The Dragon has been in the Jamis line for 15 years. Although it has undergone many updates the Reynolds 853 steel tubing has always been the frame material of choice. For 2012 the Dragon will be offered in a 650b, as well as the current 29-inch version.
I think it is safe to say that for many riders, and certainly for the vast majority of bicycle manufacturers, the 26-inch cross country hardtail has been supplanted by 29ers in the United States. Aside from DJ/park bikes, I hadn’t ridden a hardtail that wasn’t a 29er in six years. So it was with some trepidation that I swung a leg over the 650b Dragon. Would the Dragon feel squirrely? Would the smaller wheels be a liability through techy terrain?
The answer was a resounding “Hell no.”
The 650b Dragon is nimble but not twitchy, retaining much of the playful nature of 26-inch wheels with a bit more stability. This is not only due to the slightly larger wheels, but also to its well-thought out geometry. The slack, 68-degree head angle and 120mm White Brothers LOOP fork made the Dragon feel right at home plowing through rock gardens and popping of the lip of two and three-foot rock drops.
I even took it for a spin through the pumptrack and did my best to get all agro. The classic ride of a steel hardtail constructed with modern trail geometry really seems to suit this wheelsize.
Jamis is one of the few larger companies supporting 650b, and while it may never find the widespread popularity of their slightly smaller and slightly larger counterparts, there is certainly a place for a bike like this.
The Dragon 650b retails for $2,700 with a Shimano SLX build.
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