By Karen Brooks
The League of American Bicyclists hosted a vibrant and vital National Bike Summit earlier this month in Washington, DC. This year’s theme of “Grass Roots Grow Together” was particularly apt—the current bike-friendliness of national government is uncertain at best, but through workshops, speeches, and lots of positive examples, attendees took away the message that the most powerful changes happen on the local level.
I kicked off my Summit experience with a cool Mobile Workshop—a tour of the University of Maryland via bike share. UMD’s College Park campus has been part of the League’s Bicycle Friendly Community program since 2011, and is currently at the Gold level, part of a select group of only 20 universities to earn this status. The tour was a great example of what making space for bikes can do for a university or town: there’s much less pressure for space for parked cars, students can get to class quickly, and connections to transit options are easier. The UMD program includes an on-campus bike shop, staffed by student workers, that offers basic repairs and accessories. There’s also a recreational aspect, with mountain bikes for rent and group rides on local trails. The best part was the bike share system—23 stations offer handy bikes (and easy parking) throughout campus.
Mealtimes were a chance to meet fellow advocates and find out what’s going on across the country while gleaning valuable nuggets of inspiration and wisdom from keynote speakers. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced a new multi-modal report from the Department of Transportation—this may sound boring, but it’s the first time that this DOT has paid much attention to bicycling. Our favorite “bike-partisan” representative, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, reminded us that, of transportation choices, cycling has the highest rate of return for investment. Veronica Davis, founder of Black Women Bike DC, told the audience she was heartened to see kids out riding bike-share bikes around the city.
The most valuable session I attended was the last in my schedule, “Creating Representation of Diversity Through Content Creation.” The presenter, Ayesha McGowan, is on a mission to become the first African-American pro road cyclist in the United States, and to inspire other bike riders along the way. (Check out her site, A Quick Brown Fox, for more info). Ms. McGowan led the audience through exercises and taught via examples in what felt more like a graduate-level class than a presentation, designed to lead us to see different ways that an individual’s story can be told and to think about how best to do so without distorting or tokenizing their experiences. Some of the media examples she provided were downright painful, while others seemed OK on the surface until we began to delve deeper into possible implicit biases of the producers.
There is one notable absence at the National Bike Summit, this year as well as others: the bike industry. Aside from a few loyal supporters and sponsors (shoutout to Advanced Sports International, which always has a presence), there are very few bike companies who take the time to attend the Summit, to their detriment. It’s clear that with mini-revolutions like bike share, and communities cooperating to transform into bike-friendly places, people want to ride. But the typical industry stance is to preach the benefits of the next micro-trend product to an ever-shrinking choir, while largely ignoring the crucial work that goes on to ensure that there are places to use a bike. I challenge more bike companies to send people next year ,and promise you’ll learn a lot.Tweet Print
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!
Advocate Cycles, Revelate Designs and the Baja Divide team are excited to announce Lavanya Pant as the recipient of the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide. Born in India, raised in Australia, and currently living and working in Tokyo as an English teacher, Lavanya has recently discovered and engaged a growing passion for bicycle travel. She is a student of several languages, in addition to her native Hindi, Urdu, and English, and has a dedicated interest in global cultures with a degree in anthropology. But her life wasn’t always focused on pedaling a bike in distant lands as she has only recently regained a passion for riding.
Lavanya first discovered the freedom of the bicycle in her youth, in India. She recalls, “I taught myself to ride on my neighbor’s bicycle in New Delhi when I was 10.” Lavanya relied on a bicycle for basic transportation through some of her school years in Australia. In 2012, her partner Alistair lent her a 3-speed Raleigh 20 and she enjoyed her first overnight ride. Her interest grew from there. She speaks candidly about herself:
The following year, we built a Surly Disc Trucker. I was suddenly so much faster and capable of riding dirt, but still unable to keep up with Al and his friends.
Frustrated but inspired, I started a girls riding group called The Winona Riders. I was surprised at how many women were interested in riding and traveling by bike.
In July 2015, Al and I quit our jobs and bought a one-way ticket to Denmark. We rode dirt and pavement from Copenhagen to Athens. I got a real taste for riding dirt in France, Montenegro and Albania and want to progress to riding desert roads and more technical trails.
Now, I live and work in Tokyo and commute as much as possible and ride into the mountains on weekends.
Another important reason [to apply for this scholarship] is the thrill of feeling supported and rewarded for adventure. Earlier this year I was in India, where some people did not approve of my bike travels. It was seen as irresponsible and rebellious. These attitudes are not surprising but hurtful and discouraging nonetheless. My younger female cousins were most supportive and I feel grateful for them.
A scholarship that supports women in doing what they love and giving them a platform to share those experiences will have a domino effect in inspiring courage and creativity in more women.
To our knowledge, the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide is the first women’s bike travel scholarship ever to be offered.
“The moment I thought of the idea to offer a women’s bike scholarship,” Lael Wilcox says “we wrote to Tim Krueger at Advocate Cycles and Eric Parsons at Revelate Designs with our scholarship proposal. They both responded immediately with their support.”
This scholarship was offered to “a woman of any age who possesses an interest in international travel and global cultures…and is willing to share her ride on the Baja Divide through writing, photography, visual art or music”. Exactly two hundred applications were received from all over the globe.
Lavanya plans to ride the Baja Divide route beginning in early February on an extra-small Advocate Cycles Seldom Seen. The scholarship package also includes a lightweight luggage kit from Revelate Designs including a Ranger framebag, Pika seatbag, Sweetroll and Pocket handlebar system, Gas Tank, and a Feed Bag. Additional support and equipment will be provided by Big Agnes, Specialized Bicycle Components, and the Adventure Cycling Association. The Baja Divide is a 1700 mile off-pavement bikepacking route from San Diego, CA, USA to San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MX. The route was developed by Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox and was published this fall. Learn more at bajadivide.com.
Readers can support this women’s initiative and Lavanya’s ride by donating to a community-supported travel stipend on Generosity.com
All images provided by Lavanya Pant. Follow Lavanya on Intragram at @lavlavish to learn more about her ride on the Baja Divide this spring.Tweet Print