Focus’s Paralane delivers a springy, distance and back road, bad weather friendly ride with some neat frame and kit features. It also beats the Brexit currency tide by costing less this year than last.
The mainframe material change makes the carbon Paralane £700 (approx $1,200) more expensive than the identical spec alloy version, but it’s a well-thought-out chassis and one of the few in its category under 1kg.
By using long fork legs with a step-down midway, Focus gets plenty of impact compliance, while steering stiffness is boosted by the angular head tube. Top tube, seat tube and rear stays all use flattened sections to allow flex from below without introducing sideways softness. The stays are also curved so that impacts and vibration have to straighten them out, and that engineered spring is obvious in the ride.
It’s not just the frame flexing to soak up shocks. A short seat tube relative to top tube length means there’s more of the carbon seatpost showing than normal. It’s also a skinny 25.4mm for extra sway, and is topped with a large loophole designed to save you a spanking.
We reviewed the Paralane Carbon 105 last year and wished it came with bigger rubber than its 25mm Schwalbe race tyres, so it’s good to see Focus has gone up to 28mm Continentals as standard for 2018, even if the Grand Sports aren’t as fluid in carcass feel as the previous Pro-Ones.
There is up to 35mm rubber room available if you unbolt the flat alloy mudguards, which is a good idea for rougher rides anyway. While the metal mudguards are relatively light (450g) and tidy in their minimalist appearance, the single stays and flat design mean they tend to bounce off the tyre on ragged surfaces.
My rear set soon spat its bolt, so check for tightness regularly and don’t ride through any rattling noises thinking they aren’t important. The ’guards do offer very welcome coverage for wet winter road riding and the grub screw-secured insertion of the stays into the dropouts is neat and secure. As are the Rapid Axle Technology (RAT) skewers, which lock and unlock with a quarter turn once you’ve opened the quick-release (QR) latch, making them even faster to use than a conventional QR.
While the Shimanowheels that lock in place are likely to run smoothly for a long time compared to most cartridge bearing alternatives, they are weighty; 340–530g heavier than the other wheel pairings on test.
The bump isolation through the saddle and frame helps when turning over a gear or taking corners on rougher roads. A slightly relaxed 72-degree head angle and low bottom bracket give it a safe and composed feel in more challenging conditions.
The longer you ride, the more the smoothness saves your legs and shoulders from vibration fatigue, but things can become bouncy when you’re trying to lay down power on smoother surfaces.
You’ll also want to take advantage of the short seat tube and go up a size if you’re looking for a more stretched and aggressive ride position, rather than compact and upright.