Jones Plus SWB Complete Review: Less $, Jones Magic
Once the domain of the fully fledged bike nerd, Jones’ Plus SWB Complete has opened up a very distinctive bike to a far broader audience. After spending half a year riding one, Cass Gilbert reports on his findings…
For the longest time, Jeff Jones’s distinctive titanium bikes – noted for their eye catching truss fork and curvy spaceframes – have been largely sidelined to the domain of the well versed ‘bike nerd’. Jones enthusiasts have always waxed lyrical about these odd looking machines and their uncanny ability to float over jumbles of rocks, whilst Jeff Jones himself has long promised a ride that elevates the potential of the humble, fully rigid mountain bike. But at a time when most riders have switched to front or full suspension rigs for their mountain biking needs, a Jones bike always came at a price so high, that only those who truly subscribe to rhetoric have been prepared to experiment. With few bikes available to demo, investing in one always felt like a leap of faith.
- Angles (LG): 69° Head tube, 72° Seat tube
- Chainstay: 449mm
- Bottom Bracket: 68mm BSA threaded
- Hub specs: 15 x 150mm front / 12 x 148mm rear
- Seatpost Diameter: 27.2mm
- Max tire size: 27.5 x 3″ or 29 x 2.3-2.8″ tires
- Price (complete): $1,799
More recently, these idiosyncratic bikes have steadily become accessible to a wider audience, thanks to a shift from US-made titanium tubing to manufacturing steel frames in Taiwan. And whilst the secret sauce – Jones’ trend-bucking geometry – has remained largely the same, the bikes themselves have become more conventional looking too. This includes the introduction of a more affordable diamond frame and recently, unicrown forks to match. Two years ago, I reviewed the Jones Plus (since renamed Jones Plus Long Wheel Base) and I absolutely loved it: I’d never ridden such a capable yet comfortable fully rigid bike, be it on my local trails, or for long distance bikepacking. Big, long, and unconventional looking, somehow it just works. Yet, whilst these Taiwan-made Chromoly frames certainly piqued the interest of a broader audience, their price point remained lofty enough to maintain the reputation of their owners as relative outliers.
Jones doesn’t list full geometry charts for the SWB Complete, probably due to its very unconventional numbers – for instance its ‘reach’, one of the data points used to size a bike, is considerably shorter than other brands. Instead, there are three height recommendations for the Jones Plus SWB Complete, with accompanying standover clearances. If in doubt, give Jones a ring them to discuss the finer details.
Small: Ride height 5’–5’8″ (152cm-177cm). Standover at center of top tube is 29″ (74cm).
Medium: Rider height 5’7″–6’2″ (174cm-189cm). Standover at center of top tube is 30.5″ (77.5cm).
Large: Rider height 6′–6’6″ (183cm-202cm). Standover at center of top tube is 32″ (81cm).
If you’re between two sizes, I’d be inclined to suggest sizing up for bikepacking, where a larger framebag size is preferable.
All sizes of the Jones Plus SWB have a 69° head tube angle, and a 72° effective seat tube angle. The chainstays are 17.68″ (449mm) from bb to axle center. Here are the various wheelbases for the SWB:
Small: 41.9″ (1066mm)
Medium: 42.98″ (1091.72mm)
Large: 44.05″ (1118.95mm)
Last summer, Jones announced the $1800 Plus SWB Complete, the company’s first ready to ride model. To help cut costs over the standard $1450+ frame and truss fork, the Complete sports a diamond frame and a unicrown that are a little different in their manufacturing process and finishing details. Combined with a more humble build kit than most Jones customers would previously have considered, the net result is a bike priced well within the sights of completes from brands like Surly, opening it up to a completely new market.
Potted history lesson over… Despite a recent naming refresh, the Jones world and the options available within it remain complicated (just try navigating the site), even if they’ve now been more standardised in terms of sizing, of which there are three available for the SWB. Briefly, the Jones Plus Short Wheel Base Complete is only available with a diamond frame and unicrown fork, but it’s also available as frameset with a steel truss fork ($1350). There’s a well-made aftermarket unicrown fork (a very costly $350), but you’ll need to buy it in addition to the frameset, rather than a substitution. The forks include triple mount eyelets for an Anything-style Cage. Cleverly, the lowest also doubles up for a Tubus Duo low rider front rack, so you can still run water bottles too, though it doesn’t have crown eyelets to mount Surly’s basket-friendly 8-pack. I’d add that one reason I’m a fan of the unicrown fork is that it’s easier to remove than the prettier truss alternative, which can be useful when boxing or bagging the bike.
