Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jamis Coda Sport: Nice Frame Disguised in Cheap Parts?

I bought a 2017 Jamis Coda Sport to see if it would be fun to ride a new bicycle. Most bicycles that I own or admire are at least a couple decades old. I wanted to see if simple and reliable "classic style" bicycles are still being made at a price that ordinary people are willing to pay. For as long as I have been a bicycle mechanic, I have kept an eye on Jamis's Coda series. They appear to be well-designed bicycles for everyday riding and touring on a budget. I bought one to see for myself.

There are two ways to look at the Jamis: As a good choice for entry-level cycling, or as a nice frame disguised in cheap parts. 

Jamis Coda as a  Bicycle

For the customer who wants a high quality, low maintenance bicycle, it is my opinion that the Jamis Coda series is hard to beat. I think the Coda Sport hits the sweet spot between quality and price. You get an upright riding position out of the box, which most people purchasing a hybrid bicycle will appreciate. All of the components are simple and easy to tune, so long intervals of worry-free riding can be expected.

Jamis Coda as a Frame

When I look at the Coda Sport, I see a well designed double butted chromoly frame. I see standard diameter tubing, which will absorb road vibration. I see room for wide tires, lots of bosses for racks and fenders, and a frame that will take cantilever brakes. In short, I see a frame that has all of the functional elements of other frames costing four times more than the Coda retails for as a complete bicycle. So I bought one to evaluate. I hope that my theory is true. 

First Impressions

Before changing all the components, I want to get an opinion of the Jamis built up as most customers will experience it. I've ridden about thirty miles on the Coda Sport so far. I built it up from the box exactly like an average stock floor model. I am 6 feet tall, and I chose a 21" frame. With the tall stack of headset spacers, and the threadless stem in the upward position, the handlebars are as high as I can imagine anybody wanting. For somebody new to cycling, or somebody who will not ride up hills or go long distances, this will feel stable and comfortable. I enjoyed it myself while the road was flat, but my usual rides include hills. I am used to standing and pulling up on the handlebars to force power down to the pedals. With high handlebars, I had to sit down and choose a much lower gear. I was worn out after my 20 mile loop. My average speed was slower, even though the Coda Sport is fifteen pounds lighter than my usual bicycle.

In addition to fit, let me talk about the components. Everything that comes on the Coda Sport is solidly adequate equipment. I like the shifters and the derailleurs. I don't like the cranks, but they don't particularly offend me. They feel wide and look clunky. They operate fine, and most people won't be bothered, and frankly I don't think there are any better options possible in this price range. The handlebars have a slight curve, which is a fine choice, but they are not my personal preference. The rims and hubs are good average quality and should last a long time. Unlike the base model Coda, the Sport uses a cassette hub, which is a meaningful upgrade over the freewheel hub on the lower model. The Sport model also features a threadless stem versus the quill stem on the base model. Both stems work fine, one is not better than the other - but the threadless stem is the modern standard, and finding replacement stems for the purpose of sizing will be easier at most bicycle shops. 

I am happy that I took the time to get to know this bicycle in its original configuration. But I am not looking for a stock hybrid. I am looking for a frame that is secretly capable of more than it is marketed as. My theory is that with some changes to the components and riding position, I will have a fast touring bicycle which is fun to ride long distances in a spirited manner. I want an inexpensive frame that doesn't look flashy, but has every functional aspect of bicycles which are. Finding that balance is the part of this test that I'm looking forward to the most.

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