The Sweet Spot from Bozeman, MT-based Sklar Bikes is a steel hardtail mountain bike designed to be a venerable quiver-killer. Built around 150mm of front suspension, with clearance for up to 29 x 2.8 tires, its geometry embraces builder Adam Sklar’s mantra of “fast is fun, but fun is fun-er.” Sweet Spots were Adam’s first foray into offering a small batch frame design and sizing, which he hopes will make his bikes more accessible and faster to produce.
I picked up a Sweet Spot of my own earlier this spring after many years of searching for the perfect hardtail. Due to a few requests I had to make it even sweeter, it turned into a custom project that retained the established Sweet Spot geometry and material selection. Below, let’s take a closer look at my build in addition to a brief interview with Adam about these bikes and his design/build process!
So, what makes my Sklar different from standard Sweet Spots? First, the sizing is a bit different as my long legs and short torso often place me between a large and extra-large in traditional MTB sizing. Knowing this, I wanted my next bike to be one that I didn’t have to fudge too much with headset spacers, stem length, etc. I wanted it to be perfect. Calculating for the rise in my Oddmone handlebars and the 210mm OneUp dropper post I intended to use, Adam sized a slightly taller headtube than on the standard large frames to compensate for my gangelage. Also, I wanted this bike to be a true all-arounder, so Adam added his custom rear dropouts that are compatible with Paragon Rocker inserts, in addition to rack mounts on the seatstays. These additional elements pull from one of Adam’s other small-batch frames, the Performance Basket Jammer (aka PBJ), so we’ve affectionately dubbed my sorta-hybrid frame a “Sweet Jammer.” And paint. Ohhh, the paint. Since my requested modifications pushed this into custom build territory, we figured it would make sense to get a bit wild with the paint job (more on that later).
Adam enjoying his local Bozeman “urban” trails last fall
The Sweet Spot, According to Adam
Adam and I connected a few years ago while a group of folks were planning for a hut trip. Ultimately, Adam wasn’t able to go but he and I stayed in touch and have gotten to spend some time together since. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, as I’ve observed his career over the years, primarily through this site, and have been impressed with his continued growth as a craftsman and as a smart business owner. At the ripe old age of 29, he’s accomplished a lot and has even bigger things on the horizon. I’m honored to have collaborated with him on this bike project and proud to now be riding it.
Before I dive too deep into detailing my build and thoughts on the bike after a few months of heavy riding, I want to share a brief conversation I had with Adam about the Sweet Spot. While there’s plenty of information on the Sklar website about the bikes, in addition to John’s coverage of the initial frame launch back in 2019, I know Adam is a tinkerer and refiner, so wanted to get his current take on these bikes.
What was your design intent for designing the Sweet Spot? How did you land on the current frame geometry?
The Sweet Spot came about after designing and building mountain bikes for four or five years, and I started to notice patterns emerging in what my customers were looking for in a bike. The cool thing about being a custom bike builder is that you get to present all these one-off bikes that are different but come from the same set of design tools. A builder’s design philosophy is laid out before you in their work. My customers, my friends and I all found ourselves wanting to ride hardtails for the simplicity, minimal maintenance, and efficiency on long rides that kept us outside all day – or days at a time.
The key metric for performance being fun rather than speed or weight or anything like that. I had been messing with a lot of the “new school” super long front center, “forward” geometry but found that going too far in that direction led to a really fast and really boring bike to ride. Certainly, there are a lot of good lessons from those bikes, though, and I wanted to mix those in with something that still held on to the experience of riding a bike and was nimble and bunny-hoppable over all the things you run into on a trail. Those are the things that make riding a hardtail fun to me. So striking that balance was the goal for the design process. I keep coming back to the mantra “fast is fun but fun is funner.” Also, bikes are fun because they take you to “sweet spots” with pretty vistas for eating sandwiches at, and that is where the name came from.
What is your typical design process? Is your process different for custom vs small-batch bikes? What geo aspects are the most important to “get right” in order to nail/dial in how a bike is going to ride.
This might be too big of a question to answer in one sitting, but with a custom bike, I start with riding goals, what kind of riding someone wants to do rather than what kind of bike they want. This keeps tire specs and head tube angles from getting in the way of the design early on and helps us make better-educated choices about those things down the road. Of course, with a full custom bike, everything is decided on from the ground up based on riding style and body dimensions. That said, custom customers have often seen the stock geo bikes or other customs, and that body of work gives them confidence I can deliver a bike in the vein of what they are looking for. It is always a fun conversation and mixing of ideas.
