By Joe Parkin
Jamis Dakar XCT 4
$6,300 / jamisbikes.com
Before testing the Dakota D29 hardtail for this year's Bible of Bike Tests, I hadn't climbed aboard one of Jamis' offerings for a long time. In fact, the last time I can remember goes all the way back to when this magazine was a toddling two-year old. I enjoyed the company's hardtail 29er so much that I jumped at the chance to see what they're capable of in the full-squish department. Jamis did not disappoint.
Like the Dakota D29, the Dakar XCT 4 comes with an extremely impressive component spec: Fox Racing Shox 32 TALAS FIT RLC in front, a Fox RP23 in back, SRAM X0 cranks, derailleurs, bottom bracket, cassette and brakes, American Classic All Mountain wheel set and a Crankbrothers Joplin 4R dropper post. It's like the product managers at Jamis built the bike they wanted to ride instead of using mix-matched parts in order to save a few bucks. I didn't feel the need to swap out any of the parts—not a single one.
The 2011 Dakar XCT carbon-fiber frame is lightweight, to be sure. Jamis claims it tips the scales at a scant 4.3 pounds, which is nigh on incredible. As a complete bike, our size extra-large, 21-inch test model weighed in at 27.1 pounds with a pair of Crankbrothers Candy 3 pedals and a bit of dried mud still stuck to it. Impressive, for sure.
But more impressive than its lack of weight is the frame's new design and rear-suspension performance. For starters, the bottom-bracket area is absolutely massive, and the rear "triangle" has been given some pretty substantial stiffness-enhancing tweaks as well. The Jamis sports a new rocker link and repositioned rear shock mount (it is now lower on the downtube). The company's marketing materials refer to the Dakar XCT's mp4 rear-suspension characteristics as "slightly rising rate" and that it gives a "near-bottomless feel". This is one case in which marketing speak doesn't lie—the XCT's 130 millimeters feel like a lot more than that.
While there's definitely a noticeable bit of bob when you're putting the wood to the pedals, I didn't feel like all of my efforts were making the suspension bob up and down. Instead, the Jamis scooted along as fast as I wanted it to go. And once pointed downhill, it was easy to aim this bike at rough stuff, just to see how well it would handle itself. Its grade? A-plus, with an extra gold star.
If this bike has a weak point, it is the very front of the front triangle. Weight savings sometimes come at the expense of stiffness, and that’s true here. The Jamis is no noodle, but it doesn't possess the nearly flex-free steering traits that we've enjoyed on some models in this class. At first I was less than impressed, but a few rides showed me the error of my assumptions. This is one bike that I'm still testing, despite being done with the test.