What is it
If you’re a frequent REI shopper, you’re familiar with Novara, the company’s in-house line of bikes and accessories. Recently, the outdoor retailer chose to sunset that brand in favor of Co-op Bikes, a new brand identity that puts the focus on adventure.
On the road side, they’ve introduced the ARD line. It’s an endurance oriented bike that’s designed for asphalt but can tackle dirt as well. Prices start at $849 for an aluminum frame with a carbon fork and lower end Shimano drivetrain.
At the top of the range is the ARD 1.4, which sells for $2299. For that money, you get a carbon frame and fork, full Shimano 105 drivetrain, and an American Classic alloy wheelset. The rest of the build is finished with Co-op branded components.
- Relatively affordable
- Carbon frame and fork
- High end alloy wheelset
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Comes with 28mm tires
- Clearance for up to 35mm tires
- Price includes one free tune-up
- No rack compatibility
- Internally routed brake housing
With a price tag of $2299, the ARD 1.4 isn’t cheap. At this price point, you should expect a full carbon frame and fork, either Shimano 105 or SRAM Apex, and house brand components. The new Co-op offering is spec’d in line with competitors. The big difference is the wheelset.
While brands at this price point tend to spec heavy wheels and cheap tires to minimize costs, the ARD 1.4 comes with a quality American Classic wheelset (which sells separately for $849). These wheels are wrapped in large volume, fast rolling tires from Clement. When ridden back to back with other bikes in this category, we found that the combination provided better acceleration and ride feel.
The frame has clearance for up to a 35mm tire, which gives you the option to install gravel tires and explore the road less traveled. Unfortunately, REI did not include rack mounts, so your options are limited to frame bags if you decide to take it touring.
For many riders, $2000 is a huge investment. This may be their only high end bike and excluding that features limits the ARD’s ability to function as a one bike quiver. In REI’s defense, they do offer steel adventure touring models that are built for bikepacking. They also offer the lower priced aluminum version of the ARD (the 1.1 and 1.2) with rack mounts. Both the aluminum and carbon versions of the ARD have fender mounts, so they’re good to go for wet weather commuting.
Now that we’ve covered components, it’s worth discussing serviceability. One of the features we like most about this bike is the threaded bottom bracket. While the various pressfit standards have come a long way in recent years, nothing beats the reliability of the threaded standard. In a similar vein, we have to applaud the use of externally routed shifter housing. These features make basic maintenance less of a chore.
The only place we can fault the ARD is the rear brake routing. While the derailleur cables are external, the hydraulic rear brake is internally routed. The bike is delivered assembled, so theoretically you’ll never have to deal with routing a hydraulic system, but if you do, you’ll understand our apprehensions.
Nitpicks aside, the ARD 1.4 is a wonderful choice for beginner to intermediate riders looking for a serious road bike. The upright seating position is comfortable for long periods of time, but small modifications to the cockpit can help make it feel more aggressive. The large volume tires and compliant frame deliver a smooth ride, while the high-end alloy wheelset makes the entire package feel fast and responsive.
While there are dozens of excellent bikes in the all road/endurance category, the ARD 1.4 differentiates itself with product spec. The other item that sets it apart is the REI experience —and the end of the year dividend. If you’re an REI member, that’s effectively a 10% rebate. On a $2300 bike, you’ll receive $230 at the end of the year that you can use towards new tires, a pair of cycling shoes, or whatever you’re in need of. You also get one free tune-up within six months of purchase — and that all adds up to one heck of a deal.
Rating: 4 out of 5
More info: www.rei.com