14The new 2022 Focus JAM 8.9 is the brand’s latest addition to its 150mm-travel all-mountain trail bike range.
The German brand has taken its updated JAM 6-Series bikes released in 2021 and added a new carbon front triangle with some neat frame storage features to make up its latest JAM 8-Series bikes.
Focus has kept the same design theory for this new JAM model. The brand believes a fun bike is the best bike.
Focus JAM 8.9 frame and suspension
The new JAM 8.9 looks very similar to the recently launched aluminium JAM 6-Series bike, with the new model getting a carbon front triangle, marking this as the most significant update to the bike.
Otherwise, it shares the same geometry and suspension platform, and the 7005 aluminium rear stays.
The main feature of the new carbon front triangle is its ICS (Internal Compartment Solution). This uses a push-button cover to seal a cut-out in the down tube, which provides tool bag storage. Here, you can stash your spares and multi-tool, so you’re never without them if they’re needed on the trail.
While not a frame feature, Focus uses its CIS (Cockpit Integration System) stem.
This threads the cables through the stem and down through the head tube before being routed internally through the frame.
Focus uses this to keep a neat and tidy-looking cockpit. Changing your stem is possible, but you need to buy an ACROS headset cap that enables you to thread cables through it because there are no cable ports in the frame.
This feature is shared across many of the bikes in Focus’s range, including the Thron 6.9 we’ve also reviewed.
Inside the carbon front triangle, there’s space for a bottle cage. Other details include a press-fit bottom bracket, boost rear-hub spacing and 180mm post-mount brake mount, and decent-looking chainstay protection.
With its updated FOLD kinematics, Focus has done away with its old two-phase leverage curve, which was most supple at the sag point.
Now, the new design has a constant progressive leverage curve for a better-supported mid-stroke and stronger ramp-up at the end-stroke.
This has been done to create a more playful ride feel on the trail and better bottom-out resistance for bigger hits.
Focus has also changed the shock position from vertical to horizontally mounted under the top tube, meaning it could lower the standover height of the frames. That should give riders more space to move the bike around on the trail.
The shock is mounted to the frame using bearings, which Focus claims should give the best sensitivity to the suspension.
Focus JAM 8.9 geometry
The JAM Series bikes have a flip chip where the shock is connected to the yoke. This enables you to choose between a high and low setting to tailor the bike geometry to your preference.
In the low setting, the JAM 8.9 sports a 65-degree head tube angle and 76-degree effective seat tube angle. Focus is keen to point out that it measures the effective seat tube angle at 750mm from the bottom bracket, which it believes to be a realistic riding saddle height. That’s done to show a practical seat tube angle.
These values are pretty much middle ground these days for trail bikes. As is the reach on the medium frame, which is 450mm. The bike uses snappy 435mm chainstays and a seat tube length of 420mm.
The JAM 8.9 is relatively low with a 30mm bottom-bracket drop.
Changing the flip chip from the low position to the high position steepens the head and seat tube angle by 0.5 degrees, lengthens the reach by 5mm and lifts the bottom bracket 6mm.
Focus JAM 8.9 specifications
The kit on the JAM 8.9 is well thought-out and very reasonable for the price. It features a Fox 36 Performance GRIP fork and Fox Float X Performance shock. While they aren’t the brand’s most high-spec or adjustable units, they are very capable.
You get full Shimano Deore XT gearing for the drivetrain with just a Shimano SLX cassette downgrade. This is matched with Shimano XT M8120 brakes, with 203mm rotors front and rear.
The wheelset consists of DT Swiss M1900 wheels with Maxxis Minion DHF 3C MaxxGrip EXO TR 29×2.5in WT front and Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ TR 29×2.4in WT rear tyres.
There’s a Race Face Chester 35 handlebar and Focus CIS stem, and you also get a Post Moderne dropper post and Proxim W350 saddle. My medium test bike weighed in at 15.73kg without pedals.
Focus JAM 8.9 ride impressions
I rode this bike around the UK’s south west region and South Wales.
