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Too Much Bike: Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Team

Too much bike. I know it’s hard to believe. But, this is a case of just too much bike.

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Let me explain. I’m a minimalist. I like simple, uncomplicated things that are more function than form.

I also like analogies.  Analogies help me describe abstract concepts and weird situations. And I like movies. Movies are to modern culture what poetry and prose were to people living in the 17th and 18th centuries. When I attempt to explain a phrase like “too much bike” I immediately search for a movie analogy. That’s just the way my mind works.

Remember the 1984 movie “Amadeus”? It’s about everyone’s favorite classical music composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Over the course of the movie, we experience Mozart’s tumultuous life as a musical genius and depraved brat – adored by royalty, detested by his peers, and loved/hated by his family. At a pivotal point in the movie, Mozart has just finished the opening of his new opera in Vienna and is backstage when Emperor Joseph II of Austria comes backstage to greet the young virtuoso. A supporter of the arts and a patron of Mozart, the Emperor is asked for his opinion of the new opera by one of his advisors. In an attempt to provide an informed critique of the opera while maintaining his aristocratic aloofness, the Emperor offers that the piece had “too many notes.” Being the arrogant composer that he is, Mozart is offended by the Emperor’s inane criticism (as if taking some of the notes out of the piece would actually improve it). So, he pointedly asks the Emperor: “Which notes would His Majesty like me to remove?” You see where this is going.

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And so it is with the 2014 Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Team mountain bike — it’s just too much bike. Like trying to remove musical notes from a Mozart opera, the task of dissecting Jamis’ redesigned and upgraded 2014 version of the venerable Dakar XCT is a difficult one. Perhaps the biggest complicating factor is that this is a great bike.  Not a good bike, but a great bike.

Yes, the Jamis 2014 Dakar XCT 650 Team is a great bike. For an MSRP of $6,000, you get a full carbon fiber frame, responsive handling, light weight, upscale componentry, and understated looks that would easily cost you $8,000 – $10,000 with another brand’s sticker on the downtube. This bike is a real value.  Add the on-the-fly adjustability of the Rock Shox Monarch RT3 shock and Revelation RCT3 fork and you have a flagship rig that is ready for an all-day enduro adventure or a two-hour XC race.

So, what’s the issue? After the first ride on the XCT 650 Team, the minimalist in me created a mental checklist of items that needed to be changed.  These items were not bad or dysfunctional; they needed to be adjusted, replaced, or removed from the bike completely to satisfy my need for simplicity.

Perhaps the illustration below will help with the following critique.

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Too heavy — Heavy has no place on a top-of-line bike like the Dakar XCT 650 Team.  At a claimed weight of 26 lbs. (my rig with its 21-inch frame size weighed 28 lbs.), this bike is one of the heavier XC bikes but definitely on the svelte side of similarly-spec’d all-mountain/enduro bikes. Try swapping-out the GEAX Goma 650 tubeless tires with almost any other comparable tire and you will save almost two pounds.  Really! An upgrade to an ENVE carbon fiber wheelset or the less costly Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Podium wheelset will take another pound off the bike. Replacing the Crank Brothers seat post and handlebar with comparable carbon fiber versions will save half a pound. All-in-all, by shaving three-to-four pounds off the factory spec’d Dakar XCT 650 Team, the middle-of-the-pack all-mountain/endur0 bike becomes a ready-for-anything XC race worthy rig.  Imagine having a sub-24 pound XC race dream bike with 150 mm of adjustable travel on the front and five inches of adjustable travel in the back end . With a few strategic componentry replacements, you can get there with the Dakar XCT 650 Team.

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Too many gears — Jamis spec’d its flagship dual-suspension rig with SRAM XO (2X10) components. While this is a standard equipment spec for most new bikes, 20 gears is just too many for this bike. Anyone who sees the true functionality in this rig will recognize that it is not a bike for riders who will be using the 36-tooth cassette cog in the back and the 24-tooth chainring in the front. Nope. This bike is designed for strong riders and racers. So, remove the front derailleur, convert the two-chainring set up to a single ring, remove the front derailleur shifter from the handlebar, and you bomb-proof the drivetrain while dropping almost one pound from the bike without sacrificing one iota of performance.

