Monday, July 16, 2018

Reasonably Priced Chubby-Tired Bicycle Shootout!

Okay, well not really, but as you know I recently took delivery of a Jones SWB Plus complete bicycle:

And since the fall of 2015 I have been in possession of a Marin Pine Mountain, which in the ensuing years I have thoroughly Jones-ified:

This of course raises the question:


Okay, Jesus Christ, calm down!  First of all, I've only had the Jones for a little over a week, and it takes months to get to really get to know a bicycle.  However, as of today I have now done essentially the same ride on both bikes, and I'm at least ready to share some first impressions with regard to how they compare.

For my testing grounds, I have been using Sprain Ridge Park, which the NYCMTB page describes thusly:

Sprain is a mix of technical cross country, fast flowy trails and big freeride lines. It’s located on the top of a small ridge line, so there’s plenty of exposed rock to play on. Many expert lines are located just to the side of the main trail, making it a great place for groups of varying abilities, but to enjoy Sprain, you should really be an intermediate rider with good technical skills. Beginner trails are located on the West side of the park (the beginner trail head is marked on the map below), and are considerably less technical than the intermediate and advanced trails. For the fearless, there are drops ranging from 2 feet to 10+, gap drops, numerous steep rollers and a growing number of skinny log rides. Keep your eyes peeled to the sides of the trail for hidden gems.

I can reach Sprain by bike from my home in under an hour without trying very hard, which has made it my go-to all-terrain cycling destination since I smartened up and moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx back in 2012.

Since taking delivery of the Jones I've ridden it up to Sprain three times, and I've made a point of doing more or less the same ride each time so I can get to know the bike.  My most recent ride was this past Saturday, and after lowering the bars a touch and nudging the saddle back a hair I'm prepared to say that I've got my position on the bike pretty much dialed.  Note that I have changed the saddle since I just couldn't hang with the one it came with, but other than that everything's stock and assuming it continues to hold up I can't see any reason to change any of it:

Therefore, with a fairly good sense of how the Jones behaves at Sprain, I figured it was about time to head up there on the Marin, which I did this morning:

Of course the weenie move would be to analyze the Strava data for each bike and compare them.  I'm not going to do that as there were far too many variables.  For example, my first time up at Sprain on the Jones I was rusty from spending way too much time road-Fredding recently, and my last time up at Sprain on the Jones I went early in the morning when it was like 10 degrees cooler and so I felt very sprightly, whereas today on the Marin it was very hot so I rode more slowly and lazily, but even so I still managed to sweat so much that it looked like I had wet my jorts:

Most importantly, when I'm riding a bike with chubby tires pretty much the last thing I'm worried about is how fast I'm going, so even if one bike were demonstrably faster than the other I wouldn't really give a shit.

No, the real metric here is feel.  But before I address that, let's briefly consider the objective stuff, by which I mean the various holes and parts and stuff, as well as the amount of dollars you'll need in order to get each bike.  The Jones costs $1,799 and this is what you get:

The Marin Pine Mountain costs $989.99, though it is different today than when I took delivery of it, and it now looks like this:

Of course the first thing you notice is that the Marin is considerably cheaper.  However, for the purposes of this post we're comparing the Jones to my Marin-That's-Been-Turned-Into-A-Jones.  And if you're going to turn a Pine Mountain into a Jones facsimile you're probably end up spending another couple hundred dollars.  (Bars, stem, grips, tape, new cables, and so forth.)

Moving on, let's address wheel holes.  My Pine Mountain has old-fashioned quick release axles with "traditional" mountain bike spacing, whereas the new ones have 141x9mm axles in the rear and 110x9 axles in the front.  As I seem to recall from a commenter recently, this new unique-to-Marin setup makes using different parts very difficult, but I have no first-hand experience with it so I'm just going to throw up my hands and roll my eyes innocently.  I can understand why they'd move away from the old-fashioned axles to a wider spacing, since on my bike the chain does hit the tire from time to time.  However, I don't mind this, and I also like that I can use my Pine Mountain with all the old stuff I've got lying around, such as skewers, 29er wheels, and even fork mount roof rack trays.  

As for the Jones, it's got a 148x12 Boost thru-axle in the rear and a 150x15mm fat bike-sized thru-axle in the front.  All of this is hopelessly newfangled to me, but it is now fairly standard stuff, so fitting aftermarket parts shouldn't be a problem--though it's become clear to me I'm going to have to suck it up and get a hitch rack for The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back.  (I don't drive to rides very much these days, but, you know, sometimes I do.)

