Cass’ Jones SWB and Weekend Packlist
Cass Gilbert gives us a rundown of the only bike he’s ridden for the last 18 months, a dreamy Jones SWB. Find out what parts have worn out and what he’d do differently next time. Also, check out his complete lightweight gear list for relaxing weekend trips into the nearby mountains and exploring his new home. Read on for more…
I’ve been riding this Jones titanium SWB since I reviewed it for the site last year. I’d planned to return it after a few months away but COVID-19 put paid to my plans to return to the US. Thankfully, Jones extended their loan of the frameset… and it’s the only bike I’ve ridden since.
I’m now at the point where I have two default packlists. The first – which is listed here – is a relatively minimal but versatile option for relaxing weekend trips into the nearby mountains, though it’s much the same for rides exploring other parts of the state. I’m definitely not Mr. Minimal, but it’s refined enough to make riding in challenging terrain easier, without missing out on some of the finer things in life, or the chance of being creative in the great outdoors. A second version is for longer stints on the road – where I might be carrying warmer clothes, a hardier tent, and my laptop, for instance – with the addition of Jones’ capacious truss fork packs. But such trips have been few and far between of late.
The SWB was sent to me as a ‘dream build’ for review and included a SRAM Eagle XX1 drivetrain. Before I left New Mexico, I downgraded it to an 11-speed, Sunrace 11-50T cassette, teamed with a tried and tested XT derailleur and Deore shifter that I pulled off another bike. Given the lack of parts right now, this turned out to be just as well; I’ve now been running this drivetrain for almost two years and have only just replaced the cassette after sourcing one at my local shop here in Mexico for $100. Whilst I won’t deny that Sunrace cassettes are heavy and the shifting isn’t as crisp as the drivetrain it replaced, they’re hard-wearing, long-lasting, and affordable. I’ve also found Shimano-compatible parts invariably easier and less costly to source than SRAM outside of the US.
Additionally, I fitted some H-Bar Bends, for easier access to a handlebar bag compared to the carbon Jones H-Bar Loops provided, though the latter is great you’re not running a top-opening system. Since riding a Jones, I’ve not felt the need to play around with other brands of handlebars because the whole bike is designed, for want of a better term, as a complete ecosystem. It’s one that works for me, be it on trails or touring.
Over the last year, as I’ve settled into my new home and acquired different parts, I’ve made some changes. I’ve had my XT brakes sent over from New Mexico, which I much prefer for mountain biking over the Avid BB7s I fitted for my original trip. However, one failed, which I replaced with a Deore model, also bought in my local bike shop. I’ve also swapped out the 34T chainring I set off with, first for an oval 32T model I bought second-hand, and now a 30T steel SRAM chainring. This has helped considerably with the steep grades here, especially as I’m now running larger diameter tyres, making for a taller gear. I’ve even been experimenting with a 3.25″ Vee Rubber Bulldozer in the front, given that this has been my only bike and some of the trails are very rutted and technical. Similarly, I now run the Trans-X Kitsuma dropper post that I reviewed a few months ago. Simple and affordable, it’s still going strong.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the Cane Creek eeWings, which also came with the bike. I wouldn’t normally tour with such a spendy crankset but I admit to being wooed by such gorgeous Ti loveliness. But I’d also note that whilst it’s performed as good as it looks, I’ve recently had to install a new bottom bracket. It’s an unusual size – a 30mm bearing in a threaded shell – and I was very lucky to track a lone (and expensive) replacement in my local bike shop, as well as the right tool. Whilst I love these cranks, for obvious reasons, the fact these cranks require an unconventional BB – and a 10mm Allen wrench to even remove them – means I’d likely just choose a set of XT or Deores next time. Boutique parts are all good and well but when you’re far from home, availability is more important. Aside from this, the eccentric shell on the SWB needed to be removed and regreased to quieten an errant click.
Still, having an eccentric bottom bracket has encouraged me to play around with wheel sizes; the next best thing to trying different bikes! I’ve swapped out the stock wheels for some 29er hoops, in part because 27.5+ tyres became harder to find and I noticed 29 x 2.6″ options were more easily available. There’s little to beat the former for sheer riding comfort, especially on a bike that’s rigid-specific, in part because of the lower pressures you can run. But I also find it a touch more spritely with 29 x 2.6″ rubber. Either way, it’s nice to chop and change, if only for some variety in life and to keep stuff fresh! I should note that very much to my surprise, I’ve also had one carbon rim crack, possibly due to poor riding, bad luck, or low tyre pressure when riding 2.6s. Still, lesson learned. Carbon rims may well be inherently stronger than aluminum ones and a delight to ride with, but the failures tend to be more catastrophic. I’m looking into Huck Norris inserts in the meantime.
In fact, if I owned this bike alone, I’d invest in two distinct wheelsets: one for mountain biking and one for general dirt road touring duties. This brings me onto a minor gripe. The fork is built around a 150TA hub for the ultimate in strength. Whilst I appreciate Jeff Jones’s uncompromising attitude to building the best bike he can – from the ground up – I’d prefer Boost spacing nonetheless, because it would make picking up a second set of off-the-shelf wheels so much easier and more affordable. And, should the rim fail as mine did, sourcing a replacement wheel would be more straightforward.
My aim is to have a bike set up for general bikepacking and another for trail riding. I actually have a new project on the go, as it happens – and I’d also love to be reunited with my Surly Big Fat Dummy. But if I’m going to get ‘stuck’ with one bike, it’s hard for me to imagine anything better, given my own riding preferences and the variety of different terrain I like to ride. Ultimately, the SWB is a very capable mountain bike for everything but enduro trails. It’s fun and fast to ride unladen, especially in its current lightweight state. It can accept a wide variety of wheel and tyres sizes, helping with local tyre availability now and in the future. Mostly though, I love riding this bike because it’s incredibly comfortable – it reduces the aches and pains that I experience as I get older, encouraging me to ride it each and every day.
