Advocate Cycles Lorax Review: Why fit in?
A review of the Advocate Cycles Lorax, a semi-normal bike in a nontraditional lineup from a very unconventional company.
To preface, for those who haven’t heard of Minnesota based Advocate Cycles, they are not your garden variety bike industry enterprise. Advocate Cycles was created with a mission is to “create innovative bicycles and deliver 100% of profits from the company back to cycling advocacy efforts.” Meaning, their profits help sustain bicycling as a whole. When you buy an Advocate, you get to designate which of five non-profit bike advocacy group(s) your purchase will support. The options are the Adventure Cycling Association, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), People for Bikes, and Bicycles for Humanity. Fifty percent of the profits from your purchase go directly to that organization(s); the other 50% combined go towards covering the taxes on your purchase and funding Advocate Cycles’ own advocacy programs and initiatives, such as lobbying governmental entities for cyclists’ rights and supporting various trail organizations.
Altruism is great and all, but Advocate’s co-founder Tim Krueger admits that he also just really wanted to create bikes that were innovative, well made, and fun to ride. With the launch of their first two models, we got a taste for what they had in mind, and it’s pretty clear that they’re succeeding in their mission. The Hayduke is an amazingly versatile hardtail that can be run as either a 29er or 27.5+, fully rigid or with a suspension fork, single-speed or geared (reviewed here). The Watchman is Advocate’s do-it-all fat bike. With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Advocate was able to secure a spot at Interbike 2015, where they introduced the most recent addition to their tight-knit family… The Lorax.
The Lorax: You Are You
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax
The Lorax does indeed stand out from the other two bikes in Advocate’s lineup. It’s their first somewhat conventional bike… and their only skinny tire rig. Krueger and team aimed to make the Lorax an ”… affordable, steel cross/gravel/do it all bike with modern components and a fun ride.”
Like its siblings, the Lorax was designed with versatility in mind. It’s built around a double-butted Reynolds 525 steel chassis with a long and low geometry. To lighten things up a bit, the Lorax features a carbon fork, which, when combined with a forgiving steel frame, makes for pretty smooth sailing on rough and bumpy roads. The Lorax is spec’d with drop bars, multi-surface tires, and a 2×10 drivetrain which can accommodate all types of riding. For those who really love to feel the burn, the modular dropouts on the Lorax are interchangeable, which allows it to be run as a singlespeed instead. With a relatively upright geometry and plenty of braze-ons, the Lorax makes a great bikepacking or light touring rig as well. Moreover, all of Advocate’s frames come in two variations, steel or titanium. So, depending on the thickness of your wallet, you can either choose the solid, albeit slightly hefty rig or one that’s a little more lightweight… either option is fit for off the beaten path exploration.
In the same aesthetic spirit of the Watchman and Hayduke, the Lorax sports a clean paint job with minimal type and a single splash of intense graphics on the top tube. Advocate consulted Twin Cities’ artist Adam Turman for the illustration, which incorporates Minnesota’s state tree, the Norway Pine, for a local twist on Seuss’ tale of corporate greed and its devastating consequences to our environment. We tested the silver aka “Silver Springs” model, but it’s also available in “Midsummer in Minnesota Green”.
Lorax vs Fargo, Vaya, RLT 9, etc.
With just a quick glance at the Lorax, one might think that it’s a similar species to the Salsa Fargo. Like the Fargo, the Lorax has a noticeably upright stance, yet its angles are aggressive enough to keep it in the realm of fun for mixed terrain riding. However, on paper the Lorax is a bit different than the Fargo. The chainstay and overall wheelbase are significantly shorter and the fork length is over 8cm shorter. As suggested by Adam Blake, Advocate’s General Manager, it’s actually more akin to the Salsa Vaya, a multi-surface light tourer. Both have good tire clearance, are comfortable on pavement and gravel, and have mounts for a rear rack and fenders. What sets the Lorax apart from the Vaya and many other low-priced bikes in this category is the addition of a carbon fork, which was added to lighten the front end and improve ride quality.
