Focus JAM C SL first ride review£5,599.00

Techy trail winner that tells your legs you’re an XC pro

We’ve been massively impressed with Focus’s super-controlled, alloy-framed, SRAM Eagle-equipped JAM trail bike this year. The carbon C SL shaves off a full 2kg to add blistering pace everywhere.

Focus JAM C SL specifications

  • Frame: Carbon fibre, 140mm (5.5in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air Boost, 140mm (5.5in) travel
  • Shock: RockShox Monarch RT
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle (1x12)
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss XM 1501 Spline One 30mm Boost wheels
  • Tyres: Continental Mountain King II ProTection 27.5x2.4in
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide Ultimate, 180/160mm rotors
  • Handlebar: Concept CPX, 740mm
  • Stem: Concept, 70mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb 125mm dropper
  • Saddle: fi’zi:k Tundra M3
  • Weight: 11.8kg (26.01lb), large size without pedals

Focus JAM C SL frame

Not only is the full-carbon frame light, it’s loaded with neat features. Internal control routing is integrated into one side of the faceted head tube, and a ‘cobra head’ swelling of the top tube helps ensure front-end accuracy.

The front mech mounts onto the single-piece swingarm, so there’s no trace of it on the mainframe of this single-ring model. Focus’s ‘rocker link within a rocker link’ FOLD suspension puts the shock low and central for optimum handling, which leaves room for a bottle. The press-fit bottom bracket probably won’t last as long as a screw-in one, but the 30mm axle adds stiffness and there’s plenty of mud space in the Boost-width back end.

Focus JAM C SL kit

As a 2017 bike, the Jam C SL misses out on RockShox’s new Pike fork and Deluxe shock, but the current Pike and Monarch do a cracking job anyway. SRAM’s X01 Eagle drivetrain trades a few extra grams over XX1 Eagle for a more trail-proof rear mech, with no compromise of its ultra-wide range.

The Guide Ultimate brakes are aptly named, the 30mm DT Swiss XM 1501s are some of our favourite alloy trail wheels and the carbon-railed fi’zi:k saddle is a beauty. It deserves a faster rear tyre than the Continental Mountain King fitted, but that’s an easy fix.

The gear cable and rear brake and dropper post hoses all enter the frame on the non-drive side
The gear cable and rear brake and dropper post hoses all enter the frame on the non-drive side

Focus JAM C SL ride impression

On first impressions, the 740mm bar, 455mm reach (large) and 67-degree head angle put the JAM into the ‘sorted all-rounder’ rather than ‘gonzo radical’ category (if that’s what you’re after, look to Focus’s SAM instead).

Deliberate flex in the ‘Guidelink’ that connects the back end means immediate power snap isn’t as sharp as on the stiffest bikes in its category if you’re wrestling a big gear out of the saddle too. But as soon as you get stuck into the trail, the JAM keeps on delivering more the harder you push it.

The FOLD linkage is simply outstanding – super-plush off the top for incredible traction, then becoming increasingly progressive for hard-driving cornering support and uninterrupted pedal-through or braking.

Harder or heavier riders may want to add a couple of volume spacers, but otherwise the combination of pedalling efficiency, slap-proof speed sustain and traction is brilliant.

Front wheel precision is excellent
Front wheel precision is excellent

Front-wheel precision is excellent too, while that engineered flex in the rear sticks the back tyre down through the messiest rock or root sections that’ll send most bikes sideways.

The sub-12kg weight is a play-multiplying joy whenever you need to pop the bike up and over trouble, flare a hip or flick-flack a boulder chicane. It also makes your legs feel amazing when the trail points upwards – whether that’s for a 10-second burst or a 10-minute haul.

Ample traction and the ability to blend cross-country efficiency with serious confidence on technical trails mean the Focus smashes the ‘aggro all-rounder’ promise that so many bikes claim but few can actually deliver.

Focus JAM C SL early verdict

Brilliant ‘attack the whole hill’ all-rounder, with sorted handling and suspension.

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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