Focus Jam 2 SL 9.9 review

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Mid-power eMTBs currently offer the best all-round mountain bike experience and the Focus Jam2 SL is the best mid-power experience I’ve had so far.

  • Brand: Focus
  • Product: Jam 2 SL 9.9
  • From: Focus Bikes
  • Price: £7,999
  • Tested by: Benji for 3 months

Pros

  • The best midpower motor
  • Great suspension
  • Good geometry

Cons

  • That effing stem
  • Off-bike battery recharging
  • Ring Control bar remote is poor

There is a lot dislike about this bike. And indeed I don’t like it. I love it. Much like how 10cc feel about cricket. I’m probably supposed to put my verdict at the end of thia review but who cares? I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up being my favourite bike of the year, E or otherwise.

Tellingly, this is much like how my favourite bike of last year was the Lapierre E-Zesty, another Fazua powered ebike with various ancillary componentry problems. The Fazua Ride 60 system is far and away the best ebike motor out there in my opinion and when allied to a good mountain bike design it’s a heady mix.

Okay then. Let’s begin by ragging on this fantastic but flawed bike…

Niggles

The ‘Ring Control’ bar remote is woeful. Feels like a flimsy prototype. Frequently gets stuck in the up or down position ie. doesn’t return to neutral setting. Sometimes doesn’t seem to connect when you attempt the press-up-and-hold move for a bit of ‘Nitro Boost’ power (more about this later).

And just having five-LEDs on the top tube display as a means of assessing your battery power remaining status just isn’t really good enough.

The through-the-stem routing is the single worst thing I’ve encountered on a bike in a long time. Looks uglier than regular external routing AND makes the dropper and shifter much stiffer to actually operate. WTF?

And this test bike had an extremely annoying clicking noise coming from somewhere inside the top tube. The noise really did my head in for about a month until I finally broke mid-trail and had a proper inspection as to what was causing it. In the end it was just an excess of thin electrical cable rattling around at tapping at the inside of the top tube. Once discovered and diagnosed, a quick ziptie was applied and the annoying noise went away.

Finally, I’m not a fan of having to remove the battery from the down tube to recharge it. I don’t mind having that as an option (sometimes the bike isn’t stored near a plug socket) but having to remove the battery to recharge it just feels faffy. And I won’t be the only one who comes back from a ride and thinks “ugh, I can’t be bothered with this right now, I’ll charge it later” only to forget all about it until it’s time to ride again and the battery isn’t full. Ugh.

I also have my doubts just how long the quarter-turn latch that holds the battery cover in place will last in the real world. It was fine during the test period admittedly.

Giggles

So how can a bike with this many flaws be one of my favourite mountain bikes of all time? Quite simply, because of how it rides.

Honestly, this bike may annoy you before/after rides but as soon as you’re on a ride and you hit some off-road, all is instantly forgiven. In terms of actual riding, the Fazua 60-powered Jam2 SL is pretty much perfect.

Leaving aside the ebike aspects for awhile and concentrating on the mountain biking stuff, the geometry of the Jam2 SL is really very good indeed. So too is the suspension. And so too is the feel of the frame and the finishing kit.

Starting with the latter, the feel of the Jam2 SL is hard to explain without is sounding boring! Essentially it’s really calm and muted. Forgiving yet fun. It’s not a dead stick. Nor is it twangy mess. It reacts to what you input without it overreacting or twitching or doing anything unpredictable. Combined with the impressive suspension performance, it’s definitely the overall feel of the bike handling that wins you over.

Suspension

Suspension then. Just a bit old slab of kudos to the oft-overlooked Fox 36 fork. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a less-than-excellent Fox 36. It just does the job without exhibiting any sort of weakness. Grippy and supportive. Not reticent to give you all of the 160mm travel if it’s needed.

Ditto the Fox Float X rear shock; another shock that often flies under the radar. The Float X is Fox’s best air shock in my opinion. Combined with the Focus’ ostensibly trad 4-bar design the rear end has buckets of plush traction that seeps seamlessly into decent midstroke support. And is way less rampy than a lot of bikes so you can actually access the travek you want/need.

Geometry

Geometry. Now normally I’d go for an XL size test bike wherever possible. This is principally due to the range of reach that I get on well with. The issue here was that an XL size Focus Jam2 SL is… massive. Like, 515mm reach massive. So the test bike we have here is a Large. Thankfully, at 485mm, it’s a reachy enough Large.

