Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Cyclocross Race Bike Shootout series, which also includes tests top competition steeds from Trek, Specialized, and Van Dessel, as well as SRAM Force CX1 and reviews of several wheelsets and ’cross tires.
The new Jamis Supernova Team is a lot of things. Forgettable is not one of them. Between the Halloween’esqu color scheme and large and frequent logo placement, this bike looks like the cyclocross version of a NASCAR racer. And it’s a comparison that works beyond aesthetics. Indeed, this race-ready rig is built for ’cross competition. If you’re looking for a bike suitable for double duty as a gravel grinder or back-up roadster, we’d recommend looking elsewhere.
This specificity of purpose starts with frame geometry. Our size 58cm tester boasts a lofty 69mm bottom bracket drop, short’ish 102.4cm wheelbase, compact 38.5mm reach, and steep 72.5-degree head tube angle, which collectively conspire to make this bike exceptionally snappy — and perhaps a little twitchy. To get maximum performance out of the Jamis Supernova Team you best be a confident bike handler who’s comfortable diving in and out of corners without much room for operator error. We learned this the hard way, violently laying the bike down in a tight left-hand turn during our first race test aboard the bike.
The frame is also 2×4 stiff. Constructed from what Jamis calls Dyad Elite M30/T700 monocoque composite, the Supernova Team exhibited no unwanted flex. Tubes shapes throughout are stout, with the FSA BB386EVO bottom bracket providing a solid platform to transfer power to the pedals.
Here’s a look at several key metrics from three size 58cm bikes in this test. We’ll add the Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie’s key measures as soon as it arrives.
The Jamis’ racing pedigree is furthered by the bike’s SRAM Force CX1 1×11 drivetrain. Gone is the front derailleur, chain slap, and almost all worry of dropping the chain thanks to SRAM’s thick-thin chainring tooth design. In its place is a 42-tooth chainring combined with an 11-28 cassette that requires the bike’s pilot to be in top-shelf shape, lest they get bogged down anytime a race course tips uphill.
If this was my bike, I’d swap on a 40-tooth chainring and an 11-32 cassette, which would make for bigger jumps between gears, but ensure enough top and low end to deal with most race scenarios. The other option is to keep a few different size chainrings on hand, and swap them on based on course characteristics. But that will cost you about $130 a piece, plus labor time. Alternatively, you can switch the bike to a traditional 2x set-up, as the frame can accommodate a direct mount front derailleur hanger and/or be set up with electronic shifting.
To the Maxle
Other prominent highlights of the Supernova Team include a set of SRAM Force hydraulic disc brakes, a 15mm Maxle thru axle up front, and a set of solidly built American Classic Argent Tubeless Disc wheels with bright orange accents to match the bike’s loud-and-proud color scheme.
Braking performance is rock solid. If you’re making the jump from cantilevers to hydro disc you’ll be blown away. SRAM’s disc stoppers allow you to brake later with far more control and modulation. It’s cliché to say, but it really is a game changer. The only potential downside will be for those who’ve also spent time on Shimano’s new R785 hydraulic brakes, which in our brief experience have been superior in overall feel and performance. We’ll be posting a longer term side-by-side test soon.
We’ve also been impressed with the American Classic wheels, which are plenty stiff, have smooth spinning hubs, weigh a reasonable 1531 grams, and are wide enough (19.4mm inner) to accommodate wider width cyclocross tires. Alas, we don’t understand why Jamis opted to spec Clement Crusade PDX tires, which have a poor tubeless-set-up track record. For race day we swapped on a set of Kenda Kommando X Pro tires, which required a compressor to get seated, but have since performed admirably even at pressures hovering just below 30psi. The 120tpi Kenda’s don’t ride like a set of supple tubulars, but it’s hard to argue with the dramatic reduction in hassle factor, and we’ve yet to experience even a baby burp.
