The Izalco Expert is the next model up from the Izalco. Unlike the base model this has an all carbon frame and fork the Izalco Expert falls into that ever increasing category of performance bikes on a budget. We really liked the alloy framed Izalco so how will the carbon version compare?
The Izalco Expert Renner carbon frame runs on semi classic lines rather than going down the compact route. A hardwearing powder coat of paint covers the carbon weave. It's good to see paint used on carbon frames, we're getting a little bored of bare carbon and it's even beginning to look cheap. It's a good looking frame and although a bit heavy on the Focus graphics for some the bike at least looks fast and doesn't look out of place alongside machines costing twice the price.
That extra coat of paint doesn't effect the weight either (the carbon look on most carbon bikes comes courtesy of an extra vanity layer of carbon and lacquer) and the frame comes in at a light 1.12kg (2.7lb) for the XL sized model. The bottom bracket and integrated headset run on alloys shells and races bonded directly to the frame. A chainstay bridge sits behind the bottom bracket shell to reinforce the tight rear.
An all carbon fork complements the frame and keeps the weight low. The wide bridge and fat legs provide ample stiffness up front. The fork's carbon dropout are reinforced with alloy inserts either side of the dropouts. Any noticeable flex at the front comes from the lightweight Concept Xtreme stem and not the fork.
One point worth considering is the sizing of Focus's road bike range. The geometry is on the small side, for example the large Expert has a top tube of 55.cm. This is short compared to other manufacturers' large frames and you may want to consider the next frame size up. We fitted the extra large model when we'd usually ride a large.
The spec on the Izalco Extreme impresses for the price, even more so with the current deals availlable as the '08 models come on stream, and the unusual mix of components works and performs really well. The only bits of own branded kit are the Concept Xtreme seatpost and stem, both are more than capable although we'd swap the light stem for something stiffer. Elsewhere every other component is performance orientated kit from recognised, quality brands.
The combination of Campagnolo Chorus Carbon 10 speed Ergo shifters and derailleurs with a top end carbon TruVativ Rouleur chainset is unusual but works really well.
The solid, reliable shift of Chorus only gets better with use. The TruVativ Rouleur crank deliver all the power to the rear with no waste and they're a good match with the firm frame. The big, stiff carbon arms under line the Expert's race orientation as do the 39/53T chainrings. There is no option for an easier geared compact chainset. Luckily the 12-25T cassette should be suitable for most fit riders and get you over the hills.
The FSA Wing Pro shallow drop bars take a bit of getting use to in the looks and feel department. The shallow drop can feel a bit odd at first and big hands will have a hard job fitting comfortably into the narrow bend. Shallow drop bars seem to be becoming more popular, a trend driven by the majority of riders finding the more extreme, head down race position uncomfortable. Up on the tops the ergo shape feels good and there's room to add clamp on tri bars. The silver bar tape isn't great and it doesn't offer much comfort or grip, but that niggle is easily sorted.
The Selle Italia SLR saddle is definitely one for the behind used to spinning regular miles. It's supportive but you may find it a bit too hard and narrow the simple solution being to swap it for your regular perch.
The Izalco Expert comes equipped with a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elites wheels (2007 version), of which the rear takes a Campagnolo cassette. It's a good looking wheelset but one that is not as light as you'd expect. The front weighs 1139g and the rear 1634g. That's still a reasonable weight for a fast bike but it has to be said that the Elites play a lot on their looks. We've also experienced brake rub when pedalling hard out of the saddle. This is due to flex about the axle, it's not a big problem but it does occur and heavy riders will notice it more.
The short comings of the Ksyrium Elites are only minor, especially when you take in the value of the overall package. The wheels feel good, spin well and have stayed round and true throughout the test period.
The 700x23c Michelin Michelin Pro Race tyres are quality rubbers and an indication that Focus are serious about the Izalco's spec. Tyre choice is so important to the feel of a bike and it's particularly annoying when manufactures scrimp on tyres for a better margin. Thankfully this isn't the case with the Izalco Expert and the fine rolling nature of Michelin Pro Race's tyres is very welcome.
The Izalco Expert continues to surprise and excite when it comes to the ride. The XL size tested here weighs in a light 7.86kg (17.3lb) yet handles and rides like a bike even lighter. Crisp and sharp without being nervy. Some of that handling comes down to the slightly short top tube but the majority is due the combination of sorted geometry, good componentry and a no nonsense carbon frame.
It really is a surprise that a bike costing this much can handle in such a refined manner. It hums over rough tarmac and the carbon frames kills road buzz for all day comfort on long rides. That shorter top and tight rear tube also pays off on the climbs and the Izalco sits and spins really well, the taut back end smoothly delivering pedal strokes to the rear wheel. At extreme speeds on descents it can get a bit nervy but you've really got to be going at it hard before the bike tries to unseat you.
It's hard to pigeonhole a bike like Izalco Expert but if forced we'd class it as a fast all day bike and a perfect choice for the competitive Sportive rider wanting a mix of comfort and speed.
The 2007 Izalco Expert is a genuine bargain but by no means cheap. It delivers a quality ride and performs like a thoroughbred, holding it's own alongside bikes costing a lot more. For the price the ride and quality was a genuine revelation.
At no point does the Izalco Expert pretend to be a bike it's not. Many rivals at this price point fall into the trap of overdressing with faux race components in an attempt to notch themselves up a level. Component trickery is thankfully absent here. It is all very well thought out and it all works.
It you want a well priced performance road bike then look no further.
Frame and Forks
Size tested : xl
Sizes available : xs,s,m,l,xl,xxl
Weight as tested : 7.860 kg/ 17.3 lb no pedals
Frame Weight: 1223 g/ 2.7 lb
Fork: 409 g/ 0.9 lb
Top tube : 57.0 cm/ 22.4 in
Seat tube (c-c) : 52.5 cm/ na in
Chainstays : 40.5 cm/ 15.9 in
Wheelbase : 99.3 cm/ 39.1 in
Head tube angle : 73.5
Seat tube angle : 74.0
Fork offset : 4.3 cm/ 1.7 in
Trail : 5.9 cm
B/b height : 26.5 cm/ 10.4 in
Standover height : 80.5 cm/ 31.7 in
Braze-ons : 2x water bottle
Head tube : Perfect
Rear triangle : Perfect
Fork : Perfect
Chainset : TruVativ Rouler, 39/53T, 175.0mm
Bottom bracket : TruVativ GXP
Freewheel : Canpagnolo Chorus 12-25T
Chain brand : Campagnolo Chorus 12-25T
Derailleurs : Campagnolo Chorus
Gear levers : Campagnolo Chorus Carbon
Pedals : none
Front & Rear : Mavic Ksyrium Elite
Tyres : Michelin Pro Race, 700x23c
Wheel weight : f: 1139g; r: 1634g
Handlebar stem : Concept Xtreme, 110mm
Handlebars : FSA Wingpro, 46cm
Headset : FSA Aheadset, integrated
Saddle : Selle Italia SLR
Seatpost : Concept Xtreme, 330mm
Brakeset : Campagnolo Chorus
Accessories : none