I was looking for a new commuter and knew of 2 things: disc brakes and fat tires. There were a very few bikes on the table, including the Surly Straggler, Traitor Ruben, and the Jamis Aurora Elite.
Surly just introduced the Straggler which would have been awesome because I was already riding a Cross Check for commuting. But I already had a Cross Check...why have 2 of the same or very similar bikes. Then the Traitor came to my attention, but I am widely unfamiliar with the company. Finally the Jamis Aurora Elite was the winner. Why?
Reynolds 631 steel. Disc brakes. Geometry. Matching fenders and rack. It came equipped to ride. I was sold. But I can't ever just ride things stock so I upgraded.
I took the 4 year old Brooks off my Cross Check, swapped the Deore cranks off my Surly for lower city gearing, upgraded the shifters to 105 STI units, and then slapped a TRP Parabox hydraulic converter on the head tube.
My experience with this bike is that it is one of the best commuters and light touring bikes I have ever owned. It is a stable ride with a longer wheelbase than the Surly Cross Check. Handling is very predictable. The bike can handle weight without any rattles in the front end. And the hydraulic brakes are just an added bonus.
If you are in the market for a touring bike and have been looking at Surly's and Salsa's, I would put the Jamis Aurora at the top of the list. It comes better spec'ed at a lower price point than other similar bikes. With 3 models including the similar Bossanova, this should be your next commuter bike.
This bike was brought in by a new customer of ours for a little more than a tune up. After a short discussion of hippies, we hammered out a few build options and arrived at an awesome new build.
The first thing to fix was the decade-old Manitou SX Ti fork. This generation of Manitou forks was great for being light, but terrible for retaining oil and general functionality. We went for a new RockShox Gold 30 Air.
Then there was the disc upgrade. New wheels and brakes were needed. Durability and low maintenance trumped weight weenie specs. A new set of Sun RynoLite's paired to a set of Deore hubs rounded out the wheels. For the brakes, you can't go wrong with the set-it-and-forget-it functionality of Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes.
To round of the package, the customer wanted to eliminate the low-normal rear derailleur (it shifts backwards, it is so bad) and replace it with a new XT derailleur. New shifters and new frame bearings make this perform as good as a new machine (or at least better than any hippie bike in Richmond.)