Focus Cayo Al Sora review£599.00

High in speed, low in price

BikeRadar score3.5/5

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.

The 2016 focus cayo al sora is one for the racers. it was also the lightest of the six bikes tested
The 2016 focus cayo al sora is one for the racers. it was also the lightest of the six bikes tested

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.

Related: Best entry-level road bikes: US/Aus / UK

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.

Internal cable routing and a tapered head tube. two premium features not expected at this price
Internal cable routing and a tapered head tube. two premium features not expected at this price

A stout front end

Its front end is the lowest of the six bikes tested, with little scope for raising the handlebars to the same height of more comfort-oriented bikes such as the Giant Defy or Merida Ride.

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.

The focus cayo al sora is available in fewer sizes than many of its competitors. with this, we fell between our ideal size
The focus cayo al sora is available in fewer sizes than many of its competitors. with this, we fell between our ideal size

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.

This one divided the test team, but many thought the focus looked the most expensive
This one divided the test team, but many thought the focus looked the most expensive

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.

The full-carbon fork on focus is a true highlight. this is an exceptionally nice piece of kit for such an entry-level bike
The full-carbon fork on focus is a true highlight. this is an exceptionally nice piece of kit for such an entry-level bike

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.

Frame quality is high on the cayo al. the large tube shapes create a stiff frame, but it can be a little rough
Frame quality is high on the cayo al. the large tube shapes create a stiff frame, but it can be a little rough

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.

The full shimano sora transmission works a treat. the 11-28t cassette is fine for most riding
The full shimano sora transmission works a treat. the 11-28t cassette is fine for most riding

All Shimano Sora, all good

Componentry wise, the drivetrain is equal to the budget bike test-winning Specialized Allez E5 Sport, and the wheels are pretty good too.

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.

These brakes aren't amazing, but they're an improvement on what many other bikes in this pricepoint offer
These brakes aren't amazing, but they're an improvement on what many other bikes in this pricepoint offer

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

David Rome

Former Editor, Australia
Dave was the editor of BikeRadar Australia until early 2016.
  • Age: 28
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 79cm / 31in
  • Chest: 89cm / 35in
  • Discipline: Mountain, road and cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Fast and flowing singletrack with the occasional air is the dream. Also happy chasing tarmac bends.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Fuel EX 27.5, SwiftCarbon Detritovore, Salsa Chilli Con Crosso
  • Dream Bike: Custom Independent Fabrications titanium, SRAM Etap and Enve wheels/cockpit
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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