Focus Izalco Max Disc Dura-Ace Mix review£3,299.00

Ultra light disc-equipped race machine

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Focus's standard Izalco Max is one of the latest generation of super light carbon machines, mixing a sub 800g frame with a 300g fork. It's truly impressive stuff, especially as our experiences have shown that it’s also an impressive machine to ride.

Up steps the new Max Disc, and its numbers are equally impressive – a frame weight of 790g, and a thru-axle, disc-specific fork that tips the scales at 320g. Lightness is all well and good, for bragging rights and weight weenies, and Focus can claim that this is the lightest disc chassis available right now – but it took more than mere numbers to make it onto the 'superbikes' shortlist for our stablemate title Cycling Plus's Bike of the Year contest.

Familar ride position

Geometry-wise the Max Disc closely matches its rim-brake sibling, with identical stack and reach figures 583mm stack and 405mm reach on our XL test bike. That makes for a ride position that’s long and low, and makes it extremely nimble and rapid to respond to steering inputs. The classic parallel 73-degree angles add a level of familiarity that all adds to the joyous way the Max flows with your inputs.

The super light izalco max pairs a sub-800g frame with a 300g fork
The super light izalco max pairs a sub-800g frame with a 300g fork

The super light Izalco Max pairs a sub-800g frame with a 300g fork

The one difference from the non-disc version is the wheelbase. It’s longer, at 1022mm, thanks to the 415mm chainstays – a requirement to ensure chainline accuracy with the wider rear hub requirements of disc brakes. It's worth noting that some manufacturers have got round this, with Specialized for instance redesigning its rear wheel on the Tarmac, and Cérvelo increasing the crankset width on the R3 disc.

We would have expected that the Max's elongated stance might have been detrimental to the swiftness of the handling. Such is the quality of the Izalco’s responses, though, that what you actually get is an addictive blend of sharpness and high-speed, rougher-surface stability.

Well-considered disc adaptations

Focus has clearly taken a great deal of care in developing the Max Disc. Its use of Shimano’s flat-mount disc-brake standard helps in keeping the weight down, and the 15mm/12mm thru-axles benefit from Focus' excellent patent-pending RAT system.

The latter features a T-shaped end that seats into the ‘bolt’ in the dropout. A simple 90-degree twist locks the axle in place and a flip of the quick-release lever secures it. It’s a lightweight, simple and very fast take on the thru-axle concept and one we really, really like.

The disc brakes' benefits are apparent when you point the focus downhill
The disc brakes' benefits are apparent when you point the focus downhill

Focus' RAT system is one of the best-thought-out takes on the thru-axle

Focus has also optimised the carbon layup over the standard Izalco, reinforcing areas of the frame affected by the inclusion of disc brakes, even to the point of extensively testing the brakes' mounts under intense heat to negate any concerns about the brakes getting hot and compromising the frame.

Top-grade spec

The bike comes equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace and Shimano’s top-grade RS805 brakes. The only deviation from a full Shimano suite is FSA’s carbon SL-K Light crankset, which in itself is an excellent unit with Shimano-matching slickness of shifts, even if in the grand scheme of things it probably sits more in line with Ultegra rather than flagship Dura-Ace.

The fsa carbon crankset is a deviation from an all-shimano drivetrain, but we weren't complaining
The fsa carbon crankset is a deviation from an all-shimano drivetrain, but we weren't complaining

The FSA carbon crankset is a deviation from an all-Shimano drivetrain, but we weren't complaining

Gearing is 52/36 up front with an 11-28 cassette. For many riders we'd argue that this is the ideal mix, offering low enough gearing for most climbs without compromising top-end speed potential.

That’s a good thing, because the Max isn't merely a determined climber; thanks to the lightness of the frame and the light-rolling, tubeless-ready DT Swiss R23 DB Spline wheels it shows real willingness on the ups and seems to act in perfect harmony with your efforts – especially when you get out of the saddle and go for the top.

It’s a similar experience on fast, flowing rollers. The Max is easy to get up to battling speeds the ride is smooth and noise-smothering thanks to a joint effort from the classy frameset and excellent Schwalbe One rubber and CPX Plus carbon seatpost.

Downhill demon

Head downhill on the Max, and it's well matched to its downhill demon rivals such as the Bianchi Specialissima and Cannondale SuperSix EVO. Its advantage lies in its brilliant brakes, which give you boundless amounts of feel – allowing you to feed in just enough braking pressure to scrub speed without risking locking a wheel.

It’s only on the tightest of turns where the elongated wheelbase means the Max is a little more prone to understeer compared with its standard-braked stablemate, and even then it's only when you really push the limits.

It's only when taking tight bends at the limit that the elongated stays become slightly noticeable
It's only when taking tight bends at the limit that the elongated stays become slightly noticeable

It's only when taking tight bends at speed that the elongated stays become at all noticeable

All in all the Izalco Max is an astonishingly good bike. The levels of rider comfort are superb, and that’s taking into account the race-orientated ride position too.

An even more compelling reason to consider the Max is the price. It's not cheap by anyone's standards, but for that significant outlay you do Dura-Ace, a classy carbon crankset, a great saddle from Fizik and a cockpit comprising a carbon CPX stem and lovely Fizik R3 bar. Add in great tyres wrapped around excellent wheels, and of course the superlight chassis, and the Max starts to look something of a bargain.

Bike of the year: top 3 superbikes of 2016

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Warren Rossiter

Senior Technical Editor
Approaching two decades of testing bikes, Warren can be found on a daily basis riding and exploring the road and off roads of Wiltshire's Salisbury Plain in the UK. That's when he's not travelling the world to test the latest kit, components and bikes.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 188cm / 6'2''
  • Weight: 92kg / 203lb
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 112cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Road
  • Preferred Terrain: Big, fast descents and rough surfaces like cobbles or strada bianca
  • Current Bikes: Decade Tripster ATR, Dedacciai Temarario, Cannondale Synapse, BMC Granfondo Disc Di2, Genesis Day One CX, Parlee Z Zero Custom, Storck Scenario Comp Custom, DMR Trailstar, Bianchi Pista, Cube SUV 29er e-bike
  • Dream Bike: Bianchi Oltre Disc, Bianchi Specialissima, Cannondale Slate, Buffalo Bike
  • Beer of Choice: Brew Dog Punk IPA
  • Location: Wiltshire, UK

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