I’m in search of something a little bit smoother and tougher for next winter. Which is the excuse I give myself for walking into bike shops and drooling over new bikes.
I did this yesterday, and the salesman offered to let me take one out for a ride, and so I did. It’s the Jamis Aurora Elite, which is made for purposes like mine: tough, weatherproof commuting. Things that make it commute friendly:
- Reynolds 631 steel, welded frame
- Rear rack
- Avid BB7 disc brakes
- SRAM Apex drivetrain, which has a super-wide gear range for a double crank
- 700×32 Vittoria Randonneur tires
I liked this bike a lot. It was a lot smoother over rough pavement than my aluminum road bike, and despite being a little heavier, it didn’t feel that way on the hills. The geometry was very comfortable for me, with a fairly high handlebar set-up that can also be lowered for racier days. It’s very stable on descents, and still corners well.
The disc brakes really were awesome, great stopping power. The real advantage of discs for these parts is the wet-weather braking power, although I didn’t try it in the wet. I’ve also heard they can be a little finicky to adjust, but the BB7s have a little more adjustment capability than the more common BB5s.
The SRAM Apex’s rear derailleur shifts very smoothly, but I’m not used to SRAM’s double-tap shifting system. The shift levers are nestled behind the brake levers, which is similar to my current set-up. To upshift you press the lever inward once, and to downshift you press it inward about twice as far. The downshift felt like I was going to break the lever, and I never could get the front derailleur to shift. Could’ve been user error, but it was still a little weird. The range, though, felt huge, more than enough to cover any possible circumstance I would run into.
The fenders are a complete joke. They look like very long sticks of aluminum chewing gum that are tacked onto the bike. Why they would even bother with these is a mystery to me, and I’m sorry, but on a $1600 bike you don’t want to see something that looks like a trained monkey made it. Talented monkey, to be sure, but come on. They can’t even get the radius right in the publicity photo. Sad.
I’d also get rid of the saddle, which felt horrifically uncomfortable to me. Your butt may beg to differ, but mine didn’t like it at all.
Aside from those two factors, though, this is a very nice bike, much more suitable for the kind of abuse I subject my ride to. Would I buy one? Not without looking at several alternatives. I still am very interested in the belt drive bikes, especially after reading this post at ecovelo.info on the greaseless joys of belts in the wet. The Civia Kingfield has the belt, and its MSRP is $325 less. So I’ll just keep telling myself I can afford to buy a new bike this year, and keep wandering into shops. “Hey, I’m thinking about getting a good rain/winter bike…”