I've got a good dozen rides in on my 2011 Dakar so I figured I'd post up my thoughts.
Before I even rode it I swapped the grips and seat and put on a drop post (first one, trying it out). I gorilla taped the rims and aired up the tires with Stan's sealant.
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33175822@N06/7462440450/" title="2012-06-28 041 by Ice Cream Jay, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8155/7462440450_222c819150_c.jpg" width="800" height="600" alt="2012-06-28 041"></a>
For background perspective, the last FS bike I've ridden was a 2004 K2 Lithium 5.0. It was top of the line when they first unveiled the Lithium, and it had a good parts spec. I loved that bike and it elevated my riding and I rode the piss out of it for many years.
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33175822@N06/7884855684/" title="vietnam 05 001 by Ice Cream Jay, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8175/7884855684_cf133b5261_c.jpg" width="800" height="600" alt="vietnam 05 001"></a>
Then came singlespeeds, children, 29ers and so on. Now both my kids will be in school all day and I have 5 months off from work so I bought a new bike to celebrate.
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33175822@N06/7884966998/" title="August 2012 002 by Ice Cream Jay, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8042/7884966998_e4e3e563e4_c.jpg" width="800" height="600" alt="August 2012 002"></a>
I plan on using this bike to ride all the awesome places that were just too far for me to hit when I had to get back to get the kid from preschool. Vietnam, Arcadia, Big River, Borderlands, basically very technical, rocky, NE singletrack. I initially wanted a full susp. 29er. I started getting paralysis by analysis, my mind was swimming and they just seemed so tall and gangly.
More background I guess, I'm 5'8" with a 30" inseam. I ride a Misfit Dissent rigid 29er. Its got a pretty laid back seat tube angle, lowish BB, and bent TT. So it fits me, but barely. I was afraid a full suspension 29er was gonna be too big/tall/unwieldy. I also was concerned with wheel weight and strength, it'd be easier to build up a lighter wheel with something smaller than 29, but I was convinced I wanted bigger than 26.
Sooo, I decided to take a plunge and buy the Jamis. I'd been interested in the White Bros Loop for a while and the 2011 had it. Plus the 2011 came with discontinued WTB Wolverines. I like WTB tires, honestly, these were the things that sealed the deal....
I found out that Schwalbe was making 650b tires and there were other manufacturers jumping in, so I figured worst case I'd start collecting tires and if 650 flops I'll have enough to survive the life of the bike. I also grabbed a pair of stans flows while they were on sale, so I've got spare rims.
Ok enough BS, the bike rocks.
Right off the bat I noticed an improvement in tracking. It corners much better and doesn't wander. I give credit for this to the fork mostly. Its got thicker stanchions, a thru axle, and tapered steerer. The steering is predictable and surprisingly quick. Not as quick as the Misfit, but its fairly close, compared to my K2, which is all over the place. I like the quick steering, it helps in tight rocky stuff where you aren't going too fast.
The next thing that was apparent was a major increase in traction over the K2. Much of this I have to give credit to having new tires set up tubeless. Traction is similar, if not better than my Misfit, which is to say superb. I think I'm getting better traction than the Misfit because of the suppleness of the suspension. I can corner through rocky stuff and the bike just stays glued where the rigid bike would bounce big time. I don't know if its the contact patch or having the BB below the axles, but this bike corners way, way better than the K2.
The suspension is very good, I do notice some front end bob if I'm standing and pedalling. This bike is downright confidence inspiring on downhills and in rock gardens though. I've ridden some rock gardens at unprecedented (for me) speeds. The fork is stiff, smooth and predictable, but noisy on the rebound, its a slurper. I can't say I've noticed anything about the rear shock except its ability to do its job without a peep. Easy to set with the sag marks on it, upside down setup sheds grime. Fantastic.
Climbing is... OK. I ride a lot of short ups and downs and its great for short little climbs where you have some momentum. On longer climbs I start noticing how inefficient the bike is in comparison to a rigid SS. I guess the bike could use a lockout. There really aren't enough long climbs around here for it to be an issue to me, but I can't say it climbs well. It climbs like you'd expect a 31 pound full suspension bike to climb.
Which brings us to the weight. Yep, 31 pounds. I don't notice the weight that much till I get tired and have to ride uphill. I plan on building up a lighter set of wheels with the stans flows, and lighter spokes/nipples. I figure that will make the bike feel a bit lighter, but for its intended use its fine as is.
Anyway I've been having a lot of fun riding this bike and I can honestly say that this bike has elevated my riding almost as much as my first full suspension bike. I can maintain more speed and momentum through corners and rock gardens, which helps me climb faster, which gives me more speed to transfer to the downhill, where the suspension eats up everything allowing me to maintain that speed and momentum until my heart feels like its gonna burst and my brain is swimming in endorphins and adreneline
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33175822@N06/7504650144/" title="Swansea 7-4-12 006 by Ice Cream Jay, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8157/7504650144_687e4e1db8_c.jpg" width="800" height="600" alt="Swansea 7-4-12 006"></a>
Does it have anything to do with wheel size? Frankly, I don't know. What I do know is this bike is stiffer, faster, and plusher than anything I've ridden before and it fits me. I also know you can make a hell of an awesome mountain bike with a 27.5 inch wheel.
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Thread: 2011 Jamis Dakar 650 b1