Although not quite as famous as Trek or Specialized, Jamis is a bicycle company with a truly global outlook and a fully rounded model line-up.
What might really surprise new discoverers of the Jamis brand, however, is just how affordable it manages to make all types of bike, from old-school leisure machines to the very highest-tech performance models. It’s this latter type of product we look at here in the shape of possibly the best value full-suspension mountain bike on the market — the Jamis Dakar A2.
Frame and suspension
There’s been quite a trend recently in the bike industry towards creating value-orientated, entry-level full-suspension bikes. But while lesser-known brands searching for a headline pricetag might be able to cut corners in terms of performance and production quality, Jamis has a reputation for high standards to uphold. That means the Dakar’s triple-butted aluminium frame comes bursting with high-quality features, such as a tapered head tube to provide pinpoint control up front, and asymmetrical chainstays out back for excellent stiffness and drive. It also provides welcome tyre clearance, too.
Of course, we can’t really talk about the frame without mentioning the rear suspension configuration, in this case Jamis’s beautifully simple MP2 design, which provides a near vertical wheel axle travel path. Fitted with a RockShox Monarch R air-spring rear shock and RockShox Recon SRL fork, it makes for a highly effective set-up that offers easily adjustable compression and rebound damping, and which can be altered to perfectly suit rider, terrain or riding style.
The A2 might be the entry-level model, but don’t let that fool you. Jamis understands how to put a great bike together, even at a budget, and in terms of gearset it has focused its attention on a reliable — and on-trend — 1x drivetrain. That has allowed the fitting of Shimano Deore shifters and a Deore Shadow Plus rear mech, whose clutch technology offers better chain retention and crisper shifting across the 10-speed cassette. The brakeset hasn’t missed out on quality, either, with Shimano’s highly-valued M315 hydraulic disc brakes providing ample stopping power. Mechanically then, the Dakar A2 is a very secure and reliable set-up.
Wheels and tyres
As with the 1x gearset, Jamis knows when current bike trade fashions are also functionally relevant, so it should come as no surprise to find out that the Dakar range runs on the current off-road wheel format of choice 27.5in/650b. The general spec sheet emphasis on high-quality reliability extends to these hoops, too: the WTB ST i23 TCS wheels are tubeless, meaning you can reduce inflation for grip without risking pinch flats, and the rear end is bolt-thru for excellent rigidity. Meanwhile, the Vittoria Goma 2.25in tyres are designed to be “the ultimate trail tyre”, with fast rolling, grippy performance in a huge variety of conditions.
OK, so the frame is a beauty, the mechanicals are top-notch, even the wheels and tyres have everything (and more) that you’d expect; surely there’s got to be at least a small catch with a sub-par finishing kit? Don’t you believe it. The WTB Volt Sport saddle is a fine perch, while the Race Face Ride handlebar, stem and seatpost would be hard to justify upgrading. Brand-name third-party parts on a mainstream full-suspension mountain bike… whatever next?
What comes next is the ride, and what a revelation it is. Even the most seemingly perfect bike on a spec sheet can feel underwhelming out in the real world — in fact, highly-specced models have the added difficulty of satisfying heightened expectations — but the Dakar doesn’t disappoint. The rear end tracks beautifully, allowing you get the power down when you need to, but making light work of bumpier, technical sections. Similarly, the nice and direct front means you can place the Dakar exactly where you want it, with both ends sending up enough information to keep the rider abreast of what is going on under tread.
While we have already marvelled at the Dakar A2’s spec, in essence all those good words were based on theory — we really do need to say just how fantastically everything performs in action. The 1x Shimano gearset works incredibly crisply; the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes don’t only offer outright power but brilliantly sensitive modulation to so you can accurately gauge how much braking force to use; and the WTB wheels and Vittoria tyres offer all the performance you need.
It’s hard to imagine a bike this well-specced could seem to be more than the sum of its parts — when the sum of its parts is already so high — but the Dakar A2 really does seem like something special. It’s not just the ultimate full-suspension mountain bike, it’s possibly one of the best bikes — of any kind — on the market.
Other options in the range
High-end: Jamis Dakar A1