German brand Focus launched the disc version of its race-ready Izalco Max last summer, and we’ve had to wait quite a while before getting our hands on a UK test bike. But here it is, ready to be ridden and reviewed.
We’ve got the cheaper of the two available models. This one costs £3,299 and the specification includes Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and Dura-Ace mechs, DT Swiss wheels with 25mm Schwalbe One tyres, Fizik bars, stem and saddle and an FSA SLK chainset. There's a SRAM Red model costing £4,699 as well.
Focus hasn’t simply bolted disc brakes onto the standard Izalco Max frameset. It has redesigned the bike, and one of the key changes is the use of the RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) thru-axles that we’ve seen previously on other Focus models, including the Mares cyclocross bike tested a couple of winters ago.
A quick recap on RAT. Focus say alignment of the calliper and rotor is a key parameter with using a thru-axle rather than a conventional quick release system. To help alignment when changing wheels, the dropouts have ‘integrated pockets’ that guide the wheels into place. The thru-axle aligns in the opposing dropout with a T-bar-shaped pin, and the lever is then turned 180 degrees and closed. Wheel changes are very simple and, more importantly, very swift with this system.
The shape and layup of the carbon fibre frame and fork are different to the regular version. Focus has optimised the frame to deal with the forces the disc brakes place on the bike. Despite the changes, the bike retains an impressively low weight, a 54cm frame weighs a claimed 790g and the fork is 320g. The complete 56cm bike we’ve got here weighs 7.5kg (16.53lb). If you want lighter, the £4,699 SRAM Red version weighs a claimed 6.8kg (14.99lb).
An upshot of the move to disc brakes means increased tyre clearance. The bike we’re testing comes with 25mm tyres as standard, but there is space for 28mm tyres. Few race bikes boast such wide tyre compatibility. That should help with comfort.
Talking of comfort, Focus has developed a new seatpost, called the CPX Plus, which is made from carbon fibre and features a hollow section below the clamp that is designed to smooth the ride.
Focus has routed the brake hoses inside the frame and fork, but it has kept the gear cables outside of the frame. Why? To provide easier maintenance for team mechanics, and also, claims Focus, because it saves 50g on the frame weight. Focus is using the rapidly popular Flat Mount standard to fix the brakes to the frame and fork.
The geometry is mostly borrowed directly from the regular Izalco Max, but with one important detail, the chainstays are 10mm longer. To avoid chain line issues that can occur with a wider (142mm) rear axle, Shimano recommends a minimum 415mm length for the chainstays. Focus has simply stretched out the chainstays.
All other numbers remain unchanged. The 56cm here has a 565mm top tube and 160mm head tube providing a reasonably low and stretched position with the stock 110mm stem. The wheelbase measures 998m with a 70mm bottom bracket drop and the head/seat angles are 73-degrees.
So the Focus is being tested at the moment. While there are a lot of disc-equipped road bikes on the market now, most are ‘endurance’ bikes, designed to be comfortable over long distances and for cyclists that favour a more upright riding position. The Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc I tested last year is the most notable rival to the Focus, in that it’s an outright race bike fitted with disc brakes.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.