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On The Pedals

The Daily Grind

Over The Bars

Bike Review: Jamis Dakar XLT 2.0
By MBT Staff

Bang For Your Buck

Bang for the buck. At $2,100 the Jamis Dakar XLT 2.0 goes easy on the wallet but tough on the terrain.
The Specs:
Our medium sized Kinesium alloy Jamis Dakar XLT 2.0 frame arrived in the following configuration: Up front our Dakar came equipped with a Manitou Minute 2:00, SPV, 100-130mm adjustable travel with lockout. Rear squish is the result of a Manitou Swinger Air SPV 4-way shock mounted up to a swing-link frame design.
Wheel duties broke down as follows: Mavic XM317 disc rims and Shimano Deore XT front and rear disc hubs wrapped in Hutchinson Spider 26 x 2.30”rubber. Shimano provided Deore XT derailleurs and Deore Rapidfire-SL, 27-speed shifters as well as an HG-73 chain. TruVativ was responsible for the Fire-X SL cranks and Giga-X (external bearing) bottom bracket. Finally braking duty was handled by Hayes HFX-9 hydraulic disc (7 inch rotors in the front, 6 inches rear). The complete bike weighed in at a tad shy of 33 pounds.

The Story:
We here at MBT like to think we’re connected. Of course this is the real world and that means even our best-laid plans often fall apart with little to no warning. We approached Jamis with an offer to test one of their off-road models sometime last year and while they appeared receptive over the phone lines, the procedure never actually developed. Now here it is early March and one of the local bike dealers finally happens to have an 06 Dakar XLT 2.0 on the floor available for our sampling; the very model we were hoping Jamis would let us borrow in the first place. Score!
Why is this relevant? Well, you're likely going to find the XLT on clearance somewhere, and while this was a real deal from the get go, knock 10% off it and you'll find a gem of a bike for less than the cost of most gems.

Swinging. The Swinger SPV 4-way is chock full of switches, levers, and dials. Don't let it intimidate you. Take the time to set it up correctly and the rewards will follow.

The Walk Around
The Dakar has always managed to peak our curiosity as it hints to a certain unspoken confidence in all of the photos we’ve ever studied of it. Beholding the bike in person only exemplifies this sensation. The frame spars are very sturdy with clean welds holding them in place. The geometry appears to have been well thought out and the component mix is simply the icing on the cake. However, we remind you again that this is the real world and sometimes beautiful bikes equate to trouble on the trail while the ugliest clunkers can just as easily surprise the experts. The Dakar XLT passed the initial inspection but we intended to seek the limits of the bike’s traits out in the real world.

Climbing On
The stretched out look of the chassis vanishes the moment you straddle the bike and reach out for the bars. The relationship between the saddle and the grips is such that the rider isn’t hunkered over or even partially extended. The short cockpit is surprisingly comfortable and very well suited for flicking the bike around or tackling tight, technical runs. We fooled around with a wide variety of settings but ultimately wound up running the Manitou Minute 2:00 at its full 5.1 inches of travel in effort to balance the bike out (as the shock provided 5 inches of rear travel as well). The fully extended fork compensated for the tighter cockpit layout and provided the bike with a very level feel.

On the trail our initial impressions were proven correct. For a five inch travel bike, the Manitou Swinger 4-way is simply dazzling. A high mounted swing link and a very functional pedaling platform results in none of the bob and weave usually associated with five inches of rear squish. The rear wheel path is designed to arc upward and forward upon wheel impact, which is quite effective at absorbing trail clutter without compressing on account of pedal feedback. Jamis wisely left a lot of room between the rear wheel and the seat post, which will come in handy when the going gets rough. At its fully extended setting, the Minute 2:00 was equally trail worthy although the solid performing fork wasn’t quite able to steal the show away from the rear. The fork did however impress all of our testers by remaining active enough to iron out even the smallest trail junk with plenty of travel in reserve to eat up both moderate drops and square-edge hits. Take the time to work with the suspension dials and the Dakar will reward you for the effort. A rider with a bit of savvy will find a lot to appreciate here.

Jamis Dakar XLT 2.0
Frame Kinesium alloy, 18"
Fork Manitou Minute 2:00 SPV (100-130mm)
Shock Manitou Swinger Air SPV 4-way(100mm)
Wheels Shimano XT/Mavic XM317
Tires Hitchinson Spider 2.3"
Brakes/Brake Levers Hayes HFX-9 Hydraulic
Crankset/BB Truvativ Fire-X SL/Gigapipe External
Cassette SRAM PG950 (11-34)
Shifters Shimano Deore
Derailleurs (F&R) Shimano XT/Shimano XT
Contact Jamis Bikes

Climbing was a pretty hitch-less affair on the XLT so long is the rider is prepared to be reminded that this is an all-mountain design instead of a feather-weight cross country race bike once the ground begins to slope. The weight of the bike can manage to ride a little high in the chassis so familiarize yourself with that travel adjustment dial on the fork. Spin it all the way down to its 3.9 inch minimum when gravity begins to take its toll and then keep spinning those cranks. We were able to power our way up some pretty steep inclines on account of the adjustable travel feature.

Coming back down is a little more to the Dakar’s liking. Here the scope of having five full inches of travel beneath you really comes into its own. The chassis holds true and rigid without clunking or clattering. Just remember to spin that dial back out before blast-off. In its lowest setting the front end will be far too twitchy to attempt descent.

We are no stranger to the Hayes HFX 9 setup. In fact these brakes are the stoppers that have graced 99% of every test bike we’ve had the pleasure of riding. After a few solid days of using them to scrub away speed, the reason for this statistic becomes clear. The HFX offer effective modulation and very minimal maintenance. You’ll come to appreciate the oversized front rotor the first time things get hairy on that descent you followed the downhill guys on (stoppie fans will also delight).

So What Do We Think?
The Jamis Dakar XLT 2.0 is a two grand bike that could easily become a do-it-all rig if you happen to ride a certain type of terrain. What is that type of terrain you ask? Well it is exactly the type of terrain behind MBT headquarters: Tight, technical, cluttered, switch-backed, hilly singletrack. The Dakar likes to slam and jam. Pick a line (even the tightest inside one is fine) and keep spinning. Don’t sweat the details, the XLT will carve the switchback without a hint of complaint. On the flip side, riders who find themselves conquering fast flowing, wide-open fire road style terrain will probably be better suited to something lighter or a little more cross country ergonomically designed (meaning stretched out further).

Bring on your roots, rocks, and tight switchbacks and allow the Dakar to do its thing. Best of all, the price will leave enough dough left over in your checking account to toss that new set of riding gear you’ve been drooling over into the basket as well.

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