This review photo shows the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 mountain bike outside.

REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 Bike Review: ‘Super Value’

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The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is aimed at recreational mountain bikers who want a solid bike at an affordable price point. The DRT 1.2 is a fantastic value for beginners and the bike itself is far more capable than what most intermediate riders are capable of.

To get us a closer look, REI set up Man Makes Fire with a review unit. This is what we learned:

REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 Review

Let’s say this first: The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 can handle more than what I can dish out. And that’s the way I like it with most of my gear. I’m a typical competent outdoor adventurer who does a lot of different things over multiple seasons. I have many hobbies, not just a few, and I need to spread my gear budget over backpacking, fly fishing, camping, hiking, rafting, kayaking, SUPing, skiing, hunting, and more.

This photo shows the REI Co-op DRT 1.2 mountain bike outside on a trail.
The REI Co-op DRT 1.2 can take more than I can dish out.

Still, I have buddies who are great bikers who ride expensive, full-suspension carbon-fiber bikes. All I really need is a thoroughly decent bike that will let me ride some single track and, first and foremost, survive, and second, have fun.

The DRT 1.2 easily delivers what I need, and if you’re reading this review, it probably will for you, too.

Heads-up Alert!

Bikes are out-of-stock all over the U.S. right now. If you’re interested in the DRT 1.2 you might want to act fast before you lose the chance to buy a well-priced mountain bike at all. The DRT 1.1 and 2.1 are limited to tiny sizes, and might be already gone by the time you read this.

Seriously, check now to see if the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is still in stock in your size!

Why? The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is best suited for capable beginners — recreational mountain bikers who want to be able to make it through some difficult single track at modest speeds. And climb some tougher hills. And cruise some gravel trails, mile-long tunnels, and high train trestles like those on the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho. And ride with kids and family down bike paths and through the safer parts of town. I’m only half joking about this last part.

This photo shows the author with the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 mountain bike outside on a mountain trail.
Get the gear that will enable fun.

The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is a do-it-all mountain bike that most people can push beyond their skill levels.

I can see myself riding the DRT 1.2 for a couple years before I could gain enough skill — and time on the trail — to justify a more expensive ride.

Which follows our three basic rules for all gear at Man Makes Fire:

  1. Buy decent, safe and solid gear you can afford.
  2. Use the gear, improve your skills, and learn.
  3. If you become a fanatic, you will have gained the skill and knowledge to upgrade to the very best gear for the type of activity you personally enjoy most.

Simple but effective. The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 fits the kind of gear we can get behind.

Shipping Alert: REI will now ship bikes directly to your home! This is a huge new benefit. Some assembly is required, of course. If you’re not sure about the size of bike to order, REI has created a handy new How to Fit a Bike & Get the Right Size guide.

Go straight to the new 2020 DRT 1.2 now — get FREE shipping and save over $140 now through May 25 while supplies last!

REI Co-op Cycles: Why go with REI?

REI has sold bikes for years, of course, which makes sense for its outdoor enthusiast customer/member base. As more customers look to the web first for buying decisions, especially for multi-hundred dollar gear purchases, REI is combining online decision making and online buying with in-person, in-store pickup . . . and with a free follow-up tuneup. Nice.

Meanwhile, back to the REI-branded bikes. Most bike manufacturers design their own frames and geometries. They then use components made by specialized manufacturers to kit them out. So bikes from different manufacturers might use the same forks, derailleurs, cranksets, wheels, chains, seat posts, and tires.

The mix and match is sometimes a bike company’s secret sauce to gaining the best price-to-value and sometimes it’s just compromises. One company might spend more on the front suspension while another will put more investment into the drivetrain or the frame itself to create a bike that is perfect for a niche or price point.

This is a long way to say that REI Co-op Cycles seem to be staying true to how we see most REI gear: Excellent price-to-value ratios. You might not get the very lightest gear, but you’ll get lightweight durable gear that will perform beyond its price point. Down sleeping bags? Check. Ultralight backpacking tents? Check. Down jackets? Check. Insulated backpacking air mattresses? Check. You get the point.

REI Cycles seems to control costs by designing and using its own branded frames (as expected) along with REI seat posts, handlebars, rims, stems, and pedals.

Most of the remaining components are produced by specialist manufacturers.

The end result is that the DRT 1.2 is a capable bike with a more than fair price-to-value ratio.

120mm of Fork Travel

Update: REI has updated its DRT 1.2 for 2020. For now, you can still order the previous version at a sweet discount, but if you want the updated version, use the 2020 links.

The REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 (DRT 1.2 2020 version here) is a hardtail mountain bike, which means it does not have a rear suspension system. The front forks do. Better yet, the front SR Suntour XCR dual piston suspension has a whopping 120mm of fork travel. Most competitors in this price range have 100mm or less of fork travel.

As you get faster and more aggressive and hit bigger bumps, you’ll appreciate the 120mm fork travel.

