Let's cut to the chase. If you’re wondering what the ‘almost’ part of our strapline refers to it’s primarily the very wooden, low grade ‘Sport’ tyres specced on Onza's Jackpot hardtail.
They create a rattling, jarring, dynamically dead sufferfest. Switching rubber immediately released the Jackpot’s true ride quality – and we suggest you negotiate a similar change with the shop before you seal the deal.
Heart and soul
It’s definitely worth it too as the Jackpot frame is a real beauty. The gusset behind the tapered head tube is open to spread stress and the mid-sized 35mm top and down tubes use short butts to tune supple ride feel without losing too much traction feedback or precise wheel placement. The bottom bracket is a press-fit 30mm design, which is rare on steel frames and means any crank or a singlespeed-friendly eccentric BB will fit.
A hollow chainstay box leads into fat-tyre-friendly keyhole chainstays that flatten and round out before the 3D dropouts, with replaceable inserts for different axles. The curved inter-stay-reinforcing pipe matches the curve of the rear rotor, which is post-mounted for easy adjustment.
While the black finish on our frame didn’t show it off like the raw version of the frame-only option, the internal cable and dropper post insert ports, external brake guides and head badge are all brass-brazed in place to retain full strength of the steel tubes. You’re restricted to just 17 and 19in sizes though.
Not just a pretty frame
Presuming one of those fits, the trail is where the jackpot shows its real class. The stiff, big-axle Onza cranks lever all your power through the hollow box rear end and stout dropouts so it climbs and accelerates okay for a near-14kg bike.
The short but mid-sized tubes are stiff enough to really work the 150mm Revelation fork hard, but supple enough to skim the tops off rocks and roots to sustain speed and boost comfort in classic steel-frame fashion. While it’s not super-stretched, the handling is surefooted and well balanced for all-round aggro riding without wandering about on climbs.
The majority SLX stop/go equipment works fine but an externally routed dropper post on an internal routing-ready frame is disappointing and the Onza own brand bars are very heavy too.
Once we'd swapped out the wooden-feeling stock tyres, the Onza came to life
Onza’s Jackpot (and the 29er/27.5+ Payoff) are beautifully detailed, very versatile, steel frames that ride every bit as good as they look. But given the tyres need swapping immediately the complete bike price is expensive, which makes the frame-only options or Onza’s own reduced cost custom-build programme very tempting.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.