Many riders are interested in the unique looking bikes Jeff Jones and crew produce in Oregon. Jones Bikes makes only rigid models that are designed to roll on larger-than-usual tires. I was intrigued since I saw the first Jones bike in person almost a decade ago. It was built around a Jones Space frame with a fat bike wheel and tire (26 x 4 inch) on the front end attached to a rigid Jones Truss Fork. I liked the idea of the larger volume tire, but couldn’t swallow the concept of carrying multiple sized tubes with me as backups. After riding mountain bikes, 4 inch wide tires also seemed slightly overkill for most of the terrain I ride. With the signature Jones Loop H-Bar and Truss Fork, the Jones Plus, like all Jones bikes, definitely looks much different than all the other brands of bikes in its class. It has been built around the 29 x 3 inch tire (29 plus) platform. I was happy to see that both wheels were sporting the same sized tires this time. I had been searching for something wider than a 2.4 on my 29er, but couldn’t find much besides the 26 x 4 inch fat bike tires until the 29 plus (29 x 3 inch) tires were unveiled. These 29 plus tires, compared to normal 29er tires, give better traction, higher volume with less pressure required for some undampened suspension qualities, and better roll over by means of a larger diameter overall. Jeff Jones has designed his bikes to ride better than conventional bikes currently available, and his standard of measure is that they need to ride better for himself. Obviously his bikes have aesthetics that are unconventional, but the way they look flows mostly from him optimizing the function of his bikes. While out riding the Jones Plus, many riders had something to say about the bike. Many of the comments surrounded the Truss Fork, as quite a few thought it was a form of retro suspension like a springer fork found on deluxe beach cruisers. The Truss Fork is somewhat compliant, but really lends itself to railing corners as there is very little lateral, side to side, flex transmitted to the Jones Loop H-Bars.
The Jones Loop H-Bars were definitely the next most attention-grabbing element of the bike. I was really looking forward to putting some serious miles on them to find out if they would be preferred over the traditional, straight mountain bike bars I have used for decades. The Jones Loop H-Bars are designed to have a lot of sweep to more closely fit the human anatomy, especially in the primary grip location, where braking and shifting take place. They provide many other locations for hand placement, which seemed great for someone like myself who enjoys long rides that often lead to hand and wrist discomfort.
Other people noticed differences while riding alongside me on the trail, like the 4 sets of rack mount bolts by the rear axle, or the multiple water bottle mounts on the down tube. The Jones Plus is obviously a different looking bike, but the question everyone really wanted answered was, “How does that thing ride?”
I had spoken to Jeff Jones on the phone for about an hour to ask all the questions I had for him and to answer quite a few he had for me as well. Jeff asked about what bikes I had been riding previously, what kind of riding style I tended to lean towards, what setup preferences I had and what options I would prefer for the Jones Plus build. I asked about the geometry on his bikes and how it would compare to what I was familiar and comfortable riding. He told me that it would likely take a month or more to figure out how the Jones Plus rides, and find out how much it shines when you have learned how to ride it. He said some people figure it out right away and it works well out of the box for them, but he said that almost everyone who rides one for a few months figures out how well it rides and don’t want to ride many other conventionally designed bikes thereafter.
I chose components for the build that I thought most prospective buyers for a bike of this caliber would choose, mostly Shimano XT, for a reliable and durable build that is versatile for longer explorations and bikepacking journeys.
Initially, it felt like a normal bike that was definitely more upright with comfortable, but very differently positioned bars than I am familiar with on a mountain bike. I wondered if I would feel comfortable on steep, technical, or sharp-turning downhill sections with bars like that. I also wondered how well it would climb with this upright geometry, not to mention the slack head tube angle.
At first, I found it very difficult to climb when pedaling out of the saddle. If I leaned over the front end, my arms would start burning because they were supporting my upper body from the farthest back position on the Jones Loop H-Bar. It felt like a push up where your hands are down lower than they should be. A lot of shoulder and bicep muscles were employed. Pedaling while seated was comfortable and upright, but didn’t feel as efficient to me as out of the saddle climbing does on other rigid bikes. What is interesting is that this bike’s front end does not come off the ground when climbing, nor does it really wander, even though it has such a slack head tube angle.
Descending, the Jones Loop H-Bars were not prohibitive at all. They took a little while to get used to, but leaning the bike into turns, with the Jones Truss Fork having such lateral rigidity and the Loop H-Bar grip position allowing hand position where the arms could easily be extended left or right with straight wrists for the lean, as opposed to leaning the bike with a straight bar where the wrists had to pivot left or right. It felt a lot more controlled and natural for leaning. I did notice that the ends of the Loop H-Bar occasionally hit my knee when turning while pedaling, but this was in fact very rare. If the bar was turned far enough, like on a switchback, while my knee came up, the two would collide. This was a very rare occurrence, which could probably be adjusted with a slightly longer stem, or making the bar more parallel to the ground, but it was surprising to me. When trying to steer the bike while leaning, like avoiding a rock at the last minute while leaning through a turn at high speed, was a little strange. The bike tended to turn really quick, almost like it hinged on the rear tire. As I rode it more and more, I really ended up growing fond of this sensation. It was predictable and allowed me to whip around turns that I knew with serious quickness. Jones claimed that this bike was quick handling even with a slack head tube angle and it is true.
The more time I spent on the Jones Plus, the more I was intrigued. Each ride, I felt more familiar with the Jones Plus, but still felt like I had to remember the nuances during the onset of each ride to actually ride it well. I was looking forward to some longer days in the saddle to really give it a solid run.
