Just in: Jamis Quest
Steel mile-eater with mudguard clearance and rack mounts - sportive, audax or super-commuter? You decide...
Want a bike made out of steel? Seems to us like there's more and more choice every time we look. Whereas a few years ago you were lucky to get a single steel frame out of a manufacturer - and that was a singlespeed bike more often than not - nowadays you can find a full range of steeds from any number of sources. Jamis is one; the American outfit have at least twelve models and six different steel frames covering road, touring and singlespeed. We've just taken delivery of the Quest, second bike down in the range from the Reynolds-853-tubed Eclipse.
The Quest is an Audax bike. Okay it doesn't say 'Audax' on it and there's not a huge Audax scene over in the US of A, but it ticks all the boxes. More upright geometry? Tick. 25mm tyres and room for mudguards? Tick. Bosses to fit those mudguards, and a rack too? Tick. Emphasis on comfort rather than all-out performance? Tick. You could call it a 'lightweight performance tourer' if that makes you happier. Or a 'super commuter'. You could quite happily knock out a sportive on it too, I shouldn't wonder. Or get some winter training miles in. It's a versatile kind of a bike.
Heart of the Jamis is a Reynolds steel frame. This bike is made from air-hardened 631 tubes, the same tubeset as the excellent Aurora Elite we tested last year, but it's a very different machine from the gate-framed, disc-equipped tourer. You get a sloping top tube and a high front end; really high in the case of our 61cm test bike which sports a 22cm head tube to go with its 58.5cm effective top tube. The tube sizes are specific to each individual frame across the size range, to ensure that the ride and handling characteristics are the same whether you're on a 47cm bike or a 61cm one. Interestingly enough, although the bike feels just about right for me (1.90m) the generous slope in the top tube means the not-so-generous 350mm seatpost isn't quite long enough to get the saddle up to where I need it. Admittedly that's an unusually high 83.5cm from the centre of the BB - I'm all legs, dontcha know - but worth noting. I'll just swap it out for a longer one.
The fork is very different from the Aurora too; whereas on the tourer you get a cromoly unit, here you're treated to a full carbon fork with forged alloy dropouts. There's a mudguard eyelet and the fork is finished in the same midnight blue as the frame.
Back to the front and the Quest uses an NVO components adjustable threadless stem. This consists of a sleeve and topcap to tighten the headset, with the stem free to move up and down the sleeve. This means you can adjust the position of the bars without taking everything to bits, so if you're on a long ride and your back's starting to feel it you can hoik up the bars to give yourself a bit of respite. It looks a bit odd, but no more so than a big spacer stack. Attached to that stem is a Ritchey Biomax shallow drop ergonomic bar for an easily reachable drop position. They're finished off with suede-effect tape.
Running gear on the Quest is Shimano's excellent 105 groupset, with a non-series compact chainset to save a bit of money. The brakes have been swapped out too, for long-reach dual pivots to make sure there's enough room for mudguards should you choose to fit them. With a 50/34 up front and an 11-28 cassette on the rear you shouldn't be wanting for gears.
Wheels are Ritchey Zeta Comps with 20 spokes in a single cross patter at the front, and 24 crossing twice at the back. you wouldn't want to fit a rack and carry the kitchen sink around with you on 24 spokes, but they're dependable wheels and you should be fine with smaller loads. They're shod with Vittoria's dependable Zaffiro Pro tyres in a 25mm width, a good all-rounder. All-in the bike weighs 9.7kg (21.3lb) and if you want one it'll set you back £1,249 through Evans Cycles
It looks like it should be a dependable and comfy mount for getting the miles in, and the fact that you can add 'guards and a rack means it's a pretty versatile bike too. I'll be getting the miles in over the the next couple of months on the Quest, so stay tuned for a full review soon.