There are also some more subtle differences between the frameset and the complete bike. Both have the same provision for a rear rack and adjustability in what model you use, though the complete SWB has a simpler dropout, which is a little heavier. The tubing isn’t heat treated, which also comes at a small weight penalty. Perhaps most importantly, it lacks the frameset’s eccentric bottom bracket, a device that allows the chain to be tensioned without a derailleur, and the bottom bracket height to be adjusted too. This means the Complete can’t be set up easily as a singlespeed – occasionally, a useful fix in the backcountry – nor can it accommodate a Rohloff hub. And, the pedal height can’t be tweaked depending on tire size and riding style, road riding and rocky singletrack being the two extremes where you might want to make changes. In terms of overall weight, the two frames are likely similar, the heavier dropout and tubing offset by the lack of EBB.
Aside from this, both are largely the same and hard to tell apart, colors aside. Certainly, they’re identical in the all-important Jeff Jones geometry numbers. Hence sharing the same name – SWB – which happens to be something of a misnomer. After all, ‘Short Wheel Base’ is very much relative because, at 449mm in chainstay length, it’s still relatively long by most standards, and longer than the original Jones 29er on which it’s based. By way of example, a Surly ECR has about the same length chainstay, and a Karate Monkey over 26mm less. It is, however, some 30mm shorter than its big brother, the 29+ LWB, and shorter in overall wheelbase, as the name suggests.
Like other Jones bikes, the SWB’s distinctive geometry is really what really sets this bike apart from almost anything else out there. Being such a different way of looking at things, I’m wary of the value of overly deconstructing this bike. But one of the most obvious examples to quote, for those who like to get granular with their numbers, is the 55mm rake of its fork. The frame also sports a shorter-than-expected top tube, compared to similarly sized bikes. The bottom bracket drop is a whole 76mm (offset in part by 170mm cranks) and a discussed, the chain stays are relatively long. By themselves, the numbers don’t necessarily make much sense and are even rather confusing, being very much at odds with modern trends. Put them together and a certain Jones magic reveals itself, especially when teamed with the bike’s handlebars, which sport a very generous 45-degree backsweep. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what’s happening, but in my mind, the low trail lends the bike a very precise feeling in the way it steers, while the long wheelbase and low bottom bracket give it a real sense of stability, which can most be felt on rough, chunky descents. The long wheelbase, short cockpit, and shape of the handlebar also mean you can shift around the bike, fore and aft, without the front wheel popping up, or the rear wheel slipping out. I found myself cleaning technical climbs that would otherwise have defeated me.
Importantly, a short cockpit encourages riders to make the most of all the hand positions afforded by these peculiar-looking bars. Whilst their backsweep serves to reduce pressure on the wrists and place hands in a very natural position, the real benefit to these bars is the variety of useable positions they offer when combined with the bike’s geometry. I’d consider them on par with a drop handlebar setup in this regard, but without the compromised braking. Scoot forward, and you’re naturally in a better position for a more aero, efficient body shape, to the point you can even lay your arms across them (though it’s not something I generally do). Place your hands mid-length down the grips, and you’ll find a nice, general riding position for trail riding. Slide back, and you’ll technical descents become less daunting. These distinct positions are, to me, the core of the Jones genius formula. Yes, you can try and replicate this feeling by fitting the Jones bars to other bikes. But it won’t be quite the same, because the bars are specifically designed to work in conjunction with the rest of the bike. It’s for this reason that the SWB bike comes with the brakes levers positioned butted up at the join; place them anywhere else and you’re be denying yourself the full potential of the handlebars, which often happens when fitting these bars to bikes with long top tubes.
