Focus. It’s a name that conjures images of precision, German engineering, clarity of thought and exactness of motion. Jam (noun); A fruit conserve, delicious on toast. We put the Focus Jam to the toast. We mean test..
The Focus Jam is a 140mm, 27.5” trail bike, a specific travel option that has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Focus state that the Jam is the ultimate all-mountain bike, with the capacity to climb as well as it descends. With technology such as the FOLD suspension, ‘modern, agile and aggressive’ geometry and a very tight build spec, the Jam certainly looks the goods.
With strong players in the Australian market (notably the Giant Trance, Yeti SB 5.5 and Rocky Mountain Instinct) will the Focus Jam live up to the hype?
We were lucky enough to be reviewing the Jam C SL; the top tier $9,499 option. Pulling it out of the box, we immediately appreciated the bike’s smooth aesthetics; the sleek paint job is a pleasant mixture of matte and gloss finish in a stealthy black and gunmetal grey. Red accents offset the starkness of the bike, with an almost crosshatched red argyle-inspired design on the front of the top tube.
Speaking of the top tube, it’s a funky looking one; keeping in line with the tradition of Focus’ extraordinarily large and boxy junction of the top tube and head tube. It’s not unattractive - especially on a bike of this size - but it does have us asking why? Considering the stiffness of most brands’ front ends without the bulbous extra carbon from Focus, we wonder if it’s simply an aesthetic point of difference.
The build on the bike is all business, with a 140mm travel RockShox Pike up front, the Monarch rear shock, a Reverb dropper and SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrain giving the all-mountain warrior oodles of gears with which to scale alpine ascents. It also comes specced with the DT Swiss Spline One wheelset, super wide at 30mm, allowing some semi-fat rubber to be run. Even the saddle is premium; the fi´zi:k Tundra M3 is a super-light, carbon braided saddle. We certainly wouldn’t expect that as standard on an all-mountain bike, but we weren’t complaining!
The cornerstone of the Jam is the F.O.L.D. or Focus Optimised Linkage Design. Once again, it’s an interesting choice of acronym in the Australian market. Focus state that the F.O.L.D. technology is the perfect match for the Jam, with a two-phase travel system. The first phase of travel is based around sensitivity and eliminating micro-bumps, and the second phase ‘fine tunes’ progression for plushness and feedback, with enough bottom-out resistance for the rider to remain in control at all times. It’s interesting then, with the F.O.L.D. technology, that Focus have chosen to spec a (relatively) entry-level shock; the Monarch. Featuring a lock-out and open setting only, would the suspension linkage live up to its claims and provide efficiency both climbing and descending? We took it to the trails to find out.
Our first ride out on the beast was at Queensland’s Hidden Vale, which offered a great range of terrain from flow trail to craggy, rocky harshness. We tested a small frame (and the bike is available in S-XL sizes), and found the bike to be true to size - in fact we felt straight away at home when swinging a leg over the bike.
Being well acquainted with both SRAM and Shimano componentry, but yet to test the Eagle, we were pleasantly surprised, and relieved. Although the bike felt light for what it is, on any 140mm bike low range gears are welcomed when riding up steep hills.
It was soon discovered that the Jam rides best when suspension settings are run in full open mode. The combination of the position with super short chain stays, a slightly slacker head tube angle at 66.8, wide rims and wide Continental Mountain King tyres was confidence enhancing. Straight away the bike urges you to push it harder into corners than you would usually be comfortable, to dive into the rock garden without hesitation, or to huck off a ledge. When the bike is pushed hard, the stiffness of the boost-equipped wheel set, in addition to the F.O.L.D. suspension, really delivered control at high and low speeds.
The 2.4” Continental Mountain Kings gave the bike a similar rollout to many 29ers and the bigger bag tyre was welcomed. However, it would be our preference to change them up for some fat Maxxis tyres or similar; something with slightly tougher sidewalls. The tread of the tyres was perfect for the dusty, loose over hard conditions we experienced through our test rides, and the extra squish of the 2.4” reinforced the bike’s claims of being planted yet playful.
The F.O.L.D. suspension certainly worked a treat with descending, allowing the rider to stay planted and in control. But climbing was a bit of a different story. As mentioned, the slightly lower spec of the Monarch shock could have been a wise choice if the linkage’s purpose was to optimise pedal-bob efficiency under load (eg when climbing). Unfortunately, without a mid-setting on the shock, riding uphill can be quite inefficient if the suspension is in the open setting and climbing becomes more awkward if locked out. The lock out option did allow for greater efficiency, but on more technical ascents we would have welcomed the traction and control that a mid-setting on a rear shock allows.
The RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air is arguably the gold standard of forks in the 140-150mm travel range, featuring external low speed compression adjustment and Boost (110mm) axle spacing for lateral stiffness, and it delivered - really boosting confidence and inspiring the rider to dive hard into rocky scree and sketchy blown out corners. Rocks, loose terrain, drops; they were all eaten with ease and the Jam really came into its own in the squirrely terrain. This is when the suspension package really came alive, inspiring great feats of bravery and eating up the descents with gusto. The Monarch on the rear certainly performed on the downhills.
The Jam’s geometry, with the short chain stay, slack head angle and relatively dropped and long top tube delivered a pretty compliant bike. With the rider located relatively rearward you could really just let the bike do it’s thing and – when needed - the SRAM brakes were efficient anchors. Having the weight of the alloy suspension hardware located low in the centre of the frame allowed for quite a planted feel for the bike and, despite testing it on some heavy hits, we didn’t manage to bottom it out.
Focus’ own marketing spiel states that the Jam was designed for the ’highest level of fun’ and we think they have delivered pretty well.
The slack head tube angle and short 425mm chain stays, paired up with the longer top tube and a short stem made for a really confidence inspiring, planted front end that begged to be thrown into rock gardens and sketchy corners. Meanwhile the F.O.L.D. rear suspension system and stout frame really planted the bike and produced a very stable ride. With the Boost wheel set and oversized tyres, the bike was stiff and precise, delivering a focused ride regardless of the terrain.
In essence, this is the all-mountain bike you need in your shed; 140mm suspension is not excessive enough to suffer with on the ascents, but it has more than enough to inspire you to ride to the next level. There’s not much that would exceed the capability of the Jam and it would eat up probably 98 per cent of what is out there in terms of all-mountain and gravity trails. In fact, it’s more likely a bike that will exceed most riders.
The price of the model we tested, at $9,499, will be a deal-breaker for some. However, Focus offer the Factory model, featuring SRAM GX, for $7,499 and a Shimano XT-equipped Jam for $5,999. Because of the hefty price tag, we had high expectations for our test bike and were pleasantly surprised when it delivered.
Overall, we were stoked to have a bike that comes straight out of the box and just immediately feels good. There would have been few changes to make if the Jam was to remain in our custody, and easy ones at that; a slightly narrower bar and different shocks and we would be happy to have the Jam in our shed ready for our breakfast toast…errrr, I mean shred.
|MODEL||Jam C SL|