Faultline A2 is the cheapest full-suspension 29er trail mountain bike from US brand Jamis. Does impressive spec for the money – particularly in the UK – make it one of the best budget mountain bikes available or does the geometry get in the way?
Design and geometry
The Faultline follows the classic shock under top tube driven by a swing link design, matched to a pivot on the seat stay and a main pivot level with the chainring top. That moves the rear wheel moves in a simple arc, but as we’ll see in the ride, it’s a well balanced one. The tapered head tube and 12x148mm Boost rear axle are a bonus rather than a given at the UK price too. There’s also some nice detailing in the frame, including chainguide mounts, bolted inserts for the internal cable routing and a conventional downtube bottle mount.
Jamis have made four sizes of the Faultline from small to XL. Don’t believe the printed geometry (or that copied across rather than actually measured in other reviews though) as my sample large had a 1.5 degree slacker than claimed 66 degree head angle and a 3 degrees slacker than claimed 71.5-degree effective seat angle with the seat at a 745mm ride height. The 480mm seat tube means there’s only just enough space for that saddle height with the 150mm stroke dropper too. That makes upsizing for extra stretch beyond the short 460mm reach a no go.
Components and build
Before discussing components and value we need to point out that buying a Jamis in the UK and US are very different experiences. Jamis are sold through discount activity chain store Go Outdoors and getting the best price (£600 off a nominal £1,800 RRP), means getting a members card for £5. In the US though, Jamis are sold through independent bike shops so pricing is comparatively higher, but so is the likely standard of expertise/support from the seller.
However you get it though, the spec is impressively solid, dependable and recognizable brand name based. Something Sal the product manager and his team at Jamis were rightly proud of when we chatted about the company and bike.
RockShox provide the 130mm Recon Silver RL fork and Deluxe Select R air-sprung rear damper. Transmission is 11-speed Shimano Deore including matching bottom bracket, through-axle crankset and 10-51 tooth wide range cassette – all items you’ll often find switched for other brand substitutes – even on some hardtails at this price. Brakes are Shimano too, but the entry level M200 spec with a 160mm rear rotor. The hubs are also Shimano, laced to WTB 25mm rims fitted with tubeless ready WTB tires. Bar and stem are Race Face with a WTB Volt saddle on the KS dropper finishing an ‘everything you need’ build.
Ride, handling and performance
The Faultline A2 isn’t the cheapest Jamis full-suspension bike as the older, 27.5in wheeled Dakar comes in at £999 in the UK with a Go Outdoors card. It is the cheapest 29er though and the larger wheels give it a naturally easy stride that’s complemented by the fast rolling, 2.25in Trail Boss rear tire. Smooth shifts through the Deore gearing and an efficient rear suspension feel from the medium compression and rebound tuned RockShox damper mean it gains speed easily for an economy option despite a near 16kg weight. The 760mm bar gives reasonable leverage through a head angle that’s appropriate for a trail all rounder with 130/120mm travel. The Recon fork is consistently controlled and the toothy Vigilante front tyre adds confidence in dry turns too. Add in the inherent reliability of the Shimano and RockShox kit, plus harder ‘Fast Rolling’ compound tires and it’s a good choice for high mileage riding on tamer trails.
That ‘Fast Rolling’ compound of both tires means they need more care in the wet though and the ride dynamic changes dramatically if you’re sat down rather than stood up. That’s because the super slack seat angle cantilevers you right over the rear axle if you’re in the saddle, reducing weight on the front tire. Great for easy seated wheelies but not for front tire grip in turns or up climbs. Shunting the saddle forwards helps a bit, but the short reach means the overall balance is definitely more rearward than ideal for more aggressive riding even when stood up.
The medium tune on the rear shock means that despite the back end moving freely when I removed the shock to check bearings and alignment, it feels numb rather than supple and grippy on rougher terrain. That’s not unusual at this price point and it’s the flipside of that stable and efficient pedaling feel. There’s limited room for anything much bigger than the existing 2.25" tire to smooth things out or add grip though, so the only cure is a shock re-tune.
The shock rate means it tends to push through travel quite easily so it can’t handle drops or big slams as confidently as longer travel bikes. Lighter riders might find minimum rebound settings too slow too. In contrast, heavier and/or more aggressive riders are going to want to upsize the rear rotor or fit sintered brake pads for more bite than the basic Shimano’s provide.
The Faultline A2 is a very well specced, relatively fast trail 29er at a great price – particularly if you’re buying in the UK. Durable components and efficient feel means it’s a happy partner for putting in the miles while adding more control and comfort than a hardtail, so you could have a great time on the Jamis if you’re looking for a cruiser not a charger. Start pushing hard though and unbalanced geometry, firm suspension, limp rear brake and hard tires become obvious limitations.
- Temperature: Two to eight degrees centigrade
- Conditions: Almost dry, slightly damp and properly sodden
- Trails: Blue and red marked trails, plus some black drop repeats at Leeds Urban Bike park. Local natural singletrack, moorland double track and technical woodsy riding
Tech specs: Jamis Faultline A2
- Discipline: Trail/cross country
- Price: $,1999.95 / £1,800.00
- Head angle: 66 degrees
- Frame material: Triple butted 6061 alloy
- Fork: RockShox Recon Silver RL 130mm travel
- Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select R 120mm travel
- Size: S, M, L (tested), XL
- Weight: 15.8kg size large without pedals
- Wheel size: 29in
- Drivetrain: Shimano Deore, 32T chainset and bottom bracket
- Gears: Shimano Deore 11 speed rear mech, shifter and 10-51T cassette with KMC X11 chain
- Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors
- Tires: WTB Vigilante TCS Tubeless 29 x 2.35” Front & Trail Boss TCS Tubeless 29 x 2.25” rear tires
- Wheels: WTB STX i25 TCS 29 tubeless rims on Shimano MT400 Boost hubs
- Bar and stem: Race Face Ride, 760 x 35mm bar and Race Face Ride, 50 x 35mm stem
- Seatpost: KS Exaform 900i dropper
- Saddle: WTB Volt saddle