[R]eviewed // Focus Jam 6.9

“What sort of an all-round package and ride performance will a budget of around $5000 get you in 2022? Let’s find out!” 

Reviewer // Blake Neilsen  Photos // Matt Staggs

For whatever reason it seems that the majority of the bike’s that we get sent in for review here at [R]evolution have price tags upwards of ten grand, or even more. So when Focus reached out to us and asked if we’d be interested in testing one of their bikes that costs half of that, “absolutely” we said as our curiosity got the better of us. Mountain biking is definitely a very expensive hobby and whilst our in-house test team are often spoilt by getting to review the newest and fanciest gear on the market, let’s be honest we’re not all made of money. And so, the concept of reviewing this bike was firstly to see how it performs in its own right, but then secondly, we also want to try and get a gauge of how a 5k bike compares to a 10k bike.

Sound good? Well then, read on friends…

Blake, now based off the fact that the bike has Focus written along its downtube it is probably no surprise that even though it slots into that ‘mid-level’ price category it’s still going to be boasting a very tidy frame. What were your first impressions of the Jam when it arrived and you cast your eyes over it for a close look?

Focus have always done a great job of making their full suspension bikes look eye catching, not by way of crazy colours or graphics, but by incorporating unique yet very effective industrial design features into the frame and particularly their different linkages. The latest version of the aluminium Jam series is no different. This bike screams fun with its super low standover height and aggressive geometry it’s just begging to go and rip some trails with mates!

The ‘Jam’ is if course aimed as being the ‘jack of all trades’ ‘do it all’ trail bike. Can you hit us with the key facts and numbers of this rig

The Jam is offered up as a 29er front and rear, with 150mm of travel to each of those wheels delivered by Focus’ F.O.L.D. linkage system, which has been optimised to be more progression than ever before. On our medium sized test bike, we were rolling with a reach of 450mm, chainstay of 435mm and a wheelbase of 1200mm, so it’s quite conservative length wise, making it super agile and easy to manoeuvre. With the headtube and seat tube angles coming in at 65 degrees and 76 degrees respectfully it means this mid travel machine likes to party on the way down but is super comfortable and efficient on the way back up as well.

What are some of the unique features that you found on the Jam that set it apart from other bikes and brands in the mid-market arena?

The frame construction quality of the Jam is absolutely second to none. It’s very apparent that the frame tube thicknesses, tube junction strength and stiffness around welds was something Focus ‘focused’ (sorry) on. Especially being that this bike would have been test ridden by Ollie Wilkins, an absolute shredder of an Englishman, known for his playful and aggressive style on the bike. There is no unwanted flex when trying to send it further and faster than your mates, on the flip side though the bike is still supple enough, thanks to its very progressive suspension kinematics, that it’s not a harsh ride on the rougher trails. Another design concept included in the bike that gets brought up a lot is Focus’ cockpit integration solution, or C.I.S. Now while I don’t think it looks particularly bad, people aren’t afraid to say it’s not their cup of tea trailside and to be honest I wouldn’t like to work on it regularly. I do like that Focus are trying to push the envelope on these types of designs and I look forward to seeing where these types of systems go in the future.

One of the most notable changes to the 2022 Jam line-up compared to the previous year models is the revised design of the bike’s F.O.L.D. suspension linkage. Tell us a little bit about that?

F.O.L.D which stands for Focus Optimized Linkage Design is built around highly progressive kinematics, which for a playful trail bike is ideal. Since the Jam went through its latest overhaul it has moved to a more horizontal shock position, allowing for a lower standover height, as well as more space for your water bottle and the integrated tool/spares bag within the front triangle.

Whilst on the topic of suspension how does the Fox Performance suspension handle out on the trails? Does the 36 fork up front seem to match nicely with the Float DPS shock in the rear and what kind of adjustment do both units offer for finetuning the ride?

I was super happy to see this bike fitted with a Fox 36, rather than something smaller. I think this is a great match to the attitude of this bike! The Float DPS does a great job in the progressive suspension system, with the addition of volume spacers to the rear shock you can run quite low pressures for a seriously supple beginning of the stroke on trail rides. This was a seriously strong combination of suspension for the cost of this model in particular!

