Cooper's latest offering marks its biggest departure yet from classic road bike geometry. By designing the Monaco around fatter tyres and slack frame angles – much more relaxed than on a standard road bike – Cooper has tried to create a stable machine with the power to cope with coarse surfaces.
Its relaxed geometry is continued in its long wheelbase and a bottom bracket that has loads of ground clearance. The advantages of this are in its stability and load-carrying ability, the downside is in its pedestrian steering and relaxed handling. While the Monaco is flagged as a 'seriously fast urban commuter' and Cooper F1 cars took a trio of Monaco Grand Prix victories, this is not a bike for snappy direction changes.
The frame is made from Reynolds butted 520 steel tubing and designed around a hub gear. Cooper's own full-length mudguards are fitted and there is provision for front and rear racks. Its long rear-facing dropouts make it easy to tension the chain, but they do slow things down when it comes to repairing rear wheel punctures. That said, the super-tough 32mm Continental Contact tyres should keep those to a minimum.
The comfortable, classic-looking Brooks B15 saddle and matching bar tape are highlights of the kit. And we were impressed just how well Avid's BB7 Road mechanical disc brakes worked with the Versa levers. Decent wheels also contribute to a high-quality appearance.
But there are a couple of key areas that let the Monaco down. We love the chainset from the Taiwanese company Andel, with its retro-look custom chainguard, but it's all based around a square-taper bottom bracket that contributes a bit of heft to the 13.18kg overall weight.
Things aren't helped by the Alfine 11 hub. This concentrates weight at the rear axle, so that on prolonged ascents that's all you can feel. It shifts beautifully to a higher gear, advancing gears almost seamlessly, and is a match for Shimano's derailleur systems. But shifting down on a climb, it's the opposite. We couldn't tell whether that was the long throw of the Versa lever or the hub itself, but the shifts were sluggish, sometimes noisy, and occasionally absent altogether under load. We'd love to see the Monaco running the smoother, lighter eight-speed Alfine instead.
We also think the ride would be improved by dropping the 'guards and taking advantage of the clearances to fit bigger tyres, transforming the Monaco into a gravel-mashing monster.