On paper the Lorax is surprisingly similar to another gravel bike with a carbon fork, the Niner RLT 9 Steel. Comparing the geometry of the 53cm RLT9 to that of the 54cm Lorax, the overall numbers are nearly identical, although the Lorax still has a more upright gate due to a longer headtube length.
Never Forget to be dexterous and deft: Gravel Grinding
To set things straight from the onset, I’m not a racer. Yes, I like to catch some speed here and there, but what I’m really after is adventure and a fun ride. During the couple of months I’ve spent with the Lorax, we’ve gone on multiple pavement and mixed gravel/dirt day rides, both in the flatlands of eastern NC and in the Appalachian Mountains of NC and VA. The bike felt right at home on both surfaces, and I felt right at home on the bike.
I typically have fit issues with bikes, beyond moving the saddle fore or aft or swapping out a stem. Maybe it’s that my torso is a little longer than it “should” be; maybe it’s that minute difference in the length of my legs (don’t laugh)… who knows? But I was happy to find that the Lorax fit pretty well from the get-go. For a 700c road(ish) bike, it sits rather upright, which I like. Although, with the drop bars, a more aggressive stance can definitely be realized. The long head tube and chainstay are paired with a low bottom bracket, creating lots of stability on unpredictable terrain. On our recent trip to the Shenandoah Mountains, there were several patches of freshly lain thick gravel which threw my balance, but with the well-centered geometry and the bulk of the weight directly beneath me, I was able to hold on and sort of surf through it.
The Lorax comes standard with Innova Pro Flint, 700×38 tires, so that’s what I’ve been riding. In hindsight, I should have gone with a slightly larger and grippier tire, such as the WTB Nano 40. On most surfaces, the Pro Flints should manage just fine, but on rougher, rock strewn terrain, the 38s were a little too delicate. Case in point was a double flat coming down a rocky descent in the Shenandoah.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go… Bikepacking
The Lorax is being marketed as a do-it-all bike. While it most closely fits the mold of a classic gravel-grinder, its geometry also makes it a fun road bike and even a contender for cyclocross. The Lorax is also a solid choice for non-MTB bikepacking and light touring. Its wide wheelbase adds extra stability under heavier loads, and the long chainstay provides good heel clearance. The upright positioning is comfortable for long days in the saddle, and the drop bars provide multiple options for adjusting hand placement.
The Lorax can handle a decent load of gear. Large frame bags can be easily accommodated in the open triangle design. Unfortunately, a large bag obscures two of the frame’s three water bottle mounts. In most instances, that doesn’t pose a huge problem, but if you are totally opposed to wearing a hydration pack, it becomes a bigger concern as Advocate did not include cage mounts on the fork legs. On a recent overnighter, I went with Oveja Negra’s Super Wedgie instead of a full-sized frame bag and was able to carry two water bottles. Despite my relatively short legs, I also had more than enough tire clearance to secure a somewhat overstuffed seat bag. And, while drop bars may limit how wide a handlebar bag can be packed, my stout burrito o’ sleeping bag fit just fine.
There is one relative weakness that I’ve found in the Lorax related to its use as a bikepacking rig, and that’s the Shimano Tiagra 2×10 drivetrain, or more particularly the gearing. The 11-34 cassette paired with the 50/34 chainring combo is great for day rides, but, when bikepacking on steeper terrain, like that on the Slate Springs Overnighter, there just wasn’t quite enough granny in the gearing for me. To better understand why that was the case, I asked my nerdy husband to explain. Here’s what he had to say: with the 38c tires, while in the 34 tooth chainring and the low 34 cog in the cassette the Lorax has a one-to-one granny gear at about 27.5 gear inches. This is a bit higher than the standard 19-24 gear inches for a mountain bike granny gear. This means it could probably do a little better with a lower range MTB cassette and/or a smaller ring in the crankset.
