Field Tested: Jamis Renegade Elite

“Adventure” is all the rage these days, but the scope definition and scope of these adventures varies greatly from source to source. In this case, Jamis defines adventure with a heavy dose of performance and a side of versatility for their new go-anywhere, do-anything road bike.
The highly engineered Renegade joins a stable of staid and stalwart steel touring bikes in Jamis’ line of adventure bikes. Two Renegade models are available, the Elite reviewed here and a less expensive Expert for $2,399. Both models utilize carbon fiber frames, a slightly lighter high-modulus carbon for the Elite and a mid-modulus carbon for the Expert that saves dollars at the expense of a few grams.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Renegade is Jamis’ approach to geometry. Jamis strives to provide consistent handling across all bike sizes, which is no short order for six different frame sizes ranging from 48 to 61. To accomplish this, Jamis produces forks with three different offset measurements and frames with three different chainstay lengths. As frame size increases, head tube angles steepen and fork offset decreases. Similarly, chainstay length grows with frame size too. This approach is admirable considering the added tooling cost of creating additional molds for two forks.
Another interesting frame feature is the 15 mm RockShox Maxle thru axle up front. The 15 mm thru axle has become standard in the mountain bike world, and is steadily working its way over to the road market due to the inherent stiffness and safety of the system. According to Jamis, the torsional stiffness of the thru axle allows them to engineer more vertical compliance into the fork.
Also noteworthy are the hidden mounts for rack and fender eyelets. These eyelets thread into the bottom of the fork leg and the end of the chainstay. Additionally, a mount on the seatstay bridge accommodates a rear rack, but your rack and fender will have to share the single seatstay mount. The chainstay-mounted brake caliper greatly simplifies mounting these accessories. Attaching a front fender isn’t quite as simple as the eyelets are a bit further forward than most. The fenders I installed required quite a bit of modification and even then weren’t quite 100 percent. Best to plan on custom fabricating a fender stay that can reach down under the brake caliper and dropout then back up to the eyelet.
I’ve been looking forward to sampling the latest crop of hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars, and dang, these Shimano units have far exceeded my expectations. The light and silky lever throw ramps up to firm lever feel that provides incredible stopping power when desired as well as the subtlest trail braking through a corner. I’m accustomed to using at least two, sometimes three fingers, when braking on modern cantilever and caliper brakes, but one finger is all that’s needed with these brakes. Every stop sign is an invitation to ride a big, long nose wheelie. I can’t say it enough, these brakes work awesome and inspire incredible confidence.
Likewise, the Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain has been flawless. Shifts are smooth, crisp and authoritative, never missing a beat. For the Renegade’s intended use, the compact 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette provide a reasonably wide range of gearing. There’s plenty of top-end out on the road and enough low gearing for all but steep, technical off-road climbs.
One noticeable difference between the hydraulic and cable actuated STI levers are the length of the hoods. In order to house the hydraulic master cylinder, the hood is substantially longer. This certainly isn’t a bad thing as it gives you more room to move around on the bike.

Ride quality

Right out of the gate the Renegade’s personality is best described as spirited and eager. Thanks to the bike’s svelte weight, it leaps forward when you jump on the pedals, with not a hint of flex at the bottom bracket. Just look at that burly bottom bracket junction if you have any doubts.
But, it’s not all about stiffness. Those dainty seatstays are shaped to take the edge off of impacts. Additionally, Jamis’ fork design incorporates some vertical compliance. Both of these measures were very noticeable on the road, particularly when paired with the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon fiber. The ride is smooth and fluid, with much of the high frequency road vibration damped out. On rougher, off-road surfaces, the Renegade does an excellent job of taking the edge off of bumpy terrain.
The Renegade’s handling is equally quick thanks to pretty aggressive geometry. Fork offset varies with frame size, but the 53 mm of offset on my test bike is more than average when paired with the 71.5-degree headtube angle. This translates to a very quick-steering bike that changes direction via subtle counter-steering pressure at the bars. This quick-handling nature feels incredible when you’re on you game and really attacking, but it also commands a certain amount of attention at all times.
Of course, good tires with appropriate volume also help smooth out rough terrain. The stock 700 x 35 mm Clement X’Plor USH tires offer great comfort and versatility. These tires roll well on the road thanks to the siped center tread, and provide decent traction off-road thanks to the side knobs. All in, it’s a wonderful tire for gravel road adventuring. For rougher terrain, the Renegade will fit a 40 mm tire without fenders. It’s also worth noting the American Classic Argent wheelset is tubeless compatible.

Parting thoughts

The Renegade is a very enticing offering for those looking for an adventurous road bike that also offers a lot of versatility. It’s easy to imagine riding this bike to work during the week with a rear rack and fenders, then pulling off those bits and racing a gravel grinder on the weekend.
With a set of road tires, the Renegade does a pretty damn good impersonation of a road bike, too. I can easily see this being someone’s only road bike. With two sets of wheels you could quickly swap back and forth between hammering road group rides and weekend adventures on remote dirt roads.
Bottom line; the Renegade is no one-trick pony. There’s a lot to like about this package if you’re looking for a capable and versatile performance machine.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $4,199
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.