THE DAKAR XCT IS JAMIS' TAKE ON THE 5-INCH, GO-ANYWHERE, do-anything, Downieville-style-of-riding bike. Jamis claims it descends as well as its bigger brother, the 6-inch XAM, and pedals like the company's cross-country race bikes.
The first of those claims proved valid—descending was this bike's strongest asset. The XCT's slackish 67.5-degree head angle helped the Jamis feel at home in steep, rocky situations. It's not a prance-around kind of rig—it wants to be mashed and bashed over the top of rocks, roots and logs. The low 12.9-inch bottom-bracket height makes the bike feel stable, but it also makes for frequent encounters between the pedals and the ground.
The 130-millimeter Marzocchi 44 ATA fork worked harmoniously with the Fox Float R rear shock. And though I could never get the travelindicator band to slide completely down the shock, I seldom felt the bike lacked any bit of 5 inches of travel. However, like many four-bar linkage bikes, the back end stiffened under hard braking.
On the trail, the bike felt anything but twitchy. The low bottom bracket and 15-millimeter front axle helped keep it stable and sure through corners, and the Stick-E compound Nevegal tires hooked up to just about every type of dirt.
When the trail turned upward, however, the hefty 1,200-gram wire-bead tires made themselves known. My first upgrade to this bike would be to drop nearly 2 pounds off the 32-pound weight by switching to foldingbead versions.
Beyond just the choice of tires, the XCT fell short of its promised climbing prowess. Running the Marzocchi 44 ATA fork in its lowest, 100-millimeter-travel setting, combined with the low bottom bracket and long stock stem, helped the bike track straight and true. But when climbing out of the saddle, the XCT bobbed quite a bit. A Fox RP23, or another rear shock with more "platform" damping, would help.
Still, you can't have it all for nothing, and what this bike lacks in sophisticated suspension it more than makes up for with smart and solid parts. Shifter and derailleur duties are taken care of by a combination of Deore, SLX and XT components, and reliable Avid Juicy Three brakes. The low points of the spec, though not uncommon for the price, are the nonexternal bearing Shimano cranks, which flexed under power.
The XCT is a bike that can be ridden all day and into the night, and the best part is that you don't have to work nights to afford it. For an economical all-rounder, the XCT is a hard bike to beat.