Despite being the flagship model in the JAM range, the FOCUS JAM 8.9 is the cheapest full-suspension bike in our 2022 trail bike group test. Moreover, it comes with many clever features that are usually exclusive to expensive high-end models, like internal cable routing and a storage compartment in the down tube. But how does it fare on the trail?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
At € 4,699, the FOCUS JAM 8.9 is the flagship model in the JAM range and at the same time the cheapest bike in this group test – except for the ROSE hardtail. At 15.8 kg in size L, it’s also the heaviest candidate. The JAM 8.9 combines a beefy carbon frame with an alloy swingarm and generates 150 mm travel, both at the front and rear.
The spec of the FOCUS JAM 8.9
The down tube features FOCUS’ proprietary I.C.S. storage compartment (Internal Compartment Solution), which comes with a tool pouch as standard. The latter can be secured to the metal pin of the locking mechanism, which prevents it from sliding into the depths of the frame. However, this also means that you can’t store anything in the compartment without using the pouch. Furthermore, the closing mechanism is a bit fiddly. Protective frame tape prevents scuffs and scratches on the down tube, seat stay and chainstays and is complemented with a TPU plate on the down tube and generously sized seat stay and chainstay protectors, which are glued and clipped to the frame, respectively.
FOCUS JAM 8.9
Fork FOX 36 Performance GRIP 150 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Performance 150 mm
Seatpost Post Moderne 170 mm
Brakes Shimano XT 200/200 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XT/SLX 1x12
Stem FOCUS C.I.S. 50 mm
Handlebar Race Face Chester 35 Alu 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss M1900 29"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF, 3C, MaxxGrip, EXO/MAXXIS Minion DHR II, 3C, MaxxTerra, EXO+ 2,5/2,4
Size S M L XL
Weight 15,8 kg
Tuning Tip: push the saddle all the way forward for a more centered pedalling position
The FOX 36 Performance fork relies on a basic GRIP damper, which is less defined than its high-end GRIP2 counterpart and also offers less adjustment options. At the rear, a FOX FLOAT X Performance shock controls 150 mm travel and features an externally adjustable rebound adjustment and climb switch but forgoes the low-speed compression dial of its high-end Factory counterpart. The cockpit consists of 780 mm Race Face alloy handlebars and FOCUS’ proprietary C.I.S. stem, which stands for Cockpit Integration Solution and routes all cables through the stem and head tube straight into the frame. The 170 mm Post Moderne dropper post offers too little travel for a trail bike in size L, thus restricting freedom of movement. In addition, the sticky remote requires strong fingers.
Shifting is taken care of by a mongrel drivetrain consisting of a high-quality Shimano XT rear derailleur with matching shifter and cheaper SLX cassette and chain. While the cheaper components are slightly heavier than their XT counterparts, they don’t compromise shifting performance. The Germans also rely on Shimano’s performance-oriented XT series for the brakes, combining powerful four-piston XT stoppers and 200 mm rotors front and rear. The robust DT Swiss M1900 alloy wheelset perfectly fits the budget-oriented concept. For the tires, FOCUS combine MAXXIS Minion DHF with a soft MaxxGrip compound and EXO casing at the front, and MAXXIS Minion DHR II with harder MaxxTerra compound and EXO+ casing at the rear. This tire combo has worked incredibly well for us and we’re big fans of the soft rubber compound at the front, because it generates more traction.
The storage compartment is a cool feature but unfortunately a little fiddly to operate.
The geometry of the FOCUS JAM 8.9
The FOCUS JAM 8.9 is available in four sizes, S to XL. A flip chip in the rocker arm allows you to alter the head and seat tube angle by 0.5° and the reach by 5 mm. We rode the bike mainly in the high setting. The FOCUS combines 480 mm reach and a long 450 mm seat tube, which limits the choice of sizes and restricts freedom of movement together with the short-travel dropper post.
|Seat tube||390 mm||420 mm||450 mm||480 mm|
|Top tube||558 mm||598 mm||622 mm||655 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||100 mm||120 mm||140 mm|
|Chainstays||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm|
|BB Drop||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.170 mm||1.204 mm||1.242 mm||1.281 mm|
|Reach||420 mm||450 mm||480 mm||510 mm|
|Stack||603 mm||613 mm||631 mm||649 mm|
The FOCUS JAM 8.9 on the trail
The FOCUS JAM 8.9 positions you far back over the rear wheel, especially if you have long legs and ride with a fully extended dropper post. Going uphill, the rear end wallows heavily, so you should reach for the climb switch if you want to save some energy for the descent. On technical climbs, the pedal bob intensifies, requiring a vigilant riding style. In steep sections, the front wheel tends to lift off the ground and the FOCUS gives away its heavy weight.
The suspension of the FOCUS JAM 8.9 is incredibly plush but doesn’t allow for an active riding style
Once you drop into the trail, the JAM 8.9 is intuitive and easy to control, making you feel at ease from the get-go while generating plenty of traction with its plush rear suspension. Even beginners will quickly get familiar with the bike, as it generously dishes out travel making nasty root carpets disappear under your feet. However, the FOCUS doesn’t encourage an active riding style, because the plush suspension swallows up the rider’s input like a sandbag. As a result, passive riders, who love to plough through the gnar without even noticing, will get on well with the FOCUS while active riders, who like to play with the trail features, popping off ledges and pulling manuals, might be better off with a livelier bike with more pop and support. Because the FOCUS lacks just that, sinking deep into its travel in berms and compressions and making it hard to generate speed.
The FOCUS JAM 8.9 offers several cool features like the clean carbon frame, internal cable routing and storage compartment at a very fair price. While the spec is very sensible, the high system weight and inefficient rear suspension make for a sluggish character and poor climbing performance. Going downhill, the plush suspension can handle anything you throw in its way but provides little feedback, swallowing up rider’s feedback like a sandbag. In a nutshell, the JAM feels more like a sofa than a trail bike.
- countless frame features
- plush suspension
- sticky dropper remote
- rear suspension bobs heavily on climbs
- suspension lacks support and pop
You can find out more about at focus-bikes.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
All bikes in test: Atherton AM.150 (Click for review) | Bold Linkin 135 Ultimate (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral CFR (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM 8.9 (Click for review) | Mondraker Raze RR SL (Click for review) | Propain Hugene (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 (Click for review) | ROSE BONERO 3 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS (Click for review) | SCOR 4060 ST GX (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO S-Works (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY UNCAGED 6 (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker, Mike Hunger