The latest Jam from Focus is designed for play rather than podium hunting, but this tough-but-forgivingly smooth and effortlessly balanced bike is still pretty quick when it gets between the tapes. If light and agile are on your shopping list when looking for the best trail bike though the Jam 6.9 is not for you.
Design and geometry
The Jam is an established model for Focus but this is an all-new platform. The big difference is, that while the three-link FOLD suspension system is still the shock driving heart of the single-pivot suspension system, the shock is now horizontal under the top tube. That leaves room for a full-size bottle and a bolt-on storage bag on the broad down tube. By making the top tube even broader - particularly in the head and center where it handles the shock load - Focus has created a super-solid and stiff mainframe. The tall, triangulated swingarm is a mix of forged and shaped tube sections with braces across both chain and seat stays making that a seriously stiff piece despite relatively narrow main pivot and linkage anchors. There’s still decent mudroom in the back though and the chain slap is kept quiet by a bolt-on ribbed guard. SRAM’s UDH gear hanger keeps spares hunting simple and the Jam frame also gets a seriously Clydesdale category 150kg ‘system weight’ limit to reflect what Focus is perceiving as an ever-heavier rider population.
In terms of numbers, Focus has gone confident but not crazy with a 65-degree head, 76-degree seat angle with the reversible shock mount chip in the low position. 480mm reach, 337mm bottom bracket height and a relatively long 440mm back end to make room for the braces to complete the driver dots.
Components and build
The Jam build is all good solid kit, too, with Fox’s most basic Performance 36 featuring a heavier but stiffer build than the Performance Elite and Factory models. The Fox Float is also the simplest performance version, but you still get a three-position low-speed compression switch for locked, firm and fully open running. What you don’t get is any volume spacers inside the Extra Volume air can for making the very linear, highly leveraged 55mm stroke any more progressive.
Focus’s big, boxy CIS stem sucks cables and hoses over the front of the bar and swallows them down inside the headset into the frame. The 'kid-eating spaghetti' aesthetic keeps the front end and frame clean but makes any stem swap or headset bearing replacement further down the line a pain as you’ll have to unplug the gear and brake lines. The CIS stem only comes in 50mm length too, so if you want to go shorter you’ll need to use Acros’s headset cap (€11.95 plus postage) to route the controls past your new stem and into the frame.
The ubiquitous Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tire twinset sits on 30mm Rodi rims (branded Focus) with Novatec hubs. It’s worth noting that to let you push properly hard in the rough, the Focus has specced some of the best mountain bike tires with a 2.5in MaxxGrip tire up front and a tougher EXO+ carcass at the rear. The 170mm stroke of the KS dropper is all about getting your seat out of the way and letting you throw your weight about too and you get an E13 chain guide bolted onto the frame’s ISCG mounts.
Brakes, mech, shifters and cranks are all Shimano XT but Focus has sneaked in a heavyweight Deore cassette and chain and the big 203mm brake rotors are Deore spec, too, which means a shorter lifespan in aggressive conditions. We’re still talking years/months of use before any likely worries though so it’s no biggie. Overall weight is a biggie though, with our large sample straining the scales at 16.38kg even before we added pedals or put anything in the frame bag.
Ride, handling and performance
As you might expect, that much mass takes a while to lever up to speed and the same applies to that MaxGripp tire upfront. The 50mm stem, long backend and a default shock setup that’s really keen to use all its travel even at 25 per cent sag (which is a very high 225psi with a 70kg rider) all amplify the very solidly grounded stance of the Focus. So if you’ve seen the ‘release your inner child’ marketing and were expecting a hyperactive, ping and pop vibe from your Jam then you’re going to get into a teenage sulk.
However, if your definition of ‘release your inner child’ is a bike that opens the gate to a lot more of the mountain biking playground without wailing home to your mom with a serious ‘ouchie' then the Jam is great. The super grippy front tire and the way the FOLD suspension keeps the back wheel glued onto the ground all the time means outstanding traction. The long reach and rear end translate into a ton of stability through turns as well and the heavyweight frame is rock solid stiff from axle to axle and bar to triangulate tracking precision. While the 50mm stem isn’t the most reactive way to correct any slips or flick the bike into turns, the overall balance is actually really sorted. If pushed the rear tire always slides first and the big brakes mean you can provoke that reaction yourself if things get tighter than the Jam will normally get around. Its eagerness to move the rear wheel through its stroke means it hits square edges more forgivingly than most single pivots too. While it might not be the most responsive pedaling bike and it’ll always eat more watts than a lighter bike, the consistently sensitive, ground tracking suspension and long back end mean it will rock crawler up the jankiest rock step and stutter climbs as long as you can keep turning the pedals.
However, the very active nature of the inline shock means it heats up very quickly on extended descents. That means you’ll feel the Focus starting to get flustered and kicking around under your feet well before even the simple Grip damper in the fork starts losing the plot. While there’s some pop-off jumps and lips and the soft back end sucks up drama well, the superlinear stroke means there’s very little support for driving the Jam through hard turns if you’re a more aggressive or dynamic rider. Even with a 0.4 spacer (unfortunately the largest we had) in the air can it still blows through most of the travel easily at 25 per cent sag so you’re going to either need a bigger spacer or even more pressure and less sag. There’s also the fact that if a 70kg rider is using 225psi even for a soggy setup, a rider near the 150kg ‘system weight’ limit is going to be way past the 350psi max limit of the DPS shock. Focus has set up the Jam to work with a coil shock so if you are on the hefty side we’d recommend a progressive sprung coil as the way to go.
The Focus Jam 6.9 is a naturally super smooth, high traction and a seriously strong stiff bike that lets you get away with a whole lot without flinching. The sticky front tire, neutral steering and mostly XT spec including big brakes back that up in terms of kit, too. More dynamic riders are going to find the very linear suspension lacks support and feels the heat faster than normal on extended descents. Overall weight crushes agility and acceleration too and while it’s structurally rated for big riders, the leverage ratio of the suspension literally doesn’t support that. While it looks neat, the CIS stem and internal headset cause swap or servicing complications further down the line, too.
Tech Specs: Focus Jam 6.9
- Model name: Focus Jam 6.9
- Discipline: Trail/Enduro
- Price: $TBC / £3,199.99
- Head angle: 65-degrees
- Frame material: Hydroformed 7005 alloy
- Size: Large
- Weight: 16.38kg
- Wheel size: 29in x 2.5/2.4 inches
- Suspension: Fox 36 Performance Grip 160mm travel, 44mm offset/Fox Float DPS Performance 210x55mm stroke, 150mm travel
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT 32T chainset, 12-speed gearing and shifter, Deore 11-51T cassette and chain
- Cranks: Shimano Deore XT
- Brakes: Shimano XT brakes with 203mm rotors
- Cockpit: Focus 780mm bar and 50mm CIS stem
- Wheelset: Rodi/Focus 30mm rims with Novatec hubs
- Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 3C MaxxGrip EXO 29x2.5in WT front and Maxxis Minion DHF 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ 29 x 2.4in rear tires
- Seatpost: KS 170mm dropper post
- Saddle: Focus Trail saddle