I’m not generally a believer in the whole ‘smaller bike for more playful/pop’ theory. And while I would say that 485mm reach is the absolute minimum I personally would go for, there is definitely something about the extra weight of pedal assist bikes that helps with stability and confidence.

Truth be told, on paper there’s nothing that screams radness about the geometry of the Focus Jam2 SL. As mentioned, the reach isn’t super prog. Neither is the head angle (64.5°). Neither is the seat angle (76.5°). But the proof is in the riding and the riding said ‘rad’.

I do think that the chainstay length (447mm in long/slack setting*) and the not-low BB (25mm BB drop) are an excellent combo that work together to give a bike with plenty of balance and manoeuvrability.

Seat tube and standover are key

And let’s not forget about dropper post insertion and standover clearance. And water bottle room. It’s often easy to forget about these factors when they’re present; they just feel ‘normal’. But on full-suspension ebikes, a lot of the time these things are compromised. Seat tubes are too long. Top tubes are too high. Bottle room is meagre or entirely absent. Not so with the Focus Jam2 SL: short seat tube (440mm on L), low top tube and loads of bottle space.

Okay, so yes, the supplied dropper on the Jam2 SL does only have 170mm of travel but at least you can ‘double drop’ it lower into the seat tube for ample saddle clearance. And/or swap in a 200mm+ travel dropper at some point.

*Yes, the Focus Jam2 SL has flip chips. Chainstay chip is near the rear axle. The head/seat angle adjustment is in the rocker linkage. No doubt partly because I’m on the upper end of the height of a L size, I ran the bike pretty swiftly in the slackest/longest chip combo. I honestly think the bike is simply better with a slacker head angle but smaller riders (on smaller sizes) may be better served by the shorter chain stay length. Hey, experiment. All it takes is a multitool.

E-Stuff

On to the e-stuff. I think ultimately the Fazua Ride 60 system makes its presence felt ‘just so’ pretty much all of the time. As I’ve said before, it rides like you… but on a really, really good day. It still feels like it’s you that’s doing the inputs that’s getting you the outputs. It’s easy to forget about the motor and just ride the bike.

The motor doesn’t jerkily engage over-eagerly. Nor does it come on so subtly that you’re always semi-concerned about when it’s going to arrive.

And when you’re over the assist cut-off speed (15mph ish) there’s negligible drag in the system. It pedals when unassisted like a regular bike. It’s this alone that gives mid-power ebikes a huge advantage over lightweight full-power ebikes, which still very much suffer from ‘cut-off dread’ in my experience. The Focus Jam2 SL is still fun to ride on 16mph shallow gradient tracks.

Back to the Ring Control bar remote. You can also press-upwards-and-hold the Ring Contro to get 12 seconds of ‘Nitro Boost’ (okay, ‘nitro boost’ is my nickname for it as opposed to official Fazuaspeak but you get the idea).

This nitro boost can be a funny thing. You need to know what lies ahead on the trail to actually use it (it takes too long to activate for it to be used ad hoc on-sight on unknown terrain) and due to the fickle nature of the RIng Control sometimes it doesn’t activate at all. Ultimately, this nitro boost mode is not something you can 100% rely on but, having said that, its slightly sporadic performance never ruined a ride, so hey.

Battery life and build kit

One thing the nitro boost definitely does is rinse the battery. Which is reason enough to leave it alone because as it is, the Fazua Ride 60 system actually offers really good fuel economy. Especially noticeable when compared to TQ50 systems and Specialized’s SL2 bikes, the Fazua doesn’t have you permanently eyeballing the battery status. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the range anxiety is absent on Fazua bikes but it really is greatly reduced.

On to the build kit. Most of it is great: anything with Shimano, DT Swiss, Schwalbe or Fox written on it anyway. Drivetrain flawless. Wheels zippy and reliable. Brakes excellent. Fab suspension already mentioned. Even the 35mm rise RaceFace handlebars are good for most riders. I swapped in a set of higher rise (50mm) bars to out my hands where I like them.

I didn’t really like the RaceFace grips (too fat, hard and slippery), the Fizik saddle (ouch) and obviously the stem is… unbelievable.

