Focus is one of the first brands to announce an e-bike fitted with the new Bosch Performance CX motor, and we've ridden it
New Focus Jam2 is balanced, versatile e-bike that gets back to the essence of trail riding. Good value and boasts excellent new Bosch Performance CX motor.
Focus Jam² need to know
- Updated Jam² trail e-bike with 150mm travel
- Fitted with lighter, slimmer Bosch Performance Line CX motor with standard 34t chainring
- Larger capacity 625Wh internal battery can be easily removed for charging
- Dropout flip chips allow you to swap between wheel sizes
- More aggressive geometry with longer reach, slacker head angle and shorter chainstays
- Prices from £3,699 to £4,499
Like Jam only sweeter
The updated Focus Jam² is the first bike we’ve ridden with the all-new Bosch Performance CX motor. Once the benchmark drive system for e-bikes, the Bosch Performance CX has fallen behind rival units from Shimano and Brose in recent years owing to its excessive weight and bulk. Well the new Performance CX is significantly smaller and lighter than the previous version, it gains a larger capacity 625Wh battery and yet retains its strong power and torque and even more intelligent E-MTB mode. For the engineers at Focus this new Bosch motor has allowed them to offer a redesigned Jam² trail bike to sell alongside its current Shimano STEPS-equipped model.
Smaller motor, bigger battery
The motor can make or break an e-bike. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a consumer to walk into a shop and ask to buy a Bosch e-bike or a Brose e-bike rather than express a preference for the brand name printed along the down tube. So for Focus it’s a almost certainly a calculated decision to partner up with the biggest name in e-bikes for its new trail bike. That the new motor is a huge step forward for the electronics giant compared to its original but outdated Performance CX unit will no doubt have helped, as well as the proximity of Bosch’s e-bike HQ just a few kilometres down the road from Focus in Stuttgart.
The big news for the Performance CX motor is that it’s significantly lighter than the old model. We weighed it at just 2.9kg (without some elements of Focus’s protective casing), which is over 1kg lighter than the previous generation, lighter than the Brose S Mag at 3.4kg and competitive with the Shimano STEPS E8000 unit at 2.9kg.
While the old motor was a bulky old box that limited the freedom of frame designers and engineers, the new Performance CX motor is considerably smaller both in width and length. Most notably the new motor no longer projects as far rearwards from the bottom bracket axle, so it’s possible to run shorter chainstays for more agile handling.
Providing power to the new motor is a larger capacity battery. The Powertube 625Wh is fitted as standard to all the Jam² models. This gives an extra 125Wh over the 500Wh units commonly fitted to old Bosch e-bikes and Shimano STEPS-equipped models. However, it doesn’t quite match Specialized’s monster 700Wh unit fitted to the top end Specialized Turbo Levos. The new battery weighs 3,713g, which is 700g more than the 500Wh version.
To allow for easy charging at home (if you don’t have power in the shed or garage) the new Jam² features a removable battery. Use the key to unlock the compartment, then press the button to remove the cover and the battery will drop out. There is an additional port on the top tube for on-bike charging.
No more driver sprocket
Bosch’s original motor used a small driver sprocket with between 15 and 20 teeth up front. Internal gearing within the motor then reduced your cadence to efficient levels, but chain retention in winter conditions was notoriously poor, with the chain frequently dropping off when mud built up between the sprocket and motor. Equally the small chainring size gave high levels of anti-squat on full-suspension bikes, which could choke up the suspension on climbs (when traction was at a premium).
For the new Performance CX Bosch has moved to a standard chainring design. On the Focus it’s a 34t that’s made by FSA and features a narrow-wide design to improve chain security. This move should also put an end to dropped chains in muddy conditions and reduce anti-squat for more active suspension and greater traction on climbs. From what we could tell, Bosch also seems to have reduced friction within the motor itself on the new design.
You’ve been framed
Focus’s tagline for the new Jam² is E is for Everyone, and this is carried through to the frame design itself. There are now four different sizes instead of three for the original Jam² and the gaps between each are larger than before. And with new flip-chips at the dropout, the Jam² can now accommodate both 27.5in and 29in wheels with the same frame design. As such there are two price points with 29in wheels and two price points with 27.5 Plus.
All share the same aluminium frame design with inverted shock, FOLD suspension linkage and either Shimano XT or SLX 12-speed drivetrains.
We took the new somewhat confusingly named Jam² 6.8 Nine (it’s the top of the range model with 29in wheels) for a 20km lap of the hills and forests surrounding Focus’s Stuttgart home. Packed into that was over 600m of climbing and descending on largely flowing singletrack with a smattering of roots, berms and jumps, along with a couple of technical climbing challenges to put the motor through its paces.
It’s obvious from this brief ride that the new Jam² is pitched as a trail bike in the truest and most traditional sense. If you thrive on natural singletrack, exploring the countryside and ticking off trail centres, you are in the target market. If you want to run up laps of the local bike park or shuttle up DH runs, the Jam² won’t be in its natural element, at least without some modification. It has relaxed, unhurried handling that’s not as aggressive as some of the latest e-bikes on the market but suits a wide range of rider abilities and trails. The suspension is certainly plush, but lacks some of the support and progression sought by faster riders tackling rougher or more technical terrain. Up front is a Fox 34 Rhythm suspension fork that, even heavily overinflated, struggles to keep the front end propped up, and this softness is reflected in the rear end in order to keep the bike balanced.
Equally the geometry and sizing doesn’t push any boundaries, but at the same time it’s far from conservative, so there’s a good balance between climbing efficiency and downhill confidence. And with a size range from S to XL more riders will be able to get a Jam² that fits.
Of course Focus already has the enduro-worthy Sam² in its line-up, so it probably makes sense to offer a more rounded model for riders not looking to huck and slash their way down every trail. In this respect the new motor and battery combination will definitely win fans, by sacrificing some dynamism for additional range.
Riding the new Bosch Performance CX
As for the new Performance CX motor, it’s a huge improvement over the previous version, and brings Bosch back into the e-bike game, although, in our view, it doesn’t put them out in front. More on that in a moment.
Benefits are, the extra battery capacity which will let you ride further. Being lighter and smaller means a more efficient bike that’s more fun to ride and allows engineers to better optimise the frame design without making big compromises on geometry, handling and suspension performance. Just like the old motor, there’s plenty of power and torque, so we were never wanting for more grunt. It’s exceptionally well metered out as well by the excellent e-MTB mode, which gives you all the available power when you need it, but cuts it back smoothly to save battery when cruising. And the response from the new motor is definitely improved, so we never felt stranded when trying to get going again on a hill, or that we were pedalling into a brick wall as the motor cut out at 25km/h. When you do stop pedalling, the motor cuts out earlier than either the Shimano STEPS or Brose S Mag. That’s to say you don’t get as much of a boost on overrun out of corners or when you pause to hop up a ledge on a climb.
Less impressive is the noise – it’s not as quiet as the Brose but comparable to the Shimano STEPS. There’s no sneaking up on other riders with this motor. Then there are the display and control units which are still a long way behind Shimano or Specialized/Brose. Although different models are available, they are all excessive in size and vulnerable to damage. Yes, they offer plenty of connectivity options, and many e-bike riders are demanding such features, but when the e-MTB mode is basically all you need most of the time, Bosch really should have designed a minimal control unit with wireless connectivity to the motor for those mountain bikers who ride trails that don’t let you stare at a screen all the time.
The new Jam² is a balanced, versatile e-bike that gets back to the essence of trail riding. Good value and boasting Bosch's excellent new Performance CX motor, it should make a great companion for exploring singletrack.