By Justin Steiner
Not all that long ago, owning one of Jeff Jones’ bikes was completely out of the question for most of us. Between the high price necessitated by one man lovingly and artfully crafting beautiful titanium bikes out of his garage and the multi-year waiting list, very few lucky individuals were able to experience the Jones philosophy of how a bike should ride.
Fortunately for us, all of that changed when Mr. Jones made the decision to up his production via overseas manufacturing, and thus his impact on the greater cycling world as a whole. With this transition, Jones offers three models at significantly lower price points than the old bike: a traditional steel diamond frame and fork ($750!), steel Spaceframe and fork ($1,500), and Ti Spaceframe and fork ($3,800). Check out each bike’s specifics on his web site.
As of now, all frames are built with a 23-inch effective top tube Jones designed around his six-foot self. Though fear not, according to Jones, these frames will accommodate riders from 5’4” (with a 50mm stem and zero-offset seatpost) to roughly 6’2” (with a 110mm stem and set-back post). This is possible thanks to a virtual seat tube which slackens as the saddle height is raised.
Jones is what you might call a garage tinkerer extraordinaire. After owning bike shops and working in the industry, he decided to set up shop in his garage in pursuit of what he feels is the ultimate handling mountain bike. There’s a fun timeline on his website. Basically, he wants a 29”-wheeled mountain bike to handle quickly yet predictably thanks to the bike’s stiffness. With short chainstays and a shorter trail number, thanks to a slacker headtube angle and more fork offset, his bikes are markedly more playful than your average 29er hardtail—just look at that tight wheelbase on this test bike. Think of it as a large-wheeled BMX bike that’s comfortable for long, long days in the saddle.
The bikes Jones built one-by-one in his garage were amazingly well constructed, but he’ll freely admit these new Taiwanese bikes are better. For example, the Taiwanese have the resources to use custom drawn and butted fork legs—all done to Jeff’s specifications—for the extra-wide unicrown fork in order to maximize stiffness. They also have a special electrodeposition coating—ED Black for short—that is an electrochemical process which coats the frame inside and out with corrosion resistant surface prior to powder coating. This ED Black coating, along with Jeff’s sealing of the vent holes will likely yield a steel bike that lasts a very long time.
So, imagine my excitement when a shiny new Diamond frame and fork arrived at DRHQ. Not only that, but he included the steel Truss fork, fatty fat front wheel sporting a 26” x 3.7” Surly Larry tire, and a pair of Schwable Big Apple tires for road use. Both of Jones’ front forks use a 135mm-wide front hub, which he is having built to his spec as well. Let me tell you, the stiffness of the front wheel due to the extra-wide front hub and Velocity P35 rim (read a review here) is immediately noticeable. In fact, this whole bike is stiff and stout, weighing in just under 29 lbs with the traditional fork and Maxxis Ardent 29” x 2.4” tires.
Over a long Memorial Day weekend, I skipped out of work early, met up with a few friends and headed to the Allegheny National Forest in western Pennsylvania for a long weekend’s worth of bikepacking. Jeff Boatman from Carousel Design Works was kind enough to include both a full and partial frame bag for this Jones test, so I borrowed the matching Carousel handlebar and seat bags we tested back in issue #145. Loaded up with all my gear for 4-days and 3-nights of exploration and whiskey drinking, it was bound to be a successful weekend, no matter what transpired. Here are a few slides to pique your interest…
I’ve finally spent enough time on this rig to get a good feel for it with the traditional fork and skinny front wheel, so it’s about time to swap out to the truss fork and then move on to the fat tire. Look for the full review of this bike in all of it’s various configurations in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Purchase a subscription and you’ll be sure to have it delivered right to your door.
More on Jeff Jones
We’ve written quite a bit about Jones and his bikes through the years. Here’s a quick recap:
Karen’s first impression of his titanium SpaceFrame
Karen’s full review of the titanium SpaceFrame (from Issue #141)
Our Industry Insider interview from 2010
Another interview from 2004 (Issue #105)
Justin’s first impression of the fat front truss fork
A report from Jones’ visit to Dirt Rag HQ in summer 2008