Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Jones Bikes Announces Spaceframe Plus LWB

Image courtesy of Jones Bikes
Jones Bikes are an enigma amongst the other brands out there. They are rare, they don't follow any sort of convention, and they have evolved into a highly refined machine, as opposed to changing design completely every few years or so.

I have always been drawn to Jeff Jones ideas, He is an iconoclast in the bicycle world. His designs eschew suspension, or even the provision for a suspension fork, using a weird looking truss fork instead. Jones doesn't seem to be affected by the latest "geometry du jour", or by the allure of carbon fiber for his frames, or by much of anything one sees as commonplace these days. It's as if Jones Bikes were like Australian marsupials, allowed to evolve on their own apart from outside influences. Well, while that seems to be the case, it isn't all totally fair to say either.

For instance, Jones immediately embraced 29 inch wheels and has championed the 29+ wheel in particular. So, it isn't like Jones hasn't been paying any attention to the other developments in cycling. It is also fair to point out that Jones was an early proponent of long fork offsets for big wheels, wider front hub spacing, and "alternative bars" with his highly evolved "H-Bar" designs. His latest creations, the "LWB", or Long Wheel Base bikes, claim to smash preconceived notions about good handling big wheels and long wheel bases being mutually exclusive ideas. Jones claims the LWB's are nimble and not barge-like at all.

Image courtesy of Jones Bikes
Since the early 2000's, I have followed Jeff Jones as he has evolved his designs. I never have gotten to ride one, although I did see him demonstrate the bike's compliance at Interbike probably around '09-'10 or so. Jeff was showing how the titanium Spaceframe had vertical compliance yet was laterally stiff. Yes.....the ultimate unicorn of bike characteristics. The thing was, he was actually proving his point right there in front of my eyes.

It was readily apparent that the Spaceframe did what Jones claimed and I have no doubt the titanium frame, at least, has this magic carpet ride. Jones Spaceframes are also available in steel, but I cannot vouch for how that would work out. My eyes are on the titanium frame, at any rate, because, well......titanium. It would last a long time, never need painting, and have a better ride quality than the steel version.

Jones Bikes had its first LWB in the "Diamond Frame" version, which looks more conventional than the Spaceframe but lacks that frame's vertical compliance. The Diamond LWB Plus bike was billed as the "ultimate bikepacking rig", since it had a big area for a frame bag. The Spaceframe was the next design to receive the LWB treatment. Its debut is today. This version is dubbed as perhaps the most versatile, comfortable gravel travel machine ever, (amongst other things).

That's a big claim. I know a lot of folks will say that this is just overkill, that you do not need anything over a 40mm tire and certainly that you don't need anything that looks like this! But hold that thought right there a minute. There is also a completely legitimate, valid reason why one would choose a bicycle like this. Let me explain.....

I've been to a lot of places to ride gravel and dirt. I also know of areas where "typical" gravel bikes and all-road machines would be a handful, and at worst, a liability. I'm not talking about mountain biking. These places are listed as public roads. Roads that, yes, look like a mountain bike trail, in many cases, but could be encountered in a cross country ride on public roads in many places across the nation. Wouldn't you rather have the tool to tackle that and not have to get off and walk?

The Spaceframe Plus LWB will come in three sizes- Small, Med, and Large.
This is one of the reasons I always choose my Gen I Fargo when I go someplace I don't know the roads. And you know what? I cannot think of a time when I thought I took the wrong bicycle when I did choose it. In fact, I more often than not needed to have those 29"er treads and that Fargo underneath me. 

Then I think about some of those roads featured in places like Nebraska where the sand and the dirt can be so loose and unconsolidated that a plus sized tire is a huge benefit over a 42mm gravel tire. I can think of times where I saw a 29+ tire float on mud that the other bikes were "pizza cutting" into. I have also been glad to have been on the longer wheel base of the Fargo when other bikes were swapping ends in moondust or on loose gravel.

Image courtesy of Jones Bikes
The way I look at it is this: If I could only have one bicycle, for the way that I like to ride, this Spaceframe Plus LWB would be that bicycle. My "desert island" bike, if you will. I could likely pull off 90% of what I do every year as well if not better with this bike than I can with anything else I have.

Not only does it have the capabilities in handling and comfort I look for, but it also has features I look for in a bicycle. Titanium is obviously one. However; I also like that you can fit five water bottles to a size large frame. I like that it has rack and fender mounts, and I like that you can get special bags that fit the truss fork, handle bar, and frame from Jones or other manufacturers. The bike can easily be set up single speed, so if you whack a derailleur, you can rig it in the field to go single speed and get back home.

So, anyway, this ticks a lot of boxes for me. Yes, it is expensive, (pricing was to be released today here in this informational blogpost on Jones' site) I am not sure I could swing it anyway, but I think this could replace my beloved Fargo. So, yes- I think the claims for this being a great gravel bike, (and much more), are valid. "Ultimate" is a big, very definitive word. I wouldn't go that far until I had one for a while and had some experiences on it. But the potential is certainly there.

One thing is certainly a given- no one would mistake this for something else out there! The Jones Bike certainly cuts a different swath than your ordinary rigs do.


graveldoc said...

So fine but way out of my league! If the Fargo goes up on the block for the Jones, I might be interested as I've always wanted a first generation Fargo.

Unknown said...

After years of looking at the Jones I finally bought one this past spring. I got the Jones Plus LWB 148 TA and am really impressed with it. For me it's an all day comfort bike and it handles great for what is a big bike but I still find my Gen 1 Fargo to be a more efficient bike. I think it just comes down to my position while riding it, the Jones puts me in a more upright position and while more comfortable just isn't as efficient (for me).

Irishtsunami said...

I have wanted a space frame for years. The cost though....

Steve Fuller said...

I've been drawn to the design and the uniqueness of these bikes for a long time. I have a lot of bikes in my fleet and I still want one every time I see one. Someday....

Unknown said...

I've also drooled over this bike for a long time. But in the end, I'm not sure it's the bike for distance gravel riding. Shorter rides, maybe yes, but 60-120 mile rides, I'm thinking no. I'm concerned that the upright position would slow me down too much over a long course. Derek (above) eluded to this issue. It's the efficiency issue that has me doubting.