Which brings us onto the ride. Similar to the words I wrote on the LWB review, the SWB’s upright riding position is likely the most noticeable difference to anyone hopping on the bike for the first time. And it is very upright, to the point that my racy friends even laughed at me! To Jeff Jones, comfort and performance have always been considered on par, rather than sacrificing one for the other. It’s a view I subscribe to, because a comfortable bike helps you ride longer and most likely puts you in a better mood. The next surprise follows shortly after: for such a comfortable bike, the SWB has an unexpectedly fast, precise, and intuitive feel to its steering. No doubt about it, this bike is a delight to ride on twisty woodland trails. Head for the hills and another layer to its riding character reveals itself. Thanks to a low bottom bracket, a long wheelbase, and a geometry dedicated around a fully rigid bike (it’s not suspension compatible) the front end stays tacked to the ground, even on steep climbs, with rarely a loss of grip on the back tyre either. I found I was able to stay seated for longer, without needing to lower my chin to the bars, which makes steep and loose inclines much more controlled. Then, point it downhill, and the SWB feels planted and stable, as the bike’s large volume, low-pressure tires, combined with its long wheelbase and extra fork offset, reduce the feeling of tipping over the handlebars.
Over the last six months, I’ve used this bike in every way I believe a typical SWB Complete customer would likely do: as a mountain bike for cross country trails, on dirt road overnighters, and for commuting. I’ve ridden a 700km gravel tour in Spain, a chunk of which was paved. I’ve taken it on local, desert trails in New Mexico. I’ve raced around rooty, woodland trails in Bristol, UK, where the addition of a dropper post (a budget Brand-X offering from Chain Reaction Cycles) helped me hang in there with my fast local friends on their mid-travel hardtails. Most recently, it was the bike I chose for a family tour through France and the Basque Country, where I hauled gear for multi-day bikepacking rides with my 6-year-old son.
This bike excels at all of the above, to the point that I can’t really see a way to improve it… bar one downside, for my own style of riding at least. Given that I have a preference for wide, downhill-style flat pedals, I did find ground clearance noticeably low across terrain that was either very rocky or rooty. It was something I was able to adapt to, mostly. But it did make me think that if 3.0″ tyres fall out of favour, for any reason, I expect it will be too low for mountain biking with 2.8s. Luckily the frame has clearances for ‘wide trail’ 29 x 2.6″ tyres, which would bump it back up again.
I’ll run through the parts of the rest of the bike, though bear in mind that at $1800, there’s nothing high end. I’ve tried Tektro’s barebones MD-M300 mechanicals on several cheaper Surly models and whilst they’re not as refined as more expensive brakes like Sram’s BB7s, they stop the bike well. I do, however, have a couple of issues with them. Whilst the inside pad can be easily adjusted with an Allen key, the outside pad relies on the brake barrel itself, which means that eventually, you’ll have to loosen off the cable bolt to pull in any slack. This tends to result in fraying the cable ends over time. The brakes also come without rubber ‘boots’ to protect them from water ingress. Over the winter, the rear – positioned along the chainstay – seized in sub-freezing temperatures. Tip: run brake cable housing with Tri-Flow. The SWB Complete comes with larger than standard 200/180mm rotors, front and rear. This offers improved braking, but I also found them more prone to bending during transit; make sure you remove them if you’re flying with the bike.
Compared to the competition, the 10-speed drivetrain feels dated, even if shifting itself has been very good. The range (22.1″ to 84.1″), however, just isn’t enough for mountainous bikepacking. It’s too high for a route like the Colorado Trail for instance, and I struggled with it on family touring trips too. The easiest fix is to replace the 11-42T Sunrace cassette with an 11-46T version, though 10-speed options are limited; Sunrace’s MX3 should work without needing to replace the rear derailleur. Durability wise, the bottom bracket is still going strong after several months of use over the winter, spring, and into summer. Due to the 104 BCD crank spec, you won’t be able to run a chainring that’s smaller than a 30T, and in the interests of versatility, you probably won’t want to either, as you’ll be spinning out on the road. Related, here’s another observation: the positioning of the eyelets under the downtube and the 32T chainring means there’s only just clearance for Ron King’s excellent Manything Cages and a 1.9l Klean Canteen. Lining them up a touch higher would have been better, as this particular combination rules out a 34T chainring. And whilst we’re on the subject of H2O hauling, there are no water bottle eyelets on the seat tube, so a partial framebag setup (like a wedge) won’t do unless it runs the length of the top tube.
