By – Andy Amstutz
So the time had come for the family to head east for some biking, hiking, and lobstah eatin’. The car was loaded with five bikes, an easy-up, a packed cargo box, and no room in the way back of the station wagon. The plan was to bee line to Niagara Falls for a night’s stay with our friends to the north, Canada, and then get to Vermont for a two night stay. After that it was on to the great state of Maine for a longer bit, after which we would make the turnaround to check out New Hampshire, and finally push back to the land of the hand. I had spent a couple weeks slaying dragons on my local trails, and was starting to get a feel of how this thing responded, (http://plusbikes.com/jamis-dragon-slayer-short-term-review/) but was really looking forward to putting it to some different tests: rocks, roots, twists, longer uphills, and and bomber downhills. So on the vacay that’s exactly what I did. And this is what I collected:
The the most notable aspect of the bike that I noticed every time I swung a leg over it was the geometry. The slacked out head tube angle was appreciated when working with gravity. Pair that with the Fox 34 Performance fork that has 120mm of squish, and the Dragon Slayer’s fire breathing front end scorched through rocky and rooty east coast gnar with ease. I think that Jamis really nailed it when they decided to put this fork on the Slayer. Not only did it feel supple over manicured trail, it was plush going down and didn’t dive into bermed corners like some other forks tend to do. All the millimeters of travel was chocolate milk-smooth too. On technical climbs where I would stay in the saddle, it was better to leave the fork on, rather than to lock it out. It just seemed to take the edge off getting the bike over rocks and roots in the trail. That really surprised me, as in the past, I’ve always locked out forks for a more efficient climb. Learned something new, go figure.
Two more frame geo points to mention are the “lower than used to” bottom bracket height and the shorter chain stay length. The low BB height led to its increased stability on downhills, but also contributed to several pedal strikes on the Green and White Mountain’s rocks. I had not tuned in to this nuance of the Slayer on my Michigan XC trails, but out east it was a different story. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something worth mentioning. The 17in-ish chain stay length made the Slayer easier to negotiate around trail furniture. With the rear wheel tucked underneath my arse just a scosh more than my regular rig, I was able to maneuver around stuff better going up and down, and traction was not an issue. And speaking of traction….B+ wheels!
Ever since I started riding plus sized wheels, I can’t believe that I didn’t complain more about the lack of traction and cornering ability when I was riding 26in and even 29in wheels. This bike rails corners with confidence and snap. I was able to push harder and harder into every berm I met while trying to test the limits of these wheels. Capital T traction! Some had to do with the geometry already discussed, but it’s no doubt the wheels contribute significantly as well. I do think that Jamis went a little overboard with the WTB Scraper i45 TCS 27.5″ tubeless rims instead of something lighter and narrower (35mm). But, being advertised as an adventure bike with an all mountain front end, I can see why Jamis slapped these tubeless ready hoops onto it. I’m sold on Vittoria’s Bomboloni 27.5 x 3″ TNT tire tread pattern. I normally ride Bontrager’s Chupacabras 29 x 3” tires which have a similar knob placement and as sure you-know-what, they performed equally well. When riding the same sections of trail on the Slayer and then on my own Quiring 29+, I felt that the 29+ rolled better over rocky, rooty trail than did the 27.5+ set up. I ran similar pressures for each wheel size and was tubeless for both as well. Rim strikes occurred more often with the 27.5+ wheel than with the 29+. It should be noted that the 29+ wheel is 35mm carbon rim so that might have had something to do with it. Anywho, something to note though.
Mechanically the Slayer performed flawlessly. With the aid of Boost 148 technology, the 2x drivetrain behaved like a 1x. No front derailleur chain rub in big/big nor in little/little combinations. No shift was ever missed. No adjustments ever needed to be made. No tweaking, twisting or twerking was necessary. The Shimano Deore brakes did exactly what they need to do in all conditions. Didn’t matter dry or wet, pull the lever hard and stop, or feather into banked berm. Again, never an adjustment needed. This was true the entire testing period. Not one adjustment.
Aesthetically, Jamis did one helluva job with this bike. The welds are subtle and look almost like a custom job. I thought it was super cool that somehow Jamis squeezed the beginning of the chainstay tubing to make a stylish looking BB yoke. There is plenty of clearance for plus sized tires and all the filth and muck they collect in nasty conditions. They’ve included details such as dropper-post cable routing, rack mount eyelets, triple water bottle mounts, sliding dropouts for SS options and Ritchey bits for reliable performance.
So, I’ve spent some time with Jamis 2016 DragonSlayer and come away with really positive experience. This is not your dentist’s XC race rig, that’s for sure. It’s steel. You can feel it. It gives something back to you while riding it. It’s made for adventuring and not racing. It’s got the goods to winch you up hills as well as the parts to make the downs super fun. It’s a versatile bike with plus sized goodness for comfort, traction and confidence. Who knew that slaying dragons could be so much fun.