The new bike falls under the ‘endurance’ banner, and in Focus’ hierarchy it sits between the Izalco Max and the much more relaxed Izalco Ergoride. R&D engineer Patrick Schmidt described it as a bike you can “take shortcuts” on – down lanes, tracks and unpaved roads – with suitably large tyre clearances and levels of comfort along with light overall weight. Interestingly though he denied that Focus had launched a gravel bike – “that’s too niche”, he said.
You can see the influence of other focus models – including the raven hardtail mtb – in the paralane’s tube shapes:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
You can see the influence of other Focus models in the Paralane’s tube shapes
To us the Paralane does sound rather like a gravel machine, but at the roadie end of the spectrum. It’s not an out and out off-road-road monster like Open’s UP or Cannondale’s Slate, being more in keeping with Cervélo’s new C-Series (with which it shares plenty of similarities, including its approach to geometry).
The idea behind the Paralane apparently came from within Focus’ design team (and founder Mike Kluge, a three-times world champion cross-country rider).
Engineering lead of the Paralane project Fabian Scholz, who’s also the current German enduro MTB champion, explained that regular long lunchtime road rides out from their Stuttgart office usually involved the team riding Izalco Max disc bikes, but that quite often they venture off the tarmac onto dirt, mainly finding shortcuts back to base as trips get a little wayward for just a lunchtime.
The hydraulic hose is neatly routed through the fork crown:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
The hydraulic hose is neatly routed through the fork crown
“Of course, we could use a Mares ‘cross bike for this type of riding,” Schmidt told BikeRadar, “but we wanted something that wouldn’t feel compromised on the road – a fast road bike should feel like just that.”
That said, with mountain bikers on the design team, the inspiration for the Paralane was wide-ranging, according to product manager Andrew James.
“We wanted to bring not only technology from the award-winning Izalco Max Disc but also from our Raven Max hardtail – that’s why Fabian [Scholz] who’s usually our MTB specialist, led the design on the project,” he said. “With the Paralane we’ve fully opened the box on road bike design – and looked way outside of it.”
Focus Paralane: familiar design language
From the outset, the Paralane was designed with only disc brakes in mind, so you won’t see a caliper option even on the cheaper alloy models.
Even at first glance you can see a lot of Focus’ design language in the chassis. The fork, equipped with the brand’s excellent proprietary RAT thru-axle system, shares similar slender dimensions to the Izalco Max, and the angular external ribbed design of the head tube and main tubes bears plenty of similarities with both the Izalco and Cayo (not to mention the Raven hardtail).
The RAT system, an original design of Scholz’s, has been one of Focus’ best achievements in recent years. The speed in which you can change a wheel with RAT is impressive – once you’re used to the system, in fact, its actually quicker to use than a standard quick-release skewer.
The fork crown is 10mm taller than on the izalco max, adding tyre clearance and more stack without making the bike look ungainly:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
The fork crown is 10mm taller than on the Izalco Max, adding tyre clearance and more stack without making the bike look ungainly
For the Paralane, Focus has introduced the new RAT EVO, adopting 12mm-diameter axles front and rear, with steel inserts switched for alloy ones, and the shape and fitting of the nut improved for faster location. The new EVO system saves around 43g over the previous version.
The bike’s geometry is intended to sit between race (long stem, long-reach bar, slammed front end) and enthusiast (shorter stem, short-reach compact drop bar, plenty of spacers).
To have a little more height at the front for endurance comfort, the easy option would be to lengthen the head tube, as we’ve seen many times in the past. Focus however has only done so by a few milimetres size for size, instead increasing the fork length by 10mm, which also helps with tyre clearance.
The alloy model also uses the rat thru-axle system on all models:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
The RAT thru-axle system features on all models
At the same time, the designers dropped the BB height by 5mm, giving a net gain of 15mm to the stack (the distance between the top of the head tube and the centre of the BB) without compromising the sporty look of the bike.
Taking a medium-sized bike (56cm), all this equates to a stack of 577mm with a reach of 375mm. The comparable Izalco Max has a stack of 537mm and reach of 390mm, the Ergoride 580mm stack and 380mm reach. Sizing is proportional across the 6 sizes (48/51/54/56/58/61).
At the business end, the head angle has been adjusted by half a degree and 3mm taken out of the fork rake. Scholz told us that this adjustment was made to make sure the steering stayed acceptably sharp.
