Focus Izalco Team tested
When the 2008 Focus range was first revealed to RCUK, the £2,399 Izalco Team immediately stood out as the pick of the bunch, combining a reasonable price and a cracking spec. The Team sits third from the top in the Izalco range, and the frame, aside from the integrated seat mast, is virtually identical to the two above.
Rarely does a bike manage to pack such a punch on paper, with the Team’s spec comprising a full SRAM Red groupset, Fulcrum 1 Racing wheels and top-end FSA carbon finishing kit, not to mention the full-carbon frameset nestled in between the sparkly components.
While Focus’s lower-end bikes have won many accolades, it was with keen interest that a bike fit for the race circuit was tested. It's up against some serious competition however, its price putting it firmly in the company of some well established choices. Would the Team be able to deliver?
Before we find out, a quick run through of the Izalco's credentials. It's clear that Focus have managed to squeeze on a lot of high-end componentry for the price, in fact you'd be hard pushed to find such a loaded bike anywhere else. One might assume the frame is the weak link in the package. Easy to assume, but wrong.
Focus have built a perfectly competent frame that delivers well in the riding department. SSPS high-modulus unidirectional carbon is used in the construction, with a matching fork. The huge round downtube is the backbone of the frame, and plugs into an equally brutish sized bottom bracket shell. There’ll be no flex down there, nor from the rear triangle. Chainstays and seatstays take the path of least resistance, with the chainstays increasing in size towards the bottom bracket. Slim in profile, the top tube conceals the rear brake cable. Think functional, rather than elegant.
Stiff and responsive, the frame is a worthy platform for the SRAM RED groupset. SRAM have been making great inroads into the groupset party and more and more manufacturers are choosing to offer a SRAM RED equipped bike. There’s not much that can be said that hasn’t already been said here, but we’ll just say that slick and smooth shifting was enjoyed throughout the test period.
For finishing kit Focus opted for FSA, presumably not just chosen for the matching red decals. A K-Force carbon handlebar, OS 99 stem and Carbon Pro Wrap seatpost offer good performance and little weight. The bars are made using a carbon/Kevlar construction and these, the Ergo option, are shaped with a 145mm reach and 80mm drop, proving extremely comfortable in use. Comfortable too, if a touch firm, is the Prologo Nago Team saddle.
The Campagnolo produced Fulcrum Racing 1 wheels use 16/21 fat bladed spokes (radial front and rear and two-cross on the rear drive side) and 26mm deep rims for a wheel that spins up fast and tracks precisely, but their stiffness does result in a slight lack of road feel. Not a problem on billiard smooth surfaces but apparent on rough roads. Tyres were the splendid Schwable Ultremo Evo 3, providing good levels of grip in a range of conditions and offering little in the way of rolling resistance.
Happily the Team delivers once it is being ridden as its looks demand. The oversized carbon tubes give the frame huge torsional stiffness, steering is well-balanced and out of the saddle climbing is a joy. The low weight makes ascending something to savour, and in the sprint for the town name signs it's a match for any other bike.
A short headtube promotes a low, racy and aggressive position, so hands on the drops and head down is the position of choice, and it is when in this mode that the Team most excels. Around race circuits, it absolutely thrives, pitching you out of corners with a frightening velocity. There’s just enough flex in the frame to soften imperfections in the road, but don’t expect the Team to reward those seeking a comfortable long distance cruiser for sportives. It’s just not the Team’s cup of tea. Racing is where it's at.
The budding racer seeking a well priced and top-specced bike will revel in the Izalco Team.