Jamis Commuter 4 First Impressions by Richard Masoner
- TIG Welded 6061 aluminum frame and fork
- Shimano BR-M415 disc brakes with Tektro levers
- Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub with pulley tensioner
- Shimano R440 front dérailleur
- Jamis “Comfort” saddle
- 27.2 mm suspension seatpost
- 700 x 32 Kenda Kwest tires
- Sizes: 14.5″, 16.5″, 18.5″, 20.5″, 22″
- 30.5 lbs.
- MSRP: $835.00
All-weather commuters appreciate the utility of fenders and disc brakes on their bikes. While many road cyclists dig Levi Leipheimer’s custom 18 lb carbon rain bike with fenders, SRAM Red components, SRM and disc brakes, the low cost utility of the commuter features on the Jamis Commuter 4.0 bicycle is somewhat more accessible at only $835 retail.
Jamis started out selling basic beach cruiser and comfort bikes in 1979. They continue today designing bikes that are known for their value with a credo of no frills, quality parts and performance that continues today in their various road, mountain, and city bikes. All models of Jamis bikes are a frequent sight on my Silicon Valley bike commute, and the Commuter 4.0 is Jamis’s top of the line entry in the growing city bike category.
I’ll start with the bad news first: the only true downside of this bike is the bulbous comfort saddle. I think most people understand that saddle choice is highly personal, and I’m normally very flexible about the saddle that comes on the bike. The huge, amorphously oblong blob of a saddle on the Commuter 4.0, though, is truly awful. Changing that seat out for a basic WTB saddle I had laying around transformed the bike from something I dreaded into a truly pleasant bike to ride.
Thankfully, everything else about the bike performs exactly how you expect a city bike to perform. The cream Commuter 4.0 has a basic, no frills aluminum frame that is reasonably stiff and nimble. Jamis specs the bicycle with a suspension seatpost to compensate for the natural harsh ride of aluminum, but I’ve found the frame yields enough to road bumps that I don’t need the suspension. The frame provides enough rigidity to efficiently propel you forward, give good road feel and confidently maneuver through city traffic. I used the Commuter 4.0 to zip nimbly through the crowds as I shot photos during the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. And yes, I just described this commuter bike as “laterally stiff yet vertically compliant.” This bike doesn’t match the stiffness of a race worthy road bike, but you probably don’t want something too stiff for a five mile commute.
The fenders keep my feet and butt dry and keep grime away from the bottom bracket. The Shimano disc brakes work as well wet or dry to stop the bike on a dime. The swept back handlebars provide superior riding comfort over the riser bars that commuter bikes that typically equip commuter bikes.
One of the notable features of the Commuter 4.0 is the Alfine 8 speed hub. Road cyclists generally favor dérailleur gearing because it weighs substantially less than hub gearing – compare the 1590 grams of rotating mass on the Alfine with the 600 grams for Shimano’s mid range 105 dérailleur and hub, of which 353 grams rotates in the wheel. Dérailleur gearing also can provide a much wider range of gearing than hub gearing can at a reasonable cost. Many utilitarian cyclists favor internal hub gearing for several reasons, though: the gears are protected inside of a sealed hub, reducing maintenance requirements; there aren’t fragile parts jutting from the frame (useful when stacking bikes on a commuter train or in a crowded bike rack); and non-dished wheels are stronger than the dished wheels required when you have ten sets of cogs on one side of the wheel.
At 3.5 pounds, the Alfine is unquestionably heavy, but the rotating mass is at the center of the wheel and is not that noticeable. The shifting with the Shimano RapidFire thumb shifter is precise and fast. I’m very pleased with the utility and function of the 8 speed Alfine hub.
Jamis increases the gear range on the Commuter 4.0 by equipping this bike with a Shimano R440 front dérailleur. A pulley tensioner at the rear hub takes up the chain slack on the small chainring, while the big chainring allows for a little more get up and go.
I’m a fan of the Kenda Kwest flat resistant city tires on the Commuter 4.0. While one of the drawbacks of hub geared tires is tire changing difficulty (the general strategy is to patch the tube in place), the tires held up to the glass strewn streets of East Palo Alto with no problems.
With the exception of the saddle, I’m impressed with the Jamis Commuter 4.0. It’s a competent commuter bike with most of the right features, a solid feel, and nimble handling. This city bike packs good features and good quality for only $835. Available from your local Jamis dealer.