Jamis Dragonfly Review: Converting a Commuter
The Jamis Dragonfly Sport is designed around 26+ tires, adjustable sliding dropouts, and a Reynolds 520 steel frame. Modern geometry and a value-packed build were the driving forces behind Miles and Emily’s decision to bring the Dragonfly along on their vanlife excursion this summer. Read on for the full review, including a major emphasis on introducing the average cyclist to bikepacking, and why the dragonfly is one of nature’s most efficient killers…
At first, both Emily and I were a little distracted by bike’s name and pink paint job, especially considering the Dragonfly is marketed as a women’s-specific version of the Dragonslayer. It just seemed a little forced, almost dated, compared to the modern features and design that attracted us to it in the first place. With that said, the Dragonfly has some characteristics that are unique, even when compared to the other models within the Dragon series. Thankfully, many of them are appealing, even if the name and colour aren’t.
After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that the dragonfly is way more badass than I’d ever imagined. A highly focused and feared killer in the insect world, the dragonfly is an agile predator and almost always exclusively carnivorous, feeding on small midges, mosquitoes, and even other dragonflies. What really sets the dragonfly apart from all other predators, is their ability to catch up to 95% of prey they pursue, making them one of the insect world’s most efficient hunters. I’ve been thinking of a way to tie in these dragonfly facts to the bike review and haven’t quite figured it out. At least you’ve learned something new? Moving on…
- Angles: 68° Headtube, 73° Seat Tube
- Chainstay: 425mm
- Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP
- Hub specs: 15x110mm (front); 12x148mm (rear)
- Seatpost Diameter: 31.6mm
- Max Tire Size: 26 x3.0″
- Weight: 30lbs
To offer another perspective, the Dragonfly can simply be seen as another step in the evolution of the Jamis Dragon series. For those who don’t know, the Jamis Dragon was first introduced back in 1993 and has always played an important role for the company. The original Dragon was constructed from fillet welded Tange Prestige steel tubing, then in 1997 Jamis offered the Dragon in Reynolds 853 tubing. The women’s-specific Dragonfly was first offered in 2016 as a 27.5” Reynolds 853 hardtail, and the current model has improved considerably on this version with the addition of downtube bottle cage mounts, rack mounts, a modern 1×11 drivetrain, and 26+ tires. Today, the Dragon series continues to focus on reliability and comfort, and is a bit of a curveball when compared to their other bikes, which might be why so many people dig it.
When it comes to geometry, the Dragonslayer and Dragonfly have some similarities, but the most notable differences are the Dragonfly’s shorter reach, standover height, top tube in relation to the seat tube, and headtube length. In short, the Dragonfly is designed to be agile yet stable, and caters towards shorter riders. I will add that the Dragonfly isn’t just for women, but could work well for anyone with a short inseam and reach, or anyone who may prefer the smaller, yet fully capable 26+ platform.
Converting a Commuter
Before we got our hands on the Dragonfly, Emily’s riding experience was fairly limited, especially trail riding and anything remotely technical. That said, she was a pretty dedicated commuter back in British Columbia, where she worked as a secondary school teacher. She would load up her rear basket with everything she needed for work, yoga, and beyond, and pedal her way through rain, wind, and sometimes even snow. I knew there was some serious potential when she requested I install winter tires on her trusty Rocky Mountain Hammer. These early stages of bike life are important for anyone beginning to embrace it, and I was certain not to push her too hard – just a gentle nudge. The chance to have a new bike to bring along during our travels was exciting for Emily, so I reached out to Logan for recommendations.
Logan suggested the Dragonfly for its 26+ wheels, steel frame, fool proof front suspension, and realistic price point, all of which made sense for Emily. At 5’5”, 115 lbs, with a 30” inseam, it was clear the smaller 26” wheels, although plus-sized, would be appropriate for someone of her stature. Paired with the 120mm RockShox Recon Silver, we figured the Dragonfly might just give her a fighting chance on any technical terrain encountered. We wanted something stable, comfortable, within a realistic budget, and, above all else, I wanted to open up new terrain possibilities to her. At the time, Emily didn’t quite know what she wanted or if she’d even be sold on the idea of bikepacking with me, but we both agreed it was worth a shot.
Having the ability to run a rear rack was also important, as Emily would be using the Dragonfly as her daily commuter as well during the testing period. I’m told that renting a yoga mat just isn’t the same, and that mat isn’t going to carry itself. This, unfortunately, added even more weight to the already heavy bike, pushing it over 31lbs, and has resulted in a few low speed crashes on tight corners for Emily. Once this thing starts tipping, it goes. I’ve since lightened things up a bit by replacing her rear basket with a set of lightweight Arkel Dry-Lite Waterproof Panniers.
