Focus have shaken up the UK bike market by offering exceptional value for money. Since online retailers Wiggle starting importing the German bikes three years ago, they’ve come out top in countless tests.
Their Izalco Tria set the standards for entry-level triathlon/time trial machines last year. Now the new Culebro Tria takes over as the lowest cost bike in the range. Priced at £1,173.46, it’s among the cheapest time trial-specific bikes you can buy.
Ride & handling: Firm, responsive and comfortable
Sling a leg over the Focus and the first thing you’ll notice is the impressive frame stiffness. Hitting the scales at 21.6lb (9.6kg), it’s about an average weight for a tri bike of its price, but there’s very little flex around the bottom bracket; you get a firm pedal platform that converts your energy efficiently into driving the bike forward. As a result, it’s a responsive ride, accelerating from the off or out of tight bends much more eagerly than you’d expect.
Get up to speed and the Culebro Tria cruises along, happily eating up the miles. Spend more money and you can get a more aerodynamic rig with more aero wheels, but the Focus cuts through the air well for a bike of its price. Just as important, the ride is comfortable when you’re down on the bar extensions so you can stay down there and concentrate on getting the power in without having to sit up to ease aches and pains.
The Culebro Tria is never going to climb as fast as a super-lightweight but it takes on the hills just fine; a whopping 28-tooth sprocket matched up to the 42-tooth inner chainring, providing a small enough gear to get you up pretty much anything you’re likely to come across in a triathlon.
Down the other side and the Focus is perfectly well-mannered, with accurate steering giving you the conidence to push your limits through the turns.
Chassis: Aerodynamic aluminium frame plus lightweight carbon legged fork
At the heart of the Culebro Tria you get a smooth welded aluminium frame that’s built with aerodynamics in mind. The down tube is a deep tear-drop section and the seat tube, with matching seatpost, has a similar proile before it’s cut away towards the bottom bracket junction to shelter the rear wheel from wind.
The taut back end features seatstays that morph from triangular section to round along their length, while the burly top tube is also triangular… Well, kind of; there’s a whole lot of shaping and tapering going on to help provide stiffness through the centre section of the bike.
Our XL model came with a steep 77.5° (oficially 76.3°) to tilt you forward around the bottom bracket, helping you get a slippery, wind-cheating body position without putting too much strain on your back. The smaller sizes use a slightly more aggressive 78°.
The head tube is lofty for a triathlon bike, though – 18cm on our big bloke’s model. We managed to get things set up so that we were riding in a fairly lat-backed position but not quite horizontal – which is something for you to consider if you do want to get really low down and dirty on race day.
The carbon legged fork isn’t especially skinny but it’s reasonably lightweight and provides good front end rigidity.
Equipment: Decent wheels, predictable brakes and quality SRAM gears
The Cole Shuriken Alloy wheels are reasonably lightweight and, despite only 16 double butted spokes up front and 20 at the rear, they’re pretty stiff so they spin up to speed swiftly. We got a tiny amount of brake rub when we set the blocks really close to the rim and rode out of the saddle, but not enough to get concerned about.
The wheels ran buttery smooth on their sealed cartridge bearings throughout testing although we did need to retighten a couple of the straight-pull spokes at the back to correct a slight wobble a few rides in. More inconvenient than disastrous – but a shame nonetheless.
SRAM’s carbon bar end shifters matched up to their Force derailleurs allow you to skip through the gears effortlessly. You get a positive shift feel and precise changes in both directions, and we know from experience that SRAM kit rarely needs adjusting. Top stuff.
The Vision bars don’t offer tons of adjustment – you can’t alter the reach at all, which is disappointing – but the gel-like arm rests offer plenty of cushioning and support and Focus’s in-house saddle effectively dampens out road vibration.
Vision’s blade-like brake levers matched up to FSA’s Energy callipers might not offer the ultimate in stopping-power, but they’re progressive and predictable enough that you don’t ind yourself nervously scrubbing off speed ‘just in case’.