Focus Jam² - eMTB Review

Aug 18, 2017 at 9:17
by Paul Aston  
eMTB Week
Pinkbike is running a week-long focus on eMTBs. We’ll be sharing reviews, news, and opinion pieces all week in addition to our regular coverage. Read our stance on eMTBs here.




Focus released their latest, patented, FOLD linkage design last summer along with two new bikes, the 140mm JAM, and the cross-country racing machine, ONE. Shortly after, their first full-suspension eMTB arrived, sharing the same linkage and similar geometry to the Jam. Focus decided that adding a motor to the riding experience multiplies the fun, and so gave this bike the JAM² label.

The Jam² pairs a Shimano Steps E8000 motor with Focus' integrated 376wh battery. If you choose to take advantage of Focus' TEC concept, you also have the option of adding another (376wh) battery to the mix. We received the top-tier Jam² Plus Pro model for testing, which came specced with a RockShox Yari and metric-sized Deluxe RT, Shimano XT components (including an integrated Shimano Di2 drivetrain), and DT Swiss XM1501 40mm wheelset shod with Schwalbe 2.8" tires. A snip at €6,699.



Focus Jam 178
Focus Jam² Plus Pro Details

• Intended use: Trail, all mountain
• Travel: 140mm / 140mm
• Shimano STEPS E8000 motor
• 380wh battery with TEC optional extras
• FOLD suspension system
• Shimano XT Di2 groupset
• 27.5"+ wheels
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L
• Weight: 21.21kg (actual, L, w/o pedals)
• Price: €6,699
www.focus-bikes.com



Build

140mm travel is supplied at the front from a RockShox Yari.
140mm travel is supplied at the front from a RockShox Yari.
Focus Jam 178
A matching 140mm of rear travel, courtesy of a metric RockShox Deluxe.

Focus' choice of build is an interesting one; for a whopping €6,699, the bike is only specced with a RockShox Yari, Deluxe RT, and Shimano XT – mid-range products that you would never expect on a normal bike at this price. The XT shifting, however, has been bumped up to the pricier Di2 version, and the XT rotors are upgraded to large IceTec versions. Shimano hasn't skimped on the wheelset either, choosing a quality DT Swiss XM1501 wheelset that should take a pounding.


The Jam 178 is specced with a Fizik Gobi saddle atop a 150mm RockShox Reverb.
The Jam² is specced with a fi'zi:k Tundra saddle atop a 150mm RockShox Reverb.
The XM1501 rims are 40mm internal and seem to work well with tires 2.6 and over.
The XM1501 rims are 40mm internal and seem to work well with tires 2.6" and over.

Focus Jam 178
Shimano XT brakes with IceTec rotors. Also note the magnet for the speed sensor is bolted to the rotor mount instead of being placed on the spokes.
Shimano XT brakes with IceTec rotors. Also note the magnet for the speed sensor is bolted to the rotor mount, instead of being placed on the spokes.


Suspension Design


The FOLD acronym stands for Focus Optimized Linkage Design.
Focus Jam 178


The FOLD acronym stands for Focus Optimized Linkage Design. The rear end is a one-piece triangle, with a single pivot located near the top of the chain ring. The linkage is designed to give a digressive rate until the sag point at 30%, then the stroke becomes progressive until the end of the travel. This is said to give sensitivity at the beginning of the stroke to gain grip, and then ramp up to provide support during the mid-stroke, as well as to prevent bottoming-out on bigger hits. The linkage also allows some flex in the rear triangle to help the bike track, but the second part of the linkage should still drive the shock in a straight line without side loading.


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Geometry
Focus Jam2 geometry


Focus Jam2 geometry


Motor and Battery

Focus have refined many details on the Jam 178 included the simple on off LED switch.
Focus have refined many details on the Jam² included the simple on/off LED button.
The small display works with the Steps motor and Di2 shifting together. It can also connect vie Bluetooth with the eTube smart phone app.
The small display works with the Steps motor and Di2 shifting together. It can also connect via Bluetooth with the eTube smart phone app.


