ONZA Jackpot 2016 Mountain Bike Review

ONZA Jackpot 2016

Reviews / Hard Tails

ONZA 4,081

At A Glance

Onza have been around for 25 years, and in that time have been pioneers of mountain bike components and tyres, as well as manufacturers of trials bikes good enough to win world championships. Now, after a spell away from the sharp end of the industry they have returned to the mountain bike scene with a duo of steel hardtails. Their 29 inch wheeled steed is called the Payoff, while this beauty is the Jackpot. It's a slick looking 650b, which arrives after two years of development and prototyping.

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In this two years of refining, Onza claims to have come up with a hardtail that is playful, at home on the gnarliest trails in the UK and still capable of pedalling back to the top with relative ease. The frame is a lovely example of a modern day steel hardtail. The double butted 4130 Cro-Mo build is pieced together with sleek snakeskin welds and boasts a number of well thought out features. Frame details include a flared one-piece yoke, which looks great and provides plenty of clearance for a burlier tyre and a tapered headtube keeps things modern and is finished with a neat ‘O’ logo.

Other features include internal routing for a stealth dropper, a 12mm rear through axle, which can be swapped for a 135mm if desired, and an oversized PF30 bottom bracket, which can be converted into a single speed (Onza have their own eccentric single speed ‘dream build’ option in the pipeline). It comes in either 17 or 19 inch, and the colour options are black, sparkling bronze (as tested) or ‘tank green’.

The 150mm RockShox Revelations upfront make a statement of intent, this is a hardtail that might want to be going over things rather than around them. Shimano Deore brakes provide the required stopping power, while the 1 x 10 gearing with Deore shifter, cassette and chain with an SLX clutch mech continue the theme of dependable kit that does a job well while still keeping the overall cost of the bike down. The Jackpot showcases Onza’s own chainset, bars, stem and grips while a set of Weinmann wheels fitted with Kenda Nevegal X Sport 2.35 tyres keep her rolling.

On The Trail

As soon as I opened the box at the IMB headquarters and saw the ‘Onza’ logo attractively printed on the frame, I was tickled with a wave of nostalgia. I remembered those grips and purple bar ends that everybody had to have, and those tyres that had original tread designs, which worked superbly back when I was experiencing those exciting early years of mountain biking. These are fond memories, and I couldn’t wait to get my leg over the Jackpot to see what she was made of.

After the first ride, I was impressed with the feel of the frame, and it continued to impress with each ride (that was once I had put some proper tyres on it!). The guys from Moore Large that have worked hard producing it obviously know what they’re looking for in a bike and have created a masterpiece. The 4130 tubing is light enough to make climbing feel relatively smooth and subtle while burly enough to take whatever you dare throw at it on the descents without rattling your bones to pieces.

It feels stable when cornering even with those super short chain stays, which also make the back end snap into line perfectly behind you on the really steep and tight stuff that I love to ride. The pronounced stiff tapered steerer works really well with the excellent, no-nonsense RockShox Revelation forks, making the front end very capable, to say the least.

A lot of time and thought has gone into the geometry on the Jackpot. The curators obviously understand that it doesn’t have to be ‘slack’ to make it aggressive, nor overly long to make it more stable. Instead, they have tweaked, refined and prototyped to their hearts content until they came up with a very well balanced set of figures that allow the rider to enjoy every aspect of riding a bike off road.

Climbing feels great; the front end doesn’t wander around, and the power from the pedals has a direct feel. On descents, the Jackpot is really fun, thanks to the incredibly well-balanced frame and a good set of forks upfront. At high speeds the bike instils confidence, providing a good amount of stability, particularly when you start throwing it into well-built berms.

I am just over six foot tall and found the 19-inch to be a decent and roomy fit, so much so that I swapped the stem for a slightly shorter 50mm and threw some lighter, wider bars on it. This made the ride more responsive on the tight, steeper trails and inspired me to push a little harder.

