Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Steel. 29+. Here.

I've been thinking about it for a while, but I finally did it:

With my bike fund growing by leaps and bounds and my garage space disturbingly empty, I was just running around the internet when I was suddenly mugged and forced to trade my bike balance for this:

Or, more accurately, I had signed up for Jones's in-stock email alert on their 29+ frameset, thinking I might finally spring for a new Plus frame when they got back in stock, but disappointed and resigned to another black bike, but figuring I would have at least until spring to think about it... when I got an email that they had found one leftover blue frame in my 25" size. Might as well hit me with a sap in a dark alley. The bike is blue, the fund is red, and I was ready to start building.

I liked the way they packed in the truss fork:

The dark and cold left me to do a leisurely build over a few nights' garage time:

I had to roughly set up my handlebars to confirm that, yes, my current hydro brake hose is too short. While I ordered a new hose, I'm running an old rear mechanical for now. The only other interesting part of the build is the front wheel:

It requires a 135mm through axle front disc spaced hub, and that collection of qualifications means I had to end up buying an (expensive) new front wheel to go along with my new frame. I stole the rear wheel off my KM:

The truss fork is really the star of the show. It was a little odd to set it up for the first time--the steerer tube is just an aluminum tube, not pressed into the fork crown, because there isn't a fork crown. It just gets pinched by upper and lower pinch bolts:

I added the small rolls of white handlebar tape where the fork would contact the top tube in a crash. The idea behind the truss fork is that has a very stiff section front to back, but is still reasonably light. It's rigid specific, which is fine as my suspension fork has only been getting dirty by gathering dust.The truss fork has lots of rake to offset the slack head angle on the frame. In theory, this creates a confidence inspiring long front end while still maintaining quick handling with moderate trail. In practice, so far, this is all true. That's a neat trick that can only be accomplished by designing the frame and fork as a system, instead of using off the shelf parts, like the typical "slack" bike does these days.

The Jones has a Bushnell EBB, for single speed use:

Though I'm running a 32 x11/36 9 speed right now:

I'm not sure why any bike needs four, count 'em four, rear braze ons. One for fenders, one for a rack, and, uh, two spares? But I won't complain about extra braze ons, even if they give it kind of a Frankenstein look.

Jones bars, of course, with a twist shifter, mismatched brakes, and my very swanky "grip and a half so I can save $28 on the right grips" grip setup:

I finally got everything together for a ride on Sunday morning, just local stuff while I'm still getting it sorted out. I started through Avery Park:

Then hit my little loop at the Avery woodlot:

The loop has several log overs, and I noticed the extra long chainstays on the Jones did indeed make it harder to pop the front end up. This was something I was worried about with this frame. I could still get the front end to come up enough to clear the logs, but it was definitely more work than on my Karate Monkey. Maybe a shorter stem and a setback seat post would help shift my weight rearward.

Leaving Avery, I stopped at my favorite olde barn photo op:

Then I headed to the little pond loop at Brandon Park:

Nothing revelatory here, just a short bumpy loop. The Jones does balance nicely at slow speeds.

After that, it was across the street to Wellington Park. This small park has a couple of nice fall line trails down to a small creek:

Clearly not a huge drop, but even here I was impressed by the confidence going down, and the traction and balance climbing back up. With the long wheelbase, there's a wide sweet spot in climbing where you can move between the front end coming up and the rear end slipping out. I'm looking forward to trying this on some more challenging trails.

After that, my toes were starting to go numb, so I turned for home. The Jones rolls along very nicely, even on the road with fat knobbies. Does it plane? Maybe, but at least I can say it doesn't feel like it's holding me back at all.

From my first little around the block test ride, I was impressed by how comfortable the riding position of the Jones is. Everything just feels natural. Saturday afternoon, I hopped on my New Albion Privateer for a library run:

Often, when I hop from one bike to the next, there's a few hundred yards of orientation where the bike feels strange, then it settles into a good rhythm. Going from the Jones to the NAP, it felt like I was perched way up there, about to pitch over the front wheel, while balancing on tires that felt barely bigger than erasers.

Ten miles later, it felt the same way. Keep in mind, I've ridden this basic setup for much of last year.

I got home, threw a leg over the Jones, and it was like slipping into a well worn pair of shoes. This will merit some exploration over longer rides this year.

Sunday afternoon was unseasonably warm, so the kids and I all headed to Avery park:

Sigh... the kids are getting older. Henry ignored the playground to play basketball with his buddies.

Kate is still up for a playground:

While Sam just wanted to ride his bike around:

Jodi says Sam is my little mini me! And look at the chainstay length on his little Hard Rock, they're quite long... kind of like a Jones. Hmm, maybe time for some new handlebars for Sam.


  1. It's convenient (and relationship-saving) for me that you are willing to plunge into the waters with your steady stream of bikes. In this case, I've long been curious about Jones bikes. Thanks to you, I don't have to either sleep on the couch or bring my bike fund back into solvency in order to gain a vicarious impression.

    That's certainly a vibrant blue, and the truss fork is a beauty. There's a lot to be said about the conceptual virtue of an integrated frame/fork design. Thanks in advance as I look forward to more extensive reporting.

    1. I like to think my blog is also useful as an example for relationships: "hey, so I bought a new bike, but at least I'm not this guy!" It's like a public service.

  2. Eric -- I'm thinking just what Andy said. Life circumstances have kept my actual bike swapping to a minimum the last few years, but I still think about "the next one" all the time. The Jones is one I'm really curious about, and look forward to your blog reports!

    1. Hopefully someday I can get to where I'm not thinking about the next one all time. Happiness is wanting what you have and all that.

      Still waiting for it to happen, though... though I'm pretty excited about Herr Jones.


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