Focus SAM C Team - first ride review

Carbon makeover for the enduro racer

BikeRadar score4/5

In addition to the brand new Spine trail bike, Focus has given its enduro race bike a carbon makeover. The new SAM C Team sports similar geometry to its alloy predecessor in a lighter, stiffer package. 

SAM C Team specifics

  • Pricing: TBA
  • Full carbon frame
  • 160mm front and rear travel
  • 27.5in wheels
  • Complete bike weight: 12.5kg/27.5lb
  • Lower bottom bracket and shorter chainstays than alloy version
  • Available in August 2015

Design details

The switch to carbon results in a claimed weight savings of 600g over the alloy version introduced a season ago. The total weight for the top-end medium SAM C Team is 12.5kg / 27.5lb (without pedals).

Aside from swapping materials, the bike remains largely unchanged, save for small tweaks based on feedback from Focus Trail Team enduro racers. The bottom bracket is slightly lower, sporting 12mm of bottom bracket drop compared to 7mm on the alloy version. The chainstays shrink from 438mm down to 430mm, making the bike a bit more agile through the turns.

Cables are routed internally on the focus sam:
Cables are routed internally on the focus sam:

Cables are cleanly routed through the SAM's carbon frame 

Shared features between the carbon and alloy bikes include internal cable routing, a Press Fit 30 bottom bracket, a low direct-mount front derailleur mount, an integrated downtube protector, and double rows of bearings at the rear pivot to bolster rear end stiffness.

There are two other carbon models of the SAM to choose from in addition to the flagship SAM C Team tested here.

The SAM C SL will come equipped with a SRAM XO1 group, 160mm RockShox Pike RC Dual Position fork, Monarch RT shock and DT Swiss E 1700 Spline One wheels.

The SAM C Pro rounds out the carbon line with a 160mm RockShox Pike RC fork, Monarch RT shock, and a mixed SRAM XO1/X1 drivetrain with a house-branded Concept EX wheelset.

US, UK and Australian pricing has yet to be announced.

First impressions

The sam c team shines when the trail turns rugged :
The sam c team shines when the trail turns rugged :

The SAM C Team endures the climbs but comes alive when the trail gets steep and technical

Like many of its recently introduced peers, the slack SAM’s geometry is approaching the realm of downhill race bike numbers from a few short years ago. The 65-degree head tube angle is manageable in flat corners and on climbs thanks in part to the ultra-steep 75-degree seat tube angle that places the rider in an aggressive stance over the handlebar. 

The low-slung SAM has great standover clearance and the steep seat angle — which also makes the cockpit feel shorter than the numbers might suggest — gives the rider a bit more wiggle room when steering off the back of the bike during steep, technical descents, which is exactly where the SAM shines.

The SAM’s linkage-driven single-pivot suspension serves up a very consistent feel as the shock dives deep into the 160mm of rear travel, ramping up subtly at the very end of the stroke. While the incredibly capable RockShox Monarch Plus shock does an admirable job of absorbing each and every impact that comes its way, it’s easy to get lost in the very linear feel of the long stroke shock — it all feels about the same until you've maxed out this bike's travel. 

The sam has 160mm of suspension travel :
The sam has 160mm of suspension travel :

The Monarch Plus rear shock serves up 160mm of travel 

More aggressive riders, as well as those who prefer a bit more tactile feedback from the rear end, would be well served by adding a couple volume spacers to the stock tune for a more progressive feel.

This could easily be said about any of the latest crop of enduro race bikes, but it still rings true: you have to be riding some truly heinous terrain before the SAM C Team comes into its own, for everything else you’ll find yourself over-gunned.

Enduro racers and gravity park riders will enjoy the SAM C Team’s ability make short work of steep terrain, and while it's not the most willing ascender, it can still grunt out the climbs in search of the next big line.

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