$3k Endurance Bike Shootout: Jamis Xenith Endura Elite Review

True gravel grinder that can do double duty as capable commuter

$3k Endurance Bike Shootout 2014 Road Bike


Putting the Jamis Xenith Endura Elite through its paces on the roads west of Boulder, Colorado.

This article is part of RoadBikeReview’s $3,000 Endurance Bike Shootout. See an introduction to the test here and head over to our Shootout Round-Up Page to read the rest of the reviews.

Consensus is often fleeting when it comes to bike testing. That was certainly the case with the Jamis Xenith Endura Elite. Our team of evaluators had plenty of good — and not so good — to say about this gravel grinder-oriented road bike.

In the plus column was the Xenith Endura Elite’s unique spec, highlighted by a set of dual-pivot, long reach TRP RG957 brakes, which put this bike at the top of the test for max tire size compatibility.

While the bike comes with a set of Vittoria Rubino Pro 25s, Jamis claims the Xenith Endura Elite will accept up to a 34c file tread rubber without fenders, or a 28c tire with fenders (hidden fender and carrier mounts are stock on the frame). We tested that claim with a set 32c Vittoria Cross XN Pro tires that measured about 31mm, and as you can see in the photos below, they fit with plenty of room to spare. Safe to say you could squeeze a 34c in there if you wanted.

jamis-endura-caliper jamis-endura-tire-check

The Jamis Xenith Endura Elite had no trouble handling wide tires — and we could easily have gone wider.

“The choice to spec those long reach brakes shows that someone really thought about how this bike would be used,” said one tester with a particular proclivity for taking road bikes off road. “It’s a great example of manufacturer responding to the needs of the market, as opposed to just saying, here’s a bike, hope it works for your needs.”

Wheel spec was another highlight. Though not the lightest hoops around, the Shimano RS61s are tubeless ready and have a wide flange hub and offset rim, which increases rigidity and power transfer.

And of course, the 11-speed Shimano Ultegra drivetrain drew universal praise for its crisp shifting. However, several testers noted that while the TRP brakes gave the bike more tire width versatility, they didn’t work as well as the Ultegra brake calipers found on some other bikes in this test.

“The [TRP] brakes definitely felt a little spongy at times,” said one tester. “There was a noticeable difference when compared to the Shimano stuff. You had to brake earlier and with a little more hand force.”

jamis-endura-cranks jamis-endura-cable-routing

Jamis opted for a mid-compact 52-36 chainring set-up, making it the only bike in the test without a true compact configuration. Cable routing is internal and ports are Di2 compatible.

What else you need to know

Cable routing on the Xenith Endura Elite is fully internal — and if you decide later you want to upgrade to an Ultegra Di2 drivetrain (or some other electronic drivetrain), the frame is fully compatible.

Gearing wise, the Xenith Endura Elite is the only bike in this test that eschews the 50-34 compact crankset set-up so common on endurance bikes, instead opting for a mid-compact 52-36 configuration. This was viewed as a direct nod to this bike’s intended purpose, which is as more of a gravel or dirt road adventure steed, rather than an all-around endurance rig. That higher gearing means less chance of getting spun out on the flats. But even with the spec’d 11-28 Shimano Ultegra cassette, it will leave some riders wishing for an easier gear on steeper climbs.

“I’m a fan of the slighter bigger gearing,” said one tester. “But it will really be a matter of preference and fitness level of the person buying this bike. I think a lot of riders in this segment have gotten used to riding compact cranks and might see it as a negative. It depends a lot on the kind of terrain you’re intending to ride.”

Climbing performance is further comprised by overall weight, with the Xenith Endura Elite tipping the scales at 18.12 pounds (size 58cm). Of course none of these bikes are flyweights, with only the Scott Solace 20 coming in under 17 pounds. Here’s full price and weight breakdown for all the test bikes.


X’s and O’s

Frame geometry was another point of debate with the Xenith Endura Elite. Our size 58cm test bike’s headtube measured a 19cm, putting it on the tall end of the spectrum within this group. While that stature means less chance of lower back pain, especially for less flexible riders, some testers felt that extra front-end height led to odd handling characteristics.

“On the flats I had difficulties getting into a position where I felt like I was getting out everything I put in,” said one tester. “To me the front end felt a little too high, and that hampered power transfer a little.”

On the plus side, that taller position made it easier to get the bike to behave when cornering. “It wasn’t twitchy at all, but I did feel like I had to muscle it a little during really hard cornering. I think both of those characteristics are symptomatic of the taller headtube.”

Of course this is once again an issue of preference. Many consumers looking to buy an endurance bike want that upright feeling, and will be willing to sacrifice elsewhere. But if you’re looking to split the difference between comfort and aggressiveness, this might not be the bike for you. Here’s a bike-by-bike breakdown of some key geometry measurements.


Attached to the frame is a serviceable mix of components, highlighted by a Ritchey Comp stem and Ritchey Comp Logic Curve handlebars, with short reach (73mm) and shallow drop (128mm). A Ritchey Carbon Pro seatpost is topped by a San Marco SPID saddle, which some testers felt was a little “too comfy.”

“It’s all personal preference when it comes to saddles, but for me it almost felt a little bouncy,” said one tester. “It was to the point where it interrupted my pedaling. I would definitely swap it out if I bought this bike.”

Frame stiffness was also a matter of contention. Some testers found the bike adequately rigid, calling it “plenty snappy when you’re climbing out of the saddle.” But others were less convinced, labeling it a “little numb when climbing. It’s like they took some of the stiffness away to make it handle better on the dirt, so it ends up in the middle between being a racy road bike and a plush endurance bike.”

jamis-endura-fork jamis-endura-saddle

The fork comes with rack mounts. Saddle spec is a San Marco SPID.

Bottom Line

While by no means a bad bike, consensus among our test group is that the Jamis Xenith Endura Elite will likely appeal to a narrower audience than some of the other bikes in this test. If you’re seeking a true adventure rig that can handle a wide tires (and even fenders), and you don’t mind a taller headtube and slighter higher gearing, this bike is definitely worth a test ride.

Continue to Page 2 to see an extended photo gallery and full spec of the Jamis Xenith Endura Elite »
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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