Dressed in matte black (with hints of gloss), cream logos and pink accents, the Rapha-Focus Mares is the most dapper bike on the US cyclo-cross circuit. But it isn't just here to look good, it's also winning races under new team leader Jeremy Powers, who says its low, stout stance suits him.
As his Behind The Barriers mini-series has shown us, J-Pow is a little bit different, and we know he likes to get down – Owwwooooo! Cyclingnews headed to the Rapha-Focus team service course in Loveland, Colorado for a run through one of his six – yes, six – Mares bikes between the Exergy USGP of Cyclo-Cross and the team's trip to Europe for the first two rounds of the World Cup series.
J-Pow's Mares: This dapper ride breaks from the norm
Like its rider, Powers' medium Focus Mares is a break from the norm. It doesn't have a safe, me-too geometry, but rather one with some interesting attributes that Powers has put to good use on the racecourse. The Mares is low slung, with 70mm of bottom bracket drop and a super-short 115mm head tube.
It's slack up front too, with a 70.5° head angle – in fact, it's surely the most contemporary 'cross racer out there, even before you consider the steep 74° seat angle that puts a rider over the pedals and the short 425mm chainstays. For reference, normal 'safe' numbers would be a 65mm BB drop, 72° head and 73° seat angles, and 430mm stays.
Powers' bike is one slick looking ride
Construction wise, J-Pow's Mares 'race series' bike is almost identical to the 2011 model. The frame features one key change: an all-carbon standard BB30 bottom bracket shell (a molded and machined carbon shell that directly accepts BB30 bearings, not the increasingly common PF30 model). Focus say this design is lighter and stiffer, but as you can imagine, much more costly to build.
The only other update to the 2012 Mares is its fork. Brian Dallas, the Rapha-Focus team's field-ops manager, says that while the new fork looks the same, it's 45-50g lighter than the 2011 model. More importantly, it features a crown mounted brake cable boss, which lets the rider slam the stem, if they want, and also helps improve braking power and consistency by alleviating chatter.
The Rapha team's Mares is a dapper looking machine. The graphics are custom to the team and sponsors' logos are laid under the clear coat. Close inspection reveals both matte and gloss finishes on the frame. Most of the gloss finish is in areas with the potential to collect mud – could it be that the slick finish helps prevent the accumulation of crud, to some degree?
A look at the gloss-to-matte finishes found on the Mares
Sponsor package: SRAM, Easton and CrankBrothers
Powers stays with longtime Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com component sponsors SRAM for his transmission and sister company Avid for their benchmark Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes. His group is fairly standard, made up of Red components with the substitution of the professional edition steel caged front derailleur. He runs an 11-26-tooth cassette and 46/39T chainrings.
The outsides of J-Pow's shifters are shaved down to offer a smoother transition, a customization carried out by the team mechanics. He uses Enduro ceramic bearings in his bottom bracket and rear derailleur pulleys, as opposed to the standard Red spec.
Powers has made a big switch for 2011/12 to Easton for wheels and cockpit components. The wheels have to be the biggest change, due to their narrower tire beds. The team will only use Dugast tires this season – a requirement from Powers when he signed on. They buy all of their tires from "Uncle Stu" [Stu Thorne, owner of cyclocrossworld.com and Dugast USA], as Dallas calls him.
Powers requested that the team ride Dugast tires as part of his contract
Powers' cockpit is made up entirely of aluminum: Easton EA70 bars and seatpost, and an EA90 stem. The alloy bits are heavier but will get him to the pit – while riding the bike – should he have a bad crash, whereas their carbon counterparts' more catastrophic failure method could leave him running. The team's bars are wrapped in Fi'zi:k handlebar tape and Powers uses the Italian company's Aliante saddle.
As a final custom finish, the team's pedal sponsors, CrankBrothers, made up six pairs of custom pink and black team pedals; Powers has a couple of sets while the others are spread between his teammates Chris Jones and Zach McDonald.
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar