Focus Fat Boy £537.31

Solid all-round hardtail

BikeRadar score 4/5

It’s gone up a bit in weight and price since 2008 but, the Focus Fat Boy is still up there with the best bikes in its price category – more inflation buster than lead balloon.

It’s a bit slower than last year, but the fatter tyres mean it’s also more comfy on rough terrain and the riser bar results in better control on twisty singletrack. Its main flaw is a cheap crankset.

Most 2009 bikes have been hit by price hikes – on average 12% – including the Focus Fat Boy. As a result, a lot of ‘starter’ bikes are now over £500.

The Fat Boy has put on a little extra weight this year but it looks like mail order giant Wiggle is still managing to keep Focus bikes looking like an excellent alternative to the big brands on bike shop floors.

Ride & handling: confident, poised and still light

The Fat Boy has a confident but sprightly feel. Fast tyres mean better acceleration and climbing than similar bikes we’ve tested. Despite gaining a pound in weight since last year’s model, the Focus is still among the lightest in its category.

It’s stable at speed thanks to its low bottom bracket, though that does mean you need more care when pedalling over bumpy ground.

We really like its slightly forward sitting position, a result of the steepish frame angles. It places you in an ideal stance to really use the fork in rough terrain.

Frame: no messing with upgradeable design that works

Nothing seems to have changed on the frame between years. It’s made from butted 6061 aluminium, with mainly refreshingly straight, circular tubes.

A biaxially-ovalised, gusseted down tube earns the Fat Boy its name though, and reasonable frame weight and excellent built quality make it a great platform to upgrade. Its workmanlike nature is emphasised by mounting bosses for a bottle, rack, rear V-brakes and even a frame-mounted rear wheel lock.

Equipment: well-sorted selection darts off to value

Concept kit looks good and the change to risers makes sense too.

We were pleased to see a RockShox Dart 2 fork and managed to use most of its 100mm travel. Its adjustable rebound damping and preload are effective and the lockout is a bonus.

The clumpy crankset and bottom bracket are still the most obvious budgetary concessions, but the rest of the drivetrain is good value: Deore shifters and front mech and XT rear.

The own-brand Concept wheels seem fine but the hubs are unknown compared to last year’s Shimanos.

The Tektro brakes perform well enough too but last year’s Magura Julies were a highlight.

The big Schwalbe tyres, on the other hand, are excellent: fast rolling, grippy and with a comfy high profile.

A Concept seat post, seat and stem are all good quality and the 24in riser gives better control than its old flat bar.

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