Review: Specialized Jett 29er Women’s Mountain Bike – Plus 26″ vs 29er Comparison!

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparisonThis is both a review of Specialized’s Jett women’s 29er mountain bike as well as a comparison and contrast of 26″ and 29er bikes for ladies who might be on the fence regarding big wheels.

A while back, I received both the 26″ and 29er Jetts in for review simultaneously so we could do a back to back comparison. Over the course of testing, Specialized announced the demise of the 26″ Jett with the women’s 2013 lineup, so for now, your only women’s specific option in this model is the 29er…and I think that’s fine.

There’s also now a carbon fiber version called the Fate that’s been race-proven by Rebecca Rusch, which I think is really fine.

I’ve been riding both bikes for about a year throughout my local trails in Idaho. I also brought them along for some epic rides in Utah with the fine folks at Over The Edge Sports.

My preference by a wide margin is the 29er, and here’s why I think it’s something all women should at least test ride, and why you may want to consider Specialized’s Jett…

SOME BASIC 29er BACKGROUND…

Hardcore riders and readers can gloss over this section, but for many first time mountain bikers of the fairer sex, trying a new wheel size isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. Or, they’re just unaware of the options or differences. Not to confuse matters more, but the upcoming 650B/27″ wheel size might be a good option, but in reality it’s pretty darn close to 26″ bikes and 29ers will still provide a noticeably different ride.

The overview: 29ers can provide some real advantages, like a smoother ride compared to an equivalent 26” bike.  The ride is smoothed-out by the larger wheels, which tend to ride over the top of objects rather than down into them. Momentum is easier to maintain once moving, although it is slightly harder to build initial acceleration. Traction is improved due to increased surface area of rubber, which means more rubber contacting the terrain.

A 29er’s wheels create a feeling of more travel and allow for the use of a lower travel front fork, which when combined with the right mix of lightweight components should be able to bring the overall bike weight inline with its 26” hardtail peers.

The bottom bracket is lower in relation to the wheel hubs compared to a 26” bike, which drops the center of gravity.  This is where the now common description of “sitting inside the bike” comes from. Some early 29er bikes had a significantly longer wheelbase, which lent them to slower handling, but most companies have the geometry pretty well dialed these days. As with anything, all of us here at Bikerumor recommend test riding several models and brands before buying, they all have subtle differences, particularly if you’re looking at full suspension.

GEOMETRY COMPARISON – 26″ vs 29er

 

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparison

According to the Specialized website, this bike is designed for the female looking for a versatile and lightweight cross country bike that can be ridden on singletrack adventures with friends, or cruising on fire roads. The bike is marketed for “…performance, quality, and reliability—all in an affordable package”.  The component selection, in my opinion, is in-line with the $1,450 price point and provides adequate performance.

As I inspected the bike, rode it, and really looked at how it was set up and spec’d out, I believe a lot of thought and effort went into designing a bike that really highlights the best attributes in a 29er, to maintaining the familiarity of a 26” cockpit and accommodating women’s bodies.

The fork’s spring rates are pre-tuned to accommodate the average woman, and  the bike is built-up with female oriented components.  The handlebars, grips, crank arm lengths and the overall frame geometry (shorter head tube and lower stand-over height, for example) are all dialed-in to accommodate women’s bodies.

The tapered head tube stiffens the front end. In combination with the lower center of gravity and longer wheelbase, this gives the bike an extremely stable feel.

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparison

Above, you can see the frames look pretty similar between the 26″ (left) and 29er Jetts, and relative saddle, bottom bracket and handlebar positions are nearly identical. The 29er’s seat tube bends to compensate for the requisite longer chainstays.  I had anticipated a startlingly different feel, but the changes to the frame added up to a ride position that feels as familiar and comfortable the 26” ride position. Here’s another way of looking at it:

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparison

Remarkably similar, eh? Photos were superimposed over each other lined up at the rear axle and using brake rotors as a size reference.

So the fit and feel are good, but how does she look???

Geometry is appealing.  The bike doesn’t look bulky or awkward.  It has a sleek shape with sexy curves and lines.  I particularly like the matte black color, too.

THE SPECS…

Weight is approximately 28.8 lbs, w/no pedals.  That’s a bit heavy for a hardtail, but not out of line with other bikes in this price range. And, for those with a bit more coin, the 2013 Jett Expert comes in at 26.69 lbs. Of course, if you’re upgrading from another bike, you can transfer any of your higher end parts except wheels and forks.