The Shimano 3 x 9 drivetrain gives you 27 gears to choose from. While advanced and expert riders might prefer fewer gears, the 27-gear drivetrain can help less experienced riders cover more ground. First, you’ll have more low gears to help you climb, which you’ll need if you are following more experienced riders who are in presumably better riding shape. Second, you’ll have plenty of gears to let you truly cruise on pavement and simple trails, too.

The frame is aluminum, which is lightweight and strong. Should be able to handle most abuse from typical recreational and intermediate riders.

The wheels are 27.5 inches, which are bigger than old-school 26-inchers and smaller than the 29-inchers that took over the mountain biking world a few years ago. For most people, 27.5 seems to offer the best blend of start and stop speed with agility.

The 31 lbs. 12.6 oz weight is competitive with bikes in this class. A couple thousand dollars will drop a few pounds, of course, but don’t let hard-core bikers get you worried about weight. It would be easier for most guys to lose 10 pounds of their own bodyweight then it would be to shell out $5,000+ for a bike. Some guys spend more on their bikes than their vehicles. I’m not judging here, just saying that you shouldn’t get too caught up in the specs. My first-aid kit weighs more than a pound and it goes most places I go. To each their own.

REI Co-op DRT 1.1 vs 1.2 vs 1.3

If you’re reading this review, you’re probably a bit stuck on your next mountain bike purchase. You like the $500 price point of entry-level mountain bikes but you’re concerned about overspending on something you may or may not need or love. I get it. Been there many times for all sorts of gear. Here is what you need to know to make your decision.

First, the DRT 1.1 is a bit heavier and uses components that are a notch or two down in overall quality. Still, the DRT 1.1 is more bike than most beginning riders will need. It’s perfect for casual single-track rides and chasing kids over payment, down family trails and commuting to campus. Again, it’s a do-it-all mountain bike for those who want something that is trail-capable first and foremost, and pavement capable next.

This photo shows the author riding the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 mountain bike on a mountain biking trail in the forest.
Beating the rain on a single-track ride.

The DRT 1.2 (DRT 1.2 2020) hits a sweet spot in value for those who are more aspirational in their riding interests. If you think you’ll want to ride tougher trails or hang with your buddies, the DRT 1.2 is likely worth the extra investment. You get 120mm of fork travel to help suck up the bumps, better components, and a frame that has internal cable routing that’s ready for a dropper post upgrade. What’s a dropper post? A dropper post lets you raise and lower your seat post while riding. A control on your handle bar lets you lower your seat height while going down steep hills. You can instantly raise it to your preferred height on even ground or when you need to climb. They are cool if you ride a lot of steep up and down trails.

The DRT 1.3 weighs just over 29 pounds (about 1.5 lbs less than the DRT 1.2). You get a better frame and a step up in components, including an air-sprung suspension fork. If it’s in your budget, nab it.

REI offers higher-end mountain bikes, of course, all of which are worth it if you have a big budget and plan to spend a lot of time riding.

On the Trail

The REI Co-op DRT 1.2 is solid and nimble. The hydraulic brakes offer plenty of stopping power but are also easy to finesse for beginners.

The front suspension — using the settings made by REI’s mechanics — was able to handle some big roots and rocks. A couple times I hit things harder than I intended and the front suspension kept me on the trail.

Shifting is reasonably crisp.

This photo shows the author riding the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 on a single-track trail.
Out on the trail.

I’ve ridden some higher-end, carbon-fiber full suspension bikes and they are no doubt lighter and crisper and deliver smoother rides over rough terrain. In fact, on one on-trail test, I jumped on a buddy’s Santa Cruz. For a guy with my skills, it was smoother but not radically more fun. The key takeaway was that I was able to fly down the trail at a much faster speed . . . which was not good. Launching off trail into blowdown trees with shard-like limbs or crashing into a large cedar trunk would ruin anyone’s day. Basically, the full-suspension delivered less feedback and gave me a false sense of confidence. Luckily, I realized that my high-speed trail navigation skills were well below the bike’s abilities and used the brakes.

From a learning perspective, the hardtail DRT 1.2 reminds you that the trail is rough when it is rough — and rolls smooth when it’s smooth. To me, this is all part of the learning curve. If there are any upgrades needed in my near future, it’ll be a dropper seat post and maybe some sweet Five Ten riding shoes.

All-in-all, the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 offers a full step up from entry-level mountain bikes that aim for the $500 entry price point. In the under $1,000 class, the REI Co-op DRT 1.2 is a great value, and an outstanding value if you find it on sale.

If you’re looking for an affordable mountain bike that’s capable of intermediate trails — and some rougher trails if you’re willing to go slower than your hard-core buddies — the REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is hard to beat. Highly recommended.

Get the Gear:

REI Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2
Excellent price-to-value ratio
Great 120mm front fork travel
Solid components throughout in this price range
No real cons (overall value is competitive)
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