Monday, April 1, 2013

Jamis Dragon 650B

Still in technology blackout mode, so posts will be few and far between for a bit...

Shuffling the quiver once again here at the Gleaming Dedicated Bicycle Storage Facilities within the Gleaming Towers of One Gleaming Utahdog Center, World Congress of the Gleaming Americas.

How the Dragon was delivered to me by the LBS.

Enter Jamis Dragon.  Yes it's purple, and that means its the 2013 650B variant of the Dragon.  And while you are all probably (probably) sober enough to know that 2013 is the current year and that a Dragon is a large mythical fire breathing lizard, I know there's a slew of you out there who are wondering what in the hell a 650B is, so...

650B is an alternate wheel size between the old standard 26" and the slow-handling, steamrolling 29".  650B measures out to 27.5 inch wheels and is derived from an old French wheel diameter standard.  Traditional touring and mixtie frames have been 650B wheeled, and some bike companies, like Rivendell, have made 650B part of their catalog for years.  Jamis is probably the leader currently in 650B offerings, as is witnessed by this here sucker, as well as two full suspension offerings and an aluminum framed model as well.  Not too shabby for a  smaller brand traditionally operating on the fringe and on a tighter budget than the bigger slower-to-adapt brands such as the Big S.

I first rode the Dragon at the Southeast Bike Expo in February and I was hooked.  The Dragon is a steel frame, with Reynolds 853 main tubes and double butted rear triangle tubes, all TIGed together very cleanly and painted in a tasty purple with discreet graphics.  The steel frame appeals to me, the graphics appeal to me, and when I rode it I couldn't stop grinning and hooting about it. The traditional knock against the 26 wheel standard is that on a hardtail, the smaller diameter wheels resist rolling over obstacles.  While the larger 29 wheel suffers not a whit when rolling bulldozer style over stuff, the large wheels make handling slow technical trails a chore, and they don't wheelie well at all.  My 29, the Redline Monocog29, has been affectionately nic-named "The Battleship" because once it is moving in a straight line that is all it wants to do, roll over everything in its path and resist steering input from the bars.  I've ridden 3 other 29's in different suspension and gearing configurations (including a test ride of a Niner Jet-9 at the Expo) and found similar faults/characteristics to exist on those platforms as well, regardless of manufacturer, so I think it is safe to say that a common characteristic of the 29 wheel is comparatively slow handling.  The 650B Dragon splits the compromise perfectly.  It wheelies well, turns in nimbly, and yet the larger wheels roll obstacles with relative ease.

Shimano SLX derailleur, shifters and gears, and a KMC chain headed to the out door...

So after mapping out what parts on the Dragon needed to stay, what needed to be sold to recoup cost, what bike gets the ax from the quiver, and what other parts I could dump on fleabay to make the numbers work with my meager paycheck, I took the plunge and placed an order with the LBS.  

So that's a $3k MSRP purchase from a local bike shop (Who pays MSRP!?).  Yes I do my part to support the little guys, even with my eBay addiction and other regular interwebs transactioning and horse-tradification.

FC-M552 cranks.  These are standard issue Shimano bits utilized across many pricepoints as OEM  spec.  They are fleabay bound.  The SLX front derailleur stays

The parts spec was pretty nice.  I was keenly interested in the frame fork and wheelset, because this being my first foray into the world of the 650B, I have no bits for that standard.  The fork is a nice air/oil White Brothers Loop TCR, wheels are from American Classic with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires.

Oh my aching man-bits.
 Seat  from the Dragon is a standard OEM grade WTB Volt with cro-mo rails.  It felt like sitting on a jagged-edged cereal bowl filled with bleach, broken glass, rusty nails, and angry hornets.   And who is the wonder-wizard who thought up a white vinyl covered mountain bike seat!? There is an SDG in the plans for sure.

Egg Beaters still suck.

Bar, stem, seatpost come from Crank Brothers.  I had intended to swap in some Thomson bits and toss these import OEM-grade bits on the flea, but the Thomson stem is a wee short in reach and the post is a zero offset model, so I'll instead be dumping the Thomson bits on fleabay and I'll run the Crank Brothers stuff which gets me to my 23" saddle-nose to bar-center length.  Must keep my soon-to-be-43-year-old-lower-back happy.

Brakes were Avid Elixr 5's.  I want no part of fluid-filled brakes so I'll be using BB7's instead.

The front plate of the Crank Brothers stem.  Here's to hoping the stem isn't as under engineered as it is over stylized.  Breaking a handlebar or stem isn't something I want to try out just to save a few bucks.  It is a hardtail cross country bike though, and the bar is clearly marked 'all mountain' so I should be just fine.

Hopping back and forth now between Crank Brothers talk and Elixr speak, because I'm too lazy to reorganize the order of the pictures as they uploaded to Blogger.  Lazy is me.  Blame Interwebs.

The wheels came with these goofy reinforcement plates that American Classic claims are supposed to greatly increase the stiffness of the disc rotor to hub interface.  Looks to me like they cut off too much metal from the hub and noticed too late in the manufacturing process so they came up with this little goofy red bit to slap on the mistake and call it a 'feature of engineering' or some such crap.  Note that American Classic isn't actually made in america anymore... 


 And here is the business after my wrenching is done.  As is usual practice, I broke the frame down to nothing and rebuilt it from bare, that way if it is miss-adjusted or assembled wrong it is all my fault and no one else's.

Sram X-O derailleur and cassette out back.  Sram chain.  Chainstay appropriately wrapped with back cloth tape to minimize chain slap damage to the paint.  Unlike the new fangled 10 speed SRAM bits. the 9 speed X-O derailleur has no clutch to limit slap so we're reduced to wrapping the stay to protect paint.  

You are reading that right, I did downgrade from 10 speed to nine speed.  Partly to use the X-O stuff I have and save some money by selling the 10 speed parts as new take-off items, but also because the 10 speed chain is narrower than the nine speeder and word on the street is that 10 speed is less durable.  Riding trails in Florida means sand and sand eats chains.  Why start with a weaker chain and grind it to dust in the sand when I can use up my tried and true 9 speed bits instead?

 Sram X-O twisties, Altek BL-25 levers and ODI lock-on stubbie grips complete the cockpit.

And to break all my rules, Carbon Noir cranks.  The 44 tooth large ring is replaced with a Race Face Atlas chain ring guard.  44 rings in areas with as many downed trees as we have just get hung up on everything, and the Race Face will not only increase ground clearance, but it also looks swanky with the cool topo map graphics.  SLX front derailleur stays as stated earlier, and the XT pedals from the blue EWR make the migration.

I must point out that most of the parts made the migration from the blue EWR.


One ride, 18 miles, and counting.  So far so good!


Paul said...

I never did kick you in the nut for buying a 29'er. Now I get to kick you twice.

utahDOG! said...

Envy is an evil mistress. Let go of your hate.

Dan O said...

Cool bike. Right up my alley of interest. I'd be curious to ride 650B wheels for a bit.

Been on a 29er hardtail for 3 years now, with a few decades of 26" wheels before that.

650B seems like the perfect size...