Focus First Expert £1600

Focus hails from Cloppenburg in Germany and the brand is the brainchild of former World Cup XC racer Mike Kluge, which is why, at their heart, they're all about racing.

BikeRadar score 4/5

Focus hails from Cloppenburg in Germany and the brand is the brainchild of former World Cup XC racer Mike Kluge, which is why, at their heart, they're all about racing.

The Expert will initially confuse you though, as it's a full suspension bike that doesn't appear to have a shock. Focus wanted to create a full susser suitable for long, fast rides and marathon-style racing, and the bike also had to be able to be shouldered in case the race took a direct line up the alpine scenery. So Focus put the rear shock in the only suitable place: inside the top tube.

The pivot for the slim link plates is all that encroaches into the main triangle, making it possible to carry the bike over extended periods up steep pitches. Don't worry about the centre of gravity being raised, as the shock used is a DT Swiss SSD air can and weighs hardly anything.

Geometry wise, the Focus splits opinion. In Germany, where precision steering is valued, the head angle is perfect - and if you like blitzing whippy singletrack and hounding through man-made trail centre tracks at warp speed, then you'll appreciate it, too. For the rest, it might seem steep.

We'd split the difference and like to see Focus take a degree out of the head tube. This would retain the agile steering the racers love, yet also allow the trail cruisers to 'feel' it, too.

Component highlights are the powerful Magura Louise discs and DT Swiss SSD 190L rear shock and wheelset. What's not to like? Not much, but it doesn't like steep, 'off the back of the saddle' technical descents, because the bike's front end begins to feel a smidge tucked at full compression.

So, just to clarify then, the First Expert is a really competent mid-travel, fully (to use the German) that's ready to rip into any epic XC and see you put in your best performance.

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