Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS review

Lightweight, aero-optimised race machine and a Superbike of the Year 2020 contender

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £5,699.00 RRP | EUR €6,199.00 | AUD $8,999.00
Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS

Our review

Awesome yet understated racing weaponry
Pros: Lithe handling, seriously fast and good price compared to the competition
Cons: Understated battleship grey isn’t for extroverts
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The Focus Izalco Max frame combines advanced aerodynamics and low weight in its premium 9-Series with this beauty coming in at 890g.

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The lay-up on the Izalco frame combines 60-tonne and 40-tonne modulus fibres in search of class-leading stiffness to weight.

The stiffest ultra-high mod fibres are used in areas where total rigidity is required, so that’s wrapping around the head tube and through the bottom-bracket shell, while the rear triangle features tube shapes that offer some aero advantage and compliance and are made from more forgiving fibres.

Bike of the Year 2020

The Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.

Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.

The hydraulic brake hoses of this wireless eTap bike run through the Easton EC70 aerobar into the underside of the stem and route down the front end of the steerer tube.

The stem’s tilted 15 degrees to enable smooth, kink-free hose routing. This and the fork’s high-crown design give the illusion of a bike that’s much more slammed than it really is.

My large test bike (essentially 56cm) had a 554mm stack and 400mm reach. The steep 73.5-degree seat angle puts you in a racy position, while the 72-degree head angle keeps steering quick.

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS
The Izalco’s geometry is racy.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS kit

The DT Swiss ARC1450s wheels are the OEM (original equipment) version of the ARC1400s, which are available aftermarket. That means these are custom built to Focus’s specification and can deviate from the aftermarket versions. At 1,650g a pair, they’re light for a wheel of this depth.

The tyres are a more race-favoured 25mm size.

Holding the DTs in place are RAT thru-axles. I’m a big fan of this design, which works with a quarter-turn lock/unlock. It’s fast to remove and replace a wheel, which should appeal to more racy types.

The 9.7 is significantly cheaper than many of its superbike rivals, but even with its second-level SRAM group it doesn’t feel less ‘super’.

Some might argue that paying over five-and-a-half grand for a bike with ‘only’ Force AXS is a lot. Personally, it seems like a smart choice, and you can always upgrade to the £7,799 Red AXS model or the £8,199 Dura-Ace Di2 option.

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS
SRAM’s Force AXS performed well and I’d recommend tuning its operation via the app.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS ride impressions

On the road, the 9.7 is everything the modern race bike should be. Handling is accurate, fast yet assured, and the frame and fork respond to pedal inputs with unmoving solidity.

The drivetrain of SRAM’s second-tier wireless Force is a joy to use, and I’d recommend experimenting with SRAM’s AXS app to tune the gear operation to your preferred mode.

I settled on the compensation option where the Force system automatically changes the rear gear to ensure you’re in the next best gear when you shift the front chainring.

On the 8-Series Izalco, I felt the front end was a little on the firm side. Here it’s a much smoother affair thanks to the combination of the carbon-encased stem and slick Easton carbon bar.

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS
The broad top creates a variety of comfortable bar positions.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

The deep aero-topped Easton bar is a fine place to spend plenty of hours riding with multiple options for bar holds; in fact, the broad top even makes riding in a faux time-trial position an option.

That said, if the bar doesn’t agree with you ergonomically, it’s easy to switch out to any other bar on the market.

Lightweight and aerodynamic, DT Swiss’s ARC1450 aero wheels are a true wind-cheating advantage with their blunt-edged 48mm deep rims paired with Continental’s legendary 4000 SII clinchers. Note that the 1450s are tubeless compatible so you could switch after adding tapes and valves.

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS
Prologo’s Dimension saddle sits atop a carbon seatpost.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS overall

The ride is brilliant – firm yet forgiving. It’s comfortable enough for long, hard rides, light enough to climb with the best.

The handling is sublime – nimble without nerves and with an agility that puts it up with the best of breed. Very impressive.

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Focus Izalco Max 9.7 AXS geometry

  • Sizes (* tested): XXS, XS, S, M, L*, XL, XXL
  • Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 72 degrees
  • Chainstay: 41cm
  • Seat tube: 53cm
  • Top tube: 56.4cm
  • Head tube: 12.5cm
  • Fork offset: 4.6cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 7.8cm
  • Wheelbase: 1,010mm
  • Stack: 55.4cm
  • Reach: 40cm

With thanks to…

BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.

Product Specifications


Price br_price, 5, 3, Price, AUD $8999.00EUR €6199.00GBP £5699.00
Weight br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 7.9kg (L), Array, kg
Brand br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Focus


Available sizes br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Brakes br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, SRAM Force
Cassette br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, Sram Force AXS, 10-28
Chain br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, Sram Force AXS
Cranks br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, Sram Force AXS 48/36
Fork br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, MAX technology carbon
Frame br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, MAX technology carbon, disc
Front derailleur br_frontDerailleur, 11, 0, Front derailleur, Sram Force eTap AXS
Handlebar br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Easton EC90 aerobar
Saddle br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Prologo Dimension
Seatpost br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Izalco carbon
Shifter br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, Sram Force eTap AXS
Stem br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Focus Izalco
Tyres br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Continental Grand Prix 4000 SII 25mm
Wheels br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, DT Swiss Dicut ARC1450