversification of the bicycle strata can seem based on little more than surgically subdividing the activity for company profits subsidized by tattoo-rich Instagram stories. Not so with machines like the Advocate Lorax: a product that successfully represents one branch of road bike evolution that makes total sense.
The Lorax is described as a road, gravel, commuter, cyclocross and light-touring bicycle with a geometry that puts it in league with the Salsa Vaya and Niner RLT (the Lorax price falls between the two).
The Lorax is named after a Dr. Seuss book about environmentalism and its title character who is a protector of trees. The bike’s understated look is punctuated by a graphic depicting the state tree of Minnesota (where Advocate Cycles is based). Local artist Adam Turman was tapped to sketch the Norway Pine, following an artistic trend of the company’s other models.
The Lorax is crafted of Reynolds 525 steel mated to a carbon fork, which offers a remarkably smooth ride (a titanium frame is also available). The bike comes with 135 mm quick-release wheels, but the rear dropouts can be swapped for single speed or 142 mm thru-axles. Included are Alex rims laced to Formula hubs, Avid BB7S mechanical disc brakes with 160 mm rotors, a 2×10 Shimano Tiagra compact road crankset and 11-34 cassette, a WTB Rocket Comp saddle (not pictured), Cane Creek headset and Innova Pro Flint 700x38c tires.
The frame has mounts for three bottle cages, fenders and rear rack. You can run up to a 40 mm tire (35 mm with fenders). Cable routing is external and downtube bosses offer the option to run old-school shifters. Despite not being fancy, everything works pretty well on the bike and the spec’d options help keep its cost down. The frame itself is wholly worthy of being upgraded as you see fit. Hydraulic disc brakes? More carbon? Lighter wheels? If you have the coin, go for it.
Speaking of coin, another factor that sets this bike apart is that Advocate Cycles gives all its profits, after expenses, back to bicycle advocacy. Adventure Cycling Association, PeopleForBikes, Bicycles for Humanity, the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association are all beneficiaries—the buyer chooses which one their purchase will support.
I’m not a racer. I’m not even remotely fast. My rides tend to resemble loitering more than anything else, and yet it still took a while to get used to the upright position of the Lorax. I kept feeling as if I wanted to be more hunched over, a testament to the kinds of road bikes I’ve spent half of my life riding. The short stem mated to a rather tall head tube means you aren’t going to feel super powerful even in the drops. Even so, that riding position contributed to the fact that the Lorax is extremely comfortable.
“Comfort” is sometimes interpreted as a derogatory term when applied to a road bike, but my brain kept returning to that word as the Lorax and I got acquainted. The upright riding position, wide wheelbase, cushy tires and steel-carbon combination meant this bike cruised comfortably over rough roads, dirt two-track and even some trails. The Lorax is a bike I would take almost anywhere and is ideal for anyone who regularly rides over less-than-perfect pavement or who has opportunities to explore gravel roads off the beaten path.
The short, upright stem and 75 mm bottom bracket drop contributed to this bike’s off-paved stability. I usually ride a taller cyclocross bike that can get skittish on the chunk of my preferred neighborhood two-track. The ride of the Lorax was a stark and welcome contrast as it ate that terrain up with much more ease and confidence.
The Lorax is also touted as a light touring bike so I loaded it up with frame bags filled with everything I’d need for an overnight campout and headed for the Colorado foothills. The 11-34 cassette and 50/34 crankset provides a 1:1 granny gear ratio. On the steepest climbs, that gearing still didn’t feel quite low enough when riding fully loaded, but is a practical build for an all-around bike. (It also probably means I need to hit the gym this winter.) Notably, the Shimano Tiagra build kit is very, very good—both shifting and looking.
The bike’s front end, normally nice and light with its carbon fork, felt a little sluggish with all the added weight. Still, the Lorax trucked along with stability as I heaved myself up and over steep dirt roads. On the descent back down the canyon, I let it run fast and loose and felt completely trusting—again thanks to the bike’s stability. Other than my legs running out of options on some climbs, I would be perfectly happy with the Lorax serving as “the one” if my regular cycling life included a mix of commuting, road riding, gravel grinding and short, overnight trips.
Worth noting is that Advocate recently announced a new model, the Sand Country, with a 3×9 mountain drivetrain and a steel fork sporting bottle mounts. If you want a bike more dedicated to touring, you might want to wait to check that one out. If you want a bike more dedicated to just riding, exploring and adapting to your ever-evolving cycling preferences, the Lorax is highly worthy of your attention.
Tester:Katherine Fuller, 5’4”, 120 lbs., Inseam 31”
Weight: 24.5 lbs.
Sizes: 49, 52 (tested), 54, 56, 58, 61 cm
This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #43. Check out more bike reviews on our website here and subscribe to our email newsletter to get content like this delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!