Focus chose the Shimano Steps E8000 motor, which is quickly gaining popularity and starting to challenge Bosch regarding sales. Bosch users are stuck with Bosch battery packs, whereas Shimano has their batteries, but also allows brands to use their own battery. Focus took this opportunity to create their TEC, Tailored Energy Concept. A 378wh battery is integrated into the downtube of the frame; it cannot, for the record, be removed for charging. A 500wh battery is currently the average for an eMTB, so if you are riding with a group, you might find yourself either doing one less run than your buddies or pedaling a powerless tank back to the start point. Fortunately, the rail on the top of the downtube allows an extra 378wh battery (or Focus's bottle cage and tool storage) that can be added to total a whopping 756wh of power. As it stands, that's the largest battery supply available on a full suspension eMTB, though things are changing fast. The TEC battery is available separately for €459 and weighs an extra 2.2kg.

Focus have also take care of some other points. The on/off switch is simple and clean. The charging port is hidden under the top tube and easily connects with a magnet, like a Mac computer. There are also internal cable routing ports near the headtube that double as air intakes to cool the internal battery.

XT-level Di2 shifting is also combined with the motor and head unit. Using Shimano's eTube app, riders are free to play with the shifting speed and change which levers actuate the gears up or down. Soon riders will also be able to choose how much assistance power they want in each Eco, Trail, and Turbo modes. This app should allow riders to update their rides as new technology becomes available, without having to return to a dealer...as is the case with Bosch upgrades, for example.


The rail is TEC Focus s Tailored Energy Concept where riders can add an extra battery to give a whopping 756wh of power or a bottle cage and tool storage system.
This rail is TEC. Focus' Tailored Energy Concept, where riders can add an extra battery to give a whopping 756wh of power, or a bottle cage and tool storage system.

The Jam 178 is supplied with Shimano XT Di2 shifting which integrates with the motor s power supply and control unit.
The Jam² is supplied with Shimano XT Di2 shifting, which integrates with the motor's power supply and control unit.
These wings on the Jam 178 are to for internal cable routing but they also act as air intakes to cool the battery and motor.
These 'wings' on the Jam² are for internal cable routing, but they also act as air intakes to cool the battery and motor.


Specifications
Specifications
Price $6699
Rear Shock RockShox Monarch RT, 210/55
Fork RockShox Yari RC, 110x15 mm QR, 140mm travel
Cassette Shimano Deore XT 8000, 11-46T
Crankarms Shimano Steps 8000, 34T,
Chainguide Shimano
Shifter Pods Shimano Deore XT Di2 8050
Handlebar PRO Koryak Di2, aluminium, flat, width: 760mm
Stem Concept Trail, aluminium, 31.8mm
Brakes Shimano XT 8000, 200mm/180mm
Wheelset DT-Swiss XM 1501, 584-40, 148x12mm/110x15mm
Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic, 70-584
Seat fi'zi:k Tundra M5
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth, 125 mm travel


Focus Jam 178


Focus Jam 178





Three Questions with Mario Pöss, Focus Engineer.

Focus have put some serious effort into the Jam2. Which aspect of the design gives it the biggest advantage over its competitors?


The advantage comes with our choice of drive. Shimano opened up the possibility to engineer our very own battery concept. That great opportunity and trust led us to design a bike with a slim, fully integrated battery. The result is a down tube which is slimmer and lighter than any other eMTB. Every decision was aimed towards design and smart e-performance. Smart with technologies with the Tailored Energy Concept (T.E.C.) for more options, the Focus Optimized Linkage Design (F.O.L.D.) for better rigidity and forgiveness; in terms of special design, we created a beautiful and clever solution for the On/Off-Button on the top tube. Last but not least, no compromises in terms of performance: We wanted to have the same handling and agility like a normal MTB. The result is the JAM² and his little hardtail brother BOLD².


What advantage do the Shimano STEPS motor and battery options offer over the other brands?


