The Mares range was created with input from former World Cyclocross Champion, and Focus founder, Mike Kluge. Below the limelight-stealing carbon Mares bikes, the 7005 aluminium models are more affordable entry points.
The 6.9 shares the near horizontal top-tube and Focus’s innovative Rapid Axle Technolgy (RAT) system, allowing wheel removal by flipping the lever open and giving it a quarter turn before withdrawing the axle. Reverse the process to refit.
The stocky all-carbon Mares fork gives the bike the head-on look of a rugby prop forward, with similar levels of burliness, and huge tyre clearance.
The frame is welded from hydroformed tubes, aside from the round seat tube. The top tube provides a flat shouldering surface, the down tube expands to better attach at the head tube and BSA bottom bracket shell.
Short head-tube contributes to compact front-end feel David Caudery/Immediate Media
The seatstays are slim and round for their lower half, then flatter and larger at the top. The slim, but deep chainstays are bridgeless, and straight, with a crimped outer section for chainring room. The rear brake hose and gear cable run through the down tube, exiting behind a raised aluminium lip to continue externally rearwards.
This model comes with an almost full SRAM Apex 1 groupset, the only deviation being SRAM’s non-series S350 chainset. It’s single ring, but there’s routing for a front mech cable via a post behind the seat tube, plus a mudguard mount.
I find that the upwards-facing cable stops here cause excessive clogging in mucky conditions, with the result that the cable soon corrodes. Clearance at the back is good, especially considering its 35mm tyres. The seatstay bridge is high up, and has a mudguard mounting point, plus there are rack mounts on the back.
Focus’s RAT thru-axle system makes switching wheels quick and easy David Caudery/Immediate Media
My large Mares produced a reasonably compact position, certainly shorter than expected for a 56cm equivalent bike, but the short head-tube allows for a fairly low front end if desired. The BBB cockpit feels solid, with very shallow drops, and the Velo saddle has a great shape that’s well padded and supportive.
Slow speed acceleration highlights the rotational weight of the Novatec wheelset and big Continental tyres. It’s possible to gain speed fast, but they seem to reach a velocity ceiling, above which the effort required increases exponentially. Long off-road drags can be just that, but the tyres seek out grip even when the going gets soft.
Assured over mixed terrain, and fun to ride, this Mares only fears the steep stuff Russell Burton / Immediate Media
Their volume allows for lower pressures, and helps ride comfort, because there’s no getting away from the bike’s almost 10kg complete weight. That said, the Mares is a composed ride, largely thanks to the slack 71-degree head angle and the fork’s excellent ability to take a beating.
It feels rock solid descending on sketchy surfaces, and handles with confidence, especially when picking your way through technical terrain.
The Mares gives you total control over line choice, and the Apex hydraulic brakes have all the power you’ll need. The Apex drivetrain is ideal too, although the 44-tooth chainring is more suited to less arduous cyclocross riding, because even with the 36 sprocket, the combination of bike weight plus steep climbs will see you walking sooner.
Still, it’s a comfortable, well-appointed and capable trail basher that could benefit from a bit of a diet.