In just a few short years Focus has established itself as a brand for which the phrase ‘bang for your buck’, was surely intended. The German-designed and built bikes are imported into the UK by mail order specialist Wiggle, which sells the bikes directly to customers through its website.
The savings this business model brings about are quite considerable, meaning your pounds get a considerable specification increase over other bikes. When RCUK tested the £999 Cayo at the beginning of last year, it was seriously impressed, coming to the conclusion: “Remove the price tag and you’d be convinced you’re looking at a bike with a price far nearer that of £2000.”
But if you’ve got another £500 to spend, what can you get? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
The Cayo frame has been upgraded for 2008, making it a little lighter (weighing 1.16kg) and stiffer, too. Super stiff frames are something of a Focus trademark, and RCUK was hard pushed to detect any discernable increase over the previous model.
The frame gets this level of stiffness from some impressively large tubes and heavily reinforced junctions, such as the massive bottom bracket area, with huge swathes of carbon flowing over the large downtube and massive chainstays. It really is a lesson in overbuilding. Focus have opted for simple round tubes with minimal profiling which lends the frame a clean look.
A novel, and rare, touch is the internally routed rear brake cable, which enters the left side of the top tube. While this pleases aesthetically, the sound of the internal cable against the internal walls never seemed to go away during RCUK’s time with the bike. There’s a replaceable rear dropout, and the headset is an integrated design and a smart seat collar – something RCUK has complained about on the entry level Cayo before. The fork is a Focus design, with a wide blade design.
It’s nice to see that the Focus designers have toned down the decals, with the previous over-the-top branding taking a step back in favour of a more subtle and measured approach. It’s a good-looking bike.
As the name suggests, this is a Campagnolo-equipped bike – the only one available in the four-model Cayo range. Chorus equipment occupies most spots on the bike: brake and gear levers, brake calipers and rear derailleur, but the front derailleur interestingly has been upgraded to a Record item. Odd, as it’s normally the rear derailleur that gets upgraded if there’s any money left over after speccing the rest of the bike. As you’d expect, it all worked flawlessly, and showed little difference to the more expensive Record.
Interrupting the Campagnolo groupset is a Fulcrum R Carbon Torq chainset, in 53/39 guise. It’s essentially the same in every way as the Campag alternative, with the same splined Ultra-Torq fitting system. Matched to a 12-25 cassette out back, there’s little concession to those weak on the hills. Fulcrum also supplies the Racing 5 wheelset which, as we reported on the Specialized Tarmac are stiff and not overtly heavy wheels. They do lack in feel just a touch though, and went someway to emphasizing the stiffness of the Focus frameset. Schwalbe’s Ultreme 23mm tyres offer fast rolling with lots of confidence-inspiring grip in miserable conditions.
Finally, FSA supply the stem, seatpost and handlebars, with the Concept Extreme saddle passing through the test phase with a thumbs up. A particular mention has to be given for the fitting of white bar tape and matching white saddle – a nice touch.
The Focus was easily one of the stiffest bikes in this grouptest, and relayed the highest level of road feedback to the bum and hands. On smooth-as-butter roads it’s a sublime pleasure to push along at pace, and it’s very willing to hurtle along the roads, due to its lack of weight – it’s the lightest of the bikes tested.
Acceleration therefore is excellent, with little hesitation or delayed responses. On climbs you’ll find that lack of weight and incredible stiffness results in a sound foundation for cranking up even the steepest gradients.
Where the Focus does get left behind bikes such as the Specialized Tarmac is on bumpy and rotten roads. There’s not enough give in the bike and you’ll be fighting to keep the bike on a straight line and trying your hardest to soak up the bumps, whereas the rider on the Tarmac will have shot up the road. Steer clear of any bumps and holes and all is well though.