Focus claims to have reinvented the electric mountain bike with the Jam2. Focus says it’s retained the playful ride character of its Jam trail bike with the added oomph of a Shimano Steps E8000 motor.
So how has focus done this? Well, there are a few aspects to the design that are said to add up to a relatively ‘normal bike’ ride experience.
- Shimano STEPS E8000 first ride review
- 10 reasons you really should try an e-MTB
- Focus Bikes reviews and buying advice
Focus Jam2 e-MTB battery
Firstly, Focus has kept it light. Well, light for an e-bike. Our XL test bike — the top-tier Pro Plus model — weighed in at 21.1kg. That may not sound light to those unfamiliar to e-MTBs, but it’s about 2kg lighter than many of its rivals.
This is partly due to a smaller battery. The Jam2 uses a fully integrated unit that slots neatly inside the downtube. It doesn’t need to be removed for re-charging, but if you ever need to replace the battery, the design requires the motor to be swung out of the way to remove it. The advantage of this design is an uninterrupted downtube, which further reduces weight and increases stiffness when compared to those with removable batteries.
The integrated battery only packs 380Wh of energy, versus 500Wh normally teamed with Shimano’s E8000 motor, but his doesn’t affect power. It simply means you’ll run out of juice earlier.
Don’t despair, though. 380Wh is plenty for most 2-3 hour rides (after two hours of on-off riding, we still had half a battery left). If you do run out of juice, the Shimano motor offers no more resistance than a normal bottom bracket when pedalling. We tested this with the motor turned off and, while it’s still a 21kg bike, it’s not the end of the world if you have to ride home without assistance.
For bigger rides, Focus has developed a modular battery that slots onto the downtube. This boosts total battery life to a whopping 756Wh, and weighs a claimed 2kg. When you don’t need the additional battery pack a ‘smart rack’ can be slotted in instead, housing a bottle-cage and room for a few essentials. Focus calls this system ‘Tailored Energy Concept’. Basically, it means you can choose between enough battery life to winch you up an Alp or just enough for a lunchtime blast without any unnecessary weight.
Focus Jam2 frame and equipment
The Shimano Steps motor also helps towards the ‘normal bike’ feeling. The Q-factor — that’s the horizontal distance between the pedals — is the same as a standard Shimano crank at 175mm. So your feet aren’t spaced wide apart like you’ve just wet yourself.
Even more crucially there’s almost no lag between starting pedalling and the power assistance kicking in. It comes on fairly smoothly too as the rider’s power increases.
The Shimano motor also allows room for a more forward main pivot placement than its Bosch rivals, and consequently a relatively short chainstay. We measured the rear end of the Plus-tyre version at 457mm, which is among the shortest seen on an e-bike.
Focus will offer 29” wheeled models too, which use a slightly different rear-end to accommodate those bigger hoops, resulting in a 470mm chainstay.
When compared to the normal Jam, most of the other geometry numbers are carried across. Focus has actually shortened the reach figures by 5mm, which it says is to compensate for the reduction in agility caused by the longer rear-centre. Focus has also gone 0.3o slacker in the head angle to compensate for the increased fork offset needed for the plus tyres.
In both cases, Focus is trying to keep the ride character as similar as possible to the Jam. But has it worked?
Focus Jam2 ride impression
We managed two rides on the Jam2, each were about two hours in length on the trails of Frejus, France. This allowed enough time for some of the bike’s characteristics to come to the surface.
For starters, the Shimano power unit is far smoother and more predictable than the Bosch motor we’ve used before. The power delivery is almost instantaneous and feels like its proportional to the power you’re putting in to the system. It was even predictable enough to control a wheelie once we got the hang of it.
Although the motor’s Boost mode was a bit overkill for really tight and technical climbs, Trail mode was very manageable once we got used to it. It allowed us to power up ridiculously steep and loose climbs, which had totally flummoxed us when riding non-electric bikes on previous visits to this place.
The Plus tyres were invaluable when putting all that power down, even though we ran the rear at 19.5psi to ward off pinch-punctures (as our bike was supplied with tubes).
Our XL bike came with 175mm crank arms, which often had us clipping pedals when spinning up the kind of rocky climbs the bike encouraged us to get stuck in to. We feel shorter cranks would help capitalise on the Jam2’s rock-scrambling abilities, even for our 190cm tall tester. Focus plans to offer 170mm cranks on the smaller sizes, but we think the XL would benefit from shorter cranks too.
Equally, the 74.5o seat angle could be even steeper. Despite slamming the saddle forwards, we often felt the front becoming very light and unmanageable when all the power was applied on steep climbs.
When descending, the relatively short reach and long (60mm) stem were a bit conservative for our tastes, and we think longer (not shorter) reach would actually help balance-out the e-bike’s longer rear end. Still, the handling remains remarkably uncompromised by the addition of a motor. The extra centralised mass makes lifting and sliding the back end round tight corners a bit more cumbersome, but on the flip side the suspension sensitivity and stability are both excellent, resulting in a safe, planted feel.
Focus’ FOLD suspension system is not the most sensitive at the very start of the stroke, but sensitivity around the sag point is excellent. When you throw in the extra sprung mass of the motor, traction was so high we actually found it hard to break the back end out at first, but we soon got used to this. You just need to wrestle it a bit harder if you want to ride loose.
Focus Jam2 pricing and availability
The top-of-the range Pro Plus model we rode will retail for £5,199 / €6,699, while the cheapest model retails for £3,199 / €4,199. Availability is expected to be at the start of the new year.
- Jam2 Pro Plus: £5,199 / €6,699
- Jam2 29 Pro: £4,799 / €6,199
- Jam2 Factory Plus: £4,399/ €5,699
- Jam2 Plus: £3,699 / €4,799
- Jam2 29: £3,599 / €4,699
- Jam2 29 Ltd: £3,199 / €4,199