Jeff Jones was kind enough to lend me a Spaceframe built as a singlespeed to race with at the Singlespeed Worlds. Quite a nice way to begin a test. But, as is often the case with smaller companies that don’t have lots of bikes just lying around, he needed the frame back to display at Interbike, so my testing joy was short-lived.
Testing joy has arrived again. The two boxes were stuffed with a Merlin-made Spaceframe and a Fat Truss fork (made to accept his custom front wheels built with 135mm front hubs), singlespeed and 6-speed shifter/drivetrain set-ups, and five wheels: one fast-n-light singlespeed set with Edge Composites carbon rims, one heavier-duty 6-speed set with Chris King rear hub and customized 17-34t Shimano XTR cogset (trimmed down to fit on the King singlespeed hub for a dishless build), and a big-ass Fat front wheel composed of a Paul 135mm front hub, 50mm-wide Speedway Cycles rim and Surly Endomorph 26"x4" tire (the outer diameter of which closely matches XC 29" tires). This is a lot of cool stuff to mess with. As Jeff said when I visited his shop last spring (Inside Line issue #136), the interchangeability of his frames, forks, wheels and customized drivetrain parts "is like playing with Legos."
The bike came as a singlespeed, but as I’m feeling pretty lazy as of late, right away I transmogrified it into 6-speed Fat Front mode. Jeff likes to equip his bikes with Avid mechanical disc brakes, so I just had to switch from the Shimano XTR cable brake lever to an XTR Dual-Control for the rear. He had helpfully included an XTR derailleur already connected to the shift/brake lever with the signature stainless steel tubing he uses for cable housing. For the more bendy handlebar sections, Jeff prefers Nokon segmented housing with shrink-to-fit overwraps where it contacts the frame and fork. The phrase "well thought out" is an understatement with Jeff’s builds.
This is also an expensive set of bike Legos. With that in mind, I aim to get in as much riding experience as possible to justify the nearly five-figure price tag.
Did you say "five figures"? Yikes, that much?!? Yes, it’s going to take a lot of riding. But here are some reasons the price is not so ridiculous:
– The Spaceframe comes in only two sizes, 23" and 24" (effective top tube measurement, with a possible larger third size to come), but each can be ridden by a wide variety of people, due to the slack seat tube angle â€“ as the seat is raised, the effective top tube is lengthened by more than that on a "normal" bike would be. Everyone else in the office, with the possible exception of Maurice, can ride this single bike. (We tried this when Jeff visited back in July.) The true test will be to see if Justin can ride this same Spaceframe for extended periods â€“ although we’re not that different in height, we have very different leg and torso lengths and prefer totally different bike setups.
– Versatility. With the option of singlespeed, 6, 12 or 18 speed (if one adds a 2- or 3-speed crank) and a regular or Fat front wheel for varying amounts of pneumatic suspension, there’s a lot of options for different terrain and riding styles. Since my usual commuting transportation is currently in pieces in my bike room being overhauled (with more parts crying out for replacement every time I look at it), I put its Mavic Speedcity rear wheel in the Jones frame and the Edge/Paul wheel in front, and after a little monkeying with derailleur limit screws and barrel adjusters, have been riding it in to work. With the single 32t front chainring, it’s geared a little low, but not by much. I can keep a mountain rear wheel here at work for a quick transmogrify and afternoon ride. Cyclocross racing? Dual slalom? Dirt jumping? All possibilities not outside the realm of reality. I even plan to take the bike to Ray’s at some point.
– Titanium is forever. You’ve heard this before… but with a frame and fork that I would dare call revolutionary, yet not dependent on technology that may soon be outmoded or unserviceable, this is a bike that will not only last but be rideable and fun for a very long time.
The price of titanium (along with many other raw materials) has been rising precipitously lately. Jeff doesn’t want his cool stuff to remain out of reach for most riders, and has begun offering a steel frame also made by Merlin with his signature geometry. It’s still pretty pricey, but Jeff’s been thinking about ways to make his frames even less expensive. A few other bike makers have already arrived at some of the same Jones geometry fundamentals, such as the laid-back seat tube that bends around the rear wheel paired with short chainstays… lots more people may soon be able to enjoy the benefits of a Jones revolution, even if the vehicle doesn’t come from Mr. Jones himself.
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 full review of the titanium SpaceFrame (from Issue #141)
Our Industry Insider interview from 2010
Another interview from 2004 (Issue #105)
Justin’s first impressions of the steel diamond frame in touring mode
Justin’s first impression of the fat front truss fork
A report from Jones’ visit to Dirt Rag HQ in summer 2008
A look at Jones’ Taiwanese-made steel SpaceFrame