The Lorax comes with a dependable and modern build kit. The drivetrain, as mentioned above, is solid, but could use some lower gearing for loaded travel. Also worth noting are the Avid BB7S brakes, a worthy choice for bigger trips, but maybe not quite comfy enough for weekend attacks — mechanical brakes tend to require a bit more muscle than hydraulic brakes, and having easier to squeeze brakes usually prove a little less punishing on the hands. My only substantial concern with the Lorax build kit is the choice of rims. The Alex CXD DIscs seem generally fine, but tubeless ready they are not. While I am sure they could be converted given the right tape job and a properly paired tubeless ready tire, it’s a little frustrating to see a new bike come out of the box not tubeless ready. To illustrate my point, as mentioned above, I got two pinch-flats at the same time while bikepacking in Virginia.
- Frame: Heat-Treated Reynolds 525 Crmo, Silver Springs, 54cm
- Front Fork: Lorax Full Carbon, Post-mount, QR
- Rims: Alex CXD, disc, 32 hole
- Rear Hub: Formula, 32h, centerlock, 11 spd
- Front Hub: Formula, 32h, centerlock
- Tires: Innova Pro Flint, 700×38 folding
- Brakes: Avid BB7S
- Crankset: Shimano Tiagra 4700, 50/34
- Derailleur (rear): Shimano Tiagra 4700 GS cage
- Derailleur (front): Shimano Tiagra 4700 double
- Shifters: Shimano Tiagra 4700, integrated
- Cassette: Shimano Tiagra 4700, 11-34T
- Chain: KMC 10s
- Handlebar: Premetec Ergo bend, 6061-T6, Velo cork tape
- Stem: Zoom TDS-345
- Headset: Cane Creek 10 series, tapered
- Bottom Bracket: BB86, 86mm, 41mm inside bore
- Seatpost: Zoom SP-218
- Saddle: WTB Rocket Comp
- The interesting geometry coupled with a steel frame and carbon fork works well as a do-all/adventure/gravel bikepacker.
- Buying from Advocate just feels good! And the Lorax name, story and graphics are pretty cool too.
- Modular ‘Portage’ rear dropout system allows geared and singlespeed setups; or 142x12mm hubs as well. (it comes with 135mm QR plates)
- It can fit larger 40-42 mm tires.
- Steel frame, standard 135mm dropouts, 700c wheels, and BB86 makes it a good candidate for overseas adventure.
- It’s a little heavy for a size medium. But with a price tag of $1,800, it’s hard to nitpick. A titanium version will be available soon, and it’s worth considering if weight is a big concern.
- No bottle mounts on the fork. I really don’t understand why all companies haven’t added them at this point.
- The rims and tires aren’t tubeless ready.
- The gearing is OK for very light bikepacking, but it could be a bit better with a larger cassette or a lower geared MTB drivetrain.
- Size Tested 54cm
- Sizes Available 49/52/54/56/58/61cm
- Weight (as tested) 24.61 lbs (11.16 kg)
- Price $1,799
- Contact AdvocateCycles.com
- Recommended Uses All-road riding, gravel, commute
Overall, I really enjoyed my time on the Lorax. It’s a fun bike that’s cleverly designed, well-made, and overall very versatile. For those looking to fit a bike for multiple uses — gravel-grinder, cyclocross, commuter, and bikepacking rig — it really is a do-it-all machine. Yes, I’m a little disappointed in Advocate’s choice of rims. But, for the reasonable price of $1,799.00, it’s worth paying someone to do a good tape conversion. Then, just throw on some TR 40mm WTB Nanos or something similar, and hit the road…knowing that you made a purchase you can feel really good about.
In 2012, only one year after I first started mountain biking, I took my first long distance tour from Mexico to Costa Rica. Since then, Logan and I have taken multiple bikepacking trips, some of which were long distance, like our journey from Cape Town to Tanzania. Other trips, such as the White Rim and the Gila River Ramble were taken on as relatively short, multi-day ventures. Most recently, we found some great people and amazing places on the Trans-Uganda.
Weight: 135 lbs
The bike for this review was provided by Advocate Cycles.
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