Review: Jeff Jones ATB

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Jeff Jones is something of a mad genius, putting his impassioned theories about the ultimate bike ride into practice with fantastically swooping custom built frames. We’ve been fans of his iconic Titanium Spaceframe mountain bike since riding one for our sister publication, Dirt Rag, six years ago. But as with most geniuses who are drawn to bicycles, Jones believes in sharing his discoveries as widely as possible, so he’s expanded his business beyond custom frames (for which there is a lengthy waiting list) and into factory-produced versions.

This “ATB” bike is so called because it’s intended for all terrain: city, path and mountain. It’s based on Jones’ steel Diamond frame, which started life as a mountain bike. However, with some parts-swapping, this “mountain” bike makes a good commuter or comfy long-distance touring bike as well, with far fewer compromises than your average knobby-tired steed trying to change its stripes. Jones is fond of saying that he only makes one bike—a “high-performance non-suspended bicycle”—that can be used for a variety of riding styles.

What’s the secret to this chameleon nature? It’s in the geometry. Jones frames have a more relaxed seat tube angle and shorter chainstays, putting the rider’s weight further back over the rear wheel. The bottom bracket is settled low between the wheels to add stability. Combined with the Jones Loop H-Bar, which places your hands at a relaxed angle, the resulting position is fairly upright, yet efficient in pedaling and confident in handling rough terrain. Add to that the frame’s huge tire clearance, and you have a bike that can attack just about any situation or riding surface.

Our model was built with the steel Jones Unicrown fork, which has a 135mm hub spacing (wider than the normal 100mm); this stiffens up the front end, particularly useful for loading front panniers. (It also means that you could fit a “fat” front rim and tire, up to 26×4.7, for off-road adventures.) The bike came with 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tires—Jones is a believer, along with Schwalbe, that bigger-volume tires are actually more efficient on the road due to less rolling resistance, as well as being safer and more comfortable. Tubus racks and Planet Bike fenders round out the build. Jones also sent a set of Ortlieb front and rear panniers and trunk bag, and a frame bag made by Revelate Designs, to provide plenty of options for bikepacking or touring.

A group of Bicycle Times staffers took turns riding the Jones in a variety of ways. (Another benefit of the geometry is that one available size easily accommodates a fairly wide range of heights.)

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Adam Newman

I took the Jones rail-trail touring with two panniers on the rear rack and the frame bag installed. It handled the modest amount of weight admirably and I thought it was stable and comfortable without feeling sluggish.

I think it is well-suited as a touring bike for extended trips. It handles the weight well and is stiff enough to not feel squirmy. It might be overkill for short, city rides or commuting.

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Since it’s only available in one size, I felt like I was at the edge of who would fit on it (I’m 6-foot-2). The rider position is much further back when set up for someone my height. The slack seat tube means the saddle is right above the rear wheel. It wheelies really well for a touring bike!

The custom fork width means you can’t use a standard front hub, like a dynamo hub.

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Jon Pratt

I rode the GAP/C&O rail-trail on the Jones, commuted, mountain biked a few times, and rode it for general urban use.

It is a very comfortable bike overall. The handlebars allow multiple hand positions and attachment points for accessories. The big tires, with low pressure, made for a comfortable ride.

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I was disappointed in a couple aspects. The sloping top tube took away a lot of space in the front triangle for the frame pack, and because of the rearward seat position, there was not much clearance for a seatpack between the seat and the rear tire. The frame has a single mount for racks and fenders at the rear dropout, making swapping things in and out more difficult than bikes with double eyelets. (The fenders came attached to the racks.)

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Karen Brooks

I commuted on the Jones without bags, just with fenders, and did a little bit of mountain biking. (I also have significant time on a Spaceframe, and loved it for mountain biking.)

The ride position instantly feels natural. With the relaxed seat tube angle, I feel like I can get more power out of my pedal strokes with less effort. The handlebar position is, in a word, perfect, and any other handlebar feels wrong after riding this bike.

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The bike as built looked (and is) heavy at 34 pounds with racks and fenders, but it doesn’t ride heavy. I could sprint well enough for city riding. I’m becoming a fan of big tires for road riding—tackling such nasty surfaces as railroad ballast was not a problem, and it was even fun. For once, I didn’t steer around potholes, but aimed right for them with glee.

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Stephen Hayes

I own a Jones and use it mostly as a mountain bike. I have a fat front wheel that acts as a sort of suspension system. The bike handles well off road and the upright riding position and quick handling lend themselves well to my style of riding.

I’ve also done a few bikepacking trips with a Revelate Sweet Roll bag on the handlebar, full frame bag and large saddlebag. Unlike other touring bikes I’ve ridden, the Jones felt super-stable and less heavy. It remains playful, even under load. I’ve been known to roll off of curbs, roll up and over gravel piles and ride no-handed quite easily in mid-tour.

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I’ve also done a ton of trips to the store and some commuting with rear rack and panniers. Much like when touring, the Jones handles weight well and remains quite a nimble bike, even with panniers stuffed with bread, cheese and beer.

Comfort, first and foremost, is this bike’s strength. The upright riding position is easy on the lower back and shoulders. Another strength is its playfulness, whether stripped for riding singletrack or fully loaded while touring. I also appreciate its functionality—the ability to set it up in myriad different configurations. I have gone from road tires to mountain bike tires and back again over the course of one weekend.

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Conclusion

The difference between this bike and any other bike is that it isn’t one “type” of bike or another. It’s a bike that can do everything short of full on road racing. Could it be the one bike to rule them all? If you gravitate toward adventure in your riding style, it may be for you.

 

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