During the autumn months I had the bike, trail and weather conditions were mixed, but overall the trails were good. I had no real setup issues with the bike and kept it in its more aggressive low setting.
Focus JAM 8.9 climbing performance
There’s no getting around the fact that the JAM 8.9 is hefty for its 150mm of travel at close to 16kg.
But judging this bike on its weight would be missing the point. It’s been designed for fun and reliability.
Still, its effective seat tube angle puts you in a strong position over the bottom bracket for winching up climbs, so you’re in a good position for pedalling.
With the reach numbers not too stretched out, I was sat comfortably on the bike and could grind my way up most hills at my own pace. On more technical terrain, traction with the rear wheel was good, and it never felt like a chore to lean over the front to weight the front wheel on steeper climbs.
The suspension is sensitive, but there is a fair amount of pedal bob. For longer drags on smooth fire roads, I used the shock’s climb lever to firm up the rear end and maximise efficiency. With the shock positioned under the top tube, it’s easy to reach.
If you’re looking for climbing KOMs, I’d look elsewhere, but the JAM 8.9 will get you to the top of the trail in comfort, and on the downs is where it comes alive.
Focus JAM 8.9 descending performance
Focus hit the nail on the head if it was aiming for a fun bike. While the geometry isn’t boundary-pushing, it makes the handling of the bike’s 29in wheels great. The short 435mm stays help keep the bike agile, and I found it happy to carve from one turn to the next without tons of rider input.
The 65-degree head-tube angle helps here and offers precise steering characteristics while still enabling you to feel confident when the trails get rowdier.
The 450mm reach on my medium test bike certainly added to the bike’s lively feel. However, with the short seat tubes, you should be able to size up if you want more stability.
Suspension-wise, the new FOLD platform offered a very active rear end that kept the rear tyre in contact with the ground well. This was noticeable through chunky trails and under braking, where the bike remained very composed.
The JAM 8.9 offered mid-stoke support, enough to add a little pop to its character, but was still comfortable using its travel.
This stable suspension blended well with the agile handling, resulting in an exciting bike. You can use its manoeuvrability to your advantage and to change lines on the trail with ease, knowing the grip and control is there and the bike doesn’t feel skittish underneath you.
Suspension progression was good, and I never had any harsh bottom-out instances when getting carried away with what this bike can do.
I found the 150mm-travel forks more limiting than the 150mm rear end, where the performance of the rear suspension could undoubtedly take more abuse than the forks.
Of course, you could add longer-travel forks, but then you start turning the bike into something more enduro-focused.
That said, the Fox 36 Performance, with its GRIP damper, is a very good fork and it suits this bike well.
The kit on the bike didn’t present any issues when testing, and it’s all well-proven. The Shimano XT brakes and 203mm rotors provide plenty of power, and the Deore XT 1×12 is another proven performer.
DT Swiss wheels and Maxxis tyres are another combination that is hard to fault.
I liked the addition of the MaxxGrip compound on the front. Sure, it adds drag when pedalling, but it adds a lot more grip on the downs, which is where you’ll get the most from the JAM 8.9
The Focus CIS stem didn’t cause me any headaches, but I’m not sure it is necessary. Still, I didn’t have to change or alter anything with it during testing. So, if the handlebar height and stem length suit you, it’s all good. Otherwise, just remember you’ll need to purchase a new headset cap to change stems.
If trail riding for you is all about kilometre counting, the JAM 8.9 probably isn’t the best mountain bike for you.
However, if riding is about heading to the woods with your friends and lapping out your favourite trails at your own pace, where fun and thrills are top of your list, with well-performing parts, the Focus is a good choice.
Focus JAM 8.9 bottom line
The Focus JAM 8.9 is a lot of fun to ride. Its geometry has done a good job of making a 29er bike feel playful while keeping it confidence-inspiring on steeper trails. This is helped by the active rear suspension that soaks up chunky terrain, yet still gets some pop when needed.
Focus has found an excellent balancing act that translates to trail enjoyment. So long as you aren’t in a rush up the hills.