BIKE TEST: Jamis Renegade Elite

When it comes to having a complete lineup of bikes, from road to mountain, from city bikes to cyclocross, Jamis has been one of the most consistent in the industry throughout the past decade. The brand offers every kind of bike you can imagine, and most models are unique enough that you wouldn’t mistake them for any other bike brand. So when the burgeoning gravel bike (also called “adventure road”) segment began taking shape over the past few years, Jamis took the reins and set out to create a unique design dedicated to giving cyclists the freedom to tackle new roads. Enter the Renegade.

Asymmetrical chain stays help balance out pedaling and braking forces in the rear triangle.

The Renegade’s monocoque carbon frame features many of Jamis’ signature technologies, including its Near Net molding process, which the brand originally developed in 2009 for their lightweight carbon road race bikes and has let it trickle-down to most every carbon bike in the line. Essentially, a combination of silicone pre-forms and polystyrene cores ensure that the inside of the carbon frame is smooth and free of excess material, resulting in a lighter frame weight and a more structurally sound product. Other key features include a 1 1/8- to 1 ½-inch tapered head tube, internal cable routing capable of accepting either electronic or mechanical systems, asymmetrical chainstays to help balance out rear braking and pedaling forces, and hidden rack and fender mounts to help give the Renegade some extra versatility. The straight, tapered fork is robust at the crown but slims towards the front axle, where a 15mm Maxle thru-axle holds the front wheel in place.

The Renegade’s fork sports a 15mm Maxle thru-axle.

The Renegade is available in six frame sizes. Our test bike was a size 51cm, and it featured an overall wheelbase of 100.46cm, which is quite long for a bike this size. Head and seat angles were 71 and 73 degrees, respectively, making for relatively slack geometry. These types of numbers typically reflect an overall stable ride quality, something we often see as a significant attribute of most endurance-oriented road bikes. The Renegade sports a diverse mix of tube shapes, including an oversized downtube and tall chainstays, but they’re almost all quite angular and very sleek. The tapered seatstays are very thin, and become even thinner as they move upward towards the seat tube, where they intersect well below the seatpost collar. This is a design cue that we’ve seen elsewhere, most notably on many BMC models, and it’s something often utilized to help create added compliance in the rear triangle.

The Jamis Renegade Expert retails for $2399.

Two different builds are currently available for the Renegade. The lower-priced of the two is the Renegade Expert ($2399), and it features the same carbon frame found on our Renegade Elite model test bike (except with a lower-grade carbon layup), as well as a drivetrain made up of Shimano 105 derailleurs and shifters, along with a Shimano RS500 crankset. Its wheels are made up of Alex aluminum rims with Formula hubs, and they’re wrapped in 35mm Clement X’Plor tires. Braking duties are handled by a set of TRP HY/RD mechanically actuated hydraulic calipers and a set of 160mm rotors.

The Renegade Elite comes with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and size 160mm rotors, and the frame includes hidden rack and fender mounts.

Our Renegade Elite test bike retails for $4199 and comes complete with a full Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset with mid-compact gearing (52/36, 11-28t cassette). The disc brakes are from Shimano, as well, and they’re the Japanese brand’s highly coveted RS685 hydraulic model. Interestingly, the Renegade comes stock with a pair of Shimano’s 160mm rotors; in past conversations with Shimano’s various product managers and engineers, we’ve heard that 140mm rotors are the brand’s recommended size for on-road applications. The Renegade Elite build is capped off with a component selection from Ritchey and a set of American Classic Argent Tubeless wheels wrapped in Clement X’Plor tires, size 35mm.

The Renegade has a tapered head tube and internal cable routing.

Our first few excursions on the Renegade took place solely on the road. And it became immediately apparent that the bike offers an incredibly stable ride, which we attribute to its long wheelbase and relaxed geometry. Even compared to a variety of endurance road bikes that we’ve recently tested (such as the Scott Solace and the BMC GranFondo), the Renegade was one of the most stable bikes we’ve come across. Its steering was relatively precise, in the sense that we never felt the bike would be difficult to handle on tight, technical descents, but it certainly wasn’t the quick and “twitchy” feel that we’ve come to expect from more aggressive bikes geared towards crit racing—an example of this would be Jamis’ own race bike, the Xenith SL. All things considered, it took us a few rides to become used to the ride feel of the Renegade. Road comfort was superb, thanks to plenty of vertical compliance in the rear end, which helped dissipate most road chatter we came across, from chip-sealed roads to crack-laden byways. The front-end was also quite compliant, but not as noticeably so as the rear end. The stock Clement tires are quite beefy for road riding, so we swapped them out for various slick tires in the 25mm-28mm range for most dedicated road rides.

The Jamis Renegade Elite has a comfortable ride quality no matter what terrain we took it on.

Because Jamis intended the Renegade to be ridden in a variety of conditions and over an assortment of different terrains, we headed for some gravel roads. And it was here that the bike truly shined. Its incredibly stable ride quality, coupled with plenty of vertical compliance and the sure-footedness of the Clement rubber and thru-axle fork, made us feel like we were flying down the white roads of Tuscany in the Strade-Bianche. The Renegade also performed reasonably well when we ventured deeper into the wilderness towards a variety of more technical terrain. Steep dirt climbs weren’t too much of a problem for our fitter test riders, but the mid-compact gearing showed its limitations. We think a compact chainring combination would have been a better stock option for this dual-purpose bike. Rutted, steep dirt descents proved to be little trouble, but quicker handling characteristics than the Renegade’s would have been welcome as we navigated tricky terrain.

Overall, the Renegade has a solid steering feel, but lighter handling would have been more preferred for tight, technical descents.

We were quite pleased with the Jamis Renegade Elite, and we feel that Jamis certainly met their goal of creating a drop-bar bike that can handle most anything. On the road, it’s solid, with a stable and incredibly comfortable ride quality that will be a boon to anyone looking to log some lengthy days in the saddle. And if you’re looking to incorporate some gravel roads into your route plan, or even if you’re solely riding hard-packed dirt lanes, then the Renegade is a terrific bike. It does many things well, but its limitations can be seen on tight, twisty road descents, where quicker handling would go a long way towards helping you hit those apices at speed. The Renegade Elite retails for over four-grand, but we consider its selection of name-brand parts, Shimano hydraulic brakes and terrific American Classic wheels to give it good value. Likewise, if your bike budget runs a bit lower, then the $2399 Renegade Expert would be a great pick, as well. If you’re looking for one bike that will take you most anywhere in relative comfort, you’d best check out the Jamis Renegade.

The Jamis Renegade Elite is a very capable endurance road bike, but it truly shines as a dual-purpose gravel bike that performs well on dirt roads.

– Stable, comfortable ride quality
– Solid steering feel, lacks quick handling characteristics
– Terrific parts spec, but grab some different tires for road rides

Price: $4199
Weight: 18.1 pounds
Sizes: 48, 51 (tested), 54, 56, 58, 61cm