Jamis Renegade Elite: Checkpoint- by Guitar Ted
Gravel bikes seem to have evolved over the last several years toward a theme which is dominated by a more road bike look and feel rendered in carbon fiber. The Jamis Renegade Elite on test here is a good example of that. The tech specs and introduction of this bike will help explain this more, so go back and check that out HERE if you missed that. In this post I will explore how this lightweight carbon chassis rides out on the gravel. There are also some interesting characteristics, both good and bad, which were revealed during this test period.
Ride Performance: The Renegade Elite is touted by Jamis as having a smooth ride. The marketing hype is actually mostly correct here. Jamis has done a great job of making a chassis that smooths out much of the smaller road chatter. In fact, on pavement the bike absolutely glides along as if I had mounted up some poofy 650B tires. Which you cannot do, by the way. Jamis strongly advises against that and I would say it is due to clearances more than anything. More on that in a bit.
Jamis hangs a lot of its hope for this smoother ride on the ECO fork. I’m not 100% convinced that it does what they say, but I have more of a mind to say that it is the entire bike working as a system. Unlike the Raleigh Roker tested here, there is no component of the frame which is obviously working to absorb vibrations. The entire frame and fork seem to be doing this job on the Renegade Elite. It is what one would hope for in a frame and fork tuned for gravel riding. I think it is still a touch stiff, but it is in the ball park for a frame and fork I would tag as a “ride all day” bike. A true “adventure bike”? So it would seem.
Adventure, to my mind, can mean getting in above your head at times. So, after a recent rain, I grabbed the Renegade Elite and visited the local dirt road which I use for testing. While it is only one mile long, it is unique in that within that mile there are so many different features that it makes for a good test strip.
This day that I visited the “mile of trial”, it was a typical dirt road trap. The road looks great, you ride in, and in ten feet you realize you aren’t going to be pedaling through this. Many gravel events have seen roads like this in the past, and when you meet such a road, it is time for hike-a-bike. So, in the name of testing, I hike-a-biked this section just as I would have in an event. The light weight of the Renegade Elite was a boon here. With water bottles mounted, it wasn’t very shoulder-able, so I chose to roll it in the grassy margins, which kept the most muck and mire off the tires that was possible. Once the end was reached I poked out the mud I could and got on and rode again on gravel.
Now gravel has a propensity for sticking to clay and dirt, and the first few pedal strokes were met with a grinding, scraping noise which sent shivers down my spine. The wheels and crank set finally clearanced themselves though, and I finished out the ride. This may seem silly, but it pointed out a few things about the Renegade Elite which I think are flaws in the bike’s design. First, the tire clearances are minimal.
I had the stock tires on at this point in the test, Clement MSO 36mm tires, and while there is something there for clearance, where it matters there is very little. I”m thinking along the chain stays here. Not only that, but the crank set itself was jammed up with mud, and when you see how this happened, you realize why the dropped right side chain stay is quickly becoming a feature on many newer gravel/all road bikes. It gives the crank set and the tires more mud clearance.
The other thing I noted was how the bottom bracket area is shaped behind the seat tube and in front of the rear tire makes for a great mud collection area. The material used slopes away downward toward the tire, but that doesn’t matter when mud is sticky. It grabbed a hold and piled on back there in an area which is hard to get at with a scraper tool, if you carry one, to clearance out that mud.
While the ECO fork did amass some mud, it wasn’t bad, and I would say clearances on the fork are acceptable. However; I would not want to be on this bike, say at a muddy year at Land Run, or the Dirty Kanza, because the rear clearances are not generous and especially the crank set clearances are very tight, making any mud build up there a negative for your drive train. Keep things dry, and the Renegade Elite will be fine.
This issue with mud clearances and the tire clearance for this bike limits and impacts the appeal of the bike to a degree. Jamis says you can put a 40mm tire in the back, but……. Yeah, that would be tight. The bike rides so well and has the bottle mounts which suggest long, adventurous rides across varied road surfaces as its MO. But tires limited to, effectively, 38mm or less, kind of throws a wet blanket on that idea. Then add in that 650B isn’t an option. That kind of puts the Renegade Elite at a disadvantage when comparing it to many bikes in this category.
But this is a good bicycle. It rides really smoothly. It has a position which lends itself to all day riding. It is obviously light weight. If you would never be on really rough, severe gravel, rocks, or in muddy situations, this bike would be great. I enjoy riding it on our more typical gravel roads and in dry conditions. It’s just held back from having all the bases covered by a couple of issues.
So Far……. The Jamis Renegade Elite strikes a unique profile with its unusual looking carbon frame. The bike has top notch componentry and weighs in at a sub-20lb figure which seems like a feather compared to many gravel/adventure bikes. The bike is super smooth on bad tarmac and very nice on rough gravel. Mud and tire clearances are not generous, so wet, muddy rides or rougher terrain that demands more tire volume are not in the Renegade’s wheel house.
Stay tuned for the “At The Finish” post coming soon where I will give my final verdict on this black beauty.
Note: Jamis Bicycles sent over the Renegade Elite at no charge for test/review to Riding Gravel. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout