The Focus Izalco is a classic race bike. It’s seen action in the pro tour and has been ridden to victory on multiple occasions. Aside from its pro credentials, it also took the crown in the 2012 Cycling Plus Bike of the Year Awards, and is a top five contender in this year’s awards.
For 2014, the Izalco has become the Izalco Max, a sub 800g-carbon race machine. Thankfully Focus has retained the sportive-focussed Izalco Ergoride too, because it’s a frameset that we’ve enjoyed riding since its debut.
HIGHS: A comfortable, smooth and fun ride for sportives
LOWS: A couple of spec niggles
The Ergoride has a tapered head tube with internal cable routing that forms a structural stiffening ridge that runs through the down tube. This is matched to Focus’ own 5th Element fork, which has a solid looking, super rigid oversized crown area that tapers quickly into slender curved fork blades.
It gives the front end of the Ergoride the very same sharpness that we loved about the Izalco. The steering is pinpoint accurate with no unwanted flex or wobbles no matter how hard you push the bike. It’s brilliantly countered by the very clever way that the fork blades shift back and forth, killing any high-frequency buzz from poor road surfaces before it reaches your hands.
At the back, it’s a similar situation. The Ergoride is a seriously compact frame. It reminds us of the original super-compact Giant TCR concept, in the way that there is plenty of exposed unsupported seatpost, and even though the 2.0 only comes with a standard but slim 27.2 aluminium post, it has enough give to make the back end of the Ergoride feel hovercraft smooth.
The seatstays have a unique design too – starting before the brake bridge, they morph into a almost flat shape that arcs and flows towards the rear dropout, where it changes to a more traditional tube shape but forms an elbow that then kinks down to meet the dropout. The longer path and direction change allow the chainstays room to flex vertically as the seatstays do the same, creating a plush feel at the back.
We can’t find anything to criticise about the Ergoride’s drivetrain. The eleven shifts from the Ultegra rear mech have been faultless throughout the test. Up front, the Dura-Ace style front mech is rapid, smooth and chatter-free. The gearing is ideal for sportive riders – 50/34 up front is combined with an 11-28 cassette at the back, so you’ll be able to conquer any incline you encounter.
The flawless drivetrain is matched by impressive braking from the new Ultegra units. They’re stopping a combination of Fulcrum CEX 6.5 wheels and Schwalbe Durano S tyres. The wheels are decent enough – they combine Fulcrum’s latest rim shape and basic sealed hubs. They won’t set the world on fire but they won’t let you down either.
The Durano S tyre is a competent performer in damp conditions, and it’s larger than usual for a 23 volume tyre, which no doubt helps in the comfort stakes. In the dry however, the Durano never feels as fast as the equivalent tyre from Continental, and it feels leagues behind Schwalbe’s own Ultremo for speed or the Lugano S for all-round ability.
The remainder of the Izalco’s spec is from Focus’ own-brand component line CEX (Concept). This includes a nicely finished stem that’s proven to be flex-free, matched to a simple compact drop bar. Atop the aluminium CEX post is a Concept saddle that looks like a chopped-down Fi’zi:k Arione. It was comfortable enough, but a little prone to twisting as it flexed, which we found a disconcerting at times.
The Ergoride defines just what we want from an out-and-out sportive bike. It’s comfortable and smooth, well equipped for the money, yet retains just enough of a fun factor.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.