Jones Spaceframe vs. Surly Pugsley…

20 03 2012

My Jonesly/Jugsley with a Jones Spaceframe...

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:

  1. totally unique design makes you ask how is it going to ride?
  2. relatively high cost for a production bike makes you want to make the right choice.
  3. one size frame that is on the small side of what I’d normally get makes me wonder if it will even fit.
  4. rare as hell so forget about a test ride.
  5. 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.

A boy and his new bike...

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.

What Jeff has to say about his design...

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.

She's a playful steed...

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.

Lazy gets a spin...

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!

So far the Jones has been a smile factory...

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.

Ponesly?, Jugsley?, Jonesly?

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.

Time for some Nates...

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
To take advantage of  the full fat option I put some Surly Nate tires on my Pugsley. This gives me a huge rear tire footprint for traction on our sloppy trails and some passive suspension effect due to the 4″ wide low pressure tire.

Jones Loop H-bars...

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.

Ramming the SA all the way back...

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.

Scott throwing the Jones around...

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…=-)

Dropping into the Green Machine...



11 responses

20 03 2012
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

I think this is a bit of an apple to orange comparison. While those numbers seem close.. The wheelbase numbers and (especially) the fork rake can make a HUGE difference in feel and handling. Even the seemingly slight head angle difference is a big deal..

Take a sliding dropout bike.. Slam the dropouts all the way forward. Go ride your favorite trail. Bring the bike back in pull the dropouts all the way to the rear ..ride same trail.. You will realize a half inch and a half a degree makes a huge difference. Wheelie ability, tracking, stability , traction, all will be changed.

Then you take into comparison the intended use of each bike… Not really the same either.

A Jones is a Jones ..A pug is a pug ..Enjoy them for what they are.

20 03 2012

I agree with you that small changes in geo can make big differences on the trail, but I can also say that it works the other way as well. Sometimes bikes you expect to be very different on the trail ride similarly enough to be essentially the same despite numbers differences.

Hence our plan to ride them back to back and see what happens.

Even if they remain very distinct in terms of performance I can say already the Jones-ification of the Pugsley has resulted in some definite improvements in how it rides on my local trails. Those are changes I may not have tried had I not been inspired by the Jones.

Where I disagree with you is that I think it never hurts to experiment and compare bikes. You may come away with something new that you wouldn’t have if you just stuck with the philosophy: “A Jones is a Jones ..A pug is a pug ..Enjoy them for what they are.”

20 03 2012
Henrik Van Ryzin

I’d love to try one of those trussed forks on my Big Dummy. There is a noticeable fork wiggle when breaking riding loaded – and if I break too heavy with the front I can even get a wiggle with just me on the bike. I’m sure that the steel flex is totally safe and within tolerances – but it makes me worry a little. Too bad the jones fork is not available separately!

21 03 2012
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

I do see where you are coming from now…..I think i was just thinking you cant make something into something it isnt.. The main reason most of us have so many bikes laying around our house and/or garage.

Im curently waiting (for 8 months) on a frame to be completed.. I had the builder copy my old Voodoo Bakka (it broke)and use paragon Rohloff dropouts.. I had him copy the bike because it was my favorite and I had good luck with it set up as a 69’r. I also purchased a Salsa Enabler fork to try it as a half fat., and a long travel suspension fork.. to try it as a long travel hard tail (what it was originaly designed for). I just wanted to see what felt the best for my trails out here..

Hope i didnt come across as raining on your parade..

21 03 2012

No problemo Greg. My Pugsley will never be a Jones. But, it might perform similarly enough to make wanting a Jones redundant. Beyond that Jeff Jones doesn’t seem to want to build a full fat mountain bike which means that my Pugsley may actually be a better option for my riding than a Jones.

Hard to say yet. I’m just glad to have access to two rare-ish bikes to ride and compare.

21 03 2012

Hey, one noob question about the fork wiggle under breaking. How much does it affect the quality of the ride? Does the truss fork feel like a big improvement? I have nothing to compare my Salsa Fargo fork to (except the v-brakes maybe), but it’d be interesting to know

22 03 2012
Return of the Shred… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

[…] Scott brought his Jones Spaceframe for its first dirt ride. It’s a super sweet bike and we are all keen to see how it performs on our trails. Sharon carves it up… […]

25 05 2013
A P Hunt

Currently I am riding a Karate Monkey with an Enabler fork on it and so far it’s been a fun bike but even with low pressure with a Nate tire it’s not a substitute for a suspension fork. That said, however, I’ve taken the bike out on some pretty punishing rides and while I do still have my eyes on Jones I’m afraid that even with a layback seapost it may not work well with my height. Rumor has it that Jeff Jones was working on a new design that had a longer toptube so I’m going to have to take a “wait and see” attitude and continue ride my own Frankenbike. Great article, keep up the good work.

25 05 2013

@APH – I haven’t heard of a Jones with a longer TT, but that would probably interest quite a few people. Jeff has talked about building this bike in a 2014 production run. I’m not sure if the TT would different from the other Jones bikes.

25 05 2013
A P Hunt

I saw photos and got descriptions of a prototype from Jeff that had a longer TT and I’d love to see it come to it’s fruition because I know that there’s a fair number of taller riders who would appreciate it.

26 05 2013
A P Hunt

Found the photos of the prototype that had a longer TT, saving my pennies

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