This article first appeared on BikeRadar.
The Focus Izalco Max has been a big favourite of ours in the past, with its traditional round tubes and straight top tube design making it the main rival to Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo. And, with the Max's frame tipping the scales at a scant 750g (for a 56cm), it was also one of the lightest bikes of its generation.
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Andrew James, head of product at Focus Bikes, says of the newly revamped Izalco Max: "We’re proud of the original Max for so many things, the advances we made in carbon fibre, especially in regards stiffness to weight and ride quality, but in the intervening years design focus has shifted more towards aerodynamics and integration. The previous Max with its round tubes and external cable routing was a real exercise in weight saving, for the new bike its more about watt saving."
If that makes you think the new Izalco Max is going down the same route as bikes such as the Venge, SystemSix, Madone and TimeMachine then you’ll be surprised. Yes, the Max does use Kammtail profile tubes and lots and lots of integration, but it hasn’t lost any of the original's lightweight principles; so you won’t find a deep seat tube wrapping around the rear wheel or massive aerofoils on the forks or seatpost.
In fact, the new Max looks somewhat svelte compared to the latest generation of aero road machines. That’s not to say CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and the wind tunnel haven’t played a large part in the new design.
Removable stem design
"The new bike has a lot of interesting ideas coming into play," says James. "At the front end we’ve gone quite radical with the head tube and fork. The head tube we’ve tried to keep as short as possible, whilst integrating the fork crown into the junction much more, this means the space from the fork crown to the top of the tyre is much greater than usual, and under tests we found this was one of the areas where we made significant aero improvements."
A new stem system has also been developed at the front of the bike on the range topping 9 series. At first glance it looks like a lot of its rivals' stems, where all of the cabling is routed through it and into the frame. However, Focus has been pretty clever.
"We realised that a bike like the Max will be taