Wednesday, September 5, 2018

BSNYC Fall Product Review Spectacular Part 2: Jones SWB Complete!

To be honest, I've got reservations about reviewing the Jones SWB Complete:


For one thing, as a semi-professional wiseass what business do I have reviewing anything?  And for another, I've only had the bike since July, and I like to give things a time to wear out and/or fall off before I start making pronouncements.

However, in the relatively short amount of time I've had this bike I've spent a lot of time on it, so I feel like I've already gotten to know it pretty well.  Also, between my own conversations with Mr. Jones and my experience with the bike, I've got a good amount of confidence in the components.  (As for being a semi-professional wiseass with no business reviewing anything, I've got no justification there.)

So let's just go ahead with the understanding that I plan to spend a lot more time on this bike and that I'll continue to update you as circumstances warrant.  Okay?  Great.

Anyway, here's the Jones SWB Complete as it looked after this morning's ride:


The bike is just as I received it, with the following exceptions:
  • I converted it to tubeless
  • I changed the saddle since the stock one was too squishy
  • I added pedals, water bottle cage, saddle bag, and handy Jones handlebar purse
If you get one of these for yourself I recommend getting the tubeless conversion out of the way right off the bat, since trailside inner tube changes are difficult with this particular wheel/tire combo.

Speaking of today's ride, since my time was limited I figured I'd just nip on down to Highbridge.  However, when I got there I found the trails flooded:


It may not look like much, but this was actual running water, and when you consider all the drug paraphernalia and other detritus that accumulates on these trails I can assure you that you do not want to get splattered by anything while riding in this park.  At first I thought it must be a water main break, but upon returning to the street I discovered that it was in fact an open hydrant:


Flowing along the gutter:


And into the storm drain:


Where it then ran under the dirt jumps and finally onto the trails.

Since the Highbridge trails are essentially carved into the side of a bluff, it meant that basically the whole park (or at least the part I prefer to ride) had been transformed into a giant water feature like something you might find in the lobby of an office building.  So after knocking around on the few remaining dry spots for a bit I gave up and headed back home.

On the bright side, given all the needles I saw I guess the park could use a cleaning:



As for the Jones, while the appearance says "mountain bike," the Jones pitch is that it's a bike for everything: road riding, gravel, commuting, touring, you name it.  Here's the video again to refresh your memory:



Now if you're a Fred like me who enjoys doing club races on the weekend and that sort of thing this is obviously not going to replace your road bike.  Similarly, if your idea of mountain biking is driving to a trail and then hitting only the gnarliest and most technical sections before loading the bike back onto your car and driving home again, go buy the latest full-suspension whatever and leave the rest of us alone.  But for everything else the Jones does have you pretty much covered.  If your ideal day on the bike is actually a day on the bike--complete with road, dirt, and technical terrain in whatever proportion you happen to feel like--then you're going to be extremely pleased with this bicycle.  It's also got mounts for more bags, cages, and accessories than I'll ever use in my entire life, so if you're one of those millennial bikepacking types (or you aspire to be) you should be all set.

Let's put it this way: If I had a whole week to spend riding, this is the bike I'd choose.  One day I'd ride out to the beach, the next I'd go hit some mountain bike trails, the next maybe I'd hop a train and go ride dirt roads, etc.  It's that kind of bike.

I'll even buy Jones's commuter claim, since with a few accessories this would make a pretty good city bike, and it rolls over construction plates like nothing:


Any New Yorker knows how annoying it is to turn a corner and find the street's being milled for the next 20 blocks.  On the Jones you wouldn't even notice.

Of course Jones does things differently from other bike builders--and while this is what makes the bike so awesome, it also takes some getting used to in certain situations.  For example, the Jones has a low bottom bracket, and for this reason it's fitted with 170mm cranks, which is pretty unusual for a "mountain bike" these days.  Despite the short cranks I do find that on very rocky terrain I get more pedal strike than I'm used to, which can be disconcerting at times.  However, the bike handles so exceptionally the rest of the time it's not a big deal.  On fast and twisty singletrack the bike is nimble and makes you want to throw it around like a BMX (I feel like a douche saying it "comes alive," but it really does), and it's also especially well balanced when climbing.  (It can be tough at times to keep the front wheel where I want it when riding my Marin; with the Jones this is not an issue.)

