REI has its own line of hybrid bikes - after riding 500 miles on one, I'd highly recommend them to commuters
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- Hybrid bikes are designed to have the agility to take on bumps in the road while featuring many mountain bike-like features, such as larger wheels and flat handlebars.
- Last year, REI launched their Co-op Cycles brand, which offers a variety of bike styles and gear.
- I tested the CTY 2.1 hybrid bike and especially liked how light it felt, the excellent maneuverability, and the smooth ride afforded by the front suspension.
- Though the Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Bike is maybe slightly more expensive than your average hybrid bike (currently $649 on REI.com), it comes with REI's 100% satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime limited warranty.
Every year, the number of adults who choose to commute to work by bicycle increases by 7.5%. Due to their balance of control and speed, hybrid bikes are growing in popularity among these riders. Hybrid bikes have a flat handlebar, wider tires, and an upright riding position that is more common with mountain bikes. However, the wheel size is usually larger than a mountain bike's to allow for more speed.In 2017, REI relaunched their bicycle line under the brand Co-op Cycles. The brand offers hybrid, mountain, road, and kids' bikes along with cycling clothing, bike components, and accessories. I recently had the opportunity to try out their CTY 2.1 bicycle for free. Here are some of the highlights of my experience.
My first experiences with the CTY 2.1 Bike
You can get the CTY 2.1 Bike shipped to you for $75, but if at all possible, I strongly recommend picking your new bike up at an REI location. You can still order online, but by going to the store in person, you get the opportunity to learn about the bike from an expert and have it adjusted to fit your body.
This is what I did. I had to drive about an hour to Ann Arbor to get to the closest REI. There, a guy named Sean provided incredibly helpful service. He held the bike while I sat on it so he could ensure the seat was at the right height. He demonstrated how the unique front suspension worked. Though I have decades of cycling experience, I liked that he assumed that I didn't have any experience. I think for most buyers, who are just starting to commute, this will be helpful, especially since it can be intimidating asking questions.
The CTY 2.1 is a unisex bike and comes in small (for heights 5'3" to 5'6"), medium (5'6"-5'9"), large (5'9"-6'), and extra large (6'-6'3"). At 6 feet tall, I went with the extra large in case my 6'4" son needed to borrow it at some point. I found the extra large worked great for me.
I'm going to get into a few specs here, but I won't go overboard. If you want all of the details, check out the CTY 2.1 product page.
The bike has an SR Suntour Nex HLO front suspension fork. There's 63mm of travel to make rough roads less bumpy. But, I thought it was particularly cool that there was a switch that locked the suspension to keep your ride static on smooth roads.The bike features Joytech 32h front and rear hubs, Kenda Kick-Back 700 x 40mm tires, Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 78/38/28 crankset, Shimano FD-M191 front derailleur, Shimano Acera rear derailleur, and Shimano HG41, 11-34, 8-speed cassette.
How the CTY 2.1 Bike performed
I keep the bike in my basement, and the aluminum frame is lightweight enough to easily carry it up and down the stairs. The overall weight of the bike is 32.4 pounds according to my measurements, and of course, the smaller sizes will likely weigh less.
I mainly rode the CTY 2.1 along the Lansing River Trail, a beautiful system of 20-plus miles of paved paths. I tested the bike over the course of three months and would typically ride for about 15 miles at a time, which took about an hour.
Riding was exciting when the path was closed. When one section of the trail was under construction, the city posted a detour, which included riding on the sidewalk. In general, you are not supposed to ride on sidewalks because drivers aren't looking for you there and could pull out in front of you. It also endangers pedestrians. That said, I did have a car pull out right in front of me as I was riding on the sidewalk. Fortunately, the hydraulic disc brakes reacted quickly, and I avoided running into them and didn't go flying over the handlebar.
When the trail was closed and there weren't detours, I would ride on grass or wood chips to a point where the path started up again. The front suspension of the CTY 2.1 smoothed out my off-road jaunts, and the bike was responsive enough to avoid obstacles.
Michigan is a pretty flat state. For the most part, my rides didn't have any major hills. So, I didn't really get to test out the extremes of the 24 gears. However, I did find that changing gears was seamless, and the chain didn't jump to a different gear without me initiating it. I did make a point of adding a couple drops of lube to the chain every week or so, and the only time the chain came loose was when I was lubing it up, but it was easy to put it right back on.
The only other maintenance I performed was checking the tire pressure and maybe adding a few pumps to make sure it was around 60 psi before going for a ride. I did not experience any flats during my test period. REI recommends bringing your new bike into the closest location after 20 hours of use or 6 months after the purchase (whichever comes first) for a free tune-up.
Some concerns about the hybrid bike
After about 400 miles of riding, I noticed that two of the reflectors on the pedals had fallen off and a third was on its way. This is a relatively minor issue and easy enough to replace if you need to. I closely examined the rest of the bike, and the only major wear I found was some rusting on the pedal axle. Again, this is fairly minor and inexpensive to replace if it fails.I did wipe out twice riding the CTY 2.1. Both times, I was riding on wet boardwalks. This is by no means the fault of the bike or the tires. I only bring this up in the hopes that others will learn from my blood, sweat, and tears: Wet wood is slippery and unsafe at any speed. I recommend walking your bike on wet wood boards. The second accident knocked the handlebars and seat awry, but even I, with my limited mechanical skills, was able to fix this.
REI has amazing service. I've been an REI member for over a decade now. Their products are a little more expensive than what you might find elsewhere, but that's because they believe in quality. Why is this a concern? If you live far away from an REI location and have trouble with your bike, it becomes a hassle to take it back and access this excellent service.
Overall, I love the CTY 2.1. I strongly recommend it to people looking for a commuter bike that will last far into the future. However, I think individuals who live close to an REI will have a better experience since they can easily access their in-person services if something were to go wrong. Also, I suggest test-riding any bike you might consider purchasing.
Though at $649 the Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Bike is a little more expensive than your average hybrid, the famous REI satisfaction guarantee and lifetime limited warranty ensure you will be happy with your bike for many years to come.
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