I’ve been hankering after a carbon/alloy mix bike for years. The combination of strong metal main triangle with compliant composite rear seems a winner to me.
Less than a decade ago, these frame designs were being touted as the next big thing. However, because the production costs of full-carbon frames have been getting lower, and because of difficulties with bonding alloy and carbon, this type of ‘hybrid’ construction has rather gone out of fashion.
To its great credit, American brand Jamis seems to ignore prevalent cycle trends. Rather, it makes almost every type of bike, including some very reasonably priced steel road bikes, as well as this twin-material Ventura Race.
In truth, the former objects of my desire generally had seat and chainstays made from the black stuff, whereas the Race has only a composite monostay, originating at the top of the seat tube. But it’s still carbon, dagnabbit, so it’ll be fun to see how it behaves.
Before we get that far, though, let’s have a look over the rest of the bike. It’s a nicely presented piece, with through-frame cable-routing found on the – yes – curved top tube. Meanwhile, the joins between aluminium and carbon are coyly hidden behind Jamis tape.
Finishing off the Ventura Race is a small selection of Ritchey components, a Jamis carbon seatpost, some reassuring 105 parts, and an average set of wheels. Despite those hoops, it hits the scales as the lightest machine on test, at a fraction less than 9kg.
On the road, the Jamis instantly feels far more racy than either the Cannondale or Norco. There’s still a reasonably long head tube, so you’re by no means bent double, but you do start finding your head slowly inching downwards.
That’s not a bad thing, but it does require a slight change in mindset, especially when you reach the hills. Jamis has specced a 12-25 rear cassette, meaning that the easiest gear is noticeably higher than that found on the Norco or the Cannondale. Grinding your way up climbs feels just a little depressing when the rest of the bike is urging you to get spinning.
What about that carbon monostay out back, then? To be honest, I was rather nonplussed by it. The overall ride quality can’t match that of the Synapse and is probably even slightly less compliant than the Norco. That’s certainly not to say it’s unbearable; it’ll just make a man of you that bit quicker. In the Ventura’s defence, it’s a bike that feels better the more you ride it.
While the Cannondale felt like an armchair from the off, this is perhaps more like a Brooks saddle and needs a bit of breaking in. By the end of my time with it, I was thoroughly at ease in the perfectly decent San Marco Spid saddle.
Full speed ahead
However, there’s no getting away from that fact that the Ventura covets speed. When powering along at high tempo, it feels incredibly secure and stable, which is particularly helpful in our eternally sodden roads. Front-end control is very assured too and, like the Norco, the duet of Tektro brakes and 105 levers sing in harmony.
Unlike on the Norco, those Tektro calipers aren’t long-reach, which means there’s no room for mudguards here, and certainly no option for rear racks. In the bike’s overall abilities, there is actually very little ambiguity – the Ventura Race might be about long distances, but it’s about going long distances at a fair lick. The one small compromise is that it’ll help you do that in reasonable, but not exceptional, comfort.
So I do like the Jamis Ventura Race, but it has all the hallmarks of a bike designed for people who are chasing age-group records and getting gold medals in their sportives – not those who simply want to get round wearing the biggest grin possible.