FOCUS JAM² 29 PRO
Words by Chili Dog; Photos: Samson Hatae & Drew Rohde
Since we started messing around with e-bikes, we’ve been dreaming of ways to drop weight. We kept coming back to the concept of a modular battery system. Something that would allow the bike to have a slim profile and just enough juice for your more regular rides, but had a quick and easy way to attach an external battery for bigger adventures in the mountains. We were very excited when we learned the crew at Focus Bikes was thinking the same thing. The Jam² has a thin, downtube with a small internal battery, but features a rail bolted to the top of the downtube that securely holds a larger battery. After spotting one of the first Focus Jams at Sea Otter earlier this year, we knew we had to get one.
Focus’s Jam² breaks a few norms in the e-bike realm. Most notably, you’ll see the absence of plus tires. It’s one of the few full suspension eMTB’s we’ve thrown a leg over that retains standard size tires and 29” wheels, albeit, we weren’t exactly thrilled with the Continental Trail King SL 2.4 tires. The bike is also compatible with 27.5 Plus tires, and we did experiment with a set of Enve’s new M735E wheels and some 27.5 tires on the Jam2.
One of our favorite features of the Focus Jam2 is their T.E.C. or Tailored Energy Concept. It’s a brilliant compromise in range and weight. Instead of lugging around a massive battery pack for your weekly ten mile ride, you can strip the bike down to just the small internal battery and save the weight for the big epics.
The downtube houses a smaller 378Wh battery . For comparison, the very capable Pivot Shuttle has a 500Wh battery. That represents a significant weight savings over a bike that lugs around that battery capacity full time. The system can be doubled with an external battery pack mounted on a rail system for a massive total of 756Wh of pedal pushing power. If you’re not planning on using the external battery, you can attach a water bottle cage to the frame instead.
All those watts get put to the ground through a Shimano Steps E8000 motor with 70Nm of torque, a 250-Watt output and the familiar Shimano display. Focus puts a twist on the system however, adding a large power button to the top tube. It’s definitely easier to push than the small button on the Shimano display, and makes us feel like we’re in a luxury car instead of on a bike.
Focus employs a suspension design called F.O.L.D. (Focus Optimized Linkage Design). A compact linkage design that sits above the shock. Focus claims the design strikes an ideal balance between pedaling efficiency and bump absorption. The rear 140mm of travel is controlled by a Rock Shox Deluxe RT shock, while the front is suspended by a 140mm Rock Shox Revelation RC.
A Shimano Deore XT Di2 1×11 drivetrain handles the gear changes, while XT brakes do the stopping. We’ve ridden electronic Di2 drivetrains on plenty of bikes but when it’s on an e-bike it really takes the experience to the next level. With flawless, crisp shifts every single time, it’s easier than ever to put down the power through technical sections or out of corners. The BBB, aluminum flat bars and DT-Swiss H1700 wheels offer cost savings, but we weren’t blown away by the performance on trail. After fighting flex issues with the front end of the bike, we swapped out the bar and stem in search of a stiffer option for technical terrain. The improvement was noted but this bike still has some flex that makes the front end squirm under aggressive riders.
The focus JAM² is a bike with promise. We were very happy with the weight as we pulled it from the box. The 45-pound bike and 2.4 tires make for impressive spin up and acceleration. Turn the motor off, and it’s noticeably faster rolling than most other e-bikes, although you wont get far since the di2 shifting is powered off the main battery. With the power back on, this bike is among the most agile of e-bikes on the market.
Focus boasts that the Shimano motor gave them more freedom with the bike’s geometry during design which allowed Focus to give the bike short 470mm chain stays. While a short rear end is usually quite welcome, we felt that the front end could use a little length increase. The effective top tube length for our size L frame came in at 622mm or 24.4 inches. It’s not a deal breaker, but in a market filled with long front ends, the Focus feels short. The 66.5 degree head tube angle falls right in line with several similar e-bikes, including the new 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo. Ultimately the geometry translates to a snappy trail feel, with direction changes being easy and intuitive compared to other heavier, longer bikes like the Mondraker eCrusher.
Perhaps it’s because we were pushing it extra hard on this bike, but several testers noted a lack of stiffness from the front end on tight switchbacks and steep corners. After swapping out the bar and stem, there was a massive improvement, but the bike still didn’t remain as confident and torsionally rigid as we’d like. The DT-Swiss H1700 are also partially to blame. We did put on some very stiff Enve eMTB specific 27.5 wheels and still felt the squirm to some extent. The fork may be slightly to blame as well, but it appears the frame itself lacks some stiffness for truly aggressive riders who love the steeps.
Our last complaint is a small one, but we were continually frustrated by Focus spec’ing 2.4 Continental Trail King SL tires with tubes. The tires have poor traction, and incredibly thin sidewalls. After our fourth flat we vowed to replace them with something up to the level of the rest of the bike.
Now let’s focus (no pun intended) on the many positive attributes. We can’t overstate how much better this bike rides because of the T.E.C. battery system. Even lifting the bike onto a tailgate pad for transport is easier thanks to the reduced weight.
Where you really notice the difference is on sustained technical trails however. In situations where the rider is required to give constant bike handling input to muscle over rocks and around corners, the decreased weight is a huge benefit. Unlike most ebikes which resort to plowing over things to get up and down, the Focus is able to tip-toe by comparison. The 29er wheels also show their strength with impressive roll over, making the 140mm of rear travel feel decidedly longer than it actually is.
Battery range is also impressive, yet we did feel the bike was slightly slower/less powerful because of the smaller battery. Our 170-lb test rider was able to get in 30-mile rides full of steep hills with liberal use of Trail or even Boost with just the integrated battery. Slap on the external pack, and range anxiety is a distant notion. While we definitely pulled into the garage in the red zone a few times with the integrated battery, we never once managed to drain both battery packs. Our butts wore out far before the external and internal packs did.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Focus is on the right track with the JAM² 29 PRO. With a little tweaking it’s an impressive all around machine. We’d definitely change some of the component spec on the bike to better suit aggressive riding. Particularly the stem, bars, and tires. We also wouldn’t mind a slightly burlier wheelset. If you are a lighter or more beginner-sport level rider, then the Focus may be one of the best options on the market. But make sure you take note of the top tube measurements before picking your size.
It is one of the lightest and most enjoyable rigs in our test stable. To put it into perspective, the closest ebike in weight is the $10,000 Pivot shuttle, which is an awesome bike but packs a rather limiting price tag. For thousands less, the Focus lets you have a modular battery design, and a lighter weight eMTB that can be upgraded as your riding skills progress. Those are things we are definitely fans of.
Weight: 45.13 lbs
Frame: Aluminum; 140mm
Fork: RockShox Revelation RC; 140mm
Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT; 140mm
Battery: FOCUS T.E.C., 756 Wh, (378 Wh internal, 378 Wh optional external)
Drive Unit: Shimano E8000 250-watt
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT
Handlebar: BBB, aluminum, 760mm
Saddle: Focus Trail Saddle
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb; 150mm
Shifter: Shimano XT Di2; 11s
Stem: BBB, aluminum
Hubs: DT Swiss
Rims: DT Swiss/DT-Swiss H1700
Tires: Continental Trail King SL, 2.4
Bottom Bracket: Shimano
Cassette: Shimano SLX 11S; 11-46t
Cranks: FC-E8050-34T Hollow
Derailleur: Shimano XT Di2; 11s
T.E.C. Battery System
Very Fun on Tight Trails
Short Front End
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