Great geometry, sizing and finish
This year, Jamis has upped the stakes. The price of the entry-level Jamis Dakar A2 has crept up by £100 and Jamis has made some key revisions to the spec.
Jamis Dakar A2 review
Launched last year, the Jamis Dakar A2 looked set to interrupt the Calibre Bossnut’s winning streak. Not least because it gave the impression of being a considerably more expensive bike – the sleek, sculpted alloy tubing profiles, stiffer 12mm bolt-thru rear axle and matte frame finish delivering quality previously unseen at this price point.
Factor in the most generous sizing and best geometry in test; with a specification to rival the category leading Bossnut, and the Jamis initially look like the only bike to get for £1k.
The test didn’t pan out that way however. The sketchy Vittoria tyres and overly-damped RockShox shock robbing the Jamis of the sensitivity, control and traction needed to beat the Bossnut at its own game.
For 2019, the Vittoria Goma rubber gets swapped for shallow tread Vittoria Barzo tyres and the RockShox Recon RL fork has been replaced by a Suntour Raidon LO-R.
In terms of travel, it’s a like for like fork replacement, the Suntour Raidon pumping out 120mm to keep it inline with the rear end of the bike. With the addition of 15mm bolt-thru lowers however, it a much stiffer fork than the 9mm QR RockShox unit it replaces.
But stiffness isn’t the only attribute you need from a suspension fork, it also needs to be supple to track the terrain, and sadly, the Suntour fork isn’t very sensitive.
In that respect, it matches the rear suspension on the Jamis perfectly, as both ends of the bike now have stiffer, more secure, bolt-thru axles, and both only get moving on the biggest impacts.
With the suspension lacking the sensitively need to track the terrain, even more emphasis is placed on the tyres to provide grip and comfort. And it’s grip that the Vittoria Barzo tyres are seriously lacking. In fact, we spelled it out last year, stating that is was the tyres that were really holding the Dakar A2 back and it got worse, not better.
That criticism can’t be levied at the rest of the build kit however. The oversized 35mm Race Face handlebars and stem boost control and the WTB Volt saddle is a welcome addition to any bike. It helps too that the uninterrupted seat tube on the Jamis frame, offers a full range of saddle height adjustment, which encourages you to take advantage of the excellent standover clearance to really chuck the bike around.
With one less cog than the 11-speed SRAM NX kit on the Bossnut the 1×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain on the Jamis has bigger jumps between a couple of gears, it’s barely noticeable though and because the Shimano cassette shares the exact same gear range as the SRAM kit, you don’t pay a price at either extremity.
Twelve months on and the Jamis Dakar A2 is still the best looking bike in test. It’s the one that every test rider instinctively gravitates toward, and riders are always shocked when we reveal the price.
You don’t have to ride it very far however, to realise that the Dakar doesn’t quite deliver on it’s initial promise. The suspension is balanced, in that the fork and shock both lack small bump sensitivity and while that means the bike feels very stable and composed on smooth flowing trails, get it on anything natural or armoured and every single bump chips away at your hard fought speed and momentum.
It’s doubly frustrating because this bike really has the potential to be the best in test. In fact, if Jamis had just stuck with the quick release RockShox fork, fitted better tyres and lightened up the damping on the rear shock, it would probably be the only bike standing in this shootout. The frame is unquestionably first rate, Jamis just needs to deliver on some of the parts adorning it. Maybe next year.
With the latest Dakar A2, it’s as if Jamis has taken one step forward and two steps back. Sure the 15mm dropouts on the Suntour Raidon fork boost stiffness, but the fork’s distinct lack of small bump sensitivity compared to the RockShox unit it replaces makes for an altogether more jarring ride. Taken with the 10 per cent price hike, with no real movement on easy fixes like better tyres and a softer shock tune, two changes that would instantly unlock the frame’s underlying potential, it's easy to see why the Dakar A2 slips back in the overall ratings.