Both bikes have thread-in bottom brackets like The Great Lobster On High intended, but the Marin (mine, anyway) has a "regular" crank whereas the Jones has a Boost-compatible crank.

The components are pretty much on par.  Both bikes have Shimano Deore 1x10 shifting.  (Though my Marin came with Sram 1x10 shifting.)  The Marin has Shimano hydraulic brakes with 160/180 rotors in the rear and front respectively, whereas the Jones has Tektro mechanicals and 180/200 rotors.  So far the Tektros are great, and anyway I'm currently using mechanicals on Ol' Piney as you may recall.

Both the Jones and the Marin have steel frames with like a zillion bosses on them.  I'm not going to do a side-by-side comparison of all the mounting points because long-distance multi-day rides that require carrying lots of stuff are simply incompatible with my lifestyle.  Suffice to say each bike can carry lots of shit.

The Ride

I love Ol' Piney.  Indeed, it's Ol' Piney that set me off on the path to Jonesdom.  And when I set off on it this morning I loved it just as much as I did before I received the Jones.

However, so far my impression of the Jones is that it's a more nimble and at the same time more balanced bike fore and aft than the Marin (or at least the Marin as I've curated it).  You notice this when you hop over logs--it feels like you're sitting more in the middle of the Jones, and so the front and rear wheels come up and over a little more naturally.  (The Jones makes you want to hop over things more.)  It's also better on climbs, particularly twisty ones: on the Marin the front wheel kind of wants to pop up, especially if you hit a rock or a root, whereas the Jones fees more planted--yet at the same time it makes you want to pop wheelies.  (In fact I attempted to oblige some teenagers who requested a wheelie as I passed, and while my wheelie was brief and pathetic it did pass muster with them, so there.)  Overall I'd venture to say the Jones is a snappier and more lively bike than the Marin, including on the road where getting out of the saddle and rocking the bike back and forth feels maybe a little more natural.

Conversely, while the Jones climbs better, the Marin is probably a more stable descender.  Also, I don't know what the number say, but I definitely get more pedal strike on the Jones.  It's not a big deal or anything, but it's one of those things to get used to.

All of this notwithstanding, I've only had the Jones for a little over a week, so all of this is a first impression.  I reserve the right to revise or walk back any or all of these observations at any time.  

So Which Is Better?

Well, if you already know you want a Jones-style bicycle (a go-anywhere bike that's ready for anything) that's easy: the Jones is better.  Is it so much better that if I were an ordinary civilian I'd abandon my Marin-That's-Been-Turned-Into-A-Jones and spend the $1,799 for an actual Jones?  Not necessarily; the Marin took me most of the way there.  However, knowing what I know now, if I were starting from scratch and deciding between the two I'd obviously go for the Jones, even given the higher price.  

Of course I'm not a civilian, though.  I'm a semi-professional bike blogger.  Therefore the onus is on me to suffer through having both bicycles and continue to compare and contrast them, which I fully intend to do.  

Hey, it sucks riding all these bikes, but someone has to do it.


Wyatt Earp said...

The way you win a shoot out is make sure to kill the other guy before he knows about the shoot out. Just like the podium shoot out.

ken e. said...

uhh, fat tire good, skinny tire bad? got nothing, maybe some leftover cramps. no poison ivy.

Pelon said...

Podium! The jones appears to have shorter wheelbase, for a 6' 1" individual, how does that pencil out? (At the moment I'm palping a scott 29er which is a good fit) Always looking to enlarge the stable.

DR said...

Any idea why the complete Jones is a short wheel base model? I have a LWB Jones. I’d be interested to hear your opinion of it vs yours. Have you ridden the LWB plus? When I ordered mine, Jeff seemed to pretty strongly suggest the LWB for most people. I imagine a LWB complete may be in the future at which point you will be obligated to do another review.

BikeSnobNYC said...


I have not ridden an LWB. Would love to try one. I could see why a shorter wheelbase bike would make more sense as an out-of-the-box "gateway Jones." I can also see why if money were no object and I were going all the way I'd want to go with a LWB.

--Tan Tenovo

Unknown said...

vsk said ...



leroy said...

Dear Mr. BSNYC -

How does it handle in water?

Asking for a friend.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

DR / Tan Tenovo,

...all the ride qualities Mr. Tenovo speaks of in the Jones are mostly due to the shorter wheel base--to wit, the nimbleness of riding up a trail, or out of the saddle.

...another factor could be what Jones claims is the more forward seating position. I have not ridden a Jones, so can't confirm. But that would go further in explaining why it would climb well... AND why Tan Tenovo prefers the Marin when going downhill. (again, longer wheel base is more stable... PLUS, if you are seated further back, etc etc.)