I feel at this point it is my duty to point out that you don’t have to live with the CIS stem cable routing. You can get a replacement headset top cover from Acros and run a regular stem on this bike. Yes, you still have route cables through the headset but that it is much more liveable with (and results in less-stiff shifter and dropper actuation).

As I’ve prattled on about numerous times already, it is the weight of mid-power eMTBs that is The Thing. Mountain bikes that weigh around 19kg simply handle amazingly well everywhere. Climbs and descents. And crucially, on undulating terrain. Getting back on a regular 15-16kg MTB is alarming; everything feels skittish and nervy. Having a motor is a way of having the Perfect Weight MTB that isn’t hamstrung by gravity or friction.

Overall

Mid-power eMTBs currently offer the best all-round mountain bike experience and the Focus Jam2 SL is the best mid-power experience I’ve had so far. The bike may well have more than its fair share of niggles but, as I said above, as soon as you’re off and riding this bike you forgive them all. It doesn’t have any niggles that significantly impair the ride experience or the bike’s capabilities or aren’t solvable. I flipping loved this bike. I’ll be very surprised if anything else comes close to it this year.

Focus Jam 2 SL 9.9 Specification

  • Frame // Carbon, 150mm
  • Fork // Fox Float 36 Performance Elite Grip2, 160mm
  • Shock // Fox Float X Factory, 210x50mm
  • Wheels // DT Swiss HX1700
  • Front tyre // Schwalbe Magic Mary Addix Soft 29×2.4in
  • Rear tyre //Schwalbe Nobby Nic Addix Speed 29×2.4in
  • Chainset // Rotor eKAPIC RF, ??mm length, 32T
  • Drivetrain // Shimano XT, 10-51T
  • Brakes // Shimano XT 8120, 203/203mm
  • Stem // Focus CIS 2.0 MTB, ??mm
  • Bars // RaceFace Atlas 35, 820x35mm rise
  • Grips // RaceFace Getta Grip Lock-on
  • Seatpost // Post Moderne dropper, 170mm, 31.6mm
  • Saddle // Fizik Taiga
  • Bottom Bracket // Fazua
  • Motor // Fazua Ride 60, 60Nm
  • Battery // Fazua 430Wh
  • Size tested // L
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
  • Weight // 19kg (41.8lb)

Geometry of our size L

  • Head angle // 64.5°
  • Effective seat angle // 76.5°
  • Seat tube length // 440mm
  • Head tube length // 120mm
  • Effective top tube // 637mm
  • BB height // 25mm BB drop
  • Reach // 485mm
  • Chainstay // 447mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,264mm

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Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • Focus Jam 2 SL 9.9 review
  • 2
    Gribs
    Full Member

    So an £8k bike with significant problems that needs money spending immediately to make the gears and dropper work like a properly designed bike. How’s the Fazua motor for reliability and repairability?  What’s Focus’s warranty support? These things matter far more on an ebike than a normal bike. After hassle with a Canyon I now check bikes come with normal easily replaceable bearings too.

    2
    humdinger
    Free Member

    I own one. I bought an 8.7 in the sales, stripped it, and rebuilt with great kit. The niggle about the remote is fair. Even the updated version is still not perfect. What I did find is the cable routing needed finishing inside, and since, it’s the quietest running bike in my quiver.

    I don’t agree about the removable battery. That’s a great feature IMO. Takes about 10 seconds to remove and have charging. Battery cover comes off with one small twist, battery out simply, and the charger cable magnetically clips in and done. For really big days, or stage races, you can keep a second charged battery ready. Fixed batteries are inflexible and as you say, the bike itself has to be near a socket! What I would say is that I have added a couple of tweaks to the cover to make it as solid and silent as it should have been from factory.

    Bottom line, I’m saying the niggles are easily rectified, and the removable battery is clearly divisive, but for me, was one of the USPs Vs the competition.

    Where we agree 100% is that it’s a superb, versatile bike. Mine’s down to 17kg in light guise, and 18.5kg in big mountain guise, in size large.

    Great bike.

    hatter
    Full Member

    You can also get a Acros headset top cap that allows you to run a normal stem and removes the need for stem cable routing.

    It still goes through the headset but it removes the ‘kink’ as it goes around the bar so the dropper and mechanical shifting will work better.

    I can see the point of the stem routing if you’re on AXS shifting and dropper so there’s no actual cables running through there, hoses don’t tend to mind tight corners so much.

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)

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