I joined a cult last summer. Jeff Jones’ bike cult to be exact.
The Jones bike is antithetical to many things mainstream mountain bikers associate with a good bike; its frame is steel, it has fat tires, and it lacks mechanized suspension. While not inexpensive, it was my top choice for a new adventure bike.
The Jones bike is legendary in mountain bike circles for being a little odd and yet somehow respected for being unique, just like Jeff Jones. On video, Jones appears single minded. He talks as though he can not wait to get his story out. What is it? That you will enjoy riding your bike. With a mosquito-pitched tone and a preacher-like certainty about his style of riding, he’ll either make you want to join the cult or have you running. Jones’ bushy beard, ponytail, and intense look remind me of the Russian mystic, Rasputin. His home-made videos induced a smile in me because he shows how much fun he has riding his creation whether it is around town or on a gnarly mountain trail. Other brands try to make their bikes look radical, fast, or high-tech, much like a car advertisement. Those ads do nothing for me. I want something that I will want to ride again and again, over hill and under tree, all while carrying camping gear, art supplies, or just snacks for the day.
Above all else, I get the feeling that Jones is completely sincere in his belief that the Jones bike is the best bicycle ever. It’s certainly the only one where the promotional materials describe joy, show the many things you can do with the bike, and encourage you to strap a milk crate to the rear rack. Jones describes it as, “a bike for riding fast, slow, the rough with the smooth; safely, aggressively, laid-back or raging; with a big load or stripped to the bare essentials; on road, dirt, mud, snow; in the mountains, on the flat lands, around town or across the county; around the world or your local loop; for getting rad or just getting away.”
It’s one thing to watch a video and feel stoked, but the truth came when my friend Josh let me ride his Jones around the neighborhood. Down a gravel alley, through neighborhood streets, and then over bumpy tree roots and a lumpy dirt track, I grinned thoroughly. I hooted quietly with excitement (I didn’t want to embarrass Josh). In minutes, I was ready to join the cult and ordered my own.
My Jones provides the summer feeling. When I’m on it, I’m like a kid on an oversized BMX bike, thoroughly engrossed in the ride. It’s fun, bouncy, and responsive. Without fenders, it has the kind of impracticality that leads me to haul it out on a sunny day and ride no place in particular. Even with some fenders, it would make an extremely comfortable commuter bike. But if I only rode it on the streets I’d be missing out on the benefits of the big tires, which allow the bike to float over sandy or mucky surfaces the average bike would sink into. The high-volume, low pressure tires also roll over bumps that make some bikes vibrate uncomfortably, numbing my hands. When I ride it around town, I seek out the cracked concrete streets, the unpaved alleys, and the gravel paths. Heck I might even ride across your lawn, just because I can.
Maybe my beard isn’t a long as Jones’ and I’m not fully into proselytizing, but when I’m on my Jones, I feel like a maverick too.
For a really detailed technical review of the bike, head over to Cass Gilbert’s excellent writeup on Bikepacking.com.