Choosing a touring bicycle; Jamis Aurora

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Choosing a touring bicycle; Jamis Aurora

For our 5th touring bike option we have for you the Jamis Aurora.  The 2008 model is surprisingly cheap, and this bike comes in at lower portion of the bottom price bracket and has some great features worth checking out.

At NUMBER 5… the Aurora from Jamis.  Please comment if you have ever ridden, owned, or know anyone who owns this bike.  Email photos of your setup to me at recklesscognition@gmail.com and have them posted on this site.

Jamis Aurora

Jamis Aurora

Before we begin….Check out the links on the left side of the page.  Go to the “About Me” page to the left and read about what this journey is all about.  If you are into it, support my journey by helping others and adding to the donations we will deliver to the Mercy Corps organization. Donate, Sponsor, or Pledge on a per-km/mile basis, anything will help.  Learn more by here…Bike Journey

Frame- Reynolds 520 Steel

Chainstay Length- 440mm or 17.32 inches

Brakes- Tektro Oryx cantilever

Tires- Vittoria Randonneur 700×32c

Hubs- Shimano Tiagra 36h

Weight- 27 pounds

Price- $865

The Jamis Aurora is a pretty bike, I love the paint job.  But upon further investigation we’ve found some less than attractive things appearing.  A lot of these issues all combine and hinder the bikes ability to handle well under heavy loads.  We will put a post up to explain this in more detail later, but basically, the geometry of the Aurora differs from a lot of the other bikes you’re going to find on the market.  Now for some, this might not be a major noticeable difference, but for others it might be.  Take the bike out and test ride it with other bikes and see if the handling is good for you.  The issue with the Aurora is its front-end geometry and short wheelbase.  Rake and Trail are fork/wheel measurements that are involved with the headtube angle, wheel and bike stability.  I will post diagrams later, but here is the idea; more rake=less trail=less stability.  So let’s look at the numbers of some large bikes that are popular and compare.
Trail Measurements based on stock wheels:
Jamis Aurora—–  2.19″
Surly Long Haul Trucker—- 2.37″
Trek 520—- 2.3″
Cannondale Touring 1—-2.31″
May or may not be an issue for you.  As I said, test ride, test ride, test ride.  This combined with the shorter wheelbase/chainstay might be enough to knock this down to the bottom of my favorites list. A shorter wheelbase would improve handling, but this is a touring bike, and we are looking for foot clearance.
Compare the price of the Aurora to other models in this range, such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker, and I wouldn’t recommend it.  There have been some issues with frame construction quality, especially threading issues and from reviews I’ve read and word from the LBS.

How are ratings calculated?

Overall Rating:

Jamis Aurora:

Value:  4/5

Quality: 3.6/5

Compliance: 4.2/5

Overall: 11.8/15

Notes.  Value rating is a little low because of necessary upgrades, which are similar to those I would make on the Long Haul Trucker.  The quality of the bike has come under some questions regarding the quality of the steel frame, especially the braze-ons and threads.  The Aurora does come pretty ready to tour with braze-ons for fenders and racks.  The gearing is a little high, but not horrible.

We’ll be compiling all of the ratings on a new page, look for it to be complete shortly.  Check it out here.
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4 responses »

  1. I bought a 2009 Aurora 7 months ago, a have done about 400 miles of commuting on it. I am 31 and ride a lot easier than in the past. I weigh 240, and ride with 5-10 lbs of stuff. I’ll get up to 35mph down hill, and cruise at 21-23 on the flat stuff.

    Unfortunatly this is bike has had more little problems than any bike I have owned. It is also the most expencive.

    Problems:
    Overly wide chain caused unintended shifting: replaced chain & problem went with it

    Spokes break often: 3 and counting

    Metal slivers in brake pads

    A lot of forks come w/o the mid fork mounts, and most frames don’t have reliefs for tire clearance in the chainstays including mine. A 32 looks like the biggest that will fit these ones.

    Buy a decent bike; don’t but a Jamis

    • Quick Question: When people discuss touring bikes with a road triple that the gearing is not low enough, why doesn’t anyone mention swapping the granny gear from the 30t to a 24,26, or 28t? It costs about $15 for that tinny chainring and takes 15 minutes at home if you have a crank-remover; add 10 minutes if you don’t have that tool and need to ride to back and forth down the block with the crank bolt removed until it loosens that way. I have always been confused by that.

      Update: Most of the issues I had with it have been fixed, see below.

      Mileage: 1200; it would be more but I ride a bit less due some chances in my job, but it mostly due to riding my other bikes that are more reliable.

      Some pros I failed to mention: I wanted this bike to be a very fast & rugged commuter that i could just swap out the tires through on the bags and do some serious touring. The ride comfort is great with continental 4-season 28s at 100psi. To me it has a really good balance of stability and responsiveness (me at 255lbs plus my 5lbs of breakfast,coffee, and lunch I bring with me. No real loaded riding to discuss handling in those circumstances as I have not fixed all of it issues or devoted the time for it). It is nice looking, and I am less worried about theft since it is not a popular brand.