Too distracting — Knobs. Buttons. Levers. Dials. On the average mountain bike there are just too many things to turn, twist, push, poke, swivel, or pull. The last thing you want to do is take your hand off the bar and eyes off the trail at 26 mph so you can reach down and twist a knob on your fork or flick a lever on your shock.  Sheesh! Whether you are racing or cruising, the smart rider has both feet on the pedals, both hands on the bar, and both eyes on the trail at all times. Unfortunately, Jamis spec’d Rock Shox fork and shock models that are not remote lockout compatible. This is bad. So, to give yourself the ability to adjust the fork and shock performance on-the-fly without unsafe hand and eye movement, your options are: 1.) replace the fork and shock with remote lockout-compatible models; 2.) stop at the top of every gnarly drop, steep climb, or whoop-de-do trail section and fiddle with the three-position shock adjustment lever and fork adjustment knob; 3.) just ride with both the fork and shock set to the middle position (not too plush, not too stiff) all the time. None of these options are ideal, so choose the one that suits your riding style, tolerance level, and bank account.

Too crowded — For a REALLY wide handlebar, the 720 mm Crank Brothers Iodine 2 riser bar does not create a spacious cockpit.  The riser section of the bar seems crowded with the integrated SRAM XO shifter/Avid brake lever set up.  If you decide to convert the drivetrain to a 1X10, the loss of the front derailleur shifter will help clear up some of the cockpit clutter. The bike’s factory spec’d stem/handlebar and seat post/saddle combos may leave the rider feeling a bit more upright in their body position, especially if they are used to a lower position on the bike. To achieve a more aggressive body position on the bike, make the following adjustments: 1.) change the riser handlebars to flat handlebars; 2.) add a longer stem; 3.) add a seat post with some degree of setback.

DakarQuote4Too uncomfortable — Comfort and security are primary considerations for the points where the rider’s body comes in contact with the bike: the saddle, the handlebar, and the pedals.  A quality chamois pad, well-designed gloves, and good orthotics can help prevent ‘touch points’ from becoming ‘ouch points.’ However, even the best chamois pad or gloves cannot successfully manage discomfort caused by a saddle or handlebar grips that are not well-designed.  For the Dakar XCT 650 Team, Jamis spec’d the WTB Volt saddle and Jamis Lock-On grips. I highly recommend replacing both items before the second ride.  The WTB saddle is just too uncomfortable with its funky curvature, relief channel, big wings, and deep nose section. If you like calluses, the Jamis Lock-On grips will be perfect for you. The tiny rubber splines do nothing to dampen vibration and the grip locks constantly come loose (usually at the most inopportune time like when you are executing a dynamic out-of-the-saddle surge, powering the bike up and over consecutive rock ledges). Ugh. Take the Vow of Comfort and replace the WTB saddle and Jamis grips with a light, firm saddle and some spongy grips (with good locks).

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Ultimately, the Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Team has the body of an all-mountain/enduro bike and the soul of a cross country racing rig.  Straight from the factory, the bike is ready for all-day epics of twisty singletrack, rough fire road, steep climbs, and gnarly descents. With a few tweaks and componentry modifications, the bike can be converted into a worthy XC race rig that can handle almost anything.  Perhaps the best feature of the bike is its ability to be customized to fit the riding style of the owner.  Jamis gives you a great frame/shock/fork/ componentry package in its factory spec for the Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Team. To transform the bike from a top-end, off-the-shelf, all-rounder into your dream bike, all you need is patience, money, and a clear vision of what you want.  Is it too much bike?  For some minimalists like me, the answer is yes. Yet, for the vast majority of mountain bikers who want (or can only afford) one bike, the Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Team is the ideal blend of upper-end componentry and a mid-range price point.

 

About The Author

AMTBBioPicAaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team.  A 27-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.

Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work.  He has even been on the race podium a few times.

Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at: bikinguy@sbcglobal.net

 

 

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