Have you evolved the Sweet Spot geo since the initial iteration of the bike back in 2018-9?
I have nudged the geo slightly a couple of times based on rider feedback, parts availability, and also my own riding experience. I have actually ended up reeling in the “progressiveness” of the geo more than anything. Also, I added another size in between the Small and Medium because that seemed to fill a need. No huge changes in geometry, though.
With the Sweet Spot, PBJ, and now the Super Something, what made you want to go from building custom frames to adding small batch production, with standardized sizing, to your list of offerings?
Unlike a lot of bike builders, I hopped in without knowing anything about the bicycle industry. To say I had no plan would be an understatement. What I did know is that I loved riding my bike, and I had a lot of energy to convince other people how amazing bicycle riding was. Building frames was a way to put that energy into something physical, and I really enjoyed that, I enjoyed that the things I made helped other people get excited about bikes. I set up my business the way I saw everyone else was doing it: custom frames one at a time, and before long, I was in over my head with orders. I wouldn’t have done it any other way, I have learned so much. But those custom bikes have so many barriers between someone ordering one and actually going on a bike ride. A lot of time and definitely a lot of money. Offering non-custom frames is a result of being able to reflect on the last eight and half years and seeing a path to get back to my original goals – getting people out on bikes because bikes make life better. The whole business is shifting that way, and I am so excited to be able to offer fun bikes to more people.
Tell me about the custom chainstay yoke and other innovations you implemented to make the Sweet Spot possible.
Building a frame is pretty straightforward, but the one thing that haunts all builders is threading a chainstay between a tire and a chain ring, especially with the shorter chainstays and wider tires we like to run these days. A tube will always be the best option for strength and ride quality, but 3D printed components can achieve some incredibly complex geometries that just aren’t possible with a tube or other manufacturing techniques. These parts solve a lot of headaches from a manufacturing standpoint and especially lend themselves to small-scale production. The printed yokes are standard on Sklar mountain bikes now, and it means we are not limited to long chainstays even with 29×2.6″ tires and a regular boost chainline. Your frame also has a 3D printed dropper port, and I use 3D printed dropouts on a lot of my Titanium frames now too.
What materials do you use in the Sweet Spot and how do they influence ride quality?
The biggest difference you will get between a custom/handmade/small batch frame and a production frame is the quality of the materials. It really is fun to pick a blend of tubes from lots of different manufacturers to make things just right. Always the best tube for the job. The Sweet Spots are all heat-treated Chromoly steel from various manufacturers and what each frame is made up of varies depending on the size. All a mix of Fairing, Columbus, Reynolds, and Deda tubes, with a straight gage non-drive chainstay and seat stays. Finding that balance between durability, weight and flex is a super fun design challenge.
I’m awful at selecting colors. I wear mostly black and gray and typically choose bland colors for most applications, from painted walls, to autos, or bikes. When Adam suggested we use a local Bozeman painter to overlay a splatter design over a solid Cerakote base color, I was into it but didn’t really want to be the one to choose colors. After many conversations about potential color combos – to the point that I don’t think Adam ever wants to talk about paint with me again – my final decision was “all of the above.” The end result speaks for itself and, kinda surprisingly, I couldn’t be more pleased with it. And its much more durable than I expected. I assumed the textured finish would have started to peel/flake off by now, but it’s been bomber over the first few months I’ve had it.
Building My Sweet Jammer
I accumulated parts and subsequently built this bike during the height of the 2021-22 supply chain shortages when finding even the most basic components was difficult. Luckily I had some favorite parts sitting around waiting for a build, and my local shop, Landis Cyclery, was a huge help in finding some of the bigger items like the drivetrain, fork, and crank. And just days before Adam was to ship out my frame, he received a box of White Industries parts and installed their beautiful headset and bottom bracket for me. I turned the remaining sourcing challenges into an opportunity to experiment with some components and applications that had interested me for a while but hadn’t used.
