Fuji Jari 1.1 Review ReviewNovember 10, 2017
- 1x11 drivetrain is ideal
- Numerous storage options
- Silicone shouldering pad
- Stan’s No Tubes Grail
- Rough on paved surfaces
- Not as smooth riding as steel or carbon frames
- Shifters hard to push on bumpy conditions
Alloy frames are generally not the most compliant, but the Fuji Jari 1.1 offers a surprisingly smooth ride relative to other aluminum bikes. They accomplish this through highly engineered tubing. Tube shaping allows extra flex where needed for vertical compliance and less flex where needed for lateral stiffness — allowing the frame to absorb vibration better while remaining more efficient under load. This is especially clear in the seat stays — a slight S curve adds compliance, and oval-shaped tubes help stiffen the frame horizontally. In addition, the deep rake of the carbon fork and very slack headtube dampen front-end vibrations, without being too “noodley” in corners.
The wide rims allow up to 42 mm tires (36 mm spec’d) which also greatly affects ride quality, and of course they’re tubeless ready which allows for lower air pressure for even more absorption (why any gravel bikes are spec’d with non-tubeless wheels is beyond us!). This is all excellent for off-road riding, however the Jari comes up short on the pavement. At this price, we’d prefer a rig that’s more versatile and faster on the tarmac. The geometry is simply too off-road-focused to give this bike the efficiency needed for hard road efforts — sprinting and climbing are noticeably inefficient, even for the category.
At 20 pounds, the Fuji Jari 1.1 is the lightest bike in this group, by a good margin in some cases — much of this is thanks to the 1x drivetrain. This definitely helps counter the compliance in the frame making it a relatively quick bike in this category and price range. There’s certainly some flex in the crankset/bottom bracket under load, but not more than expected in a bike of this kind, and the stiff carbon cranks make up for some of this. The front end is also relatively stiff, although the wide bars and long head tube do flex, especially in stand-up efforts.
The Fuji Jari 1.1 shined on long, rough bumpy climbs, thanks to its comfortable geometry and relative light weight. And the 1x drivetrain was a welcome addition — lighter weight, no front-derailleur shifting to worry about, and plenty of gear range for all but the steepest and/or most technical climbs. As mentioned above, stand-up efforts resulted in some noticeable flex in the front end and under foot, but no more than most bikes in this group. And the excellent Clement X’Plor tires provided just enough tread to generally avoid spinning out without impeding momentum too much. The only real downside here is descending with the 1x drivetrain — there’s not enough gearing for fast descents, especially on pavement, without spinning out at higher speeds.
Rating descending in gravel riding is more nuanced than with mountain bikes: Because there’s no suspension — but you’re often riding on similar trails — gravel bikes need to balance some compliance and precise handling. The Fuji Jari 1.1 does so respectably well, offering a confident ride downhill, but when the terrain gets twisty, the bike is less adept. The long, slack head tube and high rake angle mean less stiffness in the front end, and this comes to the fore on descents with a lot of turns, especially when braking. Wide, flared bars help here, offering a bit more finesse, but it’s still an issue. Also, for a bike so focused on off-road, we’d like to see more tread on the tires.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
The first thing that stands out about the Fuji Jari 1.1, and sets it apart in this group, is the SRAM Force 1×11 drivetrain. We’re big fans of 1x systems, especially for MTB but also for gravel bikes, for the simplicity, accuracy, low-maintenance, weight savings, higher clearance and more. The only place 1x limits performance is on long, steep descents, where you can spin out, but this is not common on the typical gravel ride, so the benefits far outweigh the shortcomings. And climbing is not a concern with the 40t x 42t “granny” gear, on all but highly technical trails for which these bikes are not really designed. Shifting on the Force setup is crisp and reliable, albeit with a slightly heavier resistance on the levers than we’d prefer. The hydraulic discs offer excellent modulation and power when needed with multiple adjustments for personalization.
The Stan’s NoTubes Grail MK3 wheels on the Fuji Jari 1.1 is an excellent, all-purpose set for Gravel riding, with wide, 20.3 mm (inner) rims for the category’s wider tires, and a burly 32-spoke construction and 12 mm thru-axles. They can accommodate up to 42 mm tires, and while not the lightest we’ve ridden by any means, they’re highly durable and can handle the rigors of serious off-road riding. The rims ride a little stiff on the rough stuff, which can be felt in the vibrations in the bars, but we had no worries when hitting rocks or potholes straight on.
At $2,500, the Fuji Jari 1.1 is the second most expensive in our group, but we’d argue is still an outstanding value considering its strong off-road and adventure/bikepacking capabilities. It may not perform on the pavement as well as higher-end gravel rigs, but if you primarily ride off-road, this is a strong value. And this bike is built to last — the wheels and drivetrain can handle years of rough terrain and the frame is well-suited for heavy loads.Continue Reading
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.