My test bike was equipped with the following for 2012, but spec has changed a bit for 2013:

  • Front Shock:  RockShox XC32 TK SL 29 80mm-travel fork
  • Front Derailleur:  Shimano Alivio 9-speed (2013 model has the Sram X5 2×10)
  • Rear Derailleur:  Shimano SLX Shadow, 9-speed (2013 model is 10-speed)
  • Handlbars:  XC flat bar w/women’s specific grips
  • Crankset:  Shimano Alivio 3pc, 9-speed (2013 model has a 2pc, 10-speed set up)
  • Brakes:  Shimano hydraulic brakes (2013 model has Avid Elixir 1’s)
  • Seat:  Women’s specific Riva SL

Check Specialized’s website for more details on the 2013 components, frame and geometry.

RIDE REVIEW

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparison

1st ride:  Little Creek Mountain Trail- Hurricane, UT.  There were a lot of pretty good sized drops and some very technical, rocky, short steep climbs that the 29er handled easily.  In some cases things felt like significantly less effort was required.

The front shock felt more than capable taking 12”-16” drops.  With only 80mm of travel, this was very nice to see.  The tires gripped the slickrock well.  Shifting was smooth.  I had no mechanical issues or flats.  Climbing was sure-footed and the descents were clean and smoother than on a 26”.

Specialized Jett WS 29 2012 Front Shock

Later that week, I had the opportunity to do an exact side-by-side comparison of the trail on a 29er followed immediately by the 26” on the Guacamole trail in Hurricane, UT.  It was a much more obvious difference than I had expected.  The 29er was more responsive than I had anticipated, and handled rocky terrain easily and drops confidently. The 26” felt comparatively “squirrely” and less “sure-footed”.  The climbs took more effort.

Specialized Jett 29er womens mountain bike review and 26-inch comparison

Later in the season, I had the bikes here at home in Idaho.  I set out on comparing and contrasting the 26” bike versus the 29er on some more forested, tighter terrain, traveling over more woody debris and tacky soil.

One thing I particularly noticed was how well the 29er stayed committed to the line you are riding, without feeling that agility is sacrificed except in some very, very tight turns. Even then, the difference was negligible.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

This bike has a very well designed geometry for women.    It is a great option if you don’t want the complexity or weight of a full-suspension rig, but want the plush ride.  It is great for boosting confidence on gnarly climbs and descents.

The 2013 model appears to have some changes in components, predominantly switching away from Shimano componentry and upgrading from 9 to 10 speeds.  The geometry and frame design carry over unchanged, which makes sense as it is obvious that a lot of thought went into the overall design of the bike, both from the 29er aspect as well as the women’s specific aspect.

Comments

Chad - 12/28/12 - 3:32pm

Is this where I post negative comments about Specialized?

Jethro - 12/28/12 - 3:36pm

OK, now compare the 650b version.

CCR - 12/28/12 - 11:41pm

does the reviewer say how tall she is?

dwiz - 12/29/12 - 1:52am

so what are these negative about specialized?
enquiring minds want to know?

John - 12/29/12 - 2:58am

Note: center of gravity is determined by the absolute height of the bottom bracket, seat and handlebars above the ground (i.e. the riders elevation above the ground). The 29r in this example does not have a “lower center of gravity” than the 26. It may feel like it, but is dimensionally identical.

Pablito - 12/29/12 - 4:38am

Hi chad, why bother. Let the riders choose without a hater getting involved.
Have a great new year

Chris - 12/29/12 - 6:43am

Chad, you still hanging?

notmikeb - 12/29/12 - 10:03am

@John – One could argue the static center of gravity would indeed be largely unchanged but a lower bottom bracket results in a lower pedal. Going into a corner you are going to have the crankarm opposite the direction of lean down and plant your weight there. I would say that results in an effectively lower center of gravity in the situations where it benefits you the most (cornering). I am by no means a professional “Physicsologistatician” but having had several different mountain bikes over the years, you can feel a difference when the bike’s BB is higher or lower than “average”

VeloBelo - 12/29/12 - 10:07am

Good ad.

Rob - 12/29/12 - 10:08am

I use to be a specialized hater too, then I started using the products and was very impressed with the quality. It is good stuff, yes they are a large brand but they put a lot into there product. Why does everybody hate a successful company these days. I guess ignerance is bliss, stop hating and see for yourself versus somebody elses bogus review. Specialized is not the best, but some of their products are.

Quickie - 12/29/12 - 10:45am

For those of you confused on why people hate Specialized: FSR, Brain shocks, most of their dealers, their dealer policy, and frivolous lawsuits all suck. Nothing against the bikes reviewed here, I am sure they’re fine, but as a whole the company does more harm than good. If you support them that is (obviously) up to you and I’m glad to see you riding. I will admit their 2bliss tires are very nice.

CasteelG - 12/29/12 - 1:47pm

You are completely forgetting about all the bike advocacy, charity work and sponsorships that Specialized does. I’d say the good outweighs the bad.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with FSR suspension. It’s still a good system. Albeit, some see it as archaic for whatever reason.