      – all rear spokes were replaced with higher quality spokes not long after the previous post. I have not had one fail since, and gave it a couple opportunities hauling some crap around; maybe 20lbs on the rear rack. I have not done any loaded tours though. I think the combination of the narrower road hub (130mm vs the 135mm mountain hub a lot of touring bikes use), really crappy spokes, skinny tires(25s) was the problem with leading factor being the spokes. It was just disappointing to have a spoke pop ever 50 miles or so when all you are carrying is coffee & your lunch in a trunk bag. If do ever take it touring I will use a different wheel with a 135mm hub.

      – pads hardness appeared to be the problem. I would dig out the aluminum splinters from the pads, and they would still sound like I was using course sand paper on the rims instead of brake pads. I finally installed some koolstop pads and it feels like a different bike. No more grinding sounds or aluminum splinters and it stops a lot better.

      – the wacky seat post it came with kept getting out of adjustment no matter how tight I made it or even if I tried to predict its migration and correct with an offet so it would end up in the right spot. I changed it to seat post a more conventional style of seat angle adjustment; problem fixed.

      – the derailer hanger bends very easily compared to my other steel bikes. I don’t know if it was heat treated wrong or if this was intentional. If I ever get around to it, I want to get some figures of how much force this takes to bend it and compare it to my other bikes. This is a guess, but I believe the my other bikes can withstand two or three times this force and still wont bend. I am a little worried that they dont bend and just snap off though. The look similar in size and shape so it was surprising. ANYONE WITH SHIFTING PROBLEMS: IT MAYBE A BENT DERAILER HANGER; IT BENDS OUT OF ALIGNMENT SURPRISINGLY EASILY.

      The fork had crazy intense shuttering when I used the Inline brake levers, so I relocated the cable to new hanger that mounts on the fork instead of the top of the steer tube; see any specialized tricross of the last few years with canti brakes. I think this is a problem particularly bad for bikes with long steer tubes and/or flexy forks. Doing this totally ilimiated the shutter without changing the pad alignment. I think toeing in the pads it just a band-aid for shuttering as it trades the shutter for a lesser problem: reduced performance & pad life. I think the distance from a stem hanger to the brakes can increases slightly when the fork flexes under load and this creates more tension and more braking until it overcomes the lever & it gives some slack. It could also be that that when fork rotates slightly at the frame so the cable is no longer directly above and is pulling in a direction back from the normal alignment causing the leading edge of the pad to be pulled inward and to contact the rim first. Either way, eliminating all of that with a $5 fork mounted cable hanger seemed like a no-brainer; it works great, no complaints.

      The following is intened to show I am not some ruthless bike destroyer with crazy expectations.
      I got a deal on a new gt peace 29r 27spd (rigid; no suspension) about the same time as the jamis that I intended to use for mountain biking and fitness riding; current estimated mileage ~ 1000. I sometimes used the tires originally off the jamis for street riding. I have done more time, harder miles, and rode it a lot harder and it has been a much more reliable bike. Only problem I have with it is a hub failed when I tried to climb a super steep section of trail and I popped a spoke once while running the 32s when the rim was overdue for a turing and I kept riding it anyway. It was not shoked when I have 255 lbs (me) + clipless shoes + 22t & 34t gearing + 29 x 2.2 tires + regular deore hub + trail so steep it is hard to walk it = a dead hub. I walk that portion now or only do it on the 32s that will slip a little in the dirt and apply less torque on the hub since they are significantly less tall. I would feel much more confident taking this bike touring over the aurora anyday.

  2. I bought a used 2008 Aurora that had 5,500 + km on it. In retrospect it seems foolish to buy a bicycle that has seen so much use. The previous owner kept meticulous maintenance records and it was well-maintained. Once I got used to the shifters I found it rode like a dream. It was just what I was looking for at the time I was looking for it. There isn’t much of a used bike market in Japan. (With a few noticeable exceptions, Japanese people really don’t for buying and selling used stuff.)

    I have only put on about 600 km on it as I only use it for riding around tour near my office. I weigh about 225 lbs and, too be honest, I am not too gentle with my equipment. So far, the only repairs I have done is replacing tires and brake pads, stuff that you expect to wear out. Occasionally, I find it shifts a bit rough. And just recently I noticed that my crank has loosened up. I still think that these are all things that are natural effects of age and miles and the need for a general tune-up.

  3. My 2008 Jamis Aurora has taken me maybe 10,000 km over mainly flat but somewhat bumpy streets, commuting to work almost every working day. Installed front/rear racks, Planet Bike fenders, SPD pedals. Plenty of riding in the rain. I weigh about 70 kg & my stuff is another 7 kg or so.

    The problems have been:
    -lots of broken spokes
    -right-hand (rear) brifter, Shimano Tiagra, never worked right, even before rain riding
    -internal rust in frame, which hopefully has stopped now that the LBS sprayed some suitable chemical inside.
    -rough braking
    -brake pads wore out very fast.

    All in all, not a bad bike, though; it handles well. Steel is real. However, I still ride my first love, & it is still my best: a 1985 Nashbar Toure MT, that cost $299 & has taken me roughly 200,000 km including a 8,000 km cross-USA tour.

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