The Jamis Dakar may not tick every box in terms of spec, with its QR fork and front wheel, but its handling and suspension are on point. Add some top-value parts and, as an overall package, it’s an excellent way to spend £1,000.
You certainly wouldn’t guess the price from the frame. The headset is tapered for a stiffer fork connection and more overlap with the down tube. As well as being externally shaped, the main tubes are triple butted (three wall thicknesses per tube) to put metal where it’s needed without mass where it isn’t.
The bell-shaped shock link pieces are connected with a bracing tube, and the seatstays have a cross brace ahead of the seat tube. There’s no front mech tab, but you get down-tube bottle bosses and an ISCG mount on the BB shell. Cables are routed internally, with a spare hole for a dropper post line.
The 142mm rear end and RockShox Monarch shock are evidence that this is an older frame design, but they still work great on the trail Russell Burton
Out back, the stays are made from chunky square-to-rectangular-section tubing. The rear pivots are double-sided clevis designs, with full bearings for minimal-friction movement. Because they’re sited above the dropouts, the wheel moves in a simple single-pivot arc, giving 120mm of travel.
While the dropouts aren’t the latest 148mm Boost standard, they at least use a 142x12mm through-axle, not a spindly QR skewer. There’s clearance for slightly bigger tyres, too.
Despite the full-suspension frame and quality RockShox Monarch shock, the spec is as good as on most hardtails at this price. The Suntour crankset gets a direct-mount single chainring with a zigzag chain-retaining tooth arrangement. A latest-generation Shimano Deore shifter and mech give clean, quiet shifts, and the M315 brakes are totally reliable, if wooden in feel.
The 760mm Race Face bar and 50mm stem give a balanced steering feel, and you even get lock-on grips. You can set the WTB rims up tubeless to flatter the Vittoria Goma tyres, but grip levels from what’s basically an overgrown Maxxis Ardent tread are already good for a bike at this price.
The only fly in the ointment is the QR (rather than through-axle) holding the front wheel in the RockShox Recon fork, but you could get a lot worse for more money.
Jamis Dakar A2 ride impressions
The 68-degree head angle and relatively well-controlled front tyre sync well with the fork and cockpit kit Russell Burton
While the steel legs of the fork add weight, it’s stiff for a QR model, and it takes a while to find the limits of the Dakar’s front end. You can hit rocky, rooty terrain pretty hard before the ‘Motion Control’ damping starts to cough up control, and initial sensitivity isn’t bad either.
The 68-degree head angle and relatively well-controlled front tyre sync well with the fork and sorted cockpit kit too, so the front end hangs together well, without one element exposing a weakness in another.
The back end is similarly ‘set and forget’ in nature. You can get the shock to slap into the bump stops if you really slam-dunk it, but it’s generally well-composed and consistent.
The simpler valving of the Monarch R (only the low-speed rebound damping can be adjusted) means it has higher-volume oil flow, so it deals with bigger hits and small patter bumps better than the more complicated RL and RT3. Those chunky stays and double-sided pivots mean plenty of structural stiffness and communication from the back end, too.
Although the front and rear work well together, they’re not very far apart, at least compared to bikes that have kept up with the latest geometry trends. That means the Dakar is naturally content to cruise rather than gagging to get aggro. Its relatively tall seat tube also makes it awkward to size up to get extra reach without the bike ending up too tall.
If you don’t mind that, the A2 is good for the money. But if you can afford to increase your budget, the Dakar A1 comes with all the upgrades you’re likely to want to fit – including a through-axle fork and front wheel, a dropper post and an upgraded transmission – for only £350 more.