The Jeff Jones Spaceframe mountain bike with wild truss fork is a design I’ve been keen to check out for a while. Besides the usual issues of cost and storage the Jones presents a few new problems that slow any bicycle acquisition plans:
- totally unique design makes you ask how is it going to ride?
- relatively high cost for a production bike makes you want to make the right choice.
- one size frame that is on the small side of what I’d normally get makes me wonder if it will even fit.
- rare as hell so forget about a test ride.
- Jeff Jones advocates the use of a 5″ front tire/wheel, but since he uses a proprietary front hub/fork any wheel you build will only work on this bike…so do you build it as a 29er of a half-fat? Trying both is expensive.
As luck would have it Scott “Porcelain Rocket” Felter is even a bigger bike geek than me. So it’s not completely shocking to me that he just built up a shinny new Jones steel Spaceframe. I was very happy to hear this both because I am stoked for a buddy to get some new wheels and because I would finally get to ride a fabled Jones mountain bike and see if everything I read online was real.
So what’s so special about a Jones Spaceframe design?
- Jeff has been perfecting his concept for years building custom bikes for himself and customers.
- his custom business was so successful he no longer takes any orders due to an excessive waiting list.
- he has a rabidly loyal following of customers on his custom and production bikes.
- Jeff designs complete bikes including frame/fork and components. This allows him to refine his designs in a way that a frame builder can’t.
- His bikes put your weight way back over the rear wheel for a light front end that is easy to loft over obstacles.
- a short TT and swept back bars put you well behind the front wheel sitting, but as you stand your weight moves forward to keep the front wheel planted on steep climbs.
- an ultra stiff fork with low trail front end and 135 wide front hub makes for very precise steering.
- clearance for widest 29er tires in rear and Surly’s 5″ Big Fat Larry on the front.
- EBB for IGH or SS use, but gears are and option as well.
- design of frame is supposed to help smooth out ride by transferring bump forces away from rider.
It’s too early to confirm or deny the performance claims of the Jones design, but you can agree that Jeff has built a very unique mountain bike that’s pushing the boundaries of the industry paradigm on the trails. I can also say that it’s a beautiful bike to behold in person with lovely lines and a purposeful stance.
Once you get over the unique design you’ll rightly ask yourself what kind of riding is this bike for? Based on the limited experience I’ve had with it so far and what I’ve read about other folks’ rides online I’d characterize it as an all mountain play bike. It’s capable of rolling along smooth XC trails just fine and when the trail gets steep and techy it has the rearward weight bias, leverage at the wide bars and stiff front end to drop down anything you have the balls to try. Now it’s fully rigid – fat front not withstanding – so you will be going slow and choosing your line with care when my Nomad’s 6″ of travel wil allow it to bomb the gnar without a second thought. I don’t think that’s a better or worse option – they are just two different ways to come at a problem.
Whether or not the Jones design makes sense for you will depend on where you ride and who you ride with. I don’t ride for the fastest average speed or most miles of trail complete per session. I ride to smile!
Scott set his Jones up single speed with a fat front and Jones Loop H-bars to stay true to the Jones philosophy. It looks like an ideal bike for our local riding which is slow and techy with traction issues and lots of wet dirt for munching an expensive drivetrain. Scott’s a monster so there is no doubt he’ll still crush us mere mortals no matter what he rides so I’m keen to see how normal folks like Sharon, A-Man and myself fare on the Jones.
I couldn’t help, but notice some similarities between my Pugsley and Scott’s Jones:
- fat front
- Loop H-bars
- Pug = 23.4″ eff TT vs. 23″ on Jones
- Pug wheelbase = 42.6″ vs 42″ for Jones
- Pug and Jones = 72.0 deg seattube angle
- Pug HT angle = 70.5 & Jones = 70.0
- Pug fork offset = 43mm & 55mm for Jones
With a seatback seatpost [or jamming my SA saddle all the way back] to simulate the rearward weight bias of the Jones my Pugsley gets pretty close to the same numbers. The biggest difference is the Jones has lower trail than the Pugsley plus the Pug has a fat rear tire as well.
Before Jeff Jones sends out a hit squad to silence my heresy…;-) I am not suggesting my Pugsley is the same as a Jones. I can’t do anything about the fork offset of the Pugsley so the handling will always be different. All I am saying is that it seems possible to replicate some of the elements of the Jones design in a Pugsley to, hopefully, end up with a fun playful bike that makes a good companion for a Jones on our local trails.
As amazing as the Jones Spaceframe & truss fork combo is the Pugsley has some advantages of its own:
- can be run full fat, half fat or full 29er
- Pugsley complete can be had for about the same price as Jones Spaceframe/truss fork/Loop H-bar
- full fat means a Pugsley can be used in snow/sand where a skinny Jones 29er rear would sink
- you can use a suspension fork on a Pugsley
- a stock Pugsley comes setup with a versatile XC geometry and cockpit position
- if you want you can Jones-ify a Pugsley with Loop H-bars and a setback seatpost
You can see in the picture above how far back your hands are using the Loop H-bars vs. a flat bar or XC riser bar. This shortens your effective top tube quite a bit so you need to either buy a larger frame if you want the typical centered XC/touring body position or you need to get a setback seatpost and push your body weight further over the rear wheel. The later option allows for using both positions depending on the mission at hand. When I get a chance I’ll try the rear biased body position in sand/snow to see if less weight on the front wheel compromises the traction at that end on flat terrain. If it doesn’t that would be awesome to not have to switch back and forth.
Without a setback seatpost the best I could do was ramming my SA saddle all the way back…sadly this bent the rails….I’m too chicken to verify how badly….hopefully I didn’t trash and expensive saddle…=-( I’ll be getting this issue sorted as soon as possible.
Let’s face it talk is cheap…what we need is some back to back trail riding testing. Don’t worry we are happy to oblige…=-)