There have clearly been some interesting decisions made by Focus when equipping their top of the range 100mm 29er. Is it a ‘business at the front, party at the back’ mountain bike mullet, or a bad hair day on wheels?
Ride & handling: Potentially enjoyable all-rounder
While the relatively slack angles and long low dimensions of the Focus look promising, it rarely realises its potential. Firstly, mud or wet roots and rocks trip up the tyres badly. Swapping them isn’t a massive deal, but the cockpit does nothing to inspire confidence either.
Narrow bars and relatively long stems work okay to stabilise a relatively steep head angle, but with a more relaxed front end there’s a tendency for it to flop sideways at low speeds and reactions are slow and overplayed when it does slip. That means the Kronolog post and consistently controlled suspension never really get to press home their advantage on technical descents.
The steep seat angle is made even steeper in reality by the inline seatpost, and the long back end means less weight on the rear tyre. Combine this with noticeable twist along the chainstay axis (visible flex is centred on the sharp upswept tips to the main pivot) and as soon as it gets slightly sideways it flicks right round if you don’t feather traction immediately.
There’s also a soft feel through the pedals for the same reason, and this allied to a high weight means it’s a relatively labour-intensive climbing and accelerating bike by a big margin.
The low bottom bracket means regular pedal strikes on rough ground. It can cruise smoothly and tap out tempo fine with the shock in the Trail mode, but even then speed is definitely gained rather than gifted compared to other bikes.
Frame & equipment: Stable chassis offset by tyres, XC cockpit and rear flex
With a tapered head tube, 142x12mm rear axle, generous tyre clearance, chainstay-mounted brake and fully-cased cables, the Focus ticks most contemporary trail chassis boxes. The chunky single-piece H-linkage and top tube shock mount with dropper cable guide are purposeful too.
Shimano’s XT group – with an XTR rear highlight – isn’t as light as SRAM counterparts, but delivers benchmark shifting and stopping reliability, while Fox’s CTD shock and fork give effective three-mode adjustment for smooth climbs, general riding and technical descending.
The DT Swiss wheels are tight and trustworthy, but the Continental tyres are a plastic disappointment at this price. The mix of the heavy Kronolog dropper seatpost and the narrow carbon wrap bars and stem is a strange one too.
It’s temptingly well-equipped, but slippery tyres, high weight and a mismatched dropper post rear and XC front choke the potential of what could be a stable and reliable ride.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.