Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jamis Quest Review Update

Today seems a good day for an update on my Jamis Quest review. It's been nearly a year since I bought it, and I've put enough time into tweaking and riding it since that review that my opinion has changed.

2011 Jamis Quest Femme
Bumper-sticker version: I liked it before, but I love it now.

I've been avidly putting in the early season miles this year, and the Quest comes up smelling like roses on rides of four hours or more. It affords a very comfortable riding position, absorbs road noise efficiently, and is surprisingly responsive.

Shortly before the first review, I replaced the original Ritchey Biomax bars with the Salsa Pro Road 2 in a wider 44 cm size. The aim was to further increase comfort, and I can confidently say I achieved that goal. The extra width helped the most: in or out of the drops, I have a more open chest, which leads to easier breathing. And I have far less neck pain, even at the end of long rides, as a result of the more natural shoulder position (spread evenly, instead of rounded forward to match narrow bars). Last, but certainly not least: no annoying "ergo" bends in the drops means that my hands have a greater variety of lower positions.

I also fine-tuned my saddle position a few weeks ago. The result was a lot more power, and fewer early-season knee pains than I habitually experienced on the racy Cannondale CAAD 8 that preceded the Jamis. It feels even more like the Quest is built for me now.

The X-factor I referred to in the first review -- the zing within the special Reynolds 631 steel tubes that's hard to put into words -- is still quite rewarding. Jamis shapes the tubes specially for each size of this model, so that each version is well-tuned, and I can feel it. When my legs are fresh, the bike is right there for me. This is, of course, true of any bike, but is more rewarding in a bike that weighs more, and is more comfortable, than bikes built for speed.

With its carbon fork, the Quest weighs in at 19.5 pounds without pedals or cages. That's no thoroughbred, but it's lighter than many of the more popular steel bikes, and isn't much more than the bikes on which Eddy Merckx and Team 7-11 conquired the world. (What's more, it's about the same as  many carbon fiber bikes, and with twice the ride.)

I've stuck with the 25 mm Vittoria Rubino Pros on my 2011 model. I was going to go to 28s for more cush, but I like the compromise of 25s: light and sticky enough for most road usage, with a smidge extra air for the nasty surfaces of New England. However, they really come into their own on those days when you feel like taking a left down a dirt road to get to that refreshing waterfall in in July or autumnal lookout in October. Those measly extra two millimeters have given me enough confidence to ride many of my usual unpaved stretches, if only for a few miles here and there.

I replaced the stock saddle early on with a WTB Speed V, my go-to seat. With firm foam that gives just enough, I don't feel the seat much until I'm nearly done with a five-hour ride.

In my full review, I addressed the problem of shimmy at high speeds and a bit of drift in the line. Flipping the stem a few weeks ago (and thereby dropping the bars a couple centimeters) helped with this; it provides more stability up front, due to more weight on the front wheel. Handling also became quicker and more enjoyable. With such a high head tube, I was ready to lower the bars after the first few hundred miles of the season.

*     *     *

Maybe you want to find out why everyone's been shouting about steel bikes again for the last few years. Maybe you're leery of jumping in and spending a king's ransom on a high-end Rivendell or Independent Fabrication. Mayhap thou'rt wary of losing thy edge in ye olde "spirited" group ride.

You'd do quite well to start with the Jamis Quest, a fine frame well-spec'd, that will take you wherever you want to go, at whatever speed you're ready for. It sports a sticker of $1800 (and it's sometimes available for less) -- pretty fair for a package including Reynolds steel, an Ultegra/105 drivetrain, and Mavic rims (on the 2011 model).

Quest on!


Mitch said...

Thanks for the review. I am 51 and also recently chose the Quest for the more upright comfort and resilient ride of steel and have been very happy. This is a smart value bike that Jamis should be rewarded for. I may upgrade the Ritchey wheels (2012 version) to Pro-lite Bracciano (well-reviewed on or more likely splurge and get Mavic Ksyrium Elites to help with climbing. Should be a great upgrade for enjoying the climbs more. Also have been pondering going to 28 mm tires for comfort once I get the lighter stiff rims.

Harry said...

Mitch, thanks for stopping by, and glad you agree about the Quest. One of the reasons I posted these two reviews is that I feel it's an undersung bike -- high-quality, reasonable price, great geometry, and no one talks about it.

I thought about lighter wheels -- the place everyone says you can feel an upgrade most. I had Ksyrium Equipes on my Cannondale CAAD 8 racer. They're really good wheels for the price, and stood up to quite a lot of abuse without problems. I finally decided that all that money for a few ounces on either end wasn't worth it. For me, lighter wheels can mainly be felt in spinning up really quickly, such sprints or jumps. If someone had a pair for cheap, though, I'd snatch 'em!

Mitch said...

Thanks for your thoughts on lighter wheels. My hope would be for a very noticeable easing in effort during a climb that would bring a grin versus grimace to my mug. I will continue to ponder whether I should partake in that $600 dollar upgrade gamble. I am not interested in spinning up quicker as the Quest is quick enough for me.