...toe overlap is due to same geometry issue... but I also think it's over-emphasized. You just get used to it. conclusion, a tall bloke can certainly enjoy a short wheel base without issues... though you'd deal with toe overlap... and, if Jones' assertion about riding position is correct, you're at a bigger disadvantage than a shorter bloke when going downhill, i.e. your mass will be higher up, and therefore more forward.

...that's just my two penny-farthings.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Serial R.,

Jones has short wheelbase but longer chainstays than the Marin.

--Tan Tenovo

Spaceman Spiff said...

I've been jones-curious for a long time and got my hopes up when I saw the SWB Complete. Unfortunately the lack of EBB is a deal-breaker for me. I love me some SS! (But I'll admit I'll put a cassette/derailleur on when I'm heading out to the mountains.) I can understand Jeff needed to make some compromises to get the price down but I'm disappointed nonetheless.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Spaceman Spiff,

Isn't there such a thing as an eccentric BSA BB?

--Tan Tenovo

Pabateman said...

Snob, I would be excited by a new bike too, hell, i used to be excited by one when i dropped the frame off for fresh fresh fresh yellow paint about 7 weeks ago....

But you couldn't cobble together one line about stage 9?

Kidding. Just wanted to say cobble. But was nice sunday race for fans of 25 to 28mm

32 is best though. Science and Lob have seemed it true.

Matt King said...

I'm confused. Which one has the beefier bottom bracket, which one is more laterally stiff and vertically compliant? How am I supposed to understand a comparison review without the fundamentals?

Skidmark said...

The Jones Plus SWB comes in sizes S,M,L— is this a M?

Squirrel said...

"...early in the morning.."

Is this early in the morning clearing out the spiderwebs for the late risers, or early in the morning after the dew has dried?

FWIW, spiderwebs aren't that disgusting as long as the spider doesn't come along for the ride.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Thank you for reminding me! I do have something to say about that. I'll have to remember for tomorrow.


Yes, a M.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

Yes, a M! I am fairly sure that you meant an M.

Are you getting the new bike to fairly fly about like Jones does in his videos? Must be getting old, I like my wheels on the ground.

McFly said...

I thought Sprain was a mix of twisting your ankle while cursing your kid for leaving some of their shit on the steps. No? k

Anonymous said...

Just some general observations looking at the 2 bikes pictured. The Jones seems to have a slacker headtube angle PLUS the bent fork, giving an effective head tube angle of ??. I'll say 2 degrees less than the Marin. The Jones also has a bent seat tube, which I'm sure makes it feel longer than it is even though its a SWB. The Marin has skinnier seat stays, which would appear to make it a bit more vertically compliant, but who knows. I would like to ride either and compare it to my 1997 Scott Endorphin, which is crabon and very vertically compliant.

Chazu said...

I rose during the Hour of the Wolf this morning. While wrapping up my curly-handlebared ride in some stretchy clothes, it occurred to me that I can ride over residential roads to an existing nearby-ish MTB park. But I've never owned a MTB, and I've been patiently waiting for the local government to get on with a stated plan to build MTB trails in an enormous park a mere three (3) miles from my home and which is accessible via bike lanes and paved trails.

So I started thinking about Jones, and then I started thinking about Jim Jones and purple Kool Aid. Hour of the Wolf riding in hot soupy summer southern air will make your mind wander... I do have a Gunnar Crosshairs which can take some big-ish tires. Perhaps I'll try that before I succumb and buy one of those bikes with the weird non-road frames and the fat tires. I know how much you all care one way or the other.

Strava is telling me that I have neighbors who start riding much earlier than I do, more than an hour before local sunrise. It seems the Hour of the Wolf is relative.

reCAPTCHA: Identify the vehicles. Ugh.

Robert Woudenberg said...

Get a thudbuster! Hard tails really need one. Also the bike is clearly too small for you . So thudbuster and shorter stem will make it greater.

HDEB said...

I like bikes that go in the direction I point them : )

BikeSnobNYC said...

Robert Woudenberg,

No, and no.

--Tan Tenovo

JLRB said...

I like my chubby bike and it came in a box too. I'd like to ride it side-by-side with the Jones, but I'm not a semi-professional bike blogger

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

My not-so-recent memory of your blog recalls some scathing remarks directed toward gravel bikes. Have you had a change of heart?

I find them to be a little slower than road bikes but "friendlier" in their disposition. It takes an extended ride to appreciate this virtue which may be one reason they gained acceptance grudgingly.

I think you made a smart choice with the Jones and hope you get to enjoy some epic rides with it.