Jamis Dakar XAM II
Price Range: $2,750 – $4,975
Weight: 34.3 lbs
+ SRAM X.0
+ 36 TALAS RC2
+ Elixir CR
Jamis made some welcomed revisions to its popular XAM platform for 2010. The bike's headtube angle has been slackened by a half-degree to 68 degrees--still on the steep side compared to other bikes in the category--and the toptube was lowered for better standover height.
Instead of using complicated suspension linkages, Jamis kept with tried-and-true four-bar design, and concentrated on other details. The bike has a full-length seat-tube for maximum seatpost adjustability, the suspension pivots rotate on oversized sealed bearings for reliable stiffness and massive, ovalized tubes add a ton of rigidity--in fact, this was one of the stiffest bikes in the category.
Swinging a leg over the Jamis, the first thing we noticed was the long stem and narrow bar, which made the bike feel twitchy on even mild descents. The remaining parts were spot-on. The HammerSchmidt cranks worked well with the frame's low pivot point, and we weren't able to detect any funky pedal feedback. SRAM's X.0 group took care of the rest of the transmission, and Avid Elixir CR brakes provided smooth and solid braking. The Fox 36 TALAS RC2 performed flawlessly and complemented the rear, and the Joplin seat post was a nice bonus.
Once we swapped for wider bars and shorter stem, the XAM proved a worthy ride. It thrived best in twisty trails riddled with techy moves and small drops. Though the steep headtube angle felt a little twitchy on high-speed terrain, the short 22.6-inch toptube on our 19-inch test bike made for easy maneuvering. And the bike--with its stiff frame and smooth, linear suspension--loved big hits.
Bottom Line: An all-around beast best suited for slow, tight, technical trails