In terms of vibration damping and suspension, the combination of chromo frame material, Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels, and 150mm Cane Creek Helm Air perform in harmony to create a supple and responsive ride. One of the most exciting parts on this build is the Helm fork set at 150mm of travel. I’ve primarily ridden RockShox forks on longer travel bikes in the past, but took this new build as an opportunity to try something new. While I’m still forming a robust impression of the Helm and will most likely offer a more in-depth review down the road, I’ve been initially impressed with it’s ease and amount of adjustability in addition to its overall performance – small bumps are handled well and I haven’t felt it bottom out yet, even on big stupid hits. The volume reduction feature is super intuitive and easy to use, while the compression adjustments are plentiful and accessible. I haven’t spent much time experimenting with the positive and negative air equalization after initial setup, but plan to dig into that more over the next month or so.
John reviewed the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels a few years ago and extolled the wheelset’s durability and compliance. They have noticeable vibration damping that reduces some of the harshness often associated with riding a hardtail, the ZM1 hubs have plenty of engagement for me, and wide single-wall construction works great with my favorite 29 x 2.6 Teravail Kessel tires. I’ve also been pleased with what seems like less rock strikes due to their low-profile sidewall design. To be sure, there have been ample composite wheelsets to hit the market – with similar handling and durability qualities – since the since the Motos were released, but I think they remain a great compliment to any shreddy hardtail.
Time for the Paul Component Engineering recognition section of this overview. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the precision, ergonomics, and aesthetics of everything made by the Paul crew in Chico! I was somewhat hesitant to use a mechanical brake setup on a big bike like the Jammer, but only my least favorite hydro brakes were available when I was building, so I went for it. And, hot damn, I’m now a full-on convert of the Klamper/203mm rotor/Short Pull Lever/compressionless cable housing combo being one of the best brake setups in the history of brake setups. There’s hardly any fade like some hydro alternatives get during sustained descents and the modulation is comfortable and predictable. The 50mm Boxcar stem allows me to elegantly secure my trusty ‘ol Oddmone bar without using a 31.8mm shim. And… that dropper lever! The textured and contoured perch with supple bearing actuation makes it my left thumb’s favorite part of the entire build.
The last of its kind in Radavist inventory, we dug up a 28T AARN direct mount chainring from beneath a pile of blemished camp hats, strange jackal marionettes, worn-out Land Cruiser parts, and psilocybin dust. Its two-toned anodized US-machined double chamfer wide teeth are right at home on the Cane Creek eeWing cranks, offering up another dose of functional art for this build. Coming from 30T and 32T chainirings, I’m still not totally convinced 28T is the best size for 12-speed applications, but it sure is nice in the steeps and I’m assuming it will be even nicer while carrying a bunch of weight on this bike.
Rounding out the build, I installed a OneUp V2 Dropper because I was interested in its minimal stack/insertion length and custom shim options. I’m able to run their 210mm post on the Sweet Jammer (revealing just about an inch of the lower) without hitting the seatube’s upper bottle boss. While mine has been solid ths far, if the post starts out a little wiggly or develops some slop over time, OneUp includes small shims you can install to take up the slack. For a fraction of the price of many comparable posts, a wide variety of sizes, adjustability options, and perceived durability, I’m sold on this dropper.
I also installed OneUp’s EDC Tool and find myself using it often; it’s a perfect use of otherwise wasted space and one piece of kit that I’ll be installing on all my bikes in the future.
And the folks at Wizard Works must have had their ears ringing as this frame was being delivered to me because they dropped a batch of splatter Mag-Neto Tool Rolls around the same time I got the bike. How could I resist?
Riding my Sweet Jammer
I’ve owned and ridden a lot of hardtails over the years in what seems like a quest to find the single perfect bike for the many varieties of riding I like to do. I’ve been searching for something that I can ride fast (fast is a very relative term for me) at my local short track races and flowy xc-style trails, climb and descend steep and chunky mountains, and then load up for a tour and feel confident riding in pretty much any terrain. I also like the idea of potentially owning one bike someday that could serve double-duty geared and singlespeed.