I can see why some people have issues with the Brain though. The early versions were crude and clunky, though the newer versions work well… at least for XC and trail riding. Not being user serviceable while not being entirely reliable is a bad combo though. I’ve never had issues with it myself.

Just my two cents.

Poser Patrol - 12/29/12 - 11:16pm

Whatever Wilma…such disdain for the 26 leads me to believe your time on mountain bikes has been pretty limited now matter how many destination trails you name-drop.

Rotundo - 12/30/12 - 12:46am

Specialized is a big company, which has good points and bad points – kind of a wash. The lack of 27.5 in the comparison is a little sad. Hey Rob, you *really* need to use spell check.

ManGotMeDown - 12/30/12 - 9:47am

Why are the same people that believe that the 29er, 2X10, *1X11, are “something we didn’t need, designed to drain my pockets of me money” the same people clamoring for 650B?

Leesa Stefano - 12/30/12 - 3:22pm

CCR, good question. I am 5 foot 9 inches tall. Thanks for reading!

Bum - 12/30/12 - 4:48pm

Specialized will probably do a 650b bike when the other successful brands do

bin judgin - 12/30/12 - 11:08pm

i can’t take any review serious if the bike has a rockshox tora on there…

CCR - 12/31/12 - 12:05am

At 5’9″ you probably wouldn’t mind a 29er. But you are an above average hight for a female. The ladies out there should know that a 15″ frame with 29er wheel has an around 30″ stand over and nasty toe overlap. And the “average” american female might not even be on that size frame. Wheel size should be directly connected to the intended riders hight.

I am a 5’11″ man and love my new 650b

pigeons - 12/31/12 - 1:55am

CCR, my OH (159cm tall) rides Niner EMD XS (I think it was about 14″) frame size and has no complaints about standover or toe overlap. She loves the bike! Obviously, you need to have light wheels but that’s not a problem, especially with shorter and usually lighter riders.

pigeons - 12/31/12 - 2:03am

I forgot to mention that her friend (also about 160 cm) rides 17″ Specialized Fate and also has no problems with stand over or toe overlap.

To conclude, most of the pros of 29er wheels are valid regardless of rider height. Only problem is that usually smaller riders (esp women) tend to put out less power and that means relatively more power is required to accelerate with bigger wheels.

Tyler (Editor) - 12/31/12 - 9:56am

Bin Judgin – We try to review bikes across the cost spectrum since not everyone’s buying the highest end stuff we tend to gravitate towards here.

CCR – good points, and that’s why all of us strongly recommend people test ride several bikes from several brands before buying. Fortunately, most of the big brands have demo fleets, though they tend to be concentrated more on the west coast. Giant, Specialized, Trek and Niner all seem to do a decent job of spreading their demo trucks around the US, and other brands like Santa Cruz try to stock regional dealers with a size run of demo bikes.

All – this post is about the bike and introducing folks to 29ers, not Specialized’s business practices. Any other comments to that effect will be deleted.

Quickie - 12/31/12 - 10:12am

Your comment editing practices sounds strikingly familiar to Specialized’s dealership agreements.

bum - 12/31/12 - 9:55pm

quickie, are you bitter because your shop can only get felt/giant?

Mindless - 12/31/12 - 10:47pm

Bigger is not better. After a few year on a 29r hardtail, I switched back to 26 (medium sized). Lighter, nimble, stiffer, larger tires without weight penalty. It does not roll over stuff as easy, but one can just remember how to pick lines. It is fun, and I do not care what is theoretically “faster”. Nobody cares about “faster”. And my 160mm AM full suspension bike was always more fun. People who say you donot need as much suspension on a larger wheel – they lie. No replacement for suspension.

Mindless - 12/31/12 - 10:47pm

And, yes, Specialized sucks, and friends do not let friends ride Specialized. Because it sucks.

devilish_dwarf - 01/01/13 - 8:57am

ok. specialized sucks.
but why??

i have to decide whitch bike to buy.
it have to be just one bike instead of my two bikes now.
bike that i can use for daily rides on local trails (quite smooth ones, perfect for 29” ht) but capable to handle weekend and few days rides in swiss alps.
It have to be alu frame because i’ve already broke 4 carbon frames (c’dale rush).
It have to have longer rather than shorter top tube (longer than 615 mm in L size), and i prefer fox over the rock shox.

so my top 2 bikes in this moment are specialized stumpy fsr 29er comp and c’dale (i know. i’m not proud on myself, but still..) trigger 2 29er. trigger have fox 34 instead of 32 mm stancions on specialized and scott genius so that is one big plus, but i still want to know WHY specialized suck and why i shouldn’t buy one!?

frank - 01/01/13 - 1:11pm

Anyone else notice that her saddle is about 2″ too low for her in all the shots and that the handlebars on that bike are way too wide for her? Why does Specialized spec such wide bars on a woman-specific bike?