During one of the bikepacking trips I took the Jones Plus on, there was a lot of climbing, some fun swooping singletrack, and a good amount of long back roads. This provided a good opportunity to really test this bike as a long-distance, mixed-terrain, touring machine. This is an application where the bike really excels. It left my lower back more comfortable than any other bike I have ridden for a whole day. That may seem like an easy attribute to gloss over, but it is worth discussing a little more. First, this bike rides very upright. That may be apparent by now, but it means that much of your body weight will be applied to your saddle. This translates to soreness if your saddle is not an ideal fit. Fortunately, I had been riding a Brooks Professional saddle on a 27.2mm seatpost for the last 6 months on my bike. This seatpost was the same size needed for the Jones so I quickly swapped it over.
The WTB Speed Team saddle was recommended by Jeff Jones, as its one of his favorite saddles, but I found that after multiple hours on my regular weekly rides, with the upright position applying increased pressure to the saddle, soreness that I hadn’t experienced in years was present where my sit bones contacted the saddle. For the bikepacking trip, where I would be spending the majority of my waking hours in the saddle, I wanted to make sure those hours were on the Brooks Team Pro saddle. It was a good choice. Despite the increased pressure, soreness was not present what so ever. I highly suggest finding an optimal saddle that provides the best personal fit when riding the Jones Plus. That being said, I learned how to climb a lot better while out of the saddle on this bike throughout this bikepacking trip.
On my shakedown ride before the trip, with the Jones Plus loaded up, I took it on a paved path for almost 10 miles to see how it felt while loaded up as well as in the aero-tucked position when using the Gnarwal Bar. We would be using lots of back roads (some dirt, some paved) in order to connect to the trails we were exploring, and I knew that I would likely face some headwinds along straight sections, a perfect opportunity to put the Gnarwal extension bar to use. While on the bike path, positioning my hands higher up on the Jones Loop H-Bar when climbing out of the saddle made a huge improvement. My palms rested right on the welds of the bar and my middle fingers wrapped around the brake levers at their base. This allowed my center of gravity to be directly positioned properly between the bottom bracket and front hub without excessive weight placed upon my arms. It felt just about right, but it is a narrow sweet spot that worked well on the pavement where I didn’t need to move my weight around to navigate obstacles like I would on the trail. When on the trail, I found it better to remain seated while climbing through technical terrain. I prefer to stand when climbing in most circumstances to quickly reposition my body fore or aft, left or right, staying off the saddle to negotiate the upcoming trail features.
It’s worth mentioning that the ride quality of the Jones Plus improved when loaded. Don’t get me wrong, any bike is going to be harder to throw around, jump, or whip around a turn when it has an additional 20 pounds added to it. It felt just a little stiff and rode a bit harsh with just my body weight weighing it down, but it felt a lot more compliant when fully loaded with bikepacking gear. It must have hit the threshold for the steel to flex more I suppose. I had seen this before when testing the Chumba Ursa. It is my hypothesis that conscientious manufacturers of steel bikes that have designed their bikes with bikepacking as the primary application will over build them to ensure that the ride quality is optimal when loaded. Not too stiff, nor too flexy when loaded.
The bike is obviously designed differently, but it is also obvious that much thought went into the design. The evidence of this thoughtful design can be seen in the paradoxical ride attributes: It has a very long wheelbase, but does not feel stretched out in the cockpit. You sit in the bike, with a relaxed body position and neutral hand position, yet feel very much in control at speed through rough descents. It doesn’t wander or have front wheel lift while climbing, yet is easy to lean back and let the bike roll over obstacles or drop off ledges. It is long and stable, yet rails corners while having quick steering.
The build chosen for this test bike was comprised of Shimano XT 8000 brakes and 2×10 drivetrain components, except for the crankset. Jones chose the Surly OD crankset because it “effectively moves the rings outboard without moving the crank arms outboard too”. This allows the chain line to clear the wider, 3 inch wide tires when in the climbing gears, keeping the Q factor the same and using a standard width bottom bracket.
Other components included were the Loop H-Bar Loophole pack bag by Revelate Designs, the frame bag by Revelate Designs, and the water bottle mounts for the Truss Fork. The water bottle mounts are interesting as they are made for the smaller diameter tubing used for the Truss Fork. They are individual bolts with integrated clamps so you can position them anywhere along the tubing of the fork.
The Jones Plus frame also has a water bottle mount on the bottom of the downtube, as well as two on the top of the downtube inside the main triangle.
The Jones plus bike is a great bike for long distance touring where terrain is expected to be highly variable. It has an upright position with a very comfortable reach for all day riding. It is really great for loading up with a ton of gear and riding all day without having to worry at all about lower back pain. A lot of pressure put on the seat from the upright position is a big deal if you don’t have the right saddle fit for your anatomy. For whatever reason, I found my right calf would get buzzed by the rear tire side knobs on occasion when moving my body to stay on a winding single track that was narrow. I’ve never experienced this on any bike before and it never occurred on my left calf, but my default riding position is left leg forward, so maybe that has something to do with it. I really like the Jones Loop Bar and the multiple hand positions it afforded, especially when combined with the Gnarwal when faced with long, straight sections and headwinds. Climbing was a little bit difficult to get used to, but eventually I figured out how to make it work. When in the saddle it wasn’t much of an issue, however when I was out of the saddle it seemed like there was a very narrow sweet spot which I needed to maintain in order to be well-balanced on both the cranks and handlebars. Having 29 plus tires available for the times when you need extra traction (uphill or down), extra momentum, extra float in the sand, or just a little bit of extra undampened suspension to take the edge off really helps add versatility to this bike. Adding in a 2 x 10 drivetrain, a lot of gear mounting options, and a stable, rigid, dependable steel frameset means that this bike could take you just about anywhere you want to go with all the gear you would need to get there.
The MSRP on the Jones Plus as tested is $4269.87 check out their website for more information and builds.