When I was asked to review the Jamis durango, I’ll be honest, I was a little uninspired. The prospect of riding a £550 entry level machine made me wake up in cold sweats, dreaming of the ungainly beasts of days gone by, great entry level bikes but obviously lacking in performance and styling.

On receiving the Jamis, I was actually presently surprised! The stylings were sleek and modern, the paint and colour schemes well thought out and the componentry seemed to look the part. Ok aesthetic test done and that’s a big pass from the little £550 off-the-shelf build.

Next, a little test ride around the car park – as expected the boys in the work shop had set the bike up well, although it is a little on the heavy side, the gears were crisp and efficient, performing just as well as the Shimano LX and even XT setups of not that many moons ago! The breaks felt sharp and responsive and most of all powerfully capable of stopping me in my tracks….. far removed from the low level, soggy shifting, budget machine I had been expecting. So a perfect start? Well, no. The only initial concern was the forks, they did not feel great and only after several minutes tinkering and adjustment did I have it in a good enough set up that it didn’t give a nasty clang when reaching the limit of the suspension or pulling up on the bars (top out / bottom out). I also changed the pedals; while the factory pedals are good enough for a once in a while biker, I knew that they weren’t going to cut the mustard for the purposes of this test so these were replaced with a similar value set of Wellgo platform pedals that have served me well in years gone by and will not break the bank for anyone trying to get a little more grip on the bumpy off road trails.

After 30 minutes in the car park getting everything set up (and getting the opinions of the ever helpful locals (Their verdict: it looks like you’re getting a lot for your money)) it was finally time to ride.

We hit the technical off road trails straight out, after all, isn’t that what the bike is made for? The tyres gripped well on the loose March ground and inspired confidence and belief that maybe, this low end machine could still deliver the thrills and excitement of a far more expensive setup. As expected, the forks did feel budget but, considering the price tag, the fact that this was my only gripe for the day spoke volumes to just how good and natural this little bike felt. There were a few instances of the front wheel starting to wash out, only controllable by a hard stamp down and on hitting the wetter, softer mud the bike did not feel happy but this could easily be fixed with some wider tyres, which the chunky frame is more than capable of handling.

The real test came a mile or 2 down the path when we hit the more technical trails of the Surrey hills, we spotted a group of local riders carving a path down the hill and decided to put the Jamis through its paces. How pleasantly surprised I was to go blasting past riders on rigs well in excess of £2k with little effort. The forks were still an issue on the more root infested and bumpy sections and likewise when hitting anything a little softer but on the flat the Jamis really held its own, felt comfortable and most importantly, like a lot of fun sucking up small jumps (and even some of the bigger ones) without missing a beat. It handled the more technical sections very well and proved to be quite responsive and enjoyable. After several hours of riding on a variety of terrain we returned to the car park full of smiles (and a few bruises) at the fun that could be enjoyed for such a relatively low budget.

In summary, this is a great little bike for the money and would suit someone looking for a well-rounded entry level work horse that can be upgraded and built on, this is a bike that would feel just as comfortable on the daily commute as a weekend burn – 3 ½ to 4 stars – change the forks and I’d give it 5 big stars for the money!

Check out the Jamis Durango Sport 2012 >>>

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