Jamis makes 40(!) different drop-bar bike models, and the Quest may be my favorite. It has mounts for fenders and a rear rack, room for 32mm tires (28mm with fenders) and geometry that is sporty but still comfortable and stable. The drivetrain is all reliable Shimano, mostly from the 105 group, matched up to a Ritchey cockpit and wheels. All proven stuff.
The frame uses a tall head tube, and combined with a generous amount of spacers, getting a handlebar height from racy-low to almost bolt-upright is possible. If you are planning to run your bars high, moving up a bike size should help you from feeling cramped lengthwise, and the sloping top tube should provide plenty of standover clearance. I found the 56cm frame to be a good fit for me (5-foot-11) with the bars a few inches below the saddle.
When pushing the pace, the frame is pleasantly stiff, with the springiness that steel is famous for. The spring takes the edge off rough roads, and the handling inspires the confidence needed to bomb down dirt roads at speeds that soon resulted in pinch flats. (Bigger tires could be an answer, but lower speeds are probably more prudent.) On smooth tarmac the Quest corners with aplomb, leaning toward race-bike agility over touring-bike stability, responding best to an aggressive, in-the-drops cornering style.
I was very comfortable rolling up the California coast for a few days with a light load, cranking out multi-hour rides on the road, and exploring various paved and not-so-paved surfaces. It’s a very versatile bike. However, while I used it for a variety of things, this is a sporty road bike first and foremost, not a light touring bike—it worked best when I kept the load light and the pace brisk.
Jamis makes the Quest in six unisex sizes, from 48 to 61cm. There is also a women’s version, the Quest Femme, in 48, 51, or 54cm sizes. Different frame sizes are built with different diameter tubing, keeping the ride feel consistent across the various sizes. There are three other steel models in the Jamis lineup: the Eclipse at $3,600 (with a Reynolds 853 frame and Ultegra-level parts) and two lower-priced Reynolds 520 frame models, the $950 Satellite Comp and the $695 Satellite Sport.
For 2014 the Quest has changed very little, and that is as it should be. This is a good bike, almost perfect for the intended purpose, and the price tag is more than reasonable for the quality of the frame, parts and ride. The Quest goes about business with an understated grace that is rare, and may continue to fly under the radar in a buying landscape dominated by more flashy carbon and aluminum rides. But there is a reason steel frames are making a comeback, and the Quest is a fine example of the breed.
- Price: $1,800
- Weight: 20.5lbs. without pedals
- Sizes Available: 48, 51, 54, 56 (tested), 58, 61cm