Focus Izalco Max AG2R

The bike Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Carlos Betancur rode to victory in Paris-Nice

BikeRadar score 5/5

The Focus Izalco Max is very, very light – which isn’t surprising when you consider that its frame dips below the 800g mark. When combined with the slimline 5th Element fork, the chassis barely nudges over a kilo, meaning that our 58cm bike weighs just 6.18kg overall.

  • Highs: Sublime blend of speed, lightness, handling and decent comfort
  • Lows: The 53/39 chainset and 11-25 cassette is a big gear setup
  • Buy If: What you want from a superbike is a brilliant blend of speed and everyday usability

As with the Fuji Altamira, this is well under the weight the UCI allows, though add pedals, bottle cages, GPS and computer and the UCI officials will give it the nod. Maybe grudgingly so…

Focus makes two separate frames for the Izalco: an internally routed electronic version and a mechanical model with external cable routing. Mechanics will love the latter for its ease of servicing and, though it may look a little passé these days, it’s tried and tested technology. With Campagnolo’s classic-looking Super Record groupset, it performs as close to faultlessly as any setup we’ve used.

Campag may be lower-key in its sponsorship than Shimano or SRAM, but Super Record delivers a pro-level performance. Gear changes are rapid and accompanied with a definite click – like a precision watch movement clicking into place – to let you know the shifting has happened. In fact, ‘precision’ is the exact word that Super Record brings to mind. We’re impressed. Very impressed.

Custom graphics on the carbon rims match the team’s livery

The Izalco's kit is racy. The 53/39 chainset is paired with a tight 11-25 cassette, while Fulcrum’s Racing Speed R3 carbon wheels have sprint rims for tubular rubber. These 35mm deep rims cut through the air without suffering the excess weight of some cheaper deep-section rims. And even with the aggressive gearing the result is a seriously impressive climbing machine.

That voracious appetite for speed is carried over to other disciplines too – on the flat it feels as fast as a time trial bike. We were concerned that the lightweight chassis and skinny fork might hamper descending and suffer under high-speed cornering, but the opposite turned out to be true. Helped by the new Schwalbe One tubulars, the Max offers some of the most composed descending here. The 22mm tubs may appear skinny compared with the latest 25mm trend, but the casing is ultra-compliant and the tread tenaciously sticky, even on slick, wet roads.

On rougher surfaces the Max counters fatigue-inducing vibrations well. It’s helped in this by Fizik’s superb Aliante saddle – one of our long-time faves – which will be paired with a carbon Fizik Cyrano seatpost (ours had an FSA for supply reasons).

The Izalco is beautifully designed for long hours riding low and hard

There’s a similar quality setup at the front too. The Fizik cockpit combines a classy R1 stem and R3 bar, both made from Ergal 7075 alloy: the pro’s choice of material may not match carbon for comfort, but in race bike terms it’s as smooth as silk. So in spite of the riding position being as aggressive as you’d expect, great contact points mean you’re never stressed even after long, low, hard hours in the saddle.

Focus has delivered everything that you’d want from a Tour de France superbike: it’s super-quick, feather-light and handles wonderfully. We’d sell a kidney to own a bike this good.

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

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