Focus Sam2 e-MTB first ride review£6,699.00

Brand new long-travel e-bike uses innovative battery packaging to deliver a smooth ride

Focus has just launched its longest travel e-bike yet. Based on the Sam enduro platform it offers a generous 170mm of travel at each end. Unlike the non-electric Sam, it makes use of Focus’s “FOLD” (Focus Optimised Linkage Design) suspension system as well as its modular battery system, dubbed “TEC” (tailored energy concept).

The FOLD suspension provides a regressive rate towards the sag point (for reasons which don’t really make much sense to me) before becoming moderately progressive after sag to add mid-end stroke support and resist bottoming out.

Meanwhile, the TEC battery system is designed to offer plenty of oomph without too much unnecessary weight.

Most e-MTBs use a battery with around 500Wh of energy. In my experience, this is good for between 1,000m and 1,500m of climbing, depending on terrain and how you use it. Focus, however, argues this is more than necessary for 90 percent of e-MTB rides, and too little for some longer days out.

Instead, it uses a smaller 380Wh battery housed inside the down tube. This not only looks neat, but saves weight — both because the battery is smaller and because the cylindrical down tube is not structurally compromised to allow a battery to be slotted in and out.

Focus's TEC concept means an additional battery slots on in seconds, doubling the range
Focus's TEC concept means an additional battery slots on in seconds, doubling the range

Focus reckons this will provide enough juice for most 2–3 hour rides, which it says make up the majority of its customers’ outings. In this configuration a bespoke bottle cage mount can be slotted above the down tube.

If you want to do a longer ride, an additional 380Wh pack can be slotted onto the down tube instead of the bottle cage, providing a whopping total battery capacity of 760Wh. Cleverly, the additional battery is used up first, so it can be removed and left somewhere safe once it’s spent.

The Sam uses a longer travel versin of the FOLD suspension system used on the Jam
The Sam uses a longer travel versin of the FOLD suspension system used on the Jam

The Sam2 weighs in at a very competitive 21kg in size medium. Add another 2kg with the external battery installed.

The disadvantage of this system is that the internal battery is not easy to remove. Two bolts must be taken out, allowing the motor to be swung down, then the battery can be slid out of the down tube.

This makes it harder to swap the primary battery or take it out to charge outside of the bike. Of course, the battery can be charged inside the bike if you have electricity in the place where you store your bike.

Air scoops are said to help keep the battery cool
Air scoops are said to help keep the battery cool

Because the battery is encased inside the down tube Focus has developed a venting system to keep it cool. This allows air to enter via ports near the head tube, pass through the down tube and exit via the motor. It claims this prevents the battery over-heating, or becoming less efficient due to excessive heat, and says it’s been tested in a lab from -10°C to 40°C.

I’m not sure how effective it would be on very steep, high-power but low-speed climbs where air flow is low, especially as the convection current (heat rises) will be working counter to the downward air flow.

Either way, aluminium frames are a very effective heat sink. I’ve only seen an e-bike overheat once, and that was when towing another non-electric bike up a steep hill in Boost mode, in 30°C heat. That bike was fine, by the way — after the Shimano motor displayed an error message, forcing the rider to stop, it soon cooled down and functioned perfectly for the rest of the day.

Sam2 spec options and pricing

The Sam2 will be available in three sizes: Small, Medium and Large.

There’ll be three spec options covering a wide range of budgets. European prices may vary by country.  

Sam2  Pro

Meet the new Focus Sam2 Pro
Meet the new Focus Sam2 Pro

  • Price: £6,699 / €7,699
  • Gearing: SRAM EX1
  • Fork: Fox 36 Factory
  • Shock: FOX DPS
  • Brakes: CODE RSC

Sam2

The mid-price Sam2 model saves over £2,000 over the Pro model
The mid-price Sam2 model saves over £2,000 over the Pro model

  • Price: £4,399 / €4,999
  • Gearing: SRAM NX
  • Fork: Fox 36 Performance Elite
  • Brakes: Fox DPS shock, Magura MT5

Sam2 LTD

While the cheapest LTD model is a little more affordable again.
While the cheapest LTD model is a little more affordable again.

  • Price: £3,999 / €4,599
  • Gearing: Shimano XT mechanical
  • Fork: RockShox Yari
  • Shock: Deluxe R
  • Brakes: Magura MT2

Focus Sam2 ride impressions

I’ve made my thoughts on Shimano’s Steps motor abundantly clear in previous e-bike write-ups here, here and here. Suffice to say, it works brilliantly. Power delivery is ample yet relatively smooth, offering an intuitive “normal-bike with superhuman legs” feel.

Like most e-bikes, the  Sam2 will climb up virtually anything. Having said that, I still think the 75-degree effective seat angle could be even steeper to help prevent front-wheel lift on the steepest pitches.

Focus’ s decision to fit normal-width 2.5-inch tyres makes sense from a puncture-prevention standpoint, but I feel 2.8-inch versions of the same excellent Minion tyres would offer even more climbing traction, which is always the limiting factor of e-bike ascents. There is space for up to 2.8-inch rubber in the frame and fork, though.

Shimano Steps helps you power up the climbs
Shimano Steps helps you power up the climbs

As Focus only offers the  Sam2 in three sizes I had to squeeze onto a size large test bike. This was not ideal, especially with my penchant for longer bikes.

Unfortunately, the  Sam2 is not the longest bike even for its size, with a reach of 455mm in Large, and the 60mm stem feels too long. This made for slightly awkward handling in steep corners, so I’d recommend fitting a shorter stem and sizing up (rather than sizing down like me), if at all possible.

With a rear-centre of 455mm, the bike feels relatively in proportion. E-bikes of old had far longer back ends, and so felt awkward when descending, especially on tight turns. This is one of the shortest back ends of any e-bike, (similar to some longer non-e-bikes) and that’s no bad thing.

When hitting rough sections the fairly slack head angle (65-degree), low bottom bracket (340mm) and low centre of mass (I was riding without the additional battery) make for a really planted feel, even when compared to other e-bikes.

While low-down weight, supple suspension and a fairly slack head angle boost confidence coming back down
While low-down weight, supple suspension and a fairly slack head angle boost confidence coming back down

Suspension is super supple too, despite setting the compression damping quite firm. The combined result is downhill-bike levels of security, comfort and stability when hammering through loose rock gardens. It’s a lot of fun.

However, while the suspension ramps up nicely towards the end-stroke (I struggled to find the bottom and felt no need to swap volume spacers) it isn’t the most supportive in the middle third of its travel — hence the firm compression damping.

Combined with the low bottom bracket height (for an e-bike) of 340mm, I was clipping pedals more often than I’d expect when descending. Though, of course, this is partly down to riding style, I’d prefer if the BB was a touch higher ± it’s not often I say that! Happily, the short 170mm crank arms meant I didn’t find pedal-strikes to be an issue when climbing, and fitting bigger tyres would help raise the BB a little as well.

The Sam2 is due to be available to buy from January 2018.

For more info, check out Focus

Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Age: 24
  • Height: 192cm/6'3"
  • Weight: 85Kg/187 lbs
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 107cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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