This is the first ’cross bike we’ve ridden with a thru-axle and the difference is readily apparent. Front end stiffness is profound, steering exceptionally precise. It’s also much easier to maintain the tight tolerances required of disc-brake set-ups. We’ve managed to all but eliminate rotor ting, a significant accomplishment in the drop-bar disc brake realm.
The rest of the parts spec is workingman solid, with a cockpit that includes Ritchey WCS EVO Curve 44mm bars held in place by a Ritchey WCS 4-axis 120mm stem, which is plenty stiff but a little long for our liking. The Fizik Aliante Delta saddle (which matches frame and wheel color) is plenty comfortable, with just enough give to handle the occasional sloppy remount. It’s perched atop a Ritchey Carbon seatpost, completing the bike’s tied together look and feel.
Hot Laps and Toe Taps
To add a little diversity of opinion to our test, we drafted a half dozen upper-level amateur racers and spent a day spinning hot laps around the Valmont Bike Park cyclocross course in Boulder, Colorado. The prevailing sentiment was that the Jamis Supernova Team was a bike with a narrower appeal than others in the test, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Testers used descriptors such as quick, agile and ultra stiff when describing ride feel.
“I noticed the thru-axle right away, especially on the power climbs when I was out of the saddle,” said one tester, who races in the 35+ open master’s category. “The braking was also really good, but overall the bike didn’t seem as forgiving [as the Trek Boone or Specialized Crux Pro].”
“It’s plenty stiff in the bottom bracket and accelerates really well,” said another tester, who’s consistently at the front of 35+ master’s open races. “But I found the tracking a little off. I wanted both wheels to come loose at the same time and that wasn’t the case. And then there’s the toe overlap…”
Indeed, our size 58cm rig’s frame is so tight that anyone with a shoe size of 45 or above will likely experience toe overlap. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but certainly speaks to the frame’s aggressive geometry, and it could cause handling issues for some riders.
Tire clearance is also tight. There’s plenty of space up front around the fork, but the gap between the chainstays and our 33c Kenda race day tires was pretty minimal and could become a problem if conditions are sloppy.
If you’re a newbie cyclocross racer, we’d suggest you look for a bike with less aggressive gearing and frame geometry. But for the seasoned amateur racer who’s comfortable pushing a big gear and skilled enough to handle this rig’s razor sharp steering, the Jamis Supernova Team could well be your path to the podium.
- Loud matching color scheme (if that’s your thing)
- Quiet, simple and reliable SRAM Force CX1 drivetrain
- Price is lowest in test
- 17.3-pound weight is lowest in test
- Tubeless compatible wheels
- Snappy handling
- Superior stiffness thanks in part to front thru-axle
- Hydraulic disc braking
- Flattened top tube for ease of shouldering
- Loud matching color scheme (if that’s not your thing)
- Gearing will be too tall for some
- Toe overlap for size 58cm frame
- Non-tubeless tires
- Long stem
- Lack of front derailleur diminishes non-race versatility
- Twitchy handling
- Thru-axle limits wheel choice
- Minimal chainstay tire clearance
Jamis Supernova Team Specs
- Price: $4499
- Weight: 17.3 pounds
- Frame: Jamis CX Dyad Elite M30/T700 Monocoque Carbon Fiber
- Fork: Jamis CX carbon fiber fork with 15mm Maxle Thru Axle
- Front Derailleur: Not applicable
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force CX1
- Chainring: SRAM Force CX1 42t
- Cassette: SRAM PG-1070 11-28
- Brakes: SRAM Force hydraulic disc
- Levers: SRAM Force CX1 hydraulic
- Rotors: SRAM Force centerline 160mm front, 140mm rear
- Wheels: American Classic Argent Tubeless Disc
- Tires: Clement Crusade PDX 700x33c
- Bars: Ritchey WCS EVO Curve 44mm
- Stem: Ritchey WCS 4-axis, 120mm
- Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta
3.5 out of 5 Stars
For more information visit www.myjamis.com.