I should, however, come clean and admit the Jones Plus Complete SWB seen in many of these photos has seen a significant upgrade, beyond a saddle or seat post change. Halfway through my testing period, I was sent a set of Carbon C-Rims, shod with Schwalbe 2.8 G-One tires. Up until this time, I have to admit that whilst I recognised the bike’s versatility, I simply didn’t see it as a viable gravel or road bike – it just lacked the punchy feel on pavement. After my first ride, I had to eat my words. For road and gravel use, this wheelset completely transformed the SWB, to the point that the longing feeling I’d experienced for a winter gravel bike largely dissipated. Combined with the variety of hand positions on tap, and how easy to it to slip into an aero tuck, the SWB felt incredibly fast and sure-footed on open roads. Sure, it’s still a heavy bike overall, especially by comparison. But that wheel change made a 1150g (3.4lbs) saving over the stock wheels, most of which is rotational, helping make up the weight difference in the place that matters most. Combined with a beautifully smooth rolling DT hub, I felt like I was flying.
Now, I’m not unaware of the irony of fitting a $2000+ wheelset to an $1800 dollar bike. But considering a fairly large proportion of the weight saving is in the tires alone, I think you’d get a good way there by simply swapping out the original Maxxis Chronicles. And what they will do is provide a great insight into how versatile this bike is. I ended up keeping the G-Ones on the bike for some time, as I found them adequate for light mountain biking duties and excellent for almost everything else, serving to transform the SWB into a very capable commuting bike too, fearless of tramlines, gutters, and potholes. This has been my very first experience of carbon rims and I’ll review them separately, as a deep discussion is outside the confines of this post – suffice to say that I’ve now updated my ideas of a dream bike build.
The double-walled stock wheels are very similar, visually, to WTB’s Scrapers. I didn’t find them nearly as easy to set up tubeless, though perhaps it was the brand of tires I was trying them with. On a similar note, the Complete’s Maxxis Chronicles – good tires in themselves – are non-tubeless ready. Potential punctures aside, riders will be forced to run them with higher air pressures and lose some of the benefits of a plus size tire. For day to day riding, I found myself running them at around 12 psi, and that’s not something I’d be comfortable doing with tubes; I’d far prefer to pay the extra cost up front than having to change them straight away, which is exactly what I had to do, immediately, for the riding in goathead-mined New Mexico. This is why the images in this review feature the bike with various other tires – I’ve included a Jones studio photo below as a reference point for what it looks like out of the box, in the size I tested.
Of course, tire choice is also tricky, especially on a bike that’s so versatile. I’d still recommend Maxxis’s Chronicle as a good all-rounder, though I’d favour moving towards setting it up with two more distinct alternatives – like Schwalbe’s 27.5 x 3.0″ Nobby Nics for mountain biking and 27.5 x 2.8″ G-Ones for dirt touring and commuting – to reap the most benefit of the bike’s true potential, even if changing tubeless tires is a bit of a pain. Of course, you could buy a second wheelset, but don’t forget the 150mm front end, chosen for the resulting strength in the wheel and the ability to run a ‘fat front’, is going to rule out any cheap, off-the-peg options. And bear in mind that it also means you’ll need to invest in a more specialist dynamo hub, and a replacement will harder to source in the unlikely event of a front hub failure on a long distance tour. I’d also mention that I had the stock rear hub hung up in the extreme cold, but it eased when the temperatures warmed. I should probably have opened it up and replaced the grease.
I don’t want to seem like a weight weenie zealot but everything adds up, and the H-loop handlebar is the heavier straight gauge version and not the more expensive butted one (side note: if you’re feeling fancy, fit a carbon bar and EVA foam grips, and you’ll immediately save yourself almost 600g/1.3lb). All this means that the Jones SWB Complete is certainly no lightweight. I’m not complaining too loudly, given the price of the bike and the frame material. But still, at over 15kg, there’s no denying the bike has some heft, even if it isn’t especially noticeable when riding.
Jones SWB vs. LWB
These days we’re often spoilt for choice, even within a brand, which makes figuring out the ‘right’ bike for you a tricky process. For those considering a Jones, the question will revolve around whether to opt for the Short Wheel Base or the Long Wheel Base, given the ways in which they overlap and the aspects in which they are different. And, after riding both back to back, it’s apparent that whilst there are more similarities than differences, the two bikes have a more pronounced identity than I expected, showcasing both the relative merits of 29+ and 27.5+ wheels, as well as the difference in their geometry.
