Here’s a short list of things we appreciate: biscuits dipped in tea, the reassuring hiss of an expensive tyre on pristine tarmac and bikes that arrive fitted with mudguards. The Focus Paralane AL 105 is the last of these — a fat tyred, disc brake-equipped bike with all-road versatility (don’t call it a gravel bike) and all-weather equipment.
Launched last June, the Paralane offers a more relaxed approach to life than its stablemates, the racy Cayo and Izalco Max. I’m testing the affordable alloy version that looks like a promising candidate for British commuting.
Its ride quality is well rounded, and smart design along with sensible gearing means it climbs better than its weight suggests
The Paralane’s frame is in keeping with current trends in aluminium, blending complex tube profiles for an optimal ride. The top-tube is particularly wide and flat, and along with an unusually slim seatpost (25.4mm!) and similarly flattened seatstays, it’s clear that the focus (ho, ho) is on vertical compliance.
The Paralane’s spec is decidedly competent if not overly generous for the money. Shimano 105 bits take care of shifting, while the hydraulics come courtesy of groupset-equivalent RS505 levers with matching brakes. The hoods are big and lumpy, but most of our testers find them quite comfortable and the braking is beyond reproach in all weathers.
In-house finishing kit gets the job done and the DT Swiss-rimmed wheels are reasonably heavy but inoffensive, their 18mm internal width useful if not impressive. They’re anchored in place with 12mm thru-axles, which use Focus’s proven RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) quick-release standard.
By virtue of a relatively upright position (this 54cm bike has 375mm of reach and a huge 582mm of stack) and not inconsiderable mass, the Paralane is not a bike for high-speed, competitive endeavours. Such usage would rather miss the point, and for eating up long miles it nails the formula perfectly.
The Paralane is not a bike for high-speed, competitive endeavoursRobert Smith / Immediate Media
While the saddle is slightly too soft to be truly supportive, both ends of the bike smooth out broken road surfaces, helped by the 28mm tyres. There’s room for 32s if you want to go properly plush or even 35s if you ditch the mudguards.
With the tall front end offering reassurance when the going gets bumpy, the Paralane is content to stray off paved surfaces and along the odd river path or dirt road, and bigger rubber could expand your horizons even more.
One downside is that the full mudguards, surely one of this bike’s biggest selling points, aren’t as good as they could be. Supplied by a company called Curana, they’re made of metal and their one-piece stays are swallowed by dedicated holes in the dropouts, and held in with grub screws. (There are standard threaded bosses for a rack/guards as well.)
I appreciate a dry bum and feet, but the guards are quite flexible and the rear has a tendency to slap against the seat tube over bigger bumps. I’d probably devise a more secure bracket at the seatstay bridge to provide a better anchoring point.
This one fault aside, I like the Paralane AL. Its ride quality is well rounded, and smart design along with sensible gearing means it climbs better than its weight suggests.
With sorted mudguards it would be a prime pick for year-round commuting and long winter rides.