I’ve had rigid XC bikes, a beefy 29+ hardtail, other steel all-arounders with anywhere from 100mm-140mm of front suspension, and most recently a titanium Sage Powerline that I purchased after reviewing it a couple of years ago. Each one, though, was just slightly the wrong size, lacking some sort of accoutrement, or just didn’t ride in a way that made me want to keep it around for the long haul. Most recently, the Powerline was a great bike and I enjoyed riding titanium most of the time but ended up feeling that the size large frame was too small for me and the titanium rear end was just too squirrely when I rode it weighted down over long distances. So, on to the Sweet Jammer it is…
The “Sweet Spot” name that Adam chose for this bike is no coincidence. As he explained above, the current crop of Sweet Spots was born from his experimentations with modern geometries, from pushing the designs out longer and slacker until they just wanted to be pointed straight down a hill and lacked the liveliness and character most riders desire in a hardtail. Coalescing on this somewhat reigned in geo, then, Adam’s crafted tubing profiles seen in the slightly bowed and ovalized top tube, flattened downtube bottom end, and sculpted seatstays create a beautiful appearance while achieving a combination of rigidity and compliance in the right places. While wheelsets, suspension, gearing, and other aspects contribute to the finer points of a bike’s ride quality, there’s no denying the complete feeling of joy and satisfaction I have while riding this bike.
Form follows function; this is ridable art.
Going back to a steel frame was as much as a budget-conscious decision for me as it was a performance one. (Not that a steel Sklar is a “budget,” but in comparison to US-made titanium, it is.) Dancing with (to borrow John’s apt phrasing) the Powerline’s titanium frame was a blast, but for my next bike, I wanted to explore the predictability of steel again, so going with thoughtful medley of Chromoly tubing in the Sweet Spot, er… Jammer, made a lot of sense. I’ve been riding this bike for about four months now, logging a healthy amount of weekly milage, and thus far have not regretted that decision.
Despite its aggressive-looking stance, this bike loves to climb. Our trails around the Phoenix valley are chossy piles of dust-covered granite and require both technique and finesse to master. Climbing these trails with the Sweet Jammer, I feel firmly planted between the bike’s bottom bracket and rear end without having to reposition my stance much when transitioning between seated climbing, standing, and then into a descent. My rear tire consistently bites into the trail, even in loose terrain.
Similarly, with a 50mm stem and 150mm fork, the front end handles climbs as well as I can imagine a bike of this pedigree could. It holds my line without wandering and doesn’t seem prone to overcorrecting when maneuvering around obstacles under stress through super steep trail sections; I decide when the front wheel lifts and moves, rather than the bike doing it for me.
If my description of this bike’s climbing abilities sounded sweet, well, its descending will probably seem even sweeter. When I initially ordered the Sweet Jammer, I did so knowing that Adam had nudged the geo back to a slightly shorter and less slack design than he started with back in 2019 for these bikes. I thought the revised design would be more appropriate for the varieties of riding I planned for it, but there was a little voice in my head wondering if it’d be shreddy enough.
One of my favorite local rides leaves from my house pedaling seven-ish flat road miles out to South Mountain Park and then loop some of its classic trails like National, Mormon, Corona de Loma, etc. that are typically popular with enduro-style riders on squishy bikes. While it’s increasingly rare to see hardtails out on those trails these days, I find them to be a super satisfying challenge and the Sweet Jammer has proven to be a perfect bike for it.
If riding a well-built titanium frame is akin to ballet dancing, than being aboard the steel Sweet Jammer is like dancing the tango.
The 66.5° headtube angle combined with a dialed front-center rips through chunder when pointed, but it’s not so stretched out to the point of limiting nimble turns at speed. The front end inspires confidence down steep and loose trail, where I feel like I’m sitting in the bike rather than on it. Cornering, even into precipitous switchbacks, comes with fairly natural/balanced weight distribution which is a pleasant surprise for a bike with 500mm reach and 1227mm wheelbase. Loading the frame and fork, and driving weight into turns, yields a nice flex and rebound into the next turn. Now, I won’t go as far as to say this bike has as much springy pep through fast and flowy terrain as bikes with shorter wheelbases and less travel, but hey this is a pretty long 150mm travel rig, so making the bike work a bit is just part of the fun!
While the Sweet Jammer certainly cost more than many off-the-shelf alternatives, there’s really nothing else like it on the market and my money went straight into the pocket of a US builder and all-around good dude. I’m very excited about this bike, if you hadn’t already noticed. It’s one of the best-fitting frames I’ve ridden and does everything I want it to. Just this past weekend I took it out on a shakedown tour with a rack/pannier setup. In a couple of months, after I’ve gone on a few more multi-day rides, I’ll follow up on the bike’s loaded handling characteristics and various gear setup I’m planning to test out. Until then, thanks for sticking around and drop any questions you have in the comments!