Whilst both bikes feel very comfortable as a baseline, the LWB simply can’t be matched for overall smoothness. Its big wheels and long wheelbase lend it ride quality that surpasses any fully rigid bike I’ve tried, especially on rough trails. It’s like a magic carpet. Conversely, whilst both are very sharp handling bikes (you’d never know the LWB is such a big bike), the SWB does feel more dextrous; I noticed it as soon as I hit tight, twisty trails, and the way it feels through switchbacks. The LWB also felt like less work to keep up to speed, likely down to its big wheels and the way they roll. Unexpectedly, it also felt like less effort to get up to speed too, which I’m putting down to the higher end spec on the LWB I was riding – the sum of better hubs and different tires.
Initially I actually preferred the LWB. Its sense of ‘Jonesness’ felt more obvious. By this, I mean that every time I rode it, I was reminded immediately of all the traits that make it so unique; like the 76mm fork offset and the way it kicks the front wheel far out in front of you, and the way this meshes with a long wheel base and slack, 67.5° head angle. When I jump on the SWB, these telltale signs are there, but they’re not as immediately apparent. You could argue this as a pro or a con, because whilst the SWB is definitely a Jones through and through, I don’t think it requires the same amount of shift in muscle memory to tune into.
Also worth pointing out is that the framebag space is subtly smaller on the SWB. In terms of sizing, I’d comment that while I’m more on the cusp of fitting a large LWB, I definitely felt it was the right size for me on the SWB. For one reason or another, it does feel a touch more compact.
Note that a Jones Plus LWB Complete has just been announced, with a choice of tubeless tires, a wider gear range, and a $2050 price tag. It’s good to see the LWB Complete has a 11-50 rear cassette, offering a wider than the SWB Complete, and it comes with a choice of tubeless ready tyres.
Still, perhaps what I like most about the Complete SWB is that its a ‘complete’ bike in every sense of the word. Not just in terms of coming out of the box, but in that it’s been considered as a whole entity, rather than a sum of separate parts. Even if there are different materials and designs to choose from across the Jones range, everything is designed to play together in the exact same way. And if that way jives with how you like to ride, chances are your days of fettling and modifying a bike are largely over.
There’s a flat shopping rate of $95 within the US – which actually works out cheaper than paying your state’s sales tax. Contact Jones for details on overseas shipping and Biff for ideas on acquiring one in Europe.
- Frame Jones Plus SWB, All 4130 chromoly steel with butted tubing
- Fork Jones LWB Unicrown fork, Thru axle dropouts with 150mm x 15mm spacing
- Headset Jones Sealed Cartridge H-Set
- Crankset2-piece aluminum Boost, 24mm chromoly spindle, 104BCD, 165mm (S), 170mm (M/L)
- Chainring32t Machined narrow-wide
- Bottom BracketSealed Cartridge External Bearing, threaded
- CassetteSunrace CSMS2; 11-42t, 10-speed, steel, ED black coating
- Rear Derailleur10 speed Shimano Deore RD-M6000-GS Shadow RD+
- ShifterShimano Deore SL-M6000, 10 Speed
- ChainKMC X10, with MissingLink, 10 speed
- Front Hub Jones Spec. 150x15mm Thru-Axle hub with Sealed Cartridge Bearings
- Rear HubJones 32 hole, 148x12mm Boost hub with Sealed Cartridge Bearings, Shimano Driver
- Spokes14 gauge stainless steel, black
- Spoke NipplesChromed brass
- RimsShining DB-X50 50mm wide double wall anodized black 6061-T6 Aluminum
- TiresMaxxis Chronicle 27.5 x 3″, 60 TPI(non tubeless)
- Brake CalipersTektro MD-M300
- RotorsTektro 200mm front and 180mm rear, 6 bolt
- Brake LeversTektro MT 2.1
- Brake CablesJagwire Elite Ultra-Slick
- Brake Cable Housing Jagwire Pro Compressionless brake housing
- Shifter CableJagwire Elite Ultra-Slick
- Stem 31.8mm clamp. 60mm small, 80mm medium, and 90mm large, 17 degrees of rise
- HandlebarJones SG Aluminum Loop H-Bar. 710mm, straight gauge
- GripsJones H-Grip for 710mm H-Bars
- Bar TapeJones H-Bar Tape on the rear crossbar
- SeatpostJones Spec 400mm, 27.2mm
- Seatpost clampZoom Alloy Quick Release with Brass Bushing, 31.8mm
- SaddleJones, black with black steel rails
- Incredibly well-rounded bike that excels on both cross country trails and gravel
