Focus Cayo 4.0 Disc review£1,999.00

Race-like geometry meets discs and thru-axles in comfortable chassis

BikeRadar score4/5

The Focus Cayo 4.0 Disc is one of two iterations of the Germany company's inaugural road bike with disc brakes. Warren Rossiter reviewed the Cayo 3.0 Disc with Shimano Ultegra and RS685 hydraulic brakes earlier this spring, but here we'll look at the slightly more affordable version that has the same cockpit and DT Swiss wheels, but with SRAM's third-tier Rival 22 Hydro R groupset.

Both Cayo Disc bikes share the same carbon frameset, which is notable for its racy front end with a short head tube and RAT thru-axles. Most road disc bikes are straight-ahead endurance bikes, which means taller head tubes and slacker, more stable handling. If you're interested in going hydraulic but want an aggressive, aero position, then the Cayo Disc bikes are well worth a look. 

    Related reading: Horse for the Course - Focus Cayo 4.0 Disc for ButterGold

    Ride and handling: Race geometry meets discs in comfortable chassis

    As with previous Cayos I've long-term tested, the Cayo 4.0 Disc has a comfortable layup. It's not insanely stiff laterally like some race bikes, but its still plenty lively under acceleration. The thin seatstays and standard 27.2mm seatpost flex a bit to absorb road impacts. 

    Much of any bike's comfort comes from the tyres, of course, and here the 25mm Schwalbe Durano clinchers are on the stiff side, favoring puncture-resistance and durability over ride quality. For some of the testing we substituted the very pliable 27mm Vittoria Pavé clinchers, which transformed the experience and allowed the frameset and wheels to truly shine. 

    Another big part of how a bike handles and feels is how well it fits you. While Focus only has five sizes, from 48 to 60cm in 3cm jumps, the German brand does specific layups for each size, so smaller riders won't get an overly harsh ride nor larger cyclists get a noodle. We tested the 57cm, which fit perfectly (I'm 6ft/183cm). This 57cm has a 56.8cm top tube and 165mm head tube — again, more race bike than endurance bike. The 72.5-degree head angle, however, leans more towards the endurance bike genre. Most straight-ahead race bikes for this size are in the 73- to 73.5-degree range.

    All that said, steering is crisp, with high-speed turns easily initiated at the hips or the hands. The combination of being able to get low over the front wheel and with a generous bottom bracket drop of 70mm equate to a stable ride. 

    While the chainstays are a touch longer than on a rim-brake race bike — 415mm to account for disc brakes versus 405mm or even 400mm on some — the added wheelbase out back isn't a hindrance in terms of agility. The most noticeable piece slowing the bike down, as noted, is the tyres.   

    Thin stays mean flex; flex means comfort. and the absence of a rim caliper highlights the visual of the design: thin stays mean flex; flex means comfort. and the absence of a rim caliper highlights the visual of the design
    Thin stays mean flex; flex means comfort. and the absence of a rim caliper highlights the visual of the design: thin stays mean flex; flex means comfort. and the absence of a rim caliper highlights the visual of the design

    Thin stays mean flex; flex means comfort… and the absence of a rim caliper highlights the design's visual appeal

    Equipment: Rival Hydro, DT Swiss wheels highlight, but what is up with that handlebar?

    SRAM's third-tier Rival 22 Hydro R is a good but not great group. Sharing a design but differing in materials from its higher-end Force and Red siblings, Rival 22 is an 11-speed groupset that doesn't require trimming of the front derailleur. This means — when everything is adjusted properly — that you can shift the full width of the cassette, from the 11t cog up to the 28t, without having to adjust your front derailleur to prevent rubbing. Those familiar with trimming their Shimano derailleurs will immediately see the attraction of this design.

    With internal cable routing, shifting stayed consistent throughout what was a fairly awful testing environment at times. Having cables hidden from the elements can go a long way towards ensuring good, long-lasting performance in foul weather, not to mention lessening the need for maintenance.

    The Rival shift levers however would occasionally trip up a bit, with the shift lever settling a few mm outside the brake lever following a shift on bumpy roads. Shifting and braking performance was never affected; it just showed slight imprecision.

    While Shimano is sticking with 140mm rotors for disc road applications, SRAM is recommending 160mm, which is what Focus uses here. As we've come to expect from riding two generations of SRAM Hydro R discs, stopping power is strong and easy to modulate. While the throw required (the distance you have to pull the lever) is more than you'd expect coming from rim calipers or Shimano hydraulics, it is easy to adjust expectations.  

    Regarding discs, a notable Focus design is the RAT, or Rapid Axle Technology. RAT combines the width and push-through design of a thru-axle (142x12 rear and 100x15 front) with the speed of a quick release. Just flip open the quick release, give a quarter-turn and pull the axle out. The quick-release lever side has a threaded washer for fine tuning. One thing learned over a few weeks of riding the Focus in the dry is that RAT is similar to road disc bikes with standard quick releases — you have to really clamp those suckers down down hard to avoid the wheels being knocked around slightly in the dropouts, resulting in annoying pad rub. Once you have this dialled, though, it's a good system.

    Like all SRAM Hydro R discs, the Rival 22s come with organic brake pads, which offer great modulation and stopping power. When wet, they'll squeak a bit, but unlike rim brakes — looking at you, carbon rims... — the discs' brake performance isn't compromised by water. You can abuse the brakes with water and grit, however. On one worst-case scenario ride on dirt roads in the rain, we burned completely through the pads and even part of the metal backing. While SRAM doesn't as of now offer metallic pads, SwissStop does make compatible metallic pads, which hold up better to grit.

    At the drivetrain, the 52/36 semi-compact chainrings and 11-28t cassette is perfect for the type of rider who would be attracted to a disc bike with a low front end. 52x11 is plenty big for everything but a downhill sprint, while the low gear of 36x28 is quite welcome on stiff climbs. 

    The rat is a mixture of quick release and thru-axle with a novel quarter-turn engagement: the rat is a mixture of quick release and thru-axle with a novel quarter-turn engagement
    The rat is a mixture of quick release and thru-axle with a novel quarter-turn engagement: the rat is a mixture of quick release and thru-axle with a novel quarter-turn engagement

    The RAT is a mixture of quick release and thru-axle with a novel quarter-turn engagement

    Rounding out the spec, the DT Swiss R24 Spline wheels pair nicely with Focus' RAT axles and are laced for durability. (Disc brake forces add stress to spokes.) Despite some fairly hefty abuse, the wheels stayed true and their 17mm internal-rim width meant the two sets of tyres we used pumped up right to their specified sizes. At 1,775g a pair, they aren't featherweights, but they aren't holding the bike back, either. The wheels are tubeless-compatible, too, should you choose to go that route later on.

    Rounding out the spec is the Fizik Arione saddle and the in-house Concept handlebar and stem. The Concept EX bar is one, erm, concept this tester just couldn't get to grips with for this bike, with its widely flaring drops that tilted the shifters outwards, too. We're seeing more of these bars crop up on adventure road bikes with tall head tubes and enormous tyres meant for slow-speed, long-haul trucking, but as the rest of this bike says 'go fast', this bar does not.

    Bottom line, the Focus Cayo 4.0 Disc is ahead of its time, offering discs and thru-axles on a racy carbon frame with tidy internal routing. No other company to my knowledge has yet put together such a package. 

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