The six weeks that I tested the Roughneck, just happened, to fall at the tail end of the best Winter (snow wise) we’ve had here in the Pacific Northwest in several years.
I had the pleasure of riding it in a lot of different snow conditions including a week and a half of icy stuff, that required studs. And, at the very end, I squeezed in a couple days of sand riding on the beaches of Washington State.
All of the trails in our area remained snow covered during my stint so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to ride it on dirt…but after all, it is a fat bike, so snow and sand will have to do.
The first thing that I noticed upon opening the box was the frame and fork…they do “draw the eye”. The “Cosmic Dust” finished 6061 triple butted air formed aluminum structure is nicely done. Had to stare for a while. Super smooth welds, functionally and aesthetically shaped tubes, and that fork, well, its the prettiest, and beefiest ALU fork I’ve ever laid eyes on!
The transition from the fork to the 69 degree tapered head tube is smooth and flawless- like the gaps between the doors and body on a nice car. Like most fat bikes now, the front end is also suspension corrected.
The seat tube has a very subtle bend and rounds out to 73 degrees. The rear triangle is as gorgeous as the front- beefy, “shapey” and plenty sturdy too. And those drop-outs…..I really like them! They are stout and well designed with the brake mount inside the triangle, not only tucking it out of the way but also helping facilitate simpler rack mounting- on some really awesome rack mounts by the way- which I’ll get back to later.
Looking at the clearance, the Jamis website says “4.5” max tire size rear and 5” in front”. I’m not sure, but the skinnier listing for the rear may have more to do with drivetrain set-up/tire clearance more than tire/frame clearance. It comes with 4.5’s on 80mm rims and looks to me like there is room for a slightly bigger tire.
At 17.9”, I won’t complain (too hard) about the chain stay length, it certainly didn’t “bother” me…..at least it is under 18”- just barely, again, with the slightly bent seat post, looks to me like there is room for the CS’s to be a tad shorter as well. The only real issue I had with the frame design was the cable routing under the bottom bracket. The cable housing stuck out; kind of loose and sloppy….I felt like they might take a hit or catch a stick. Last but not least, frame wise, for me anyway, “packability”.
The top tube configuration makes for ample space for a large frame bag and I love the full array of braze-on’s/mounts to fit every pack, rack, cage you could think of. This might not be important to some, but to a rack and pack fanatic like me, it’s a strong selling point.
Moving beyond the frame, the Shimano/FSA/Ritchey based blend of components brings the Roughneck to life and works just fine. And, is in line – (or above) – expectations at this price point. These are the parts, that one can change if desired, but it works great right out of the box. Jamis has this model dialed in for really incredible value at an affordable M.S.R.P. ($1599.00). That said, it shifted quick and accurate and personally, I do still enjoy riding 2X in the Cascade Mountains near my home. “Low range” for crawling and steep climbing, and “high range” for flying down and making miles on long forest roads. I realize 1X has come a long way toward covering the ratio’s….but there is still something “torquey” about a small chain ring…..and something “fast” about a big one.
The TRP Spike mechanical disc brakes are quite interesting. They actuate on both sides of the caliper easing stress on the bearings and applying pressure on both sides of the disc. (Avid mechanical disc brakes only apply pressure from one side) I really liked them, they performed well in snow and sand..
On to what makes it roll. The Kenda Juggernaut Sport 4.5’s at 60 t.p.i. w/ folding beads aren’t the lightest, most supple tires…..but not the heaviest, stiffest either- especially set-up tubeless-which they were, right out of the box. They’re mounted to Sun Ringle Mulefut 80(mm) comp STR tubeless ready rims, laced to Sun Ringle 15×150 Ft./12×197 Rr. hubs. The tubeless set-up worked fine for the first few quick rides, but when I got out for some serious snow riding- at low pressures (under 10p.s.i)- I had problems….mainly with the rear tire. It was brand new though and I am not yet a tubeless expert. I was able to get them to seal up nicely in my shop- twice- and thought I had it solved. But back out “in the field”, and once down to snow riding pressures, I had a tough time keeping air (and sealant) in the rear tire. I’m confident that with more time to tinker and break it in, that this issue would be solved. I was anxious to put some miles on it, so I put a tube in. Also, as mentioned, we had a spell of icy conditions that prompted me to mount studded tires to keep it rolling (and upright).
Finally – How did it ride? I have a gut feeling that the 2017 Jamis Roughneck would make a great “All Rounder” and would really shine as a “trail fatty” and “packing fatty”. Often, a bike that can “do it all”, isn’t as dialed in at the extreme ends of the spectrum. With that said, having only ridden it in snow and sand, it got the job done – and I had a blast! But for those conditions I would like to see a little shorter chain stay’s, even just a few MM’s, to improve it’s ability to keep traction to the rear wheel. This is a common problem in snow and sand – especially in softer conditions………and keeping weight over the “contact patch” can often be the difference between continuing to pedal or dismounting and walking. Like I said, “at least they are under 18”.
Would I buy it? Absolutely! This is a valve packed, year ‘round, all around fat bike at a very fair price- hard to beat really. And the frames high quality and beautiful construction-and the awesome braze-ons/mounts and get high marks.