Co-created five years ago by Andreas Walser, one of Europe’s top custom aero frame-builders, can the minimal-profile Focus Izalco Chrono 2.0 20-G still slice its way through the air and the competition?
Ride & handling: Naturally aggressive and unforgivingly stiff
In its default ‘no spacers under the elbow pads’ setup, it’s a long drop down to the extensions, putting stress on shoulders and neck straight away if you’re not naturally limber.
There’s also a lot of road surface rattle and thump coming through the normally smooth-feeling saddle and cantilevered carbon arm rests. This means that, even if you raise the pad position, this is a machine for athletes prepared to sacrifice comfort as long as they cut some seconds.
The Focus has one of the lowest, flat-backed ride positions we’ve tested. Whether we were punching through the wind on point or trying to draft another tester, it was obviously a very efficient bike. The minimal fork and top tube also make it impressively impervious to gusts of wind, even with 80mm wheels fitted.
It’s definitely a machine best suited to sustained-speed courses rather than more variable or vertically-rich races, though. The high complete bike weight means more effort when accelerating and climbing and, as it carries a lot of that weight in the frame, it’s never going to be a great altitude hunter. The broad-armed FSA cranks also felt softer underfoot than we expected, giving dull rather than dynamic power delivery out of the saddle.
If you’re looking for an extremely efficient and naturally fast flat-course bike then you should definitely consider the Chrono. The heavy, harsh frame is all about work, not play, though.
Frame & equipment: Digital shifting speed, heavy frame and cranks
Five years might seem a long time, but Andreas Walser has always been ahead of the game – hence the long list of top pro racers riding his frames stickered up under another name.
Focus are now under the same owner umbrella as Cervélo, and shared wind tunnel time shows that the Walser design is comparable with the legendary P3C in front of the fan.
The razor sharp, skinny-legged, straight-steerer fork plugged into a sucked-in-centre head tube creates a minimal front profile. Ultra-thin, sharp-edged tube profiles from the down tube to the wheel-wrapping seat tube and deep-bladed seatstays show Walser’s intent to slice through the air, rather than smoothly shape it. While the stem sits proud and the side-pull brakes are conventionally mounted, the flush seat clamp is a much-copied drag reducer and the frame is fully Di2 compatible.
There are only three frame sizes and the seat angle is more TT than tri. Keeping such a narrow frame stiff in terms of steering and power delivery also makes it surprisingly heavy, despite its slim lines.
Apart from Walser’s work, the big sell with the Chrono 2.0 is the Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifting – and it's amazingly smooth and fast once you learn which button does what.
However, you’re only getting the electric shifters on the extensions, not a second set on the brake levers. This removes the biggest advantage of Di2 on an aero bike – with no post-/pre-corner or climbing shift facility, it’s merely a refinement of conventional cable shifting rather than the revolutionary ‘any gear, any time’ upgrade it could be.
The broad-armed Vision chainset is a heavy piece, although the full-size rings and close-ratio rear block are totally appropriate. The skinny Vision base bars feel cheap compared with the rest of the kit and can twang a bit out of the saddle, but the composite arm rest extensions are great. Less flexible riders will need to add the optional spacers under the arms for a higher ride position.
The Fulcrum semi-aero wheels with Continental tyres are dependably smooth rollers. As much as we normally like the Fizik Aliante Tri, the Chrono’s firm ride feel means a really soft-nosed saddle might be a smart upgrade to ward off numbness. We’re dubious about any significant aero advantage from the side-pull TRP brakes, and they feel spongier under braking than conventional dual-pivots.