Pedal strike aside, the worst thing about the bike is that it's just so much fun, which gets you thinking: "Wow, if this bike is so great, just imagine what it would be like to build up one like this:"

So the gateway drug aspect is potentially dangerous and expensive--unless you're the kind of person who's able to stop with the gateway drugs, in which case you should have nothing to worry about.

Speaking of expense, the Jones SWB Complete is just about $1,800.  While certainly not expensive in the grand scheme of performance bicycles, it may appear to be so for a bike with that doesn't come with "high end" parts.  However, firstly, if you're interested in the whole Jones thing (that is to say an actual non-corrected rigid all-terrain bicycle) you're better off in the long run getting the real deal than doing a conversion like I did when I found my way to the whole Jones thing, and in that sense the bike is an absolute bargain.  Secondly, as something of a connoisseur of inexpensive bicycle components, while there's nothing fancy on the bike it's all good stuff.  It comes with excellent tires, and with Shimano Deore shifter and clutch derailleur.  Shimano shifting at pretty much every level is amazing: frankly I don't even know why they bother with the different tiers.  They should just offer mechanical and electronic and be done with it.  And yes, the brakes are "just" mechanical Tektros, but guess what?  Mechanical brakes are awesome, and so are Tektros.  As for everything else, it's all good stuff, and if you're the sort of person who obsesses about the brand of your headset then there's no hope for you anyway.

Indeed, at first glance, you might be tempted to compare this to another similarly-priced "plus" bike like, I dunno, a Trek Stache 7:

I'd argue that's not an apt comparison though, since the Stache is more about being "on trend" yet affordable.  (Which I find nothing wrong with, by the way.)

Something like a Surly then might seem like the right bike to compare it to (I think the Wednesday is like $1,500):


However I don't even think that's the right analog.  I happen to be a big Surly fan, but the "compatible with everything" spirit they embrace isn't really what the Jones is about.  Surly frames are essentially just great big adapters, whereas the Jones knows exactly what it wants to be.

If anything, I think maybe the best comparison for the Jones might be a Rivendell, counterintuitive as it may seem.  Sure, they look absolutely nothing alike, and everything about a Jones would probably make Grant Petersen puke, but once you go past matters such as aesthetics and axle diameter choices both bikes represent their designers' best attempts to sell you the best bicycle possible: both in terms of their usefulness and versatility, and in terms of durability and reliability.  And ultimately I think they wind up at pretty much the same place, despite taking wildly different paths to get there.

All of this is to say that I can't think of a single compelling reason not to buy one of these bicycles--unless of course you simply don't want one, or you're saving every last dime for a Rivendell.

40 comments:

wishiwasmerckx said...

Could I have read this and still wind up on the podium?

Unknown said...

Wow - podium! Snob: any issues with the eccentric bottom bracket? Noise? Adjustments?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Unknown,

The Complete has a regular, non-eccentric bottom bracket. (I'm assuming to keep costs down.)

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

Jones / Petersen comparison is apt. Retrogrouch, iconoclastic, inspire cultism among people who gotta be different in the same way.

Chazu said...

I've been watching Godfather and Godfather 2 clips on YouTube. So now I'm tempted to watch Taxi Driver clips. Then what? I guess I'll switch to Goodfellas clips. "Work" is overrated...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 2:09pm,

I don't think Jones is retrogrouchey though. Suspension aside he seems to embrace all the newest and latest stuff.

--Tan Tenovo

Adrian Grant said...

In terms of comparable bikes, the Surly ECR would probably be more apt. Same design philosophy, same low bb, comparable price point, and the original was developed specifically to mount the Jones bar. In fact, I wonder if reason why Surly decided to forgo to Jones bar on their latest ECR was due to the fact that Jones themselves have decided to develop their own complete/affordable build.

I have an ECR (converted to a drop-bar configuration) and it hits all the positives you mentioned re: the Jones

Anonymous said...

You are not exactly a good judge of retro grouchiness when it comes to mountain bikes. Wholesale rejection of suspension for off-road is willfully retrogrouch.

Schisthead said...

re: all the newest and latest-- just suspension?
This would imply to me, from perusing MTB media, that it has a press fit BB, super boost 157 rear end, 680mm ETT, 406mm CS, a 65 degree HTA, and a bottle opener.

