Sunday, February 10, 2013

2013 Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Pro Review


I love riding new bikes. The sharp lines, gloss paint and cutting edge technology is always fun to play with. My brother Kevin, Terri and myself have test ridden bikes from Specialized, Rocky Mountain, Scott and Kona so when Jamis announced that it was doing a Demo at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve, we marked our calendar. It was a chance to learn about the latest craze in mountain biking.

Remember two years ago when 29ers became all the wonder and suddenly top pros were winning World Cup races on them left and right? Terri and I even went to a talk with Gary Fisher where he predicted that the 29er would take over the world of mountain biking making the 26" irrelevant. He was almost right. 29ers did catch on with all the major producers but what Mr. Fisher did not see coming was the rise of the 27.5 inch tires otherwise known as the 650B.


The mountain bike companies slowly accepted the success of the 29er but some of them projected that if huge tires can produce grand results for the Pros than a mid sized tire could provide a happy medium for the rest of us. Jamis, Scott, KHS and Rocky Mountain are leading that revolution. They might be right but let's not assume anything, let's test it.

I should explain that I am a stubborn hold out on all things new - I don't ride with clips (Or clipless if you prefer), I don't use tubeless goo, I don't crosstrain on a road bike and I still love my 26 inch tires. If there was one person who requires a lot of convincing it would be me. So, we decided to give the new tire size a try and see what happens.


Terri and I got the opportunity to ride the 2013 Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Pro. This beefy all mountain rig has full suspension, equip with SRAM X-O components, a Rock Shox Revelation fork and some wide Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires. It looks like a bike that belongs on a mountain trail but falls short of being considered an enduro.

On the ultra flat Carlton Reserve trails Terri and I set out to explore in low gears. At first we kept the shocks wide open and jokingly bounced on the ultra plush 130mm fork and Monarch rear shock. After about a mile we switched over to Pro-pedal which immediately secured our stability and pedaling power. We rolled through the trails as if there was nothing on ground. Debris, pig holes, roots, all of them swallowed up by the tires and suspension.

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After five miles of weaving through the woods we both agreed on a few ideas. This was a much smoother ride than our hardtails could ever accomplish. We agreed that even though the bikes were beefy, they didn't feel any heavier than our own (27.75pds). More importantly we continued to forget that we were on bigger tires and this is where the future of the 650B might be spelled out.

When riding a 29er your mind focuses on the size of the tire, you are reminded that this rubber beast is staying on the ground and thus you sacrifice a little maneuverability. Here is where the new cliche is ringing true. When riding a 650 you really do get the best of both worlds. It's a smoother ride on a larger tire but the difference between 26 and 27.5 is so subtle that you don't sense that you are losing anything.

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As for the 2013 Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Pro, the $4,800. price tag is enough to scare me away. In addition, it has more suspension and braking then I will ever need as a Florida off road rider. I loved the 2 by 10 gearing set, the WTB seat and even the Crank Brothers extras were eye catching. However, for that price I would expect it to be four pounds lighter or made of carbon fiber.

The Dakar XCT 650 Pro is an all rounder for those who don't race. It is tough enough to handle technical terrain but remains light enough for long explorations. It is for the recreational rider who has some extra coin to spend on a stylish yet comfortable bike.


At 40 years old I no longer have the desire to leave the earth when riding but I also don't want to be permanently grounded. The in between is a tire size that takes the rattle from your bones but can also fit in your hatchback. The larger tire size reduces the need for more suspension but doesn't burden you with unnecessary weight. If there is a church of 650B you might as well sign me up.

I can't argue with the benefits or the ride and I don't see any drawbacks. While this particular bike might not be my cup of tea, you can bet that I'll be looking to save some pennies for this possibility in the future. I'll probably be able to afford one right around the time that 26ers go out of style.


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