Also notice that there is about a 1″ difference in saddle height between the two bikes on the super-imposed image. I’d be willing to wager that 1″ of saddle height makes a lot more difference than 3″ in wheel diameter.

Mindless - 01/01/13 - 2:43pm

@devilish_dwarf: get Ventana Zeus, or Nicolai Helius 650 (or AM), or Norco 650b, or Jamis. With 160mm Fox or XFusion fork.

Mindless - 01/01/13 - 2:45pm

5’11″ rider is not qualified to test female specific bikes, especially those where fit is an issue. That is just bogus.

Leesa Stefano - 01/01/13 - 3:36pm

Hi Mindless, I’m not 5’11″….I am 5’9″.

dimples - 01/01/13 - 9:29pm

I think the saddle height looks right. On 29ers, I raise the height a little because there is more time on the saddle and less in the attack position. Lower it a little on the smaller wheel for previously mentioned position.

MTB is about fun. If Leesa is having fun, she wins. Without a dropper post, compromising saddle height is more fun than stopping to raise and lower it all of the time.

Torgeir Hanssen - 01/02/13 - 4:56pm

I’d get a 650b bike. I’m a professional armchair engineer and can tell you with no evidence whatsoever that a 650 rides better than a 26″ or a 29er.

I’ve ridden all three sizes and can confirm that the placebo effect kicked in right after I successfully navigated a rock garden with aplomb on a 650. On the 29er, I slowed down 0.000043% when going over that little rock over there; on the 26″ bike I hesitated for 0.2 seconds on that slick little root over there by that piece of dirt, so this is empirical evidence of the 650′s superiority.

I certainly hope that Specialized releases a me-too model, like next week, instead of waiting for the market to mature and then deliberately manufacturing a bicycle that nails the category. We all know that this 650 momentum is certainly the result of a solution in search of a problem.

Like I said, that 26″ bike took way too long to roll over that little pebble; the 29er took 0.00004 seconds longer to turn on a technical uphill singletrack than a 26″, which caused me to miss the podium on my weekend warrior ride with my gut-adorned riding buddies, one of whom rides a Jones Bicycle, which is aesthetically superior to any bicycle ever made yet serves no functional purpose other than to provide its owner with hours upon hours of empty pre-ride jaw-flappin’ at the trailhead, which is way better than actually, you know, going out for a ride. (And no, he does not purposely wipe down his bike right by the park map instead of 500 yards in the parking lot; it’s not his intent to ensure that he doesn’t attract gawkers and lookey-loos so he can drop his armchair wisdom on another unsuspecting MTB rookie. You’re really reading too much into his actions!)

650B: Another opportunity for that non-riding rider to attract conversation at the trailhead, which usually ends in banter about which IPA is this week’s best (read: trendiest)!

Mindless - 01/03/13 - 2:14am

@Torgeir: It is nice that you can enjoy your smugness, but the fact is that bike wheel sizes matter just as much as bike frame sizes, and just it is stupid to ride a frame that does not fit, picking a proper wheel size is important.

@Leesa: 5’9″ is still too tall to make a judgement if 29rs fit the majority of women.

Barb Martin - 05/05/13 - 1:43pm

Just for some feedback. I got a 2012 Niner Air 9 alloy frame in size small, and there were NO bike shops that had a small or an XS in stock to “try”. The Niner tour, the closest demo was at the Otter 400 miles away. So I bought based on their geometry chart stating the stand over for the small with the fork adjusted to 80mm, is 28.3 inches. Which *should* have fit me perfect. I am 5’5″ with a 29.75 inseam in bare feet, maybe 30 with mtb shoes on. The frame is too big. Apparently they measure stand over through the center of the bottom bracket, which isn’t where any normal person could “stand over” the bike, unless you want tehe nose of the saddle going halfway through your back. I don’t care if that is “where everyone measures” because its not a good guage of standover height. Where someone would actually stand over the bike, is about 8-9 inches forward of the seat tube, unless when they turn sideways, they aren’t any thicker than a piece of paper. Where I stand over the bike, its 30.5″ so the top tube hits me.
So I guess if there are no smalls or XS to try, and the demos cost $200 in gas to drive to round trip, those manufacturers are losing sales. I’m not sure if Niner is going to come out with a WS frame, but they should, because buying a frame and building it up is an expensive process, and no matter how carefully we try to figure it all out, stuff like this happens. So I’m stuck (for now) with a frame that’s too big. How does that setup handle? LOL

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.