On the surface, gravel bikes occupy a space right in the middle between mountain bikes and road bikes. Zoom in, however, and the middle isn’t so much of a finite point as it is a line along a spectrum. Yes, the Jamis Renegade S2 is a gravel bike, but is it the kind of gravel bike that mountain bikers will enjoy riding? That’s what I’ve been trying to find out this winter, spinning it over hundreds of miles along streets, service roads, and singletrack in pursuit of the sublime.
Jamis Renegade S2 frame
The Renegade is a popular gravel bike model in the Jamis line, with the brand offering the bike in carbon, steel, and aluminum. The S2 I’ve been testing features makes use of air-hardened, 631 Reynolds steel tubes, and the steel Renegade builds are priced in between the aluminum and carbon models. Mountain bikers like to say that “steel is real,” which I never really understood (are alloy and carbon frames fake?), though I certainly appreciate the sentiment that steel bikes tend to have a certain ride feel compared to bikes made from other materials. I will say that to me, steel is certainly cool, and that’s why I wanted to test the Renegade S2.
Test pilot profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 72.5kg (160lb) testing zone: Southeast, USA
Gravel bike frames are generally pretty straightforward, and the Jamis Renegade S2 is no exception. The S2 features three sets of bottle mounts in the front triangle alone, with additional mounts on the fork, rear triangle, and top tube for adding all the bags and racks one might ever need for bikepacking or commuting. The 72° head tube angle on the 58cm bike I tested is on par with some of the other gravel bikes Singletracks has tested, though it’s interesting to note the angle varies depending on the frame size. Short, 430mm chainstays give the Renegade S2 a bit of a playful demeanor and the 630mm stack height proved comfortable and not overly tucked or hunched over for this tall rider.
Jamis says the Renegade frame can fit up to 700x50c tires in the rear, and for riders who want to hit the roughest gravel roads along with loads of singletrack, the wider the better. Mountain bikers will also be stoked that the Renegade S2 frame features routing for a 27.2mm diameter dropper post, though this particular build does not ship with one.
The paint color shown here is called “root beer,” and it’s pretty delicious if you ask me. The glossy finish is easy to keep clean and the paint sparkles in the sun. If you look closely the fork is decorated with a subtle topo pattern which complements the equally subtle decal graphics throughout the frame. The vintage looking head badge appears to be metal, though I suspect it’s actually a puffy plastic sticker. Update: Confirmed, it’s metal. 🤘
The Renegade S2 comes with a Jamis Adventure ECO carbon fork with a 50mm offset. There are three mounts on either side of the fork for bottles and/or bags, and internal hose routing for the front brake.
As for the frame itself, there isn’t any internal routing for cables or hoses beyond the dropper post. Everything is designed to run underneath the down tube with mount points for attaching cables and hoses to the frame with zip ties. Home mechanics will dig it, while surely riders some will find the look unkempt.
The S2 build
Looking at the Jamis Renegade S2 build, the intentions for this gravel bike become even more clear. Starting at the dirt, the bike is equipped with 700x40c WTB Raddler tires rolling on a Boyd GVL tubeless wheelset. An 11-speed, Shimano GRX drivetrain drives the wheels with a mix of 600- and 400-level components. My test bike is configured with a 40t chain ring and an 11-42t cassette which offers a good range for riding road or trail, though it is a bit limited at either extreme end of the all-road spectrum. Hydraulic Shimano GRX brakes provide more than enough stopping power for the skinny tires.
At the cockpit, Jamis specs Ritchey Baquiano Comp drop bars which feature a 12° drop flare and 3° flare out. These are definitely more traditional and road-like than some of the flared out bars you might see on gravel rides today, and I found they’re more practical and comfortable than those other bars too.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece of the cockpit is the Redshift suspension stem. It’s pretty much exactly what you think it is, though mountain bikers may scoff at the idea of an elastomer stem providing anything resembling suspension.
All told my build weighs 24.9lb with pedals which isn’t too far off the weight of a decent XC mountain bike. Steel, while lovely, isn’t the lightest material for frame building, and touches like the elastomer stem add comfort, but also weight.
Off the road and onto the singletrack
Before hitting the gravel I needed to wrap the handlebars with the included bar tape. As a mountain biker I’ve never had a reason to wrap a set of curly bars, so this would be my first attempt. After watching a YouTube video from Calvin Jones, I jumped right in and much to my surprise, the process was kinda fun and the bars turned out great. New skill unlocked!
I did a lot of long training rides on the Jamis Renegade S2 ahead of the Huracan 300 bikepacking race, and most of those rides involved riding pavement to gravel to singletrack and back again. (I even considered riding the Renegade on the Huracan, but decided my MTB would be a slightly better choice.) In spite of a relatively relaxed geo and fun-centered build kit, the Renegade feels sufficiently efficient on the road, which is all the better to get to the good stuff quicker. The Raddler tires are a little draggy on asphalt and the gearing isn’t enough to keep up on the local weekday road ride, but the Renegade is still much faster than a mountain bike on the road.
On gravel roads the Renegade feels fast and smooth, with much of the credit going to the Redshift stem and the 700x40c WTB tires. Riding along the Atlanta beltline I thought to myself, “wow, they must’ve done some work to smooth out the gravel here.” Then I realized the gravel was the same; it was my bike that got upgraded.
Mountain bikers who note that a suspension stem is not the same as a suspension fork are technically correct, though perhaps missing the point. While the stem doesn’t really suspend the rider, it does damp road and trail vibrations which makes riding the Renegade noticeably more comfortable and easier to control. I thought it might feel flexy, or just plain vague and unresponsive, but the stem generally feels normal most of the time. Selecting the right elastomers for your ride weight is key, and if it feels wrong — either too much give or not enough — you can swap in a different set.
Compared to the Diamondback Haanjo I tested last year, the Renegade S2 handles chunkier gravel roads and singletrack more confidently. On damp and rooty blue-rated singletrack the S2 felt surprisingly capable, though a dropper post would make the build even more trail-worthy, especially on steep descents and technical tracks. Part of the lure of any gravel bike is the possibility of riding singletrack in conjunction with gravel, but if doing so isn’t any fun, what’s the point? I can confirm that the Jamis Renegade S2 is actually fun to ride on singletrack, and not just an exercise in flexing one’s technical skills and grit.
Pros and cons of the Jamis Renegade S2 gravel bike
- Comfortable frame geometry and build kit
- Capable singletrack performance
- Understated and confident style
- Suffers on pavement compared to other gravel bikes
- Weight creeping into MTB territory
For me it’s incredibly satisfying to put together hours-long rides that combine roads with trails, known corridors with unexplored lines, and fast spins with grinding technical traverses. The Renegade is about as perfect a bike as I can imagine for just such a mission.
I’d be tempted to hold onto the Jamis Renegade S2 if I weren’t already in a long-term relationship with another gravel bike. This root beer rocket is dripping with style and is up for riding whatever surface is in front of it.
- Price: $2,499.95
- Buy from Jamis dealers.