I agree with undersung well thought-out bike. We can be a bit trendy-style conscious and unfortunately it appears people interested in performance bikes tend to lean towards the popular brand names, carbon frames and race geometry. Jamis has less exposure in the bike shops too.

I have observed people do not like the look of the practical NVO stem but Jamis has eliminated it on the 2013 version.

Harry said...

I, too, have seen derogatory comments on the stem, but I like it. It's clean, and more elegant than a handful of odd-sized spacers. And, it allows me to tweak my stem height on the fly. I like tweaking!

Interesting that Jamis swapped it out. If I get a longer stem to experiment with a longer reach to the bars, I'll buy a standard stem. I can just remove the NVO sleeve and put spacers in its place.

New England Bicyclist said...

Steel works for me. Both of my bikes are steel frames and fork and I just had the chance to ride another all steel bike. Like you, I have 25mm tires on my road bike, which seems cushy enough with my compliant frame. I just rode a bike with 42mm tires and that was very smooth but not many frames could fit tires like that!

Harry said...

Yeah, NEB, steel really is real. Riders I admire from all disciplines of cycling ride steel at times. And, it just feels like home when I pick it up -- takes me back to my 1980 cycling roots. Mine has a carbon fork, though -- I like the ~21 lb. total weight on the bike.

I do have a bike that fits fat tires -- 45 mm, to be exact. It's my Salsa Vaya, and I adore it for commuting and especially dirt-road riding. Search my blog for "Salsa Vaya" and you can see and learn about it. It usually wears 35 mm Small Block Eights, which are perfect all-rounders for Western Massachusetts. It's steel everything, including fork, and has disc brakes, so it's a little heftier.

Anonymous said...

I live in Vermont and ride both paved and dirt roads about equally. I ride about 3-5 times a week from anywhere from 10 to 25 miles. I ride alot of hills. Would a Jamis Quest do okay on dirt roads? I know the Salsa Vaya would do better, but the Quest would do better on pavement. Any thoughts on which bike I'd be happier with? thanks, dave

Anonymous said...

i live in northern Vermont. I ride 3-5 times a week about 10-25 miles a ride. I ride on paved roads and dirt roads, about equally. Please advise which bike would be better for me the jamis Quest or Salsa Vaya 2. Thanks, dave

Harry said...

That's a tough one, Dave. They're not really built for the same purposes, even though they overlap. That's why I own both.

If the dirt roads are fairly well packed and regularly graded -- not super-rutted or washed-out (single-track masquerading as a road) -- I'd go with the Quest. The Vaya is a more weight to drag up long, steep hills, and it isn't very responsive on the road, especially if you like to go a little fast now and then. I've been told by my LBS that the Quest will fit 28 mm tires; that's just barely wide enough for a dirt road over more than a few miles.

(Caveat: I've never ridden the Quest on dirt for more than a few miles at a time.)

The Vaya's built for dirt roads or loaded touring (or both), and if you can get it geared low enough, it doesn't matter much how heavy it is, if you don't mind going a bit slower. It feels okay on the road, but beautiful on gravel/dirt. It doesn't ride like a paved-road-bike (and it's not built by a road-bike company). The drop bars integrate very well, but it's not a road bike. (Some will disagree).

The real question is: Do you want a road rig that will also do dirt roads semi-well, or a dirt-road drop-bar bike that will also do roads semi-well?

It sounds like you need both. I recommend you buy one and start saving your pennies for the other. No kidding -- it's working great for me.

Please check in and let me know which you choose!

New England Bicyclist said...

I agree with the two bike thought. My second, a Surly Cross Check with 700x32 commuting tires, is for commuting, carrying the boys (recently one on a copilot seat on the rack and another in a trailer), and maybe touring. Dirt road riding was a vague thought but I did the D2R2 on it and recently did a trail ride on it. Two bicycles is better than one, even if it means saving again for the next one.

BTW my IF with Velo Orangle fenders is 22 pounds. Also not light but not bad on hills.

Harry said...

A cross-check would work admirably on dirt and gravel roads, methinks. You could even venture a bit I'd single track and trails, as I have on the Vaya, which has disc brakes to suit the crazy steeps in New England.

I'm envious of your IF, but glad to hear the weight about equals my humbler Quest!

Paul said...

I am presently looking at steel bikes. I own a Felt Z85 - aluminum frame with carbon fork. I did change the wheels to the Braccianos. It made a huge difference in every aspect of my riding, including climbing. I paid $400 for the wheelset and another $100 for Continental 4000s tires and some inner tubes. The only thing that I am not crazy about in the stock set up of the Quest is that it lacks a "granny gear".

Harry said...

Paul, I agree that it's a shame that Jamis dumped the triple chainring for the more popular and less forgiving compact double, thus eliminating the granny gear. My 2011 model came with a triple, and I do love that granny on days when I'm hauling stuff, or just had a rough week.

