Jamis's Ventura Race stands apart from the host of identikit road bikes available in the sub-£1,000 bracket thanks to its carbon fibre seatstays – a feature usually found on bikes costing several hundred pounds more.
They add a welcome bit of comfort, avoiding the jarring ride of some all-alloy bikes at this price. The Jamis's short, upright ride position will definitely suit beginners, commuters and sportive riders better than racers, though.
Ride & handling: No slouch, but emphasises long-ride comfort over short-term speed gains
That upright position – courtesy of a short top tube (570mm/22.4in, horizontal, on our 58cm test bike) and tall head tube (200mm/7.9in, with a deep conical spacer on top) – is the first thing you notice when you sit on the bike. A long stem is used to attain a reach long enough for the bike's size, and taller riders will find themselves running the 300mm seatpost at full extension – or swapping it for a longer one, as we did.
This setup will likely appeal to beginners, as it provides a better view in traffic and tends to be more comfortable for those unaccustomed to spending long hours in the saddle. More experienced riders, however, will likely yearn for a flatter backed, more efficient position and a lower front end for improved cornering and descending.
In the hand, the Ventura Race's 20.5lb/9.3kg weight (without pedals) is evident. On the road, however, it responds well to pedalling and steering inputs, and you'll only notice the heft when accelerating or climbing.
We were sceptical as to whether the carbon stays would make any difference to the ride, but they add a tangible degree of extra comfort, filtering out some of the road buzz and taking the edge off potholes, aided by the full-carbon (not just the blades, as on many bikes at this price) fork up front. This addresses one of our main criticisms of the cheaper Ventura Comp.
The payoff is a slight reduction in rear end stiffness compared to the best all-alloy bikes at this price – we didn't notice any squirm or waggle but the Jamis can't match their lightning-fast acceleration (it's extra weight doesn't help in this area either). Unless you're a particularly aggressive or heavy rider, or have your mind set on racing, that's probably a compromise worth making in return for the improved long-ride comfort.
Frame: Carefully shaped and sized chassis with carbon chainstays and fork
Made by Kinesis using double-butted 7075 alloy, the mainframe has an ovalised top tube and bi-axially ovalised down tube to maximise front end and pedalling stiffness, along with an integrated headset. Plugged into the bottom of the head tube is Jamis's own full-carbon (apart from the dropouts) straight-bladed fork.
Out back are curved carbon seatstays – technically a carbon monostay, as they're formed in one piece – with a visible carbon weave. They're horizontally ovalised to resist side-to-side flex. There are bosses for two bottle cages but no rack or mudguard mounts, limiting the bike's appeal to commuters.
Jamis's use of size-specific tubing (SST) means that not only do larger frames have longer tubes than smaller ones, they're also larger in diameter. This is designed to ensure more consistent ride quality across the frame sizes.
After experiencing problems with toe overlap on the cheaper Ventura Sport and Comp, we were anticipating the same with the Race, but it never materialised. The 58cm Race was a larger frame though, so it's something to check before buying a smaller size. The frame's compact nature means it's a good idea to check sizing before you buy anyway – with an effective top tube length of 57cm, the 58cm size we tested was a little short for riders over 6ft.
Equipment: Good kit for the price, although white bits won't stay that way for long
Shimano 105 gears are a bonus at this price; we'd normally expect Tiagra. The levers feel a little plasticky but shifting performance isn't far off the more expensive Ultegra. Given the Jamis's weight and the fact it's likely to be bought by people fairly new to cycling, the combination of an 11- to 25-tooth cassette and 50/34T FSA compact crankset gives a fairly high lowest gear, though. We also found that stopping power from the hoods left a little to be desired.
The Jamis-branded carbon-wrap seatpost may look more sophisticated than an all-alloy equivalent, but it's heavier – 233g – and any road-buzz-reducing comfort benefit from the carbon is minimal; in fact, lightweight alloy posts tend to have a hint of fore-aft flex, which would likely make more of a difference to comfort. We didn't notice any difference when we subbed in a longer, alloy post.
The chunky Selle San Marco Ischia Arrowhead saddle looked somewhat out of place on such a racy-looking bike but was comfortable enough and had useful long and easily accessible rails. The wheels – no-name hubs on Alex ALX-190 rims with DT stainless steel spokes – stayed true throughout testing and the 23c Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are a durable choice, although they don't stay white for long.