Eventually, I will return the SWB! But I’m already set on replacing this dream frameset with its very capable steel counterpart.
In terms of carrying gear, I default to my Tailfin AeroPack with two small cargo cages. It’s a modular system that satisfies all my needs for short trips and long journeys alike, as I can expand my water or gear carrying capacity easily, or pare back when not required. If I pack carefully, it works very well with a dropper post. I tend not to carry anything on the downtube if I can help it, to make portaging the bike easier and because bottles get cruddy.
A few months ago, I swapped out my Porcelain Rocket/Rockgeist 52Hz framebag. Not because it wore out (it’s still going strong) but to give my bike some new clothes, as it were. The custom replacement, made by Buckhorn Bags in New Mexico and seen in these images, is both extremely elegant and very well finished, elevating an already pretty bike further still! I love having all the compartments, too. Expect a review in the near future.
Up front, I run a set of Dr Jon’s most excellent G-Funk clamps and Voile straps – perfect for sucuring a tent – when I’m looking to save as much weight as I can, particularly for routes with hike-a-bikes. I add my favourite BXB Goldback Small when I need extra space, which piggybacks nicely on the same mount, pushing it away from the levers on a Jones H-Loop bar.
I have a set of stem bags I rotate through, including a small one from Buckhorn bags, a large one from What Happened, and a Rockgeist Honey Box with Spacelink – the latter secures a 750ml water bottle especially well. My top tube bag is by Oveja Negra and is now patinaed with patches. I try and keep everything lean and clean; no dangles to rattle around or gear to jettison off. I position a B-Rad Roll-Top Bag – with a spare inner tube – where it doesn’t get in the way of lifting the bike up a flight of stairs or over a landslide.
I pack my camera, a Fuji X100V with a PS Bagworks wrist strap, in a small Dos Erres Riñonera hip bag, where it’s quick to grab when I jump off the bike to take a photo. It’s also a relatively discreet setup for wandering around town. More on the camera, bag, and strap soon!
Packlists are highly individual. This is what works for me – be it a long weekend away or a week or more, assuming I don’t need to carry my laptop too. I’ll slim it down a little if it’s just an overnighter, though everything fits easily enough that it’s not a game of Tetris to pack. Apart from the poncho, which is a recent purchase, there’s nothing here that I haven’t used thoroughly; I’ve included some additional notes here and there.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Lithium (light enough for solo missions and lots of room for two, though I’d choose the silnylon model for multi-month trips)
Exped Synmat HL Large (it’s big but so very comfortable)
Big Agnes Fussell (40F/5C) quilt
Icebreaker thin merino leggings
Sea to Summit Silk travel liner (for colder nights, when the quilt isn’t enough, or by itself when warm)
Trangia alcohol burner (owned for many years)
Clikstand (a lightweight version of the original Trangia)
900ml ti Evernew pot (10 years old and going strong!)
300ml bottle of denatured alcohol
GSI coffee filter (repaired with dental floss)
Bandana for picnics
Toaks Titanium Long-handled spoon (great for peanut butter, papaya, and avocados)
Wooden spoon (because I made it!)
Opinel no. 10 knife
Small Bic lighter
Stasher silicone bag or stout zip-locks (sandwich size, for leftovers and low waste touring)
2 x 1.5L Nalgene bottles (easy to access and fill) or Hydrapak Seeker 3L Silicone bladder (stored in famebag)
750ml squeezy water bottle
Small flask for mezcal
Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol sit mat (also protects tent from errant cables when cinched to handlebars)
Clothes + riding gear
Riding shorts (Outdoor Research Ferrosi, light and quick-dry)
Synthetic riding T-shirt
Outdoor Research Echo boxer shorts
Lightweight Decathlon running shorts (around camp or if my riding shorts are soaked)
Thin riding socks
Patagonia Houdini (windproof, tiny packsize)
Patagonia Nano Puff (doubles as a pillow)
Local wool hat
Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket and/or poncho (good for mooching around camp and draping over the bike at night in the rainy season)
Baseball cap (under helmet, for sunny days)
Riding shoes or sandals (5.10s or Bedrock Cairn 3Ds)
Facemask + buff
Fuji X100V + 3 batteries + spare memory card (in case one corrupts)
Rope wrist strap from PS Bagworks
iPhone 7 Plus (Gaia GPS/Mapout Apps)
Anker USB-C 8,000 mAh cache battery (QI fast charging)
Anker USB charger (2 ports)
USB and iPhone cables
JBL Clip 3 speaker (music + podcasts)
Wahoo Roam (+ RWGPS Premium account)
Petzl USB-charged headtorch
ID/Passport stored in LokSak (and photo backed up to the cloud)
Moleskin journal + Muji pen
Washbag (t-brush, small refillable toothpaste, eye drops for dusty roads, face oil, nail clippers, Dr. Bronners, earplugs for noisy hotels/dogs barking)
Toolkit (inc. tyre plugs and spare quick links for chain)
Basic medical kit
Topeak Hexus X Multi-tool
1 x inner tube
Finish Line Green Lube and rag
Hiplock Z-lok (for immobilizing bike)
Basic gear repair kit (sewing kit/patches etc)
Basic spoon carving kit (spoon blank, Morakniv carving knife, and Morakniv curved knife in waxed canvas bag)
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