Let’s talk about the Jam 6.9’s spec package. Now as far as durability and reliability goes a Shimano XT drivetrain has earned a reputation similar to the Toyota car; mechanically they just keep going, and going, and going without dramas, right! Do you feel that Focus made a good choice with the drivetrain on the Jam 6.9 and was it a nice ‘touch’ to see a full XT groupset spec given the bike’s pretty damn affordable price tag?

As far as a whole groupset goes it is incredibly hard to go past the Shimano XT ensemble when value for money is the objective. All of the components individually have a great reputation for reliability as mentioned, so it’s a no brainer to go the whole 9 yards and spec all XT, especially with the way you’re able to keep such a clean and crisp cockpit with the I-spec mounts for your shifter and brake levers.

Okay so you got the bike set it up to your liking and headed out for its maiden voyage. What were some of the key points you jotted down in your trail notes after your first couple of rides?

Within the first few minutes of riding, which was filming for our first video released on the bike (you can check that video out over on our YouTube channel) I thought to myself “damn this thing loves to party”. Being a 29er with a 435mm chainstays and pretty modest reach, I could put the bike wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted from the word go. The bike has been designed as a trail bike, which it does a great job of doing, but even more than that it loves to get serious airtime, play around on any jumps and it blurs the line between trail riding and “jibbing”, heading out and riding anything or anything you can imagine.

Keeping in mind that the Jam range is intended as a ‘do it all’ trail bike, does this bike live up to its design brief?

The Jam is about as do it all as it gets, if I was going to choose one single bike to have it would have to be something that ticks all the boxes that the Jam does. That’s not to say that it’s compromising itself as an all-day pedaller either, we have done some epic adventures on the Focus so far as well as doing our best 50 to 1 impersonation or trying to at least.

In terms of ride performance, what are some of the areas that you felt the Jam 6.9 excelled and did you uncover any areas where you found the bike to be lacking?

I really do find it hard to nit-pick this bike as I really do think that it’s one of the best value bikes on the market in its category since looking into what else falls around this price range. However, I think that anyone who jumped onto the Jam 6.9 would have to agree with me that a few more dollars would gladly have been spent if the bike came specced with some slightly better rims. Even with a re-tension after the first ride there is a lot of flex noticeable from both wheels. I am not sure how long I give them if i ride them in my normal fashion.

Given the bike’s price point and how it rides do you reckon the Jam 6.9 represents good value for money and what type of rider is a bike like this going to really suit?

The Jam 6.9 is an awesome option for a range of different people, the main type of riders that come to mind though would be those who started riding or got back into riding throughout those crazy Covid times and has gotten the itch to upgrade! With supply chain issues being almost a thing of the past for the bike industry, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot. I think that Focus have put themselves in a great position to be the go to brand for many people with their latest offering.

Final question, as a bloke that has ridden more his fair share of super-bikes, all things factored in how does this 5k rig compare to a 10k rig?

It’s no secret that I am absolutely spoilt rotten when it comes to the bikes that I get to throw my leg over every time I get out for a pedal. When it comes down to it though a lot of the high-end luxuries that drive up the price tag are often not what gives a bike its particular “feel”. So much of that comes down to the setup of the bike, not only suspension but the sizing in general, bar width and stem length. A few other small but key components that are often overlooked that effect how a bike feels are grips and saddle, you can easily make a budget bike feel perfect for you by getting these low cost yet crucial things just tight. On the flip side, you could make the most expensive bike in the world feel rubbish with poor suspension setup, a saddle that is not right for your body and a pair of muesli bars for your grips. Focus have done an incredible job with the Jam 6.9 getting the frame and linkage the have great ride characteristics for the category of bike that it falls into and have specced it to the 9’s for how much it costs. I’m not sure that they’re even making any money on these things!  Kudos to you Focus for getting all demographics within mountain biking stoked on their bikes!!

Key details

Frame // 7005 hydroformed aluminium, 3D forging, internal cable routing, ‘FOLD’ suspension design. 

Travel // 150mm both ends

Wheelsize// 29”

Spec // Fox 36 Float Performance fork, FOX Float DPS Performance shock, full Shimano XT groupset including drivetrain and brakes, 

Price // $5099.00

Browse // www.focus-bikes.com