High Tech Carbon Composite Frames from the Heart of Old Santa Fe
(originally published in Mountain Flyer Magazine Issue 20)
- Weight: 2.13 lbs (frame only)
- Price: $1,499 (frame only)
Just across from the Tree House Pastry Shop and Café, in a characteristic, haphazardly zoned neighborhood/business district in central Santa Fe, N.M., in a rusted, corrugated metal building, there is a bike shop called Frankie Flats Bicycle Repair. Above Frankie Flats is the world headquarters of Jackal Cycling. In a wonderful no-rules-followed, no-rules-broken Santa Fe sort of way, what Jackal Cycling is offering is coolly unexpected.
Santa Fe is a visual and cultural vortex. Narrow, erratic streets, hidden courtyards and quirky, local vendors in its famous old town give it an old European feel. Art nouveau melds with a splash of Spain, and in a faint but stubborn hint of modern suburbia, classic adobe architecture surrounds a Super Walmart.
In Santa Fe, expect the unexpected. Santa Feans don’t like to follow convention or be predictable. In a town famous for its unique take on New Mexican cuisine, the locals’ favorite green chile enchiladas are found not in an adobe-clad restaurant near the famous old town plaza but, rather, at a gas station on the south end of town.
In that regard, Jackal Cycling is perfectly unexpected in the cool Santa Fe style. From that humble,
rusted shop, Jackal is peddling high-tech, state-of-the-art carbon fiber road and mountain bike frames. The frames are sourced from an
overseas manufacturer and then custom-built in-house with any combination of
components the client can dream up.
“Because we’re a small company, we’re able to focus on our clients’ particular needs without padding the cost to help cover an expensive ad budget or pro endorsements,” says Jackal’s founder Jonathan Jakle.
Jackal bikes are only available directly from the company’s website (or you can drop in if you’re in town), another measure that cuts costs compared to larger manufacturers that are using the same carbon fiber frame fabrication technologies.
“Our sourcing expertise enables us to develop the most cutting-edge carbon frames,” Jakle adds. “All of our frames pass European Union testing standards and come with a great crash replacement warranty at no extra charge.”
Our Jackal test bike showed up last fall. It was built as a pure race bike, and we immediately took it to the races. We raced the bike locally on the sandy, fast trails of Hartman Rocks in our hometown of Gunnison, Colo. It traveled south to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, near Tucson, Ariz., and far to the east, across the Atlantic, to the Winter Triathlon World Championships in Jämijärvi, Finland.
In a world of super light, high-end carbon fiber frames, the Jackal frame is up to par with anything the big bike manufacturers are offering and at a relatively reasonable price of $1,499 for a frame. On our test bike, Jackal used a common 12k carbon weave for the frame, which refers to the thickness of the carbon weave. 12k is the thickest weave used on bicycles and provides a stiff, snappy frame.
The geometry of the medium 17.5-inch frame is conventional when compared to similar carbon hardtails: 71.5 degree head tube. 73.5 degree seat tube, 1,077 mm wheel base, 570 mm top tube, 31.6 mm seat post. One comment every test rider had about the bike was that it handled fantastically. Easily. In so many words: “…like a 26-inch bike in the turns but with more stability and great speed.” All in all, four of us rode and raced the bike, and we all loved it. It’s a bike that makes you want to go out and hammer every climb because it’s so responsive and lively. It’s a purebred race bike.
The world of international trade and production has standardized even high-end carbon fiber composite bike frames. Generally speaking, that’s not a bad thing. Technology that cost millions to develop is available to smaller, leaner companies like Jackal, and they’re running with it.
The frame is awesome, and the finish is attractive, but, in all fairness, it’s not notably different from other killer, high-end carbon bikes out there. Again, not a bad thing. What makes the Jackal different is a fair price and a very attractive option to build a custom spec’d bike and not waste money on components you plan to upgrade. You get exactly what you want, shipped directly to you at no extra cost.
And our test bike came spec’d just the way we would want it: full SRAM XO 2x10 drive train, Rock Shox Reba XX fork, Avid Elixir CR disk brakes, Stan’s No Tubes Crest wheels and Truvativ world cup bars, stem and seat post. It hovered over the trail at a little more than 21 pounds.
With the tight geometry, tubeless Stan’s race wheels and the ultralight build, the Jackal wanted to jump with each pedal stroke. The handling was quick but, with the 29-inch wheels, still stable and predictable. Right out of the box it was a great cross-country race bike for a true cross-country race fanatic. Our only request would be a little more rear wheel clearance: There wasn’t much room for higher-volume tires between the chainstays.
To keep up with carbon fiber and design technology, Jackal does have some improvements planned for 2011: A switch from 12k weave to unidirectional carbon fiber construction, a tapered steer tube, and BB30 bottom bracket will all add another notch of stiffness and improve the handling of the bike.
In addition, the company plans to launch a new website with improved online ordering options. A Jackal customer can choose his frame from road or mountain (26- or 29-inch) and build it piece by meticulous piece if desired or choose from a list of standard build kits. The K9 29er will be available with SRAM X9, XO, or XX components, Stan’s Crest or Easton Wheels and Fox Terralogic 15 QR or RLC fork. The respective price for complete bikes will be $3,299 for the X9, $3,999 with X0, and $4,499 for full-on XX.
After placing an order online (you can, of course, call and talk with a real person to discuss details if you need to), the bike will be built up by the professionals downstairs at Frankie Flats Bicycles (a great make-it-happen sort of partnership, again in cool Santa Fe style) and shipped off for you to enjoy.
Just like the guy making award-winning green chile enchiladas at a gas station in Santa Fe’s south side, Jackal Cycles is offering the very best carbon fiber technology in the world from a humble shop near the heart of old town. Jackal will build you a race bike worth, well, racing on at a great price. –B. Riepe