One of the most popular bike brands available at your local REI is the Co-op house brand. They make bikes for every genre, including mountain biking. Today we are focusing on one specific bike model from Co-op, and it is their entry level mountain bike. This Co-op DRT 1.1 review will cover everything you need to know, including why serious cyclists avoid the Co-op brand.
Before we get too far into this review, we need to address what type of bike the DRT 1.1 is. While classified as a mountain bike, more specifically it is a hardtail XC mountain bike. For those unfamiliar with the various styles of mountain bikes you have Cross Country, Trail, All Mountain or Enduro, and finally there are downhill mountain bikes.
If you enjoy riding blue and black diamond trails, the Co-op DRT 1.1 will not be the bike for you. The same can be said for those of you that enjoy going full send down the side of the of a mountain at your local bike part. The DRT 1.1 is not the bike to be on at downhill parks. For those situations I highly recommend riding the Cannondale Jekyll mountain bike if you get a chance.
Co-op DRT 1.1 Review: What They Got Right
When REI started their house brand of cycles it was originally names Novara. The re-branding from Novara to Co-op may have been tied to that bad publicity, but according to REI it was to make consumers aware of REI’s connection with the brand. Co-op is the name of the membership many REI customers sign up for when shopping the store frequently. Re-branding their bikes to clearly define the relationship between the manufacturer and the store was a good move.
The change from Novara to Co-op happened in 2017. The manufacturer of REI bike frames is the same company that manufactures frames for Giant. That does not mean you are getting a Giant bike branded with the Co-op name. It does mean you are getting a high quality frame, and the Co-op DRT 1.1 has an awesome frame geometry for an XC mountain bike.
The slight dip in the top tube allows shorter riders to opt up a frame size when they are right on the line between sizes. The stand over height is slightly lower because of this dip. That means a slightly longer wheelbase which will be more stable on downhill sections of trail as well as better stability at higher speeds.
In addition to an awesome frame geometry, REI specs those DRT 1.1 frames with solid components. Shimano’s Tourney groupset is the lowest end set of components they make. They are still a huge upgrade over big box retail bike components. The best part about the Tourney derailleurs and crankset is they are replaceable. If you break your rear derailleur a replacement part is only $20. Thanks to REI’s excellent warranty, if you break the rear derailleur hanger you can get a replacement for free depending on the circumstances.
DRT 1.1: Problems
While the frame and components are solid for this entry level XC mountain bike, there are definitely problems with the Co-op DRT 1.1. The first problem is going to come once the bike is warn in. Chain drop is a major problem and will get incredibly frustrating. This problem isn’t exclusive to the DRT 1.1 as we have similar issues on our Marlin 6 bikes from Trek. If you are looking for another awesome entry level mountain bike then check out this Trek Marlin 6 review.
Chain drop is an easy fix when you install a chain guide. I went with the Venzo Chan Guide (Check current price on Amazon) and it virtually eliminated the chain drop. This is the best upgrade you can make under $50 for Co-op mountain bikes.
The other major problem with the Co-op DRT 1.1 is the wheel size. Wheel size is a highly controversial topic in the mountain biking industry. The consensus is for 29 inch wheels, and has been the last several years. The DRT 1.1 comes with 27.5 inch wheels. There can be an argument for faster acceleration with 27.5 inch wheels. However, most mountain bikers are not trying to quickly get off the starting line. It is undeniable that 29 inch wheels are faster in every other scenario like traction, comfort riding over chunky terrain.
Should You Buy a Co-op Mountain Bike?
Even though this is our least favorite bike in the fleet, I would buy it again because its a great value for an entry level mountain bike. Serious cyclists get caught up in brand loyalty and supporting local bike shops. There is nothing wrong with supporting your local bike shop. There is also nothing wrong with buying a great bike at an incredible price from REI.
The warranty at REI is great. We returned a CTY commuter bike after it sat for three months without getting ridden. (It didn’t get ridden because it was just ‘Okay’ and as a family we have high expectations for our biking experiences.) You won’t find many companies that have such a flexible return policy. Costco and Scheels All Sports are two others that come to mind.
If you are asking yourself if you should buy the Co-op DRT 1.1 then you are asking the wrong question. A better question would be why not buy it? If you have another bike you like more, go for it. If you want an affordable XC hardtail that will provide hundreds of miles of fun then the DRT 1.1 will be a great bike for you.
Finally, those shopping for the Co-op DRT 1.1 are probably in the beginning stages of their mountain biking addiction. One tip that took me a year to figure out was wearing cycling shorts. The best pair of cycling shorts around is from Pearl iZUMi. You can learn more in my Escape Quest Bike Shorts review.