The REI ADV 3.1 Gravel Bike is a 30-speed adventure bike specifically designed for riding on gravel and packed dirt roads. While it doesn’t have a mountain bike frame or suspension, it’s outfitted with some of the same components that you find on mountain bikes like disc brakes and low-pressure knobby tires so you can ride it on unsurfaced rail trails, fire roads, or paved roads. Gravel bikes aren’t designed for hardcore mountain biking with jumps or single track, but they’re a lot of fun to ride because they open up a lot of wilderness settings that have unpaved roads and require longer rides to access.
What’s so special about the REI ADV 3.1 Gravel Bike? It’s a great value that includes a lot of excellent components. While you can easily spend two, three, or even four times to get a better gravel bike, the incremental cost doesn’t really translate into huge performance gains for the average rider. If you’re a beginner or coming back to cycling after a hiatus, the ADV 3.1 is a great build that won’t hold you back as you get deeper into the sport of gravel biking and one that even your snobby backpacking buddies will appreciate.
Specs at a Glance
- Frame: Double-butted chromoly steel
- Fork: Chromoly steel
- Crankset: Shimano Deore, 48/36/26
- Bottom Bracket: Shimano Deore SM-BB52 external bearing
- Shifters: Microshift BS-M10 bar-end
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore
- Rear Cogs: Shimano HG62, 11-34, 10-speed
- Number of Gears: 30
- Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
- Rims: Alex AT 470
- Wheel Size: 700c
- Tires: Clement X’PLOR MSO, 700 x 40mm
- Handlebar Shape: Drop Bar
- Headset: FSA with turn limiter
- Chain: KMC Z99
- Pedals: Not included
- Weight: 25 lbs. 9.6 oz.
- Click for complete specifications and sizing charts
The REI ADV 3.1: Key Features
The REI ADV 3.1 has a steel frame. While this provides excellent durability and smooth riding, it makes the bike a few pounds heavier than bikes with aluminum frames. While it weighs 25.5 pounds, it’s going to be hard to find a lighter weight bike at this price point without compromising on drivetrain components and brakes. If you intend to train (on road or off) with the ADV 3.1 every day, then I’d encourage you to get a lighter weight bike. Otherwise, the ADV 3.1 is still a fine option for recreational use or as an urban commuter.
The ADV 3.1 frame comes with low rider fork mounts and numerous braze-ons for adding front and rear racks and accessories. When buying racks, make sure you buy ones that are compatible with disc brakes, like the Topeak Explorer MTX Tubular Rack with Disc Mounts. This is an important consideration if you want to try bikepacking and want to use a pannier (saddle bag) storage system for carrying your gear.
The ADV 3.1 has an aggressively flared handlebar which increases the number of hand positions and angles you can grip the handlebar with. However, if you have shoulder issues, you may find it uncomfortable. It’s one of the distinguishing things about the bike.Try it and see if you like it. If not, your local REI bike shop may still be willing to replace it with a more conventional handlebar or you can do it yourself if you’re comfortable moving brakes and shifters.
The bike has bar-end shifters which provide better control on downhills if you’re riding in the drops. Bar end shifters are not convenient if you ride on the hoods though. It helps to know what your preferred riding style is to understand if this shifter control system matches your preferences, as well as the terrain you expect to ride in. For instance, if you ride flattish rail trails where you can sit more upright with your hands on the hoods, you’re probably going to want shifters that are closer to your hands. But if you plan to ride fast down lots of hilly terrain, then bar shifters can be preferable.
The ADV 3.1 features TRP Spyre cable-actuated mechanical disc brakes. These offer excellent braking power. Disc brakes are the norm these days on mountain bikes and pretty commonplace on gravel bikes as well. They provide excellent performance in wet weather and overcome the disadvantages of rim brakes, like heating on extended mountain descents. Adjustment is fairly easy with just an allen wrench, but you want to make sure to keep the discs clean when cleaning or lubing your chain to avoid ruining the brake pads.
The ADV 3.1 is a 30-speed bike that provides you with versatile performance on any grade. Having such a wide range of gears makes the bike fun for riders at all fitness levels. A Shimano Deore triple crank, and front and rear derailleurs power the drivetrain. These are very respectable Shimano components that will give you thousands of miles of use if you clean and lubricate your chain regularly. They’re not the highest end and most durable Shimano components available, but they’re just one step below the Ultegra components you’ll find on more expensive bikes.
Wheels and Tires
The REI ADV 3.1 has Clement X’PLOR MSO, 700 x 40mm tires mounted on AXEL AT 470 rims, a lightweight tubeless ready rim that’s designed for the rigors of cyclocross racing. The Clement X’PLOR MSO is an adventure tire designed for mixed conditions. It has a combination of smooth-rolling center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs that provide great traction and durability for gravel roads, trails, and even pavement. You may never need or want to go tubeless, but it can be a good option on a gravel bike if you want to ride at a low pressure and avoid pinch flats.
Buying a Bike at REI
Why would you buy a bike at REI or one made by REI? Honestly, I bought a bike at REI because my local bike shop really let me down when I expressed an interest in getting into gravel biking. I figured I’d check out what REI had on offer and came away pleasantly surprised. They have a very good selection of bikes from many good brands including Salsa, Ghost, Diamondback, Cannondale, Charge and the REI Co-Op house brand.
But the kicker is the REI return policy which I used to good effect. If you buy a bike at REI and you’re not happy with it, you can return it within 6 months of purchase and get your money back. That made all the difference and saved me a pile of money.
The REI ADV 3.1 reviewed here is the second bike I’ve purchased from REI. The first one was a mountain bike that I quickly realized wasn’t what I wanted. If I’d bought that first bike from my local bike shop, I would have been stuck with it. REI let me return it “no questions asked,” and I decided to trade up to the REI ADV 3.1.
I wasn’t made to feel like I was pulling a fast one by returning that mountain bike and getting a different bike. REI had made it very clear when I purchased the first bike that I could return it if it didn’t work out. That’s a really consumer-friendly way to make sure people get what they need, even if a period of trial and error is required. Net net. If you’re just getting back into biking or you’re a novice, buying a bike at REI is a safe bet.
Disclosure: The author purchased this bike with his own funds.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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