For 2017 Jamis has significantly expanded its Dragonslayer line, from a single model last year to six different build levels, available in two different tire sizes – 26+ and 27.5+. The Dragonslayer Pro 27.5+ is Jamis’ “Adventure Series” flagship steed, taking last year’s Dragonslayer Plus to new heights.
Let me just get my bias out of the way and say I’m firmly in the camp that believes that plus tires have fundamentally transformed the capabilities of hardtail mountain bikes for the better. No, I’m not making the claim that “fatter tires equal suspension” (they don’t), but I do think the chubby tire revolution, in tandem with industry trends like slack trail geometries and bitchin’ bits like dropper posts, über-short stems, wide bars, etc. are combining to produce the most fully capable, versatile hardtail mountain bikes we have ever had the pleasure of throwing a leg over. In short, we have seen the rebirth of the trail hardtail, and if your last experience on one was a skinny-tire 26er from the days of old, you owe it to yourself to approach today’s crop of hardtails with an open mind, and prepare to have it blown. The Dragonslayer Pro lies firmly in this camp, equally at home on local trails or a multi-day traverse of the remote mountain range of your choice.
With 67º headtube and 73º seatube angles, the Dragonslayer Pro hits the geo sweet spot for a modern all-arounder, in my opinion. Slack enough to be fun on the downhills and techy stuff, but not so slacked out that its cross-country and climbing capabilities are compromised. Steel of choice is Reynolds 520, and it is a great example of metallurgy, indeed, offering smooth and compliant trail manners. Indulging its “adventure bike” roots, the DS Pro comes with no shortage of mounting options – two sets inside the triangle, a set on the downtube and rear rack mounts on the seat stays! Dedicated trail bros might scoff at such a detail as rack mounts on a modern mountain bike, but hey, you’ll never know they are there until you’re planning that 2-week off-the-grid trip to rural Derpistan and desperately need the capacity.
The Shimano SLX 1x drivetrain performed without a hiccup, as I’ve come to expect from this spec level on other bikes – SLX simply delivers, reliably, all day long. The massive 11-46 cassette mated to a 32t ring offers a huge range for cranking out the miles, while still having enough low-end torque under the hood for those long, loaded climbs on multi-day trips.
Standard sliding dropouts on the DS Pro allow for 15mm of adjustment, so you can stretch that wheelbase out for more comfort and stability on a long tour, shorten it up to increase the sportiness or indulge your inner masochist and go SS. Nothing revolutionary here, but then again, I don’t think there really needs to be.
The DS Pro comes not just “tubeless ready” but actually set up tubeless from the get go. Kudos to Jamis for this move, as there is really no reason to be running tubes on WTB TCS i40 Scraper rims and WTB Trail Boss 3.0 tires. They mate beautifully to each other for an excellent and easy tubeless bead seal, and really, to take full advantage of what good plus tires have to offer, this is how they should be from the outset – other manufacturers please take note. The DS Pro also offers ample clearance for a full 3.0” inch tire, as any true “plus” bike should.
Dropper cable routing exits behind the seatube and then runs under the bottom bracket before ascending the downtube, which struck me as a wee bit odd. I understand that theoretically, if you are grinding your bottom bracket on a trail obstacle to the degree that you’re damaging a dropper post cable, you probably have way bigger problems on your hands, but still. The routing seemed deliberate, though I couldn’t figure out why, so I asked the Jamis cognascenti for insight, and they replied, “The thinking was for the seatpost cable to enter the seat tube on the backside as opposed to the front in order to have as little obstructions as possible in the front triangle for frame bags.” Hmm…I’ve bikepacked on other bikes with dropper post cables routed in the more “standard” way and never encountered interference with a frame bag, but hey, at least it shows the Jamis crew is consciously thinking about these details when designing a bike for backcountry touring, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Speaking of dropper posts, the KS eTen dropper was somewhat lackluster in performance, with sluggish return, though it did improve somewhat with continued use. Maybe I’m a little spoiled, but I expect a dropper to snap to attention quickly when needed, whereas this one felt like I was often waking it up from a nap. I’ve heard plenty of praise about KS droppers, so it’s possible I just got a bad example. I also have to take the chrome, polished remote lever to task – it might look cool, but I’d prefer to see a textured contact point where my thumb hits the lever, such as the Wolftooth and Fox levers offer.
The Dragonslayer Pro comes with the new Fox Rhythm 34 fork (currently OEM only) and it is hands-down the most impressive so-called “budget” fork I’ve ever used. While it may not have quite the amount of adjustability offered on the higher-end Fox 34s, and is built with a more basic chassis than its Factory /Performance-level brethren, Fox’s ability to pack this much smooth performance into a base model fork is worthy of serious praise. You can point to the top end of a manufacturer’s product line as the shining example of their most recent cutting edge technology, but I’d say the Rhythm is the fork that truly showcases just how much Fox has upped their game in the last few years. When this fork becomes available as an aftermarket option, I predict it is going to crush the competition – it’s truly that smooth.
So who’s this bike for? Well, if you’re reading Fat-Bike.com, it’s probably squarely aimed at the likes of you. But to elaborate, the Dragonslayer Pro is a wicked versatile bike, and in this era of increased micro-niche specialization and seemingly disposable plastic bikes, I would like to believe there are people out there who still see the value in this, monetarily and otherwise. Beyond that, it’s made out of good ‘ol compliant Reynolds steel – it will last a long, long time with a moderate amount of maintenance and love. Bottom line? Get a Dragonslayer Pro and go do a lots of different shit with it. Bond with it. Fall asleep next to it in the middle of the desert using that chubby tire as a pillow, wake up tomorrow, cover another 50 miles and repeat. Push your skills by simplifying, rather than complicating. Maybe you’ll even own it for a long time, and form a long-term relationship with it, like people used to do with bikes in the not-too-distant past. If you’re frustrated with the current state of the industry, and all the disposable crap they’re trying to convince you will be outdated next year, then give them the finger, buy a Dragonslayer, load it up and laugh all way to the horizon…
For more information about Jamis bikes visit – www.jamisbikes.com