The premium carbon fibre Jam C Factory impressed us in our 2017 preview tests. That warm glow continues with the alloy version, which rides great and delivers outstanding shop-bought value thanks to a full set of SRAM’s awesome 12-speed Eagle gearing.
For a start, even though the Jam C Factory has a carbon mainframe, crank and saddle rails, the Jam Lite only weighs 400g more. It uses exactly the same super-short (425mm chainstay) alloy swingarm, as well as the new FOLD linkage, and it’s here where the Focus really excels, with the FOLD suspension delivering excellent pedalling poise, grip and big hit control. While the main-driver link and both frame halves are super stiff, the upper linkage is designed to flex slightly to increase 3D traction and compliance.
Add a graceful, pedal-isolated start to the stroke of the RockShox Monarch shock and the rear end feels great. It’s really supple off the top and fast when it has to swallow a big slam, but it doesn’t throw its travel away.
Rocky, rooty turns mastered on the Focus Jam Lite Russell Burton
The result is a great high-speed hit reaction that doesn’t lack stability, and the Jam enables you to foot-up-corner into really rocky rooty turns. The RockShox Yari is similarly accurate – despite the sensitivity of the system it’s still perfectly happy mashing uphill with the two-position shock fully open and plushy levels of sag, too.
The X01 Eagle gearing is absolutely awesome, and even if we rarely used the monster 50t crawler gear, shifting and drive smoothness are in a different class to other transmission set-ups in this class, adding incredible value. While the low-bar height and steep seat angle means the frame feels short at first, it’s actually an acceptable reach on paper.
The FOLD linkage system flexes for an excellent suspension Russell Burton
You’ll only know if it’s stable and accurate, though, if you junk at least the front tyre, because the Continental rubber compound is genuinely lethal on anything remotely damp or angled.
But given the killer value of the Eagle spec, having to change tyre isn’t a deal-breaker. Anyway, with our benchmark super-grippy E13 TRSR tyre up front, it was soon obvious that the Jam is perfectly stable in turns, however hard you’re pushing it. That’s thanks to the glued-down traction of the rear end, the 66.8-degree steering angle of the sturdy Yari fork and the low centre of gravity of the sloped, centred suspension chassis.
The 6066 alloy frame is almost as light as the carbon fibre Jam C Factory Russell Burton
If you want a super-stretch position then the low frame height also means sizing up whether this is an option without the 120mm dropper post getting in the way.
Frame: 6066 alloy Boost
Fork: RockShox Yari RC Boost 140mm
Shock: RockShox Monarch RT 140mm
Wheels: Concept rims on Concept hubs
Tyres: Continental Mountain King II tyres
Drivetrain: SRAM X1 32t chain set with X01 Eagle 10-50t gears
Brakes: Shimano Deore 180/160mm
Head angle: 67 degrees
Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
Weight: 13.8kg (size large)
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.