- It’s a real ‘complete’ bike in that it’s all designed to work as a whole
- Excellent for climbing thanks to Jones geometry
- Supremely comfortable
- Generous clearances all round
- Low BB give lots of stability, with shorter than expected cranks to help offset low ground clearance
- Affordable for a Jones
- Solid, no nonsense built kit, for the most part
- Unicrown fork is very versatile and more practical than the classic truss fork, with similar clearances for a 27.5”x3.8” fat front
- Non tubeless ready tyres mean an immediate upgrade needed for those who want the best from large volume rubber
- Gearing is limited for heavily laden touring or mountainous bikepacking
- No eccentric bottom bracket means no pedal height adjustability or singlespeed/Rohloff setup
- Somewhat heavy out of the box
- Finishing kit isn’t a match for other bikes at the same price point
- Lack of front suspension (and the potential for it) means slower descents in some situations – low pressure, large volume tires can only do so much
- 150mm TA spacing at the front means you’ll need to go custom for a second wheelset and buy a more specialist dynamo, though it certainly makes for a strong wheel
- Size Tested L
- Sizes Available S, M, L
- Weight (as tested) 34.2lbs/15.5kg
- Price $1800
- Place of Manufature Taiwan
- Manufacturer’s Details Jones Bikes
- Recommended Uses Bikepacking, trail riding, touring, commuting
This has been a hard review to write. I some ways, it could have been an easy, as I could have just said: “If you like the idea of an affordable, fully rigid bike and want a truly versatile machine for both cross country mountain biking and off road touring, buy this bike. You’ll love it.” But in needing to qualify this, the act of dissecting a Jones bike has sent me down a rabbit hole.
So, I’ll attempt to sum it up for those who haven’t waded their way through all of the above. Whilst I won’t claim that the Jones Complete SWB can do absolutely everything (clearly, it’s not a long-travel full-suspension rig), this is a bike that I think will surprise everyone by how little it can’t do. And whilst many do-it-all bikes end up feeling lacklustre – the classic jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none – the SWB is never less than engaging to ride. I say this for the simple reason that whether I’m mountain biking, long distance bikepacking, commuting, or gravel riding, I rarely wished I was on anything else. Yes, certain bikes hold advantages in their specialist disciplines, but I’d argue that these advantages aren’t significant enough to leave me wanting, particularly as a non-racer, and given the style of cross country mountain biking I like most.
However, bringing in a distinctive bike like the Jones at an $1800 price point has meant some compromises, the most obvious being that the component quality is somewhat mixed and the overall weight is high. Still, at least the parts that have been chosen should perform to a high enough level for most kinds of riding, only the limited gear range being potentially problematic for bikepacking in the mountains.
Personally, I like the SWB formula enough that if it was my money, I’d just bite the bullet and buy the ‘custom build’ and set it up exactly as I like, enjoying the benefits of an adjustable bottom bracket too. But if money is tight – or you want the versatile unicrown fork from the get-go – rest assured that the differences will be more subtle than anything else, and slowly upgrading the complete will lead to largely the same place.
Certainly, these upgrades will be worth making, because as much as we bandy the term around, this Jones is a genuine Bike For Life. By shirking industry trends and going its own way, it feels timeless. If you love riding the SWB now, as I think you will, I have little hesitation to say you’ll love riding it in twenty years time.
I’ve been embarking regularly on two-wheeled explorations for the last 18 years. Most recently, I explored the Republic of Georgia on dirt roads, rode the Colorado Trail, traversed Bolivia’s Cordillera Real, and followed the Trans Alps. Given my love for mountain biking and backcountry touring, my ideal journey fuses the two, keeping to quiet dirt roads and singletrack where possible.
Height: 6’1” (185cm)
Weight: 165 lbs (75kg)
Inseam: 35” (89cm)
Have you ridden the Jones Plus SWB or the SWB Complete? Let us know your impressions below!