Out with the old, in with the new!
By Emily Heron
Growing up in a quiet beach community, I was used to pedaling here and there (most often barefoot and helmet-less). When Miles and I moved to Kelowna, BC, the thrill of a new place quickly wore off when it took me 20+ minutes to drive the 2.5 km to work. Enter the Rocky Mountain Hammer. Our bike-loving friend Mike had one too many bikes (Miles would disagree) and suggested I take this baby over. It was fun. It may have not been the perfect fit, but unlike Miles, I never really considered how a bike felt, as long as it got me from point A to B. It was trusty, reliable, and cool enough where my students were always asking to take it for a spin.
When Miles brought up the idea of getting me a bike for our summer trip, I was excited. It’s true, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I just know that new things are fun, and I don’t get new toys often. When I first took the Dragonfly on a ride, I was amazed how comfortable it was. On my Rocky Mountain, I was unknowingly hunched over in an uncomfortable position. The Dragonfly immediately eased me into a more upright position and I took it over some bumps and curbs – so much cush for my tush. The big tires made me feel safe and stable, and to my surprise, I was open to the idea of longer rides, some more technical trails, and dare I say it, bikepacking.
You should also trust everything I say. Teachers are always right.
Jamis Dragonfly 26+ Sport Build
The Dragonfly is offered in two different builds, Pro and Sport. Both builds share similar specs, including a Reynolds 520 steel frame, sliding dropouts, plenty of cage and cargo mounts, and a 26+ platform based around WTB Scraper rims and WTB Ranger tires. The Pro becomes slightly more pro with an upgraded Fox Rhythm 34 Float fork, Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes, the addition of a KS eTen Integra dropper post, and an upgraded saddle. In my opinion, the Fox fork is the most notable upgrade, especially if the rider had some previous experience with suspension forks. Thankfully, this was not the case for Emily, so the more affordable Sport build offered more than enough bike for her. For about $1,000 less, the Sport model comes built up with a 120mm RockShox Recon Silver, Shimano M396 hydraulic brakes, a SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain, and a standard Ritchey seatpost.
The term ‘underbiking’ is often tossed around online, referring to the benefits and joy of riding a bike that only just makes the cut for the terrain. As I see it, when it comes to those just getting into it, ‘overbiking’ is quite possibly a more effective route. For the price, the Sport build offers some pretty impressive features for the novice bikepacker. A solid wheelset built up with WTB’s popular Ranger tires are suited for a wide variety of trail surfaces, accompanied by modern details like boost spacing, plus-sized tires, and an 11-speed drivetrain. At $1,399, it’s the kind of bike that won’t break the bank, but will certainly earn a nod of approval from passersby who know what’s up.
When it comes to 26+ bikes, there aren’t that many options on the market. Unsurprisingly, Surly came in first with the Instigator, and since then a few full-suspension bikes based around 26+ wheels have popped up. More recently, we have seen some bike manufacturers, including Salsa, bragging 26+ compatibility for their bikes built up around standard 27.5” wheels. I couldn’t find anything out there that compares to the Jamis Dragonfly, in terms of features and price point. It’s unique and serves a purpose, and Emily’s into it. Honestly, I am too.
The SRAM NX drivetrain is affordable and works as it should, and the 1×11 trigger shifter was easy for Emily to figure out, coming from the grip shifters that were on her previous bike. Even for a light rider, we were able to tune in the RockShox fork enough to give her arms and wrists a break when riding singletrack, and Emily was quick to recognize the benefits of locking out the fork when riding more tame terrain and pavement.
