There’s something special about titanium hardtails. They’re tough but sweet, machined-masculine and fine-formed feminine, and brutally bare in the best possible way.
Voodoo’s D-Jab has all of those attributes, but it’s also a relatively simple bike that’s designed to suit different types of trail work. It doesn’t try too hard to be flash, and the price is totally down to earth. A complete bike costs less than many top-end titanium frames on their own – or you could buy the frame alone for less than the price of the many lesser-known titanium frames.
The biggest surprise, at least to enthusiasts, is that you can buy it off the peg at a Halfords superstore near you, or also via the website. Voodoo frames are also distributed by independent retailer Sideways Cycles.
Ride & handling: a long-travel fork with a bike attached
The defining characteristic of the D-Jab is its 140mm travel Fox fork. To experienced riders, it goes without saying that riding a 140mm travel hardtail is a totally different experience from riding a short-forked pure cross-country hardtail. However, for the uninitiated, we’re going to explain.
A longer fork means a higher front end. A higher front end means you need to shift your upper body forward, especially on climbs, to stop the front wheel from wandering. While the lockout on the fork keeps the ride stable, it doesn’t really help matters on climbs, because it locks out extended. We prefer the lock-down systems on some other forks, which shorten the fork length for climbing.
Still, you quickly get used to tipping your weight forward, and the steepish seat angle helps. However, it’s a potent reminder that the real advantages of longer-forked hardtails only really begin when the terrain gets rough and/or tips downwards.
At that point you start riding the fork, literally. The fork does all the donkey work and the back end just skips through. This feels great on the Voodoo, as the frame exhibits the taut but shock-shrugging ride that characterises all the best titanium hardtails. It makes the extra cost over the aluminium or steel alternative feel like it’s worth it.
The Voodoo’s handling in singletrack is superb, and that long fork rescued us from a few poor line choice situations trying to follow riders on full-suspension bikes on rough high-speed descents. Be aware, though, that the taut quality of the titanium frame structure can result in the back end kicking up when you have your weight tipped forward trying to get the best out of the fork. To get a bike like this set up properly is a fine balancing act, but well worth the effort.
Frame: quality pipes, nice details, looong fork
There are several sub-£1000 titanium frames on the market, but only a select few use quality tubes like the 3Al/2.5V set on the D-Jab. (The numbers designate the 3 percent aluminium and 2.5 per cent vanadium alloying elements that give the material its strength). None of the ones we know of exhibit the adaptability of the D-Jab, either.
It comes with nicely designed adjustable dropouts, so you can set it up one-geared or hub-geared if you wish without the disc brake fine-positioning becoming tricky. It also has bolt-on seatstay bosses for rim brakes in case you don’t want to use discs.
The practical approach continues elsewhere, with loads of mud room and standover clearance, a forward-facing seat clamp to stop spray getting in and two pairs of bottle cage bosses.
The ring reinforced head tube and neat gusseted down tube will help prevent frame damage in the event of full-frontal impacts, but the superb, 140mm travel Fox Float 32RL fork (R is for ‘Rebound Damping’, L is for ‘Lockout’) obviously helps more.
The fork is the most noteworthy evolutionary aspect of the frame since last year’s 100mm fork geometry. Part of the idea of running a longer-travel fork on a tough hardtail frame is to facilitate plenty of sag in the fork when you first climb on and hit the trails. The 69-degree head and 71.5-degree seat angles steepen by a degree or two, depending on how you choose to set the fork up, so you can accurately tune the front-end handling to suit your personal preferences on the trails you ride.
Equipment: some compromises to hit the price
A quality titanium-framed hardtail for £1500 inevitably has a few component shortcuts, and some of these compromise the performance of the bike. The saddle is a low-budget offering, although it’s still comfy, and the basic Hayes Nine disc brakes, while efficient in terms of fast stopping, would be more at home on a sub-£1000 bike. The WTB Lazer Disc cross-country rims are great for steady trail riding, but won’t last long if you subject them to the sort of abuse that a 140mm travel, big-hitting fork tempts you towards.
The rear rim buckled badly in an edge-of-control moment at least partially caused by the character of the brakes, which are more on/off than smooth-modulated. Still, big-profile WTB ExiWolf tyres add to comfort, traction and damage control over tough terrain, and the FSA carbon seat post and aluminium bars and stem fit the bill.
The drivetrain is nicely sorted, too, with FSA’s Afterburner crankset driving a full Shimano Deore XT gearset.
Verdict: a hard-riding star
Regardless of whether you buy it as a frame alone or a complete bike, the D-Jab is a star. Its adjustable dropout design will appeal to those who want to experiment, and its long-forked geometry is perfect for those who like the idea of riding a bit harder and faster on rough terrain than a racy cross-country machine would feel comfortable with.