To ensure you can enjoy maximum riding fun², especially on the trail with our electric mountain bikes, we have opted for the powerful and dynamic Shimano STEPS drive. Shimano STEPS MTB is characterized by its compact design and low weight (of less than 3.2 kg). These benefits allowed our engineers to design a geometry equal to that of a mountain bike that doesn’t have a drive. Shimano places the bottom bracket drive axle as far back as possible. We can, therefore, design our electric mountain bikes with a short chain stay and provide you with an extremely versatile electric mountain bike. The Shimano STEPS compact design means that the Q factor remains at 175 mm. As a result, our high-performance electric mountain bikes have the same pedal position as mountain bikes that don’t have a drive – this was a very important point to achieve the handling and agility as well as a perfect ground clearance. Another plus of the Shimano STEPS is the sensitive response characteristic, which is important to keep a natural feeling while riding an eMTB. As the ultimate foundation for the Focus Jam², our engineers have created the T.E.C. which opens up unprecedented possibilities for adapting the energy supply to your individual needs. Developed in-house in Stuttgart, one battery (378Wh) is optimally integrated into the down tube, while the T.E.C. pack provides additional 378wh energy for longer rides. 756wh pure energy for your Squared Experience. The Smart Rack gives you greater flexibility and freedom. Any extra equipment can be stowed away with ease.


Is the Jam² available in the USA? What impact have you seen so far with eMTB culture and riding in Europe, and worldwide? Is it the same kind of rider that buys a Jam² as a normal Jam?


We face a clear trend towards eMTB--especially since more and more eMTB's are concentrating on the handling, weight, design and not just battery range. It will take a while until there is a change in thinking in terms of the range. We also face the trend that the "real" mountain biker will make a decision towards the JAM² as everyone has less and less time and would like to optimize the fun in a shorter time - let's call it the Squared Experience: more trails, more fun in the same time :-)









Climbing and Trail


Climbing didn't get off to a good start on the Jam²; our first ride started as a blast up 1000m of vertical on asphalt to check that everything was bolted together properly and to get a feel for the bike. It was around 30ºc and the motor overheated about half way up under full Boost power and displayed a W010 warning that cut out the motor. Luckily, after a short break of thirty seconds to one minute, we were on our way again. This seems to happen quicker than on any other bike we had on test; we are not sure if this is because it is actually overheating or if the cut-out tolerance set by Shimano is lower than others for safety and preservation of the motor.

We found that the Shimano motor on Boost mode can be a little difficult to tame on techy or loose surfaces, and on Trail mode didn't give the oomph we needed. Using Shimano's eTube app, riders will be able (firmware update estimated end of August 2017) to change the amount of power assistance. On Trail mode, we had a weak 40% assistance on Trail and massive 100% on Boost, we estimate that 60% and 90% will be better options and are looking forward to the app update towards the end of August. Shimano will also be adding a new 'Trail Mode' setting, similar to Bosch's eMTB mode, which cycles through all power modes depending upon torque from the cranks; sort of automatic shifting between each mode.

The Shimano motor does power some extra rotation of the chainring after the cranks have stopped turning, which is a great help for technical climbing, allowing the rider to take short pauses in pedal strokes to negotiate the terrain, but then get back on the power before the motor disengages and momentum is lost. The downside of this, though, is that in some technical sections you get a little extra boost of power when you least want it, like heading towards a precipice or taking a foot off on wet and greasy sections and giving yourself a little extra acceleration.

The Shimano system also has the best walk mode we have found so far, great for when you get out of your climbing depth. Thanks to the position of the Di2 shifter, you can fully grip the bar and use your thumb to activate the drive. With the drive activated, the bike nearly pulls you up the hill and even spins the back wheel on some surfaces. We noted another thing while spinning along flat trails or roads; as the motor limit kicks in, at around 26km/h, it did so very abruptly, clunking off and on – thankfully, this seems to have been remedied with the latest firmware update, and it's now much smoother.


Riding the Focus Jam2


The geometry of the Jam² challenged all but the steepest climbs. The saddle is in a decent position and the chainstay, although shorter than some, still provides stability against wheelying and front wheel wander.