- FRAME Reynolds 520 Steel (Dragon Fruit)
- SIZES 14, 16, 18
- FORK 120mm RockShox Recon Silver RL
- CRANKSET SRAM NX
- CHAINRING SRAM NX 32T
- B/B SRAM GXP
- CHAIN KMC X11-1
- Cassette SRAM 1130 11-42T 11spd
- Derailleur SRAM NX
- SHIFTER SRAM NX 1×11
- BRAKE CALIPERS Shimano M396
- FRONT BRAKE ROTOR RT26 180mm
- REAR BRAKE ROTOR RT26 160mm
- BRAKE LEVERS Shimano M396
- HEADSET FSA Orbit
- STEM Ritchey Trail
- SEATPOST Ritchey Trail Comp 31.6mm
- SEAT CLAMP Ritchey
- GRIPS Jamis Lock-on
- SADDLE WTB Volt Sport w/ Luxe Zone Cutout
- FRONT HUB Formula 15x110mm
- REAR HUB Formula 12x148mm
- SPOKES Stainless
- RIMS WTB Scraper i40 TCS
- FRONT TIRE WTB Ranger 26×3.0 TCS
- REAR TIRE WTB Ranger 26×3.0 TCS
I will say that the interface between the WTB Rangers and WTB Scraper rims was frustrating to work with. The internal profile of the rim creates a tight channel that does a great job holding the tire in place, which makes tubeless setups super reliable, but makes removing a fresh tire nearly impossible. It took a lot of force to get the tire bead out of place, and some aggressive tire lever moves to work the bead towards the other side of the rim for removal. I was looking forward to getting Emily comfortable changing a tube on this bike, but instead set it up tubeless in Arizona after a few too many flats. I’m betting it’ll hold for eternity.
Tips for Bikepacking with Beginners
The Dragonfly played an important role in introducing Emily to bikepacking. Sure, she’s no stranger to bike and gear talk, since they both play an important part in my life. Although I recognize that talking about steel, ultralight Cuben Fiber frame bags, and 800+ fill quilts may not be her cup of tea, I occasionally find myself getting carried away. I think the first step to getting your significant other interested in the idea of bikepacking is getting them stoked about riding a bike. Whether this means cleaning up an old bike by modernizing the drivetrain, adding a new saddle and comfortable grips, or jumping in head first and investing in a totally new bike. Having a fun, comfortable bike that they want to ride is way more important than anything else. Baby steps. We’ve already outlined the what, how, where, and when of Bikepacking 101 here on the site, which you can check out here, but the following tips are catered towards average cyclists and bikepacking know-it-alls who exist in perfect harmony.
- Frame your first trip around something other than just riding. Something of interest to the one or group of people being introduced. Breweries are a good one, as are beaches, awesome views, food, or even an airbnb or yurt rental. In short, don’t make it all about bikes and camping.
- Lighten up their bikes. This wasn’t immediately obvious to me, but makes total sense. Take a turn as pack mule and carry most of the shareable items if possible. Let the new bikepackers carry their personal items and lightweight camping supplies.
- Shorten things up considerably. We’re talking just a few hours of riding max per day. Leave a bit later in the day if you have to, or arrive with plenty of time to hang out at camp. An eight-hour day won’t appeal to everyone.
- Cater to the individual. Some of these tips may not apply to ultra-athletes just getting into bikepacking, so above all else, get a good handle on what they want, ask questions, and go for it.
- Great geometry that lends itself to a comfortable and upright rider position, great for newer riders.
- Enough mounts considering the frame size, including standard bottle mount, downtube bottle mount, and rear rack mounts.
- 26+ tires are great for smaller riders, and make sense for the target market.
- Affordable but still spec’d appropriately.
- Pretty heavy even without gear. Super heavy when loaded gear or rear rack.
- Tire and rim combination is crazy tight and downright frustrating to remove.
- Colour may not be for everyone.
- Model/Size Tested Jamis Dragonfly Sport 26+, 16″
- Weight (as tested) 30 lbs. / 13.6 kg
- Rider Height/Weight 5’5″/115 lb (165cm/52.1kg)
- Price $1,399
- Place of Manufacture Taiwan
- Manufacturer’s Details JamisBikes.com
It still blows me away seeing Emily take the Dragonfly along chunky, even technical, trails with ease. It’s opened up so many different riding opportunities for her that simply didn’t exist before, and she ended up buying the bike she liked it so much. The 26+ build makes sense for an entry-level rider and offers a healthy blend of affordability and reliability in its components. At first, I wasn’t sure front suspension was totally necessary for a newer rider like Emily, but it quickly became apparent that the extra cushion would only add to her confidence and encourage longer rides.
From a bikepacking standpoint, we didn’t quick get in as many trips as I would have hoped. A memorable first overnighter on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia lit a small flame, one that will require plenty of attention to grow into something bigger. I think I learned something important from all of this, and it’s that not everyone, including your significant other, will fall head over heels for bikepacking. Take it slow, don’t pressure, and be prepared for more than a few months between the first few trips. I’m not sure when Emily and I will go bikepacking together next, but I can almost guarantee it will be based around some cheap wine, baked goods, and favourable weather. And that’s okay by me!