Please confirm, need to shred like the trendy fool I am.

Travis Bickle said...

I often fantasize about Betsy.

full-amateur wiseass said...

Handlebar purse? Maybe you can fit one of those sawed-off hipster handle bars in there, bit that's it.

Dooth said...

Gotta admire a bike builder who’s read all of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s books.

DR said...

Ok, so for a knocking around the city/commuting bike would you choose a Rivendell complete or a Jones complete? Or a surly with jones bars for that matter. Assume you already have a custom LWB.

Grump said...

No thanks.....For trail riding, I'll stick with my 18 year old hardtail "Jumping Stump" with tiny 26" wheels and only 8 cogs in back and V brakes.

BikeSnobNYC said...

DR,

If I was *only* using it as a city runabout I don't know that I'd choose any of them... Otherwise if it was going to be spending any time locked up outside I'd choose the cheapest one.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up on the Jones, looks like a cool bike! Highbridge has quite a bit of drug use but Inwood Hill park seems to have even more discarded paraphenalia and fun (unsanctioned) off-road/crumbling pavement hilly trails, watch out where you fall/sit. I've bike ridden (also skied) and used illegal schedule 1 drugs in both parks -- fun times : )

ken e. said...

why is pedal strike only a thing when thinking about your writing of it? asking for a friend...

bad boy of the south said...

two spectacular quasi reviews back to back.question.on ol'piney,what size jones bar is it currently curated with?
I saw one on a surly in a bikey shop down near fayetteville nc over the weekend. i didn't test it nor asked what the measurement was at the time.thanks in advance.

bad boy of the south said...

Also,what?no brooks saddle?

BikeSnobNYC said...

bad boy of the south,

I believe the Jones bars on Ol' Piney are listed as "Jones SG 2.5 Aluminum Loop H-Bar" on the Jones site, should have all the specs.

--Tan Tenovo

bad boy of the south said...

thanks,tan wildcat,for answering.did you apply the 710 size or the 660?does it work well for you on the trails behind the "Ridge"?

Anonymous said...

Not from the Onion: http://bicycletimesmag.com/strider-bikes-unveils-carbon-balance-bike/

Pist Off said...

The Jones is cool. It’s a shame, but inevitable that typical bike people dismiss both Rivendell and Jones as retrogrouches, “willfully different,” etc. Jones has a different geometry philosophy than anyone else and I think it makes sense for a rigid mountain bike. Low B.B., slackish headangle, high fork offset, slack seat tube, short reach. Puts you in a very upright position, with rider weight oriented to the center of the bike. I’m totally sold on Jones handlebars and would love to try the Swb and Lwb on the local chunky stuff. Rivendell has their new take on a Mtn bike coming in the next coupla weeks, so there’s plenty of all-rounder rigid retro goodness to keep pissing off Anonymous.

BikeSnobNYC said...

bad boy of the south,

Sorry, I believe they're the 710. There are certain very specific situations where a straight bar might give a touch more control but yes, they work great on the trails behind the mall and especially getting to/from the trails behind the mall.

RE: the Brooks, I thought about putting a leather one I've got on there and may very still do so, but figured to start I'd keep it as close to the stock bike as possible.

Adrian Grant,

Thanks for the clarification on the Surly. To be honest I get confused by their lineup. I like the sound of that bike.

--Tan Tenovo

bad boy of the south said...

Thanks, tanned wildcat.mucho appreciato,if that's a phrase.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting... I have a Surly LHT that I've commuted on since 2004, and a Rivendell Sam Hillborne that I love and use for all my "fun" rides. I got rid of my road bike when I got sick of getting passed by old ladies on long climbs, and I got rid of my mountain bike when I realized I don't really enjoy technical trails after all; plus, both the Rivendell and the Surly are already awesome for fire roads or the woosy trails I like to ride. But looking at this Jones makes me think maybe, just maybe, I gave up on mountain biking too quickly, and I could save the Hillborne for road rides. Although, Rivendell is coming out with a mountain bike too soon, so maybe I'll wait and see what that looks like first and how it compares to the Jones...

Anonymous said...

mmmm gateway drugs - must be wednesday

Vector Einstein said...