Sitting behind the bottom bracket is a rather impressive looking one-piece yoke, which is a stroke of genius. Steel is great, the way it ‘gives’ provides a playful feel to hardtails but often this also means that when you push through the pedals, some responsiveness is lost. This one piece yoke eliminates that negative factor by keeping it super stiff and responsive giving the bike a unique identity, providing direct acceleration when you pedal hard yet still giving that steel flex feel, top drawer.

This is enhanced further by the 12mm rear through axle slotted into the nice modular dropouts, which allow for a change in axle if required. Linking these two excellent features are some lovely looking snaked stays, which allow room for some 650b, Plus tyres if that’s how you like to roll. All of these well thought out features start to make their presence felt when you start to get lairy. Throwing the Jackpot off drops, over jumps and into berms gives you confidence in the bike's capabilities and causes you to push harder and faster.

When you find yourself riding like this, it’s always nice to know you can slow down properly, which thankfully you can thanks to the fantastic Shimano Deore brakes with a 180mm rotor up front and a 160mm at the rear. I’m not a rider that’s overly fussed about the kit that comes on a bike, as long as it works, and these brakes work, fact. I like that the Jackpot comes with a dropper post, it just makes sense with this bike. That said; it would have been a touch better if it had come with a stealth one with a bit more extension, especially since they’ve gone through the effort of kitting the frame out with routing for one.

The gearing is made up of yet more parts that work, so I like this aspect too. A Shimano SLX rear clutch mech provides reliable slick gear changing while the Shimano SLX shifters with I-Spec B mountings work well and keep the bars nice and tidy. The 32t chainring and 11-34 cassette keeps things simple but a touch limited, a simple addition of an expansion cog or similar would make life a little easier for churning out those long steep climbs.

Onza’s own large axle cranks look fantastic and do a great job of issuing power to the wheels. Onza also showcases their own handlebars, which are a touch on the heavy side but have a nice sweep to them and do the job nicely, as does their own branded 60mm stem keeping steering direct while holding onto their comfy grips. A set of Weinmann XC wheels allow the bike to roll, but in my eyes, the Jackpot is worthy of a lighter and stiffer wheelset to get the most out of the bike's capabilities.

Likewise with the Kenda Nevegal X Sport tyres; they just don’t do the rest of the bike justice. They’re fast rolling but scared the life out of me on my local greasy limestone trails. I used them for the first couple of rides and then swapped them for a more preferred choice and was happy with the decision immediately.

The more time I spent on the Jackpot, the more I wanted to ride it. It keeps on giving, whether pointing down the steepest wooded trails I would dare to ride, hitting silly high speeds, or even playing down at the local BMX track, it just takes on the challenge without causing any fear of death. Not only does it ride well off road, but it also packs a punch of true Onza heritage too. If you’re someone who enjoys playing on the street, hopping about on steps, benches, small walls, etc. then just slam the seat; stiffen the forks and go and play.

Overall

This bike is all about the frame. It is a fantastic bit of design and engineering masterminded by a small group of people who really know their stuff. Not only does it act as a superb mountain bike, but it would also make a great single speed (Watch this space for the Onza single speed ‘dream build’ option).

The majority of its build is made up of good, no nonsense and dependable kit, but to unlock its full potential for the more aggressive riders out there then I would suggest a few upgrades such as better wheels, tyres and a stealth dropper. Maybe even a lighter set of bars too.

This considered, the £1700 price tag might seem a bit high, so the frame only or the custom build option might be for you. However, if you are someone looking to get into mountain biking and looking for your first good bike, then this will be a really great option. If you like the idea of owning a steel hardtail which provides huge fun factor when thrashing it around your local trails, hitting long XC rides or even mixing it up at the occasional enduro race and are willing to make a couple of simple upgrades then you should give the Jackpot a go. Long live Onza.

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This review was in Issue 42 of IMB.

For more information visit ONZA

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By Charley Oldrid
Charley Oldrid is a man who spends a lot of time in the saddle. A highly experienced Mountain Bike Guide, having led trips all over world riding the finest trails he can find. His personal riding style can only be described as wild, getting sideways isn't an option on a ride with Charley, it's mandatory. If anyone can find the limit of a test bike, it's him.

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