Engineered in Germany, Focus bikes have a reputation for offering high performance at good value prices – something the Cayo Al Sora pulls off. The frame and fork package on this entry-level bike is superb, but a few issues prevented it from coming out on top in our 2016 entry-level road bike shootout.
Aggressive, fast and fun
The Cayo is quite European in its approach, with lower and more aggressive geometry than many of its price-point peers. If your aspirations mostly relate to speed, the Cayo will reward in spades with its responsive handling and immediate power transfer.
Attack in a sprint or drop fast into a corner and you get a sense of true race inspiration. Despite its overall weight, an unavoidable result of the low price, it’s a bike that leaps forward with urgency.
A stout front end
However, there’s plenty here for those of you who seek a low and aerodynamic position, as you can adjust the handlebars lower than on just about anything else at this price.
If you have the handling skills and flexibility to handle the lower position, you’ll be rewarded with sharper handling. Small weight shifts result in immediate reactions; this is certainly a bike that will never understeer. Such pinpoint sharpness is further aided with the oversized front end resisting twist, and wide rims.
There’s no denying the fun side of the Cayo’s sporty attitude. But the reality is that most first-bike buyers won’t want something so aggressive or fast handling. Focus has arguably missed the mass market, and riders whose priority is a comfortable road bike to build their fitness on will find better options elsewhere.
With such a responsive frame, road feedback is felt and the ride errs on the side of rattily. It’s thankfully not a bouncy, eye-rattling ride of alloy frames past, but you’re certainly made aware of how well the road is or isn’t surfaced.
You should find a comfortable size, but an extra size in the range would be ideal
There’s also a relatively large jump in length between the common bike sizes – I dreamed of a size somewhere between the small and medium on offer. Certainly a change in stem length can help overcome this, but the issue is that Focus offers this bike in five frame sizes, whereas most other comparable brands offer six.
Superb frame and fork quality marred by cable rattle
While we’re only talking a hundred or so grams, at 9.12kg (20.11lb), the Cayo AL Sora was the lightest of the six budget bikes we tested. The weight savings sit in the quality frame and fork, and there’s plenty of scope in the components to drop the weight significantly further.
Such a premium look (though not all testers agree)
This classy-looking polished silver frame features some of the most oversized, tubing shapes of the bikes tested. It offers triple-butted main tubes, meaning there are three different thicknesses along the length of the tube to maximise weight savings without losing strength.
Add the tapered head tube, internal cable routing and clean welds while keeping with a threaded bottom bracket, and you have yourself a wonderfully thought out frame. It certainly makes the whole bike look more premium than it is.
This fork is brilliant for the price
Where the frame is generally great, the front fork shows elegance. The slender carbon legs feed through to a tapered carbon steerer tube, the latter being something that very few brands do at this price.
Unfortunately, the smallest of detail in the internal cable routing lets down this frameset. With this, the rear brake cable housing (the black outer part) is fed through the frame’s top tube in a single piece. This isn’t rare for brands to do, but the cable needs to have something to grip onto so it doesn’t droop and rattle within the frame.
That hidden rear brake cable is the cause of major disappointment
Unfortunately, the Focus lacks enough friction for this, and in testing the cable would loudly rattle over rough roads. You can pull on the housing and fix the issue, but that noise will come back soon enough. It can be fixed, for instance by using shrink-wrap over the cable at the entry and exit points to give the frame something to grip onto, but that’s a step that shouldn’t be needed in the first place.
Perhaps proving the performance-focus of the Cayo, there is not much scope for mounting fenders (mudguards, UK readers!) or panniers. There are threads at the rear dropouts, but that’s it, and so you’ll need to find strap-on type accessories if you do wish to use the Focus for commuting or foul-weather use.
All Shimano Sora, all good
The Shimano Sora drivetrain changes gears without issue, with the front shifting being the best you’ll find at this price point. With a compact 50/34t crank up front, the 11-28t cassette out back should provide enough gear range for most. There’s a trend toward even larger cassettes for easier uphill pedaling, but given the racy nature of this ride, the stock setup seems fitting.
After the drivetrain, just about all the components are from Focus house brand Concept. Much of these parts are rather generic, which is commonplace at this price point. While they may be the same as parts with other brands, they are still quality items that do well.
First up, the Concept branded wheels offer a mid-width rim that allows the stock Schwalbe Lugano 25c tyres to balloon out to an actual 26c (26mm). A high spoke count and smooth spinning hub make these wheels fairly durable too.
The brakes aren't great, but are an improvement on many others at this price
While not quite as poor or downright scary as some of the other bikes we tested, the re-branded Tektro brakes are on the weak side and lack the power of more expensive calipers.
The remaining Concept components are seen in the touch points. The compact shaped handlebar offers a comfortable place for your hands, as does the gel-padded handlebar tape – just don’t expect it to stay looking bright white for long.
Comfort isn’t so generous out back, as the Focus is fitted with the slimmest saddle of all six bikes tested. With this, a wider saddle is likely to be a better fit for the majority.
Conclusion: a bike for the racer race fan
There’s plenty to like about the Focus Cayo Al Sora, and it’s certainly a classy option. However, that brake cable rattle is just plain annoying.
The more aggressive geometry and stiff construction will appeal to the performance-seeker; perhaps less so the person seeking a bike to get into cycling with. We reckon its frame and fork (dressed with lighter components) could also be ideal for experienced racers seeking a second bike for weekly criterium racing.
Click through the gallery up top for a closer look at this bike. If you haven't already, be sure to read the full 2016 budget road bikes grouptest here.