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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.