jamis renegade adventure gravel road bike review

The Jamis Renegade was developed with racing in mind, replacing Tyler Wren’s cyclocross bike as his rig of choice for the Crusher in the Tushars gravel road race. Fortunately for the rest of us, the engineers and product managers kept some non-race features that make it far more versatile than its trophy case may suggest.

After getting an up close look and weighing it at Interbike (check that post for frame details and photos), the size 58 demo bike was packed up and shipped in for a long term review. It still had a little Bootleg Canyon dust and scratches on it, but was in otherwise good shape. Our test bike was equipped with mechanical Shimano Ultregra drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes with American Classic Argent Tubeless wheels and Clement Xplor USH 35c tires. The cockpit is Ritchey, with a carbon WCS Link flex seatpost and alloy Comp bar and stem. At just $4,199 for the complete bike with full carbon frame and fork, it’s a pretty good package on paper.

Here’s how it measured up on the road. And off of it. Waaaaay off of it….

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The Renegade is built to have a low center of gravity and stable base, but sits tall and comfortable. The head tube is one of the largest stock sizes I’ve ever seen, coming in at 7.95″ (202mm) for the size 58 frame. The smaller bikes have much, much smaller head tubes, but with this one I was able to achieve my desired “aggressively upright” position without very many spacers. Honestly, I could have slammed the stem and still been very comfortable. The head angle runs from 70.5º on the 48 up to 72.5º on the 61. My 58 had a 72º HA, which felt spot on – steep enough for quick handling but slack enough to hold a line on loose terrain.

That’s contrasted with an almost 3″ BB drop and longish 16.9″ (430mm) chainstay. These measurements keep the bike sitting low and stable even with a 40c tire mounted. Jamis developed different geometries and layouts across the different frame sizes, too, to better tailor the ride to different rider heights.

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One local trail I favor for “cross” training splits the difference between path and singletrack. It’s got plenty of roots and bumps, which showcased the Renegade’s ability to take a hit at speed and maneuver flowing corners. Even when sitting, the flattened, low-set seatstays diffuse the knocks before they get to you. The Ritchey seatpost adds a final bit of flex to the system to further minimize impact transmission and is a smart spec for a bike like this. It does use their Link saddle mount, which requires a Ritchey saddle, but there are a number of different options available aftermarket. The included Comp ZeroMax Vector EVO was a bit flat and wide for my tastes but still pretty comfortable.

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Where the race heritage comes in is with the front triangle. It’s burly enough on its own, but the bottom bracket section is simply massive with a wide hexagonal downtube and deep, angular head tube section connecting it to the cockpit. The system doesn’t budge no matter what you’re layin’ down, and everything’s sent through the thick chainstays backward, creating a bridge between all points of contact that all but eliminates twist and flex on the bottom half of the frame.

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So whether I was hammering along dirt and gravel…

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…or mashing my way up a climb, nothing felt lost to the frame.

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All that’s to say it’s fast when you want it to be fast. And the frame’s a brute, able to plow through washboards, gravel, roots and potholes without skipping a beat. But I found it was equally if not more enjoyable just riding along, taking whatever turn I fancied, for hours on end. The frame’s strength and stiffness gave me the confidence to take any turn, whether it was a road, a trail or something that might have been a trail once. More than once I was rewarded with views few others find:

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There are a couple of spec points worth mentioning. The bike uses hidden front and rear fender/rack mounts, with thread-in eyelets to create the lower mounting points. Take them off when not using them for a cleaner look. Detail shots are in our Interbike coverage here. If I were keeping the bike, the one thing I’d change is to add tubeless tires. Clement’s are great, but to not take advantage of the traction, flat prevention and weight savings tubeless offers on a bike like this is silly.

There’s a reason why this bike made my 2014 Holiday Wish List. It’s what a good bike should be – something you can ride anywhere. Something that’s sturdy enough to get you there and back, regardless of where there is. I think that’s what separates the Jamis from some of the other carbon gravel bikes out currently, it’s just seems bigger and stronger. It lets its presence be known, by destroying the terrain, without being a bear to ride. As the adventure/gravel segment grows, this is one of the bikes to beat.

They also offer a Renegade Expert for $2,399. It’s still full carbon frame and fork, just with a lower level carbon and downgraded spec, but all the same features (including Di2 compatibility) are intact.