I bought the Jones SWB complete a few weeks ago and it's been impressive, both on the trails and off.

One thing Jeff Jones impressed upon me before delivery is do not run the stock tires tubeless. He said they spec'd the lower end Maxxis non-tubeless compatible tires for cost reasons, and they were definitely NOT approved for tubeless setup. Something about a rash of broken mandibles. He may have said mandolins, it wasn't totally clear on the phone.

Anyway, it's a ton of fun to ride around town, and it's no slouch on the singletrack locally in this extremely uncapable rider's hands. The Jones is very stable while still being fun to toss around, with none of the understeer I got used to on my low end 29er.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Vector Einstein,

Wait, really? That's the first I'm hearing! Anyway, glad you're enjoying the bike.

--Tan Tenovo

Dave said...

I rarely have pedal strikes with 145mm cranks, you could try a set and see. After you get used to them, just a few rides, it's just like any bike, just a higher cadence and lower gear ratio but the same mechanical advantage in a smaller circle. My knees definitely like mine.

wishiwasmerckx said...

I have heard of jawbones fractured by wayward lutes and ukuleles, and maybe even the occasional sitar, but this is the first time I have heard of a mandible broken by a mandolin.

The things I learn from reading this blog...

pbateman has no hope said...

"...if you are the sort to obsess about the brand of your headset there is not hope for you anyway"

just today i scurried home from my office to open a package from Romania that i've been waiting on for quite sometime...nearly as long as I waited on yellow f'ing paint.

inside the package a lvely DA 7410 headset and matchy-matchy aero DA seatpost that will all go with my vintage DA stem.

in my defense, the obsession had more to do with having similar finishes on my silver bikey parts. one thing i didn't love about my RB2 chubby-bike build is that i had all these various silver bits that all were a slightly different shades. the tektro brakes are quite shiny, the new 105 "silver" is really just grey paint, the various stem and seat post bits were all different etc... just didnt like that.

now does spending an enormous sum to eradicated sheen related dysphoria make any sense? not one bit. but its given me something to do and i guess shopping on ebay is moderately a better use of time than working, or watching adult film.

thinking i may now just keep the rb2 as my chubby bike and turn the rb1 into a 700c with normal roading tires rather than just getting rid of the rb2. N+1 and such.

now to go find a silvery crankset...

Vector Einstein said...

The Maxxis Chronicle is confusingly available in Tubeless Ready 120tpi, non-tubeless 120tpi, and non-tubeless 60 tpi all in the same size. Jones SWB Complete comes stock with the latter.

Any Maxxis designed to be run tubeless has a large "TR" graphic on the sidewall.

Anonymous said...

In US Dolares it sounds a reasonable price but by the time Jones starts letting them out of the country and Old rubberface has cause trade tariffs it will become quite an expensive ride... What a shame, I think I would get one in a heartbeat otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you haven't compared it to the Pine Mountain Series, given that you already got one with the Jones bar. They seem very similar to me.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 12:14am,

I already did a post comparing the Jones to my Pine Mountain so didn't do that again here. Also, PM is a suspension bike (or sus-corrected in the case of the base model). They're similar on the surface, but I still maintain Jones has more in common with a Rivendell-type bike than other MTBs for reasons cited in this post. (Thru-axles and discs aside.)

--Tan Tenovo

JLRB said...

Someone came back from vacation ready to write - I'm falling off the back. Should have doped like the rest of the pack

Tim Tidball Photography said...

Your loss

STG said...

I'm pretty worn out by custom bikes. In college I got into frame building, built a lot of bikes from soup to nuts. When it comes down to it though, your normal consumer is going to do a lot better with something like a Trek Roscoe or Specialized Chisel. Since I got into racing and had to choose between one or two complete sponsor bikes, I've really come to appreciate the "just buy a toyota" mentality.

HOWEVER - the typical consumer really benefits from custom work in that they help to drive the industry. Surly or Jones make all-road or fatbikes, color coordiated fixies happened, and suddenly we have a bunch of really progressive designs with nice paint jobs coming from the big brands.

ploeg said...

For what it's worth, Corey on the Rivendell staff just got a Jones LWB (though no pictures posted of it yet). Even if you don't do the same thing, there's always appreciation for the craft, and if your needs fit what the other guy offers you aren't going to turn up your nose.