If you're going through a local bike shop, which I always recommend, you can certainly ask if they'll swap in a triple crank and derailleur for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a quandry...trying to decide between a 2014 Quest Elite and a Trek Domane 4.3...carbon versus steel. I rode a Jamis satellite comp and liked it, but a quest was not in stock. I rode a trek 5.9 with ultegra and electronic shifting and it was amazing, but so was the price! My local bike shop touts carbon over steel, for ride quality (says the smoothness of steel is a myth) and no rust, but other bike enthusiasts tell me they have had both carbon and steel road bikes and in the long run prefer steel. Any thoughts on helping with a decision?

Harry said...

Well, they're really not the same bike. The Domane looks beautiful, to be sure, and has some nifty features. The Quest is a well-built steel bike that quietly does everything I ask of it. I suspect the Quest will fit wider tires than the Domane (mine easily fits 28mm tires, might go as high as 33 mm).

I've only test-ridden carbon, but have never felt anything that felt like "home" more than steel. But that's me. Carbon will be stiff and light (usually), steel will be smooth and gives me a "zing" factor.

I probably wouldn't like the Domane b/c it's not designed to go nearly anywhere, including trails and such.

Ride 'em both and ask which sings to you.

Unknown said...

I'm looking at the 2014 Quest Elite. Test rode it and liked it alot especailly the 105 components, although the toe/wheel overlap was new for me. Could be the old steel Fuji I've been riding (down-tube shifters). I want a club ride/century bike that will last for years. I've called 8 LBS in the area and the only other steel/carbon fork available is a Breezer Venturi, without going into sticker shock. When the weather improves, I plan to test the Breezer and make my decision. Any advice, other model suggestions?

Harry said...

Paul, that black model looks wicked cool …

The Breezer is obviously a very nice bike with a lot going for it, but appears to be built on more aggressive, racy lines. Short wheelbase, shorter headtube, etc., would bother my 50-year-old back and neck, esp. on all-day rides. I'd love to hear your thoughts once you ride it. No dealers around here for a test ride.

I'd be surprised if it has clearance for more than 25 mm tires, if that, and my Rolly-y Pol-y 28s are key to the beauty of the Quest for me -- plusher ride with little-to-no performance sacrifice, plus ability to ride gravel and even a little trail for miles on end. But put it back on the road, and it rides like a thoroughbred.

There might be another bike like the Quest for under $2,000 (or even $3K, when you get to the boutique makers) but I haven't seen it yet.

Harry said...

One more point, Paul: Don't let toe overlap stop you if the rest of the bike fits well. I agree with Grant Petersen of Rivendell (highly celebrated makers of sporty and useful steel bikes) that you do get used to it and can work around it -- unless it's heinous.

Neeli said...

I read both of your Jamis reviews. I really liked the 2014 Jamis Quest Elite. After test riding a dozen types of (mostly) road bikes, this one sung to me. Thanks for the reviews. Sounds like this is a great bike for long distance rides and also commuting. I like the suggestion to ask about swapping the double crank for the triple for the granny gear. I live in Seattle, and we have a lot of hills. Do you carry a lot of on the bike in panniers? Does it make it a lot heavier?

Harry said...

Thanks for the kind words, Neeli. I'm glad you went for the Quest, I still love it after a couple of years.

I use my 2010 Salsa Vaya for my commuting bike, so I can't tell you specifically about adding rack and panniers to the Quest. However, I've noted that such an addition does make a notable difference on the Vaya. Even without the panniers, the fenders and rack do make it feel just a tad less responsive and light -- not enough to be noticeable most of the time.

Neeli said...

Thanks for your feedback! I decided to keep looking, but this one is among one of my top choices. After getting such a light bike (when I switch to a light bike after my clunker of a heavy hybrid bike) I am thinking I may not want to add a rack or fender.

Bruce said...

I have a 2016 Quest Elite and have been considering replacing the stock Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 25s with a larger tire for more off pavement use. After reading this thread it appears I should be fine clearing 28s, but I'd like to get to 32s. Think I'll have the clearance?

I also agree with all of the positive comments out there about this bike. It's one of the best bang for your bike values you'll find.

Bruce said...

^ For anyone still out there looking for tire clearance on the ('16) Quest, I decided to just go ahead and contact Jamis support and was told the Quest would accept a max tire size of 32c.

Harry said...

Bruce, I couldn't fit anything larger than 28s on my older version, tho I surely would if I could. IIRC, the brakes are as much a limiter as the frame. If in doubt you head to your lbs, ask them to swap out a wheel w a 32 mm tire on it, and see if it fits.

Harry said...

And by the way, don't underestimate the 28 mm tires out there. Even the inexpensive Paselas are a dream. On reflection, I don't think I'd want anything larger on my Quest; it's mostly a road machine, and the lightest of all my bikes.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the input, Harry! You have me reconsidering my desire for 32 mm tires...maybe 28s are the way to go. Regardless, you're right. I just need to head over to my lbs. Appreciate it, bud.