Friday, April 6, 2018

2017 Jamis Coda Sport vs. Rivendell Sam Hillborne

In this series I will be comparing three bicycles which are designed and built for functional do-everything riding. If you have been following for any amount of time, you will know my Diamondback Outlook, "the Hoopty." If not, here it goes: I rode it across the country, I love it, it is awesome, blah blah etc. I will be comparing the Outlook to two currently-made options which are made for a similar purpose. The Jamis Coda Sport retails for $529, and the Rivendell Sam Hillborne goes for $1400 as a frame. I will try to be fair in my testing. The findings will not be scientific (no wind tunnels). The point is to compare bicycles which are similar in function, but have a vastly dissimilar price. How much does it matter? "Some" or "a lot" or "not really at all."

The Jamis Coda is designed, marketed, and sold as a good option for a beginner. But an examination of the spec sheet suggests that it is capable of being much more. To me it looks like an ideal daily commuter, and an appropriate choice for a long loaded tour. I'm not convinced that bicycles costing four times as much, and designed for comfort and utility, offer any true gains in performance or satisfaction while turning the pedals. I am willing to be wrong, but not without examination. That is what I am aiming to do.

My 2017 Jamis Coda Sport has been built and is being ridden. The first comparison will be between the box-fresh Jamis Coda and my long-loved Diamondback Outlook. I will try to remain objective during this phase, as I compare my best friend to a stranger. So far, in my subjective opinion, the Outlook is in the lead. In spite of a low-end hi-tensile steel frame, and a road weight of forty pounds, I still like it better. According to Strava, I am actually faster on the Outlook. I expect my opinion to shift as I get more familiar with the Jamis, once I dial it in with a sportier and more familiar position. The Jamis feels like it has the capacity and desire for swift fun, but not straight out of the box while it's built like a standard hybrid. I'll report back after some changes are made.

2017 double-butted chromoly frame versus sporting goods clunker from 1997? The Jamis better feel good once set up correctly, or else many of my beliefs about life will be shattered. (Sorry, my Outlook, but you know what you are. You will always have a place in my heart and my stable.)

For the second phase of testing, I will compare the Jamis Coda Sport to a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. The nature of this test will hinge upon the willingness of Rivendell to send me a Sam Hillborne for side-by-side testing. In the absence of an actual Rivendell, I will do an in-depth comparison of the spec sheets. This type of comparison isn't likely to bode well for the Rivendell, since the Coda Sport is also a butted chromoly frame, and the geometry doesn't look like a whole heap of difference. (Bottom bracket drop notwithstanding.)

It would be forgivable to think that comparing a Jamis to a Rivendell doesn't make sense. Let me explain why it does. By their nature, bicycles are simple machines, which have been refined for over a century. Both of these bicycles use double butted chromoly tubes. Both are designed for strength and comfort over the same exact types of terrain. What then, if any, are the actual results when it comes to turning the pedals?

When I consider any purchase, especially one for more than $20, I try to remove emotion from the equation. I try to be honest with myself about whether a new item or upgrade is likely to provide quantitative or qualitative benefits. Studies have shown, and my experience has borne out, that the things that we want don't make us any happier in the long term after we have them.

What I seek to find out is whether buying a Rivendell is like buying a beautiful print from an artist who you love - or is there a component of function beyond the lugs and paint? Many people place a high value on style, which is perfectly okay, but I don't. Also: supporting a company like Rivendell - an ethical business, promoting a pure love of cycling, and a steadfast champion of sensible design - is a good which I would never argue against.

With that said, is a Rivendell just a small-batch Jamis Coda with lugs? Feel free to discuss this, or shoot me for asking.

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