Focus Paralane: weight and comfort considerations
Focus has always been impressive in the weight stakes, especially with disc road bikes, and the Paralane preserves this record with a 54cm, fully painted frame complete with all hardware (bottle cage bolts, rear derailleur hanger, inserts, seat clamp and cable guides) tipping the scales at 907g. For comparison, the Cérvelo C5 – a more expensive proposition – weighs in at 840g.
Weight and comfort aren’t mutually exclusive when it comes to construction, and for the Paralane’s back end Focus looked across the road/MTB divide at the Raven Max. Despite being a rabidly fast machine, and one of the lightest production hardtails on the market, the Raven is a surprisingly comfy beast as far as its rear triangle goes.
This render shows how the paralane’s back end is designed ‘pre-loaded’ to allow both sets of stays to flex:Focus cycles
This render shows how the Paralane’s back end is designed ‘pre-loaded’ to allow both sets of stays to flex
Focus, in keeping with bike-industry flannel, has seen fit to give the relevant technology an acronym – in this instance CIA or ‘comfort improving areas’. It’s visible in long seatstays that bow downwards slightly and pass either side of the seat tube, allowing for far more movement than on a traditional double-triangle frame, and in chainstays that are flattened and bowed upwards.
Scholz described the shaping, in conjunction with the carbon layup, as creating stays that are “pre-loaded” or tensioned, meaning that compared with a straight tube they can flex far more quickly and sensitively in response to movement caused by bumps. “We investigated and tested the theory and practice with no fewer than 17 design versions since the start of the project,” he said.
The base of the seat tube flattens and broadens, again enabling it to move:Focus cycles
The base of the seat tube flattens and broadens, again enabling it to move
The seat tube too is designed to allow for more movement. It widens and flattens significantly just above the bottom bracket, and the semi-sloping frame shape (similar to that of the Cayo) allows for more exposed seatpost – again for added comfort-giving flex.
Focus has also followed in Cannondale’s footsteps in using the once-thought-obsolete 25.4mm seatpost diameter. The brand has come up with a new 25.4mm version of its excellent Concept CPX comfort post (this means Cannondale fans will have another nice aftermarket option too).
The cpx post is a clever comfort-giving flexible post, made even more so by the reduced to 25.4 diameter used on the paralane:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
The CPX post is a clever comfort-giving flexible post
At the front end, it’s the fork design that offers cushioning. The stepped tapered legs look similar to the Izalco Max’s but the construction has been tweaked to offer a little more fore-aft compliance. Focus claims an increase in comfort of 20% over the Max (no, we aren’t sure how you quantify comfort into a percentage either).
Focus Paralane: versatility as standard
The Paralane range includes alloy as well as carbon-framed options, which share the same geometry, the same all-carbon fork, the same smaller diameter seatpost standard and the same RAT EVO thru-axles. The alloy version also has rear rack mounts, making it an interesting option for multi-surface commuters.
The alloy frame is built using Focus’ highly developed hydroforming processes, which carry over from the Cayo AL. Focus can control the wall thickness of its tubes down to fractions of a millimetre; it’s claimed this has enabled the ‘pre-loaded’ stay feature to be translated fairly successfully from the carbon bike.
The alloy paralane, focus claims, offers similar levels of compliance to the carbon models at the rear thanks to these heavily flattened seat stays – and it also gets commuter-friendly rack mounts:Warren Rossiter/Immediate media
The alloy Paralane, Focus claims, offers similar levels of compliance to the carbon models
We were pleased to see that Focus has included hidden mudguard (fender) mounts on both the carbon and alloy frames (and forks). The bridgeless design of the carbon frame means it comes with a clip-on bridge/mount that’s similar to the rubberised one available for Cervélo’s C-series bikes.
One particularly nice touch is that Focus has partnered with Belgian manufacturer Curana to make a dedicated set of mudguards for the Paralane. They’re included with every model from the cheapest alloy Tiagra option to the SRAM Red eTap Hydro-equipped flagship.
The bikes will ship with 28mm rubber as standard, but there’s clearance for 35mm (or 32mm with mudguards attached).
All in all we reckon the Paralane is an interesting proposition. Focus has put together a light bike that’s capable of handling pretty much any terrain you’re likely to encounter, and using some of the knowledge showcased by Cervélo (geometry tweaks like those of the C-series) and Cannondale (the smaller seatpost diameter) while adopting wider rubber as standard is an approach we approve of. If the bike can encompass the best of the traits of some brilliant influences, it should be a hell of a machine.