Not so long ago frames were mostly made from Steel. Then Aluminium, with its lighter weight became the popular choice. Titanium has a considerable fan base, but its price tag ensures its exclusivity. No, the material of the moment is carbon fibre. It seems every bike company is rushing to get a carbon bike into their range, and the rapid development and the customer desire has brought the price steadily into the realms of of affordability for a lot more people.
Over the past couple of years we’ve witnessed the use of carbon being used in nearly every bike component. Mechs, brake levers, bars, stems, cranks, hubs, rims and much more. It’s a really exciting period of bike technology and development, and as we saw at last years bike shows, 2007 signalled a lot more use of carbon, and at increasingly lower price points.
Which brings us nicely onto the Focus Cayo; a £999 carbon-framed, Ultegra equipped belter of a bargain. If you’ve never heard of Focus, that’s probably because they’ve never had much presence over here until those mail-order giants Wiggle.co.uk started importing them two years ago. The German brand already have a big following in Europe, with frames built in their Hamburg factory, the company clearly has a lot going for it and Wiggle is keen to replicate this success in the UK.
You’ll never forget you’re riding a Focus, it has the logo decalled boldy across the entire frame. This aside, despite boasting a respectful collection of kit, you still get a full carbon frame. This one is made from Unidirectional Mitsubishi carbon, laid multidirectionally at the head tube and bottom bracket with up to seven layers used. Where there’s less stress, in the top and down tubes, just four layers are used to keep the weight down, and these layers are cross wrapped. The final decorative layer receives a fat weave design, it certainly stands out and we’re kind of partial to it.
It’s not an under-nourished looking bike, certainly, and imparts a confident degree of solidness due to the oversize tube profiles. It’s all generously proportioned in the rear triangle too, and to ensure a stiff chassis the bottom bracket receives a generous dollop of additional carbon – for good measure. All joins are smoothly finished, with tidy dropouts adorning the end of the chain and seat stays. You might think that something has to give considering the price, but close inspection reveals that it’s all beautifully finished, there’s certainly no week spots.
The geometry on our 56 (or Large, as the sticker states) measures 73.5 head/73.5 seat, with a 55.5” top tube. Head tube is an integrated design, and the FSA headset holds a Focus carbon fork in place.
Surprisingly, considering that £999 price tag, the components hold up well under scrutiny. A Shimano Ultegra groupset is only interrupted from its fullness by 105 stickers gracing both the brake callipers and front mech. A compact R600 chainset with a 50/34 provides a good spread of gears when combined with the 12/27 cassette fitted to the rear wheel.
It’s rare that we test a bike with tyres wider than 23mm, so we were pleasantly surprised with the 25mm Schwable Stelvio tyres – it’s a combination we like and have rated highly in the past. These tyres are shod onto a pair of Mavic’s entry level wheels, the Aksium. They’re a perfectly competent set of wheels, and impressed us as much as the rather agreeable finishing kit. A combination of an FSA OS190 stem, a well shaped Deda Piega handlebar and a San Marco Ponza K saddle atop a Ritchey seatpost. While saddles are obviously a personal choice, we just couldn’t get on with the shape of the Ponza K, despite our bums being accustomed to even the worst saddles.
The only component that needs upgrading before you get riding is the really quite horrible seat clamp.
So far the Cayo looks like a winner on paper. Great frame, great components, and the ride impressed. You might think for the price the Cayo wouldn’t ride all that nicely, but it’s quite the opposite. It handles perfectly competently, copes well in a range of situations, and is a real joy to ride.
As you’d expect, all those oversize tubes combine to create a frame that’s eager to convert your watts into forward momentum. Climbing too is aided by the stiff frame, and descending is handled with a sure-footed confidence. The ride is perhaps not silky smooth as some, but it’s not enough to distract from the ride. It’s comfortable enough on longer rides, but is no slouch if short crits are your thing.
The kit is all dependable stuff and allows the frame to really shine. We liked the wheels, but an upgrade would add a bit more liveliness to the bike. Change the saddle, replace the horrible seat clamp and you won’t need to worry about upgrading for a good while. And there’s even a healthy stack of headset spacers for fine tuning your position.
Try as hard as you might to not like the Cayo and you’ll just fail. The handling is nicely neutral which – unlike some bikes we’ve tested – makes jumping on and feeling at home a doddle: which makes the business of enjoying your riding much easier. While it may not have the sparkle of some more premium brands, it’s should in no way be thought of as an underdog.