What you’re looking at is a classic take on a modern hardtail, complete with steel frame, rack eyelets and 26-inch wheels. Sure, they’re wrapped with 3-inch-wide tires, but the hoops are still good old 559s. The vast majority of mid-fat models use 27.5-inch rims (Jamis also sells a 27.5+ version of this exact bike) so what’s the point of offering one with a lesser-used standard? I have no idea, but I was curious nonetheless.
Going plus-size brings you up to the next wheel size, sort of. Just like the outer diameter of 27.5+ is close to a 29er with a 2.3-inch tire, 26+ results in a similar outer diameter to a 650b wheel with a standard tire. If you’re wondering how knowing this is helpful, it isn’t. It is deceiving because it can cause people to think that putting plus tires on their 650b bike will make it ride like a 29er. It won’t. However, the same general wheel-size rules apply within the plus category: Bigger wheels roll faster over junk and smaller ones feel more nimble.
Aside from its weight of 30 pounds, the Dragonslayer 26+ is a quick handler, slightly more so than its 27+ brother. This is partly in the wheel size itself, but also because the smaller wheels allow for a shorter minimum chainstay length. This bike has horizontal sliding dropouts that, when slammed all the way forward, measure just 425 millimeters—10 millimeters shorter than they can go on the 27.5+ version. Between the stubby stays, 68-degree headtube angle and 73-degree seat tube angle, the Dragonslayer took very little getting used to and directional changes required hardly any effort. It’s a very neutral-feeling bike that any rider can throw a leg over and have fun on. And best of all, it’s practically indestructible.
Made from Reynolds 520 chrome-moly steel, the frame itself is built to take a beating—and so are the parts. Shimano’s new SLX 1×11 drivetrain and brakes are some of the best-looking, hardest-working parts available for the price, and Jamis chose to widen the gear range by running an XT 11-46 cassette (SLX only goes to 42 teeth). The 120-mil-travel Fox Rhythm 34 fork performed flawlessly as well. The only things I swapped out were the retro-narrow 710-mil-wide stock handlebar and too-short 100-mil-travel dropper post.
I had a great time riding this bike: It’s an ultra-capable traction junkie that’s easy to ride at any level, and it’s fully adventure-ready. I think a lot of riders could get along swimmingly with one of these. The thing is though, I still can’t think of one thing 26+ is better at than 27.5+. But it’s fun, so who cares?