Focus Raven 29R 4.0 £2399

Carbon XC racing hardtail 29er from German brand

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

We’ve had the top of the line Raven 1.0 from Focus and ridden and raced it extensively. To say we got on famously with it would be an understatement. We were very excited, then, to see whether the entry level 4.0 model – which uses the exact same carbon frame as its more expensive sibling – could light our fire in a similar way. 

Ride & handling: Comfortable, aggressive and versatile

The shape of the bike places you squarely between the wheels, a sensation helped by the relatively slack front end. We found climbing on the Raven particularly satisfying, with only the very minimum of body language required to coax traction from the 2.2in Continental X-Kings on slippery bits. 

The 100mm Fox 32 Float Evo fork juts out purposefully at a slack (for this kind of bike) 70 degrees, promising high speed, loose ground handling that won’t twitch and jack knife you into every tree. 

The Climb, Trail, Descend settings on the fork help with quick switches of damping characteristics, and the bike even has guides for remote dropper posts – Focus clearly believe the Raven bike should be in the high mountains, both climbing and descending on fast, meaningful trails.

Once over the top of the mountain – or hill – it’s a simple case of flicking the CTD switch to Descend, easing back and letting the bike roll. It has an natural ability, somehow, to stick you onto the right line. 

The Raven has a ride that lets you forget you’re on a 29er, or that it’s aimed at any particular sub-genre of riding – at heart it’s just a great-handling mountain bike that lets you be a mountain biker. You might be laying down fast laps of a 24-hour endurance race or hike-a-biking a rocky, high mountain trail in the Lakes, but the Raven will inspire you. 

Frame & equipment: Sexy to look at, with a good fork

The Raven has some of the most extreme frame shaping we’ve seen on a dirt rig. The seatstays are wide but so flat you have to double check they’ve not been deformed in some autoclave accident… 

More importantly, the design lets them work life leaf springs, and the Raven is the most bump-absorbing setup we’ve ridden. It gives the feeling of having 10-15psi less in the rear tyre than you do. You feel the benefit most over square-edged bumps, but the effect is working all the time, allowing you to remain seated and concentrate on pedalling. 

The front end is a mix of a fat down tube and a flat top tube mated to a tapered-steerer compatible front end that promises laser-guided accuracy. 

We wanted a shorter stem and to lose the conical upper headset cover to achieve a more trail aggro fit, but that’s it for complaints. We’d abscond with the Raven given half a chance.

Did we just gush over the Raven 4.0? Good, as this bike is worth it. It seems to find the best in your riding and amplify it, making the most of your skills and delivering a ride you’ll want to repeat as soon as you possibly can.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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