The Focus range beneits from direct selling and the ultra-competitive market of its German homeland to give its hardtails and road bikes a real edge in terms of value. Their full suspension bike isn’t as cost effective or convincing, though.
The Super Bud looks and feels like an old bike with a new paint job. It’s not a bad ride, but the begrudging suspension, sideways flex, overall weight and slippery tyres mean it’s no match for Focus's excellent hardtails.
Ride & handling: Okay for cross-country, but it's hefty and lacks traction
The Super Bud looks fast and the initial ride matches that impression. The Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres are centre-ridge semi-slicks, meaning they rip along quickly on the flat. On smoother stuff the handling balance is good, too. It’s a steep, cross-country-style bike, but as long as you don’t brake too hard and get right off the back when heading down steep inclines then it jinks and dives through singletrack well.
As with the similar Giant NRS, the suspension is designed to almost lock out when you press on the pedals, adding a firm and direct feel to the rear end and providing no trace of bob, regardless of how hard you sprint. The downside is very little shock movement over small bumps, which reduces traction and comfort. In fact, it feels like riding a hardtail until the bumps get big enough to kick the suspension into action.
Though we were dubious whether it gave 90mm travel at first, the shock’s short stroke does suck up medium hits (kerbs, ruts, foot-high drops and so on) surprisingly well if you run it with plenty of sag. Luckily – considering there’s no adjustment on the shock – the rebound damping is also about right for an 11-12 stone rider.
Unfortunately, the Focus's back end shares the flex problems of the NRS. You can push the rear wheel almost onto the seatstays if you punch the power down or slew it through corner and it ‘ghost shifts’ across gears without warning if you stomp too hard. Add centre-ridge tyres with limited traction and cornering grip and it’s deinitely a bike to cruise rather than charge on.
We couldn’t get more than 65mm of travel out of the alleged 100mm coil-sprung stroke of the Rock Shox Tora fork either, and while it clunks along okay over mild stuff, you’ll want to give the toothier sections a miss.
Even without proper commitment to the more punishing sections, a sharp feeling, fast rolling, zero pedal movement bike sounds like just the ticket for racing or high-speed trail work. Unfortunately, at 32lb this wouldn’t be our first choice to drag into the hills for a long day. We reckon most riders with a race number in their resume will find a better match in a Focus hardtail.
Frame: Old skool looks matched by outdated suspension design
The Focus has a smooth, hourglass-style integrated headtube, but the rest of the frame is relatively old skool. There’s no hydroforming, just round tubes throughout with a big throat gusset at the head end.
The suspension setup is reminiscent of Giant’s old NRS race frame, with shock and rocker links all mounted on one big shoe welded onto the front of the seat tube. Out back, Horst link chainstay pivots are dropped much lower than usual to change the rear wheel behaviour. Twin shallow rocker links drive the short-stroke Suntour shock, which was mounted upside down on our sample for no apparent reason.
While the squared seatstays look reasonably stiff, Focus has added an extra gusset plate wrapped and welded onto the offside chainstay. The diagonal ‘slice’ of the stays toward the single-sided pivot looks and is flimsy, and the redundant V-brake mounts on the stays leave a ‘we’ve found some old frames we can knock out cheap’ aftertaste.
There’s not much space around the rear tyre, and the seatpost slot faces backwards, so wheel spray could eventually cause a seizure problem. You do get a bottle cage mount on the down tube, though.
Equipment: Good brakes but cheap chainset and average fork
Considering an ‘09 Focus Black Forest hardtail comes with a Fox fork and SLX gearing for about the same price, the Super Bud doesn’t look particularly great value either.
The transmission kit gets a Shimano XT rear mech upgrade and the brakes are good, but the FSA chainset is definitely a low-rent item, even if you unclip the ugly plastic trouser guard.
The Tora SL fork is no better value than normal for this price range. Most riders are going to have to change tyres too, adding to the cost. The white rims with colour matched grips and saddle trim will seduce a lot of people though.