On our test loop, we just squeezed out four runs on a downhill track with 1000m of climbing in total, up steep terrain in full turbo mode with the 378wh battery. We also ran the battery down to completely empty, and the Di2 shifting still has enough power to shift. In fact, it stores enough power for 100 emergency shifts, so you won't get stuck with a single speed as well as a 21kgs of bike to propel home. Unlike the Bosch systems, the STEPS motor doesn't cause any additional drag pedaling when turned off, but after riding with the assistance on, it is still not fun.



Descending


The first thing we noticed heading down trails, is how quiet the entire Jam² is. This could be for a few reasons; the Di2 wires are likely quieter than cable housing, the battery is securely integrated into the frame, and the chainstay has rubberized guards with good coverage. It's not just quiet, it feels refined and 'just like a bike.'

Riding the Focus Jam


The geometry is well rounded for a trail bike, and as mentioned in our other eMTB reviews, these machines seem to outperform the equivalent normal bike regarding stability and confidence. The Jam² is easy to throw around, but we found it difficult to lean in and keep it settled into corners.

The Jam² has a harsher ride compared to other eMTBs we have on test. This is partly due to the 140mm travel front and rear, but the bike is stiff and firm in general, even after reducing suspension pressures to lower than normal. This bike is more suited to lower-speed trails than blasting along high-speed rough. We would like to try the 29" version of this bike, as this could smooth out the ride, and make one great all-around package. by improving this bike's handling and stability. The large size, with a 445mm reach, is also the shortest bike in the eMTB trail category that we have tested, with other similar vessels around 20mm longer, or more.



Technical Report


Schwalbe Magic Mary's:

The Jam² came with 2.8" Nobby Nic tires which had a sketchy-hard compound, rounded shape, and weak casing. A switch to some 2.6" Magic Mary's with Apex casing provided huge levels of traction, especially when climbing loose terrain. The Magic Mary's also gave more support and accuracy, but don't perform as well on hard terrain as the smaller versions of the same tire due to wider spacing in between the knobs.
A switch to some 2.6 Magic Mary s provided huge levels of traction especially when climbing loose terrain.


Cockpit:

Yes, I am that guy. I still think the 760mm handlebar is too narrow on a trail bike in 2017. Wider, please, then at least riders or their dealers can cut them down to fit. Plus, I am going to continue to moan about long stems, they are for road bikes; I swapped the 60mm stem for this cheap and chunky 50mm version from Octane One.
Focus Jam 178
Shimano XT Di2:

Shimano's normal MTB shifting system, in my opinion, doesn't cut it on an eMTB; at least, not when compared to SRAM's EX1 8-speed drivetrain. The increased acceleration from an eMTB means that, with standard gear ratios, you need to shift much more often when getting up to speed. The potential to multi-shift up after a fast deceleration means crunching through multiple gears with the added motor power only making things worse. Some of this can be remedied, With the Di2 eTube app, riders can slow down the shifting speed and specify a maximum of one shift per click. We are sure that Shimano have worked this out themselves; after all, they managed to build their own motor. We hope they can launch a better e-drivetrain soon.
Focus Jam 178



Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesThe Focus is superbly refined, quiet, and places solidly in the trail category. It is not, however, the smoothest or most stable ride when things get rowdy. Paul Aston








About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 31 • Height: 6'1” • Ape Index: +4" • Weight: 75kg • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None • Instagram: astonator
Paul Aston is a racer and dirt-jumper at heart. Previously adding to the list of non-qualifiers at World Cup DH events, he attacked enduro before it was fashionable, then realized he was old and achy. From the UK, but often found residing in mainland Europe.