JamisBikes.com

19 COMMENTS

  1. BSNYC – Since it’s part of their demo fleet and they need it to fit as many people as possible, I didn’t want to cut anything. The brake hoses were pretty long, too, but it wasn’t really my place to start changing anything permanent.

  2. How did it ride on the road? I have a road and a cross bike and I have been thinking when it is next upgrade time, I’d like one bike that was good for both. However, if you gear too much one way (ie geo and tire clearance for dirt stability) you get less of a road responsive frame, etc.

    Do you think it’s possible to hit a decent sweet spot for a stellar road / gravel capable machine or is that sub optimizing for both?

    j

  3. How did it ride on the road? I have a road and a cross bike and I have been thinking when it is next upgrade time, I’d like one bike that was good for both. However, if you gear too much one way (ie geo and tire clearance for dirt stability) you get less of a road responsive frame, etc.

    Do you think it’s possible to hit a decent sweet spot for a stellar road / gravel capable machine or is that sub optimizing for both?

    j

  4. Hoshie there is a fast comfortable bike that is optimized for roads of any sort: a rando bike w 650b wheels, do a search for Jan Heine and you’ll be amazed what he does on one ( hint: everything).

  5. Hoshie99 – depends what you are referring to specifically when you say road responsiveness. I have a Niner RLT9 that I’ve done many long paved rides and many long gravel rides, and lots of mixed rides. Angles are a bit different from my road ride, but I think I prefer them when descending and never once notice it on the way up – I’ll ride something flat someday…!

  6. Hoshie99 – it’s great on the road, too, but if you’re planning longer rides on just pavement, I’d swap in something like the Hutchinson, Bontrager, Schwalbe or IRC road tubeless tires. I’ve ridden all four and they’re great, and we’ve had pretty good luck mounting different tires up to American Classic’s tubeless rims. These will be much lighter than the Clements that come with the bike and smoother for on-road riding. The handling isn’t going to feel quite as snappy because the chainstays and wheelbase are a little longer, but for distance riding, group rides, etc., I’d ride it.

    ABio / Ryan – the swamp and big tree pics are from some of the bird trails and connecting forest service roads around the Ormond Beach/Flagler Beach line in Florida, near High Bridge. The others are from around Guilford College in Greensboro, NC.

  7. Mateo & Jay – claimed tire clearance is 40c, but it comes with 700×35 on it. There was a ton of clearance with those on it, check the link to our Interbike coverage on the bike for pics that show it in better detail. I only rode the bike with the stock tires on it.

  8. I have a niner BSB awesome bike good road responsiveness, good all around. I would give up the road bike and ride it for both on and off road.

    Little pricey $ but if its your gravel and road little better. Running Clement MSO 40’s they are awesome and still fast on the road.

    Weights 17.8lbs w pedals and cages Sram force 22 and grail team wheels. change tires and you could drop close to a 1lb

  9. I ordered my Renegade Elite 61 in November 2014 after see all the early reviews and that great video. Expecting delivery in January, as advertised, but told in January it would be February, and in February told March. When March arrived I was told Jamis would not be building any 61 in 2015. Being persistent my dealer was able to locate a Demo 61 frame that had not been assembled. We purchased it and built the Elite with all the Shimano Ultegra components. Being happy I began to ride my new bike and after my third ride in 2 weeks, on rough asphalt and gravel roads (not mountain bike trails), no crashes, not wrecked, never dropped the seat stay cracked. We sent the frame to Jamis expecting a replacement which was declined. Jamis clams “There is no other way this damage could have appeared on the stay, it could only be caused by upward force being applied to the seat stay and this is not possible during normal riding conditions.” I had three normal rides on a bike that was designed as a ‘heavy duty” adventure bike. I did not do anything that was not normal in any way. So now I’m stuck with a $4000 bike with a broken frame. If I repair it and ride normally it could possibly break again. It maybe the size 61 frame design cannot handle the “heavy duty” label, or the reason Jamis pulled the 61 size Renegade this year and why the Renegade Exploit is come out in 2016 (steel frame). One can only wonder why Jamis can’t seem to support there “high end” product as most other manufactures would. So I will start my shopping for another manufacture today and I won’t be back.

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