Focus Mares AX 3.0 review

German cyclocross machine at a tempting price

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £999.00 RRP | USD $1,350.00

Our review

Whether on tarmac or trail, the Mares AX 3.0 is fast, fun and full of innovation
Skip to view product specifications

 Focus’s range of cyclocross bikes contains two models: the all-carbon Mares CX and the alloy-framed Mares AX. Buying a ’cross bike offers a lot of advantages to non-’crossers – their toughness makes them great commuter machines and light touring all-rounders – and the AX 3.0 is a perfect example: a steed that performs swiftly on the tarmac, but also has qualities that a standard road bike can’t match.

Advertisement
  • Highs: Innovative thru-axles, frame delivers wonderful handling
  • Lows: Road-biased components limit its cyclocross competitiveness
  • Buy if: You want a bargain that’s enjoyable to ride on and off road

At this price bracket you’re not going to get a lightweight race machine for easy shouldering over the rough, but with the AX 3.0 you’re also not getting race-ratio gearing. A typical ’cross bike for competition would have a 46/36 chainset; the AX 3.0 offers a wider spread with a 50/34 compact. And while its 10kg weight might make it more of a burden to carry, it’s less of an issue on a long-distance commute over rutted roads – which is when you’ll appreciate the bike’s strength and comfort.

The AX 3.0’s nimble feel makes any venture on road fun, as you can flick it around obstacles, such as errant texting pedestrians crossing the road without looking. The Schwalbe Rocket Rons, with their small-block treads, aren’t as fast as slicks, but they’re still pretty rapid, and you can easily hold 20mph without undue buzz or road noise.

Focus’s rat thru-axles give a solid connection between hub and dropout :
Robert Smith

Focus’s RAT thru-axles give a solid connection between hub and dropout

It’s on the trail that this bike really comes into its own, though, its balanced yet exciting and reactive handling allowing you to go ever faster through the dirt. In fact, we were happy to take it on steep sections we had no right to be on – trails we’d normally only tackle with a hardtail or full-suspension cross-country mountain bike. Okay, we’ve got a few battle scars, but such is our confidence in the Mares’ handling that we’ll accept the wounds.

The bike’s thru-axles play a notable part in that ride quality. Rarer than rocking horse manure until recently, as more road bikes now come with disc brakes, they offer a more solid connection between the dropouts and hubs, preventing brake rotor rub and judder. Here, Shimano’s R517 brakes perform smoothly, positively and are easy to modulate, and the Focus-designed RAT thru-axles lock the wheel securely but only take a quarter turn of the quick release to undo and remove. It’s faster than a standard quick release – you don’t have to unwind the skewer – and you also don’t have to release the brake to remove the wheel.

The mares’ balanced yet snappy handling demands that you head for the rough stuff :
Robert Smith

The Mares’ balanced yet snappy handling demands that you head for the rough stuff

Advertisement

The AX 3.0’s kit is what you’d expect for this kind of money, with the saddle and super-compact bar being well shaped, and the rack mounts adding to its commuting credentials. The bike also overcomes any lazy national stereotypes – this German bike categorically ‘fun’, which is what a cyclocross bike should be all about. Whether blasting through the woods or the urban jungle, we can’t recall many rides that offer this much enjoyment for the price.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Mares AX 3.0 (15)
Brand Focus

Available Sizes XS S M L XL XXL
Year 2015
Seatpost Concept 27.2mm
Shifters Shimano Tiagra 10-speed
Stem CEX alloy oversize 11cm
Trail 7.6
Weight (kg) 10.43
Wheelset Concept disc, 32 spokes f&r, 15/12mm thruaxles
Weight (lb) 22.99
Saddle Concept
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 28
Chainstays (cm) 42.5
Seat Tube (cm) 52
Standover Height (cm) 81
Top Tube (cm) 56
Wheelbase (cm) 103
Seat Angle 73.5
Rear Wheel Weight 2410
Bottom Bracket Shimano Hollowtech 2
Frame Material Triple-butted aluminium
Brakes Shimano BR-CX75
Cassette Shimano Tiagra 10-speed 12-28
Chain Shimano 4600
Cranks Shimano Tiagra 50/34 172.5mm
Fork Full carbon disc 1 1/8-1¼in with 15mm thru-axle
Fork Offset 4.5
Front Derailleur Shimano Tiagra band-on front
Rear Tyre Schwalbe Rocket Ron 700x32
Front Tyre Schwalbe Rocket Ron 700x32
Front Wheel Weight 1900
Handlebar CEX alloy oversize 46cm
Head Angle 70.5
Headset Type FSA integrated 1 1/8-1¼in
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105 (5700)
Frame size tested M