Focus SAM 9.9 first ride review

Can the German SAM speak the language of UK trails?

GBP £5,499
Focus SAM 9.9

Our review

Well proportioned and specced, but limited sizes and rear-end support hold the SAM back
Pros: Impressive spec and lively handling
Cons: Cockpit set up, pronounced outboard lock-on rings on grips

Focus has overhauled its SAM enduro bike for 2019, giving it the same frame shape and suspension design as its shorter-travel offerings.

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Its clean lines and 170mm of travel stand out on the shop floor, but does that translate to top performance on the trails?

Focus SAM 9.9 frame

The SAM uses the same ‘Focus Optimized Linkage Design’ (FOLD) suspension design as Focus’s JAM trail bike. This is the German brand’s take on a linkage-operated single-pivot set-up, which allows use of a one-piece rear triangle to help minimise rear-end twisting.

The rear suspension is designed to be initially regressive, and then to ramp up once the bike gets 30 percent into its stroke.

One of the most eye-catching frame features is the oversized top tube/head tube junction, which integrates the entry port for the internal cable routing (although with no clamps to hold the control lines in place, I did notice a slight rattle during testing).

Less obvious is the way the lay-up of the carbon fibre changes as you go up in frame size, with Focus saying that its ‘SSPS’ (Stable Stiffness Per Size) construction guarantees the perfect ride regardless of how big you are.

The bike’s sizing is on the conservative side though. my large sample, with its reach of 460mm, is the biggest of the three available sizes, and while the short 428mm chainstays make for snappy handling, this could come at the expense of high-speed stability.

Either way, the generous 13mm of bottom bracket drop makes for lots of corner-smashing fun — just watch those pedal strikes!

Focus SAM 9.9 kit

RockShox Super Deluxe RCT rear suspension
Focus’s ‘FOLD’ platform combines a single pivot with a shock-actuating linkage
Andy Lloyd

This 9.9 model has an impressive spec, including a RockShox Lyrik RC2 fork, carbon cranks and a set of Race Face hoops that survived some heavy abuse from me.

SRAM’s Guide RSC brakes give plenty of well-modulated bite, although Codes would be preferable on a bike built for descents.

The grip from the Maxxis tyres was excellent, but the choice of a High Roller II on the front and a Minion DHF on the back seems strange – I’d have switched them around.

The cockpit leaves a little to be desired too, with its backswept handlebar and 55mm stem. I’d have preferred a longer reach and shorter stem.

I didn’t like the pronounced outboard lock-on rings of the Race Face grips either. On the plus side, the Prologo saddle was comfortable even for prolonged climbing.

Focus SAM 9.9 ride impressions

Male cyclist riding mountain bike through woodland
With nothing outlandish about the geometry, the Sam is an easy bike to ride
Andy Lloyd

With nothing outlandish about the geometry, the Sam is an easy bike to ride. Its relatively light weight brings lively handling and ensures climbing isn’t too arduous.

Riding the bike as supplied, with no volume spacers in the rear shock, I found it lacked mid-stroke support, which made it hard to carry speed in the rough.

Adding three spacers made a huge difference to its composure. The springy suspension feel, in combination with the small sizing, makes the bike feel super-agile, but also a little twitchy at high speed, which holds it back when racing.

If fun’s your primary aim, then SAM’s your man, but to really push your speed, I’d look elsewhere.

Focus SAM 9.9 specifications

  • Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*
  • Frame: Carbon fibre, 170mm (6.7in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Lyrik RC2, 170mm (6.7in) travel
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe RCT
  • Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Derailleurs: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Cranks: Truvativ Descendant carbon cranks (1×12)
  • Wheelset: Race Face Turbine wheels
  • Tyres: Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO TR 27.5×2.4in (f) and Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 27.5×2.5in (r)
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC, 200/180mm
  • Bar: BBB, 780mm
  • Stem: BBB, 55mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 170mm dropper
  • Saddle: Prologo Dimension NDR
  • Weight: 13.64kg (30.07lb), large size without pedals
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Focus SAM 9.9 geometry

  • Seat angle: 75 degrees
  • Head angle: 64.8 degrees
  • Chainstay: 42.8cm / 16.85in
  • Seat tube: 45cm / 17.72in
  • Top tube: 62.3cm / 24.53in
  • Head tube: 13cm / 5.12in
  • Fork offset: 4.2cm / 1.65in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 13cm / 5.12in
  • Wheelbase: 1,221mm / 48.07in
  • Stack: 62.3cm / 24.53in
  • Reach: 46cm / 18.11in