Focus JAM C Factory review£3,999.00

New frame puts Focus right up in the trail bike rankings

BikeRadar score3.5/5

The new Focus JAM shares a lot of geometry and frame DNA with its long-travel SAM machine but it’s rocking a whole new interacting-rocker suspension system that’s more predictable and power friendly.

The frame

A huge flared head tube and massive ‘cobra’-style neck on the top tube stiffen up the long reach (450mm on our large sample) of the frame. The extended seat tube is short enough that going up another size to get even more stretch is an option, too.

While the Factory bike comes without the optional front mech arm that can be bolted onto the swingarm, the seat tube base is still offset on the slim downtube to allow for ISCG/twin-ring clearance, which means the PF30 crank axle needs a driveside spacer. 

The Factory model gets an increase to 150mm of fork travel

In contrast, the alloy back end is very short, at 425mm, and uses a wide screw-through Boost axle (148x12mm) and twin front-end support struts for stiffness and ample clearance for the high-volume 2.4in rear tyre.

While both frame halves are impressively stiff, the upper guide linkage of the FOLD suspension system is designed to flex sideways slightly under load, letting the swingarm do the same. The inner main link then stays rock solid to drive the shock vertically, with a falling rate up to the sag point and an increasing rising rate through the rest of the travel.

The kit

The Factory model gets an increase to 150mm of fork travel, and the shock curve and front-end frame stiffness suit the long negative spring and reliable support of the thick-legged RockShox Yari fork. 

The similarly-stickered DT Swiss XM 1501 wheels are accurate and tough for aggressive riding, and their broad rims provide useful extra support for the big-volume Continental tyres. Riders who don’t let weather stop them ripping will be pleased to see a chunky Der Baron Projekt up front, too.

The JAM features widely tunable suspension
The JAM features widely tunable suspension

SRAM provides the GX gears and the Guide R brakes, which are OK but not amazing for a semi-carbon bike at this price. You do get a Reverb Stealth dropper post, fancy new Truvativ Descendant carbon cranks and carbon rails on the f’iz:ik saddle, but overall weight isn’t much lower than that of cheaper, 160mm-travel SAM bikes we tested last year.

The ride

Add the sticky front tyre and that means there’s not much of a free roll with the Focus on climbs. In stock set-up you’ll be relying on the three-position compression damping lever on the side of the Monarch Plus shock to stop visual if not physically obvious pedal bob. 

It also pushes a long way into its stroke even before you start leaving the ground, but that lets it carry speed easily through runs filled with boulders and stepdowns. 

The linkage gives an ultra-sensitive trail connection and square-edge clamber even under power, too, and, together with the 74-degree seat angle, that means there are very few climbs the JAM won’t claw its way up.

The JAM has plenty in reserve to get you out of trouble safely
The JAM has plenty in reserve to get you out of trouble safely

The shock comes with no volume spacers fitted, which gives you a blank canvas to add more progression and support very easily (it’s literally a five-minute job and a pack of spacers) if you want. With a couple of rings in, it’s still sensitive over small stuff thanks to the minimal-friction linkage bearings, but much easier to push and drive off backslopes and berms if you’re more of a pilot than a passenger in your trail approach.

That slight bit of engineered flex and the broad rims mean a ton of cornering and braking traction, so you’ll be pushing into 160mm bike territory before you start sensing a bit of apprehension and vagueness through the 66.5-degree head angle and overall ride vibe. 

Even then, the JAM has plenty in reserve to get you out of trouble safely and our test rides on the Focus were consistently enjoyable and entertaining, whatever the conditions or terrain.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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