49 Comments

  • 21 12
 Compare and contrast to the hb160, pure, raw and purposeful to this abortion. Nothing flows or takes on form from adjacent components. More manufacturers pumping out garbage chasing $$$, but there's some sick folk out there who'll buy it.
  • 1 0
 Guess you are talking about me then.... I'm with you on the HB160 though, may have to raid the piggy bank.
  • 2 1
 @Eckythump: surely you have a cool off period where you can send it back for a refund? You'll only have to save up an extra £500 and the hope is yours. Problem solved, thank me later
  • 3 0
 @yeti-monster:
Why would I send it back? It's ace, smiles all the way Smile
  • 9 3
 As someone who sells these in the shop I work at, this is a very interesting read.
What I hear from customers is that they prefer the Steps motor to Bosch or Yamaha, because it feels much more like they're riding a normal MTB rather than an eMTB.
According to them, it's a bike you have to ride like a normal MTB, i.e. just leave it in the Trail setting and don't think too much about (or rely on) the fact there's a motor attached.
  • 38 6
 Have you suggested to customers looking for an MTB that feels like a normal MTB to buy a normal MTB?
  • 8 1
 @Ozziefish: I have, trust me. I don't understand the logic either.
  • 5 1
 @kurzbach: this might be a stupid question but, if you have pedal assist, why not just run singlespeed? This would save some weight and clutter from an already very heavy and cluttered bike.
  • 4 0
 @tremeer023: As far as I know, the only reason is so the motor has less strain on it on the uphills. That's it. If you lived in a relatively flat place, like for example most of northern Germany, chances are there will be people who bought an eMTB but have never changed gear once. It sounds strange but believe me, it happens.
  • 3 0
 @kurzbach: thanks for the reply. Hopefully one day the motors will be reliable enough to not need to bother with gears. Might buy one myself then (oops, there's an invitation for hate).
  • 5 0
 @tremeer023: No need to thank me, always happy to answer bike-related questions!
  • 3 1
 @tremeer023: to be treated as 'bikes' they have to remain in the 250watt class which is not sufficient power to run as single speeds for use as mountain bikes. The mid drive motors take advantage of the regular gearing to provide support up the steep hills.
  • 3 0
 @tremeer023: presumably because people like to ride at a constant cadence, but different speeds just like on a normal bike? If the the single speed is geared for 12mph, then you'll either be doing 12mph everywhere or your cadence will change.
  • 4 0
 @kurzbach: logic is very simple and actually makes sense - laziness, evolution succeeded because of it, so people, as a result of evolution, tend to be lazy. Lazy to spin pedals to get fun. It won't work for me, but I can't blame them for it.
  • 3 0
 Metric sized Monarch... Metric sized Monarch... Metric sized Monarch?
Never heard of it.

Oh you mean RockShox Deluxe RT, as is clearly visible in the pictures?
Which is coincidentally the only line of metric sized shocks RS make.
  • 9 4
 I couldn't care less about this crap. That Pinkbike jersey though, are you going to sell it at some point? Looks good
  • 4 1
 Just let it overheat and BURN !
  • 2 0
 So this is a Jam Jam Plus?

Not in the market for an e-bike myself, but obviously there are people out there who are. The bike looks quite nice in comparison to other e-bikes, though looks like more of a guppy when compared with "normal" offerings. But form follows function, and this is the sort of solution that designers will come up with when adding a battery and electric motor.

My only gripe, and it is a gripe on all of Focus' bikes, not just this one, is the FOLD linkage. I appreciate that it may add some benefit to the suspension, but it is a complicated solution to the problem, and one that adds additional components to the setup. Keep it simple. But maybe that is just my take on it as an engineer?

I obviously hold the same view with Evil bikes too! Even though they do look great as a whole.
  • 2 0
 Is this really that more complex than any other full suspension bike with single pivot rear suspension and a linkage driven shock? But yeah, if less complex is good enough then why make things complicated? I'm actually still looking forwards to that day that PB is going to feature that Focus Vice. Simple suspension, decent geometry, looks fun. Because of the e-bike week I expect they'll feature the Orange E.P.O. But other than that, true single pivot designs are getting rare for some silly reason.

I'm surprised to read that they've managed to preserve the geometry of the regular Focus Jam, because they haven't. The chainstay has grown quite a bit. Would that be why Paul shifted his feet back on these pedals?
  • 3 1
 They lost me at "a proprietary battery".

I believe the e bike market could be killer if :
- for once in the history of the bicycle market, companies could actually have an industry standard.
As you can't fly or travel with ebikes, batteries need to be interchangable and readily available at bike shop, resorts etc etc globally.

Elon Musk?.......care to chime in on this market?
  • 8 4
 At this point in time: HB160: 102 comments, Focus Jam ecrap: 3 comments. Ha
  • 5 1
 Write an article titled: Danny Hart rides Hitler150 and you will get 1020 comments...
  • 5 0
 Shimano chose the DT Swiss wheelset? Don't think so.
Typo?
  • 2 0
 @EagleOfFreedom I wonder. I am curious about standard freehub bodies and E-bikes. Can they handle the both sudden and constant torque? Curious if shimano said no to their wheels.

Probably a typo, but still curious.
  • 2 0
 @bonfire: I imagine they can handle sudden (i.e. intermittent in engineering terms) torque as a fit person can put out huge wattage on their own. Don't know if you saw the MTBNZ Facebook feed with Sam Gaze's Wattage output for the last race he won, but it was over 400W normalised. He would have peaks higher than that.

Perhaps the DT wheels are stronger - there is more weight in the bike alone, but then that argument can be contradicted in light bike / heavy rider scenarios.

Most likely came down to hitting a price / component spec for Focus.
  • 2 0
 @handynzl: Indeed fit humans can put down some big wattage. That being said I have had some issues with bigger riders blowing freehub bodies apart. Especially with fat bikes and some of the crazy low gearing I see on fully loaded bikepacking bikes.

I would imagine that Sam would have put down 400w in a pretty tall gear, which in my head tells me that the torque the freehub is seeing would be far less than someone putting down 400w in their 32t->42t that you see on an e-bike such as these.

That all being said, the basic Trek e-bike hardtails come with some bog standard M4xx hubs, so it is unlikely. Just odd that they spec'd everything shimano except for the wheels.
  • 5 0
 I do like the suspension movement in the short video
  • 4 0
 Hopefully it's like the iPhone that needs a new battery every year...oh wait, it's built into the bike! LOL!!!
  • 1 0
 I notice that the question about US availability wasn't actually answered... When you have access to company representatives, I think you might consider asking about trail access issues. I'd certainly like to hear what the manufacturers think.
  • 9 4
 Go to ehell
  • 5 0
 separate site, please
  • 1 1
 Someone tell me that pedal assist doesn't suck. It's like driving an automatic. It keeps going when you want to stop and lags when you want to get going. I'll admit my only ebike experience is on a $2000 200w hub motor town bike with pedal assist or throttle and a $8000 1200w stealth bomber throttle only.
  • 4 2
 Go and make a second PinkEbike-Site or Pinkmoped or whatever! I see that brands like the extra exposure they get via the this, the main site, but stil....
  • 1 0
 The Specs reads "Schwalbe Nobby Nic, 70-584" but the pictures show it was tested with "Magic Marys"... no wonder it "most stable ride when things get rowdy." - but it's not the stock bike that was tested apparently!
  • 3 0
 The shock in these pix is clearly a Deluxe not a Monarch.
  • 1 1
 Think the reviewer must have ridden a duffer as mine gives variable assist up to 80% in trail.
And the Bosch eMTB mode is based on the STEPS trail mode not the other way round.......
  • 13 11
 This is Pinkbike not Pinkmotorbike
  • 4 4
 My retinas are slowly deforming to the point where these are starting to look not horrible. I'm going to stop looking at them.
  • 2 3
 Lol. So much hate for e bikes here. What's way worse is when I'm scrolling through Downhill WC highlights and end up in the cross country lycra image gallery without warning.
  • 1 0
 The best thing about the Focus is the big blue "ON" Button on the toptube! How did you not notice @paulaston :p
  • 6 5
 What's the point when it weighs over 21kg?
  • 2 0
 Why the tiny shock?
  • 1 1
 Is this a first? The first eMTB reviewed on PB? I was wondering when the zombie sickness would spread here...
  • 2 1
 Please Pinkbike not e-bikes.
  • 1 0
 whats with the ano green stem ?
  • 2 0
 Fcuk you pinkbike!
  • 1 0
 £6.7k and it has issues. All right. Drone racing it is.
  • 11 11
 Go home pinkbike, you're drunk.
  • 4 5
 Hate on E-bikes all you want, but you simply cannot say anything negative about the cabling/wiring on that bike...

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