The Izalco is a firm favourite of ours, with its predecessor the Izalco Pro picking up our Bike of the Year title back in 2012 and the Max version stiffening it, lightening it and making it more comfortable. This year’s Max features SSPS – or Stable Stiffness Per Size – which means regardless of your frame size it should feel exactly the same.
Focus found that it could make a stronger, stiffer frame by limiting the tube diameters, which goes against most conventional thinking. The tubes themselves are mainly straight, with tube thicknesses down to as little as 1mm in places. The result? We weighed a painted 54cm frame including bottle cage bolts at 720g – very, very light.
The full-carbon PressFit 30 bottom bracket was chosen to reduce maintenance, which is the same reason for this model having traditional all-external cable routing. If you want to go electronic, Focus also makes the Izalco Max frame in a Di2/EPS-ready version.
The head tube features a vertical external rib while the 295g fork is made from a single piece of carbon, which should prove to be exceptionally strong. The bearing seats for the 1 1/8-1 1/4in headset are made from carbon too, as are the frame’s dropouts, all in the name of keeping weight down.
So, light is good, but what of the ride? Well, the Izalco Max remains an absolute joy. Its ultra-light chassis means that it requires minimal steering input to get it to go where you want. It may look slender, weedy even, compared with some of its rivals, but from the saddle it’s resolutely solid, unerring through the fastest bends and the steepest bumpy descents.
Over rolling roads the Zipp 303 Firecrests – which we gave a five-star rating to in 2014 – come into their own. They’re stiff, speedy, accelerate quickly and are unhindered by crosswinds.
Pro race rocket – but a smoothie too
This Izalco also climbs superbly, its low weight helping you to get out of the saddle and attack. The position is long and low, but the bar’s compact drop means you’re not overly stretched when you’re ready to gun it. The smooth manner in which the Max copes with ragged road surfaces also makes this a genuine pro-level race bike that’s very easy to live with day by day.
In a world dominated by Shimano, it’s good to be able to ride SRAM Red again. It’s easy to forget just how slick SRAM’s top-end groupset actually is. The Double Tap shifting snaps into gear superbly every time, and the speed with which you can ship across the block and the smoothness of the trim-free Yaw front derailleur are both marvels. Oh, and it’s also the lightest groupset out there. Impressive.
The rest of the kit is equally convincing, from the Red brakes to the classy Fizik cockpit, the Cyrano stem and R3 bar giving just the right amount of compliance for rutted roads. The Concept split carbon seatpost offers a little give and is topped with a Fizik Antares saddle. And it’s back to Germany for the tyres, the 25mm Continental GP4000s IIs proving sticky, grippy and surprisingly hardwearing.
There’s little we can fault about the Izalco Max. It’s a genuinely great ride and we’d change nothing about the equipment. It goes without saying that it's far from cheap, but worth keeping in mind that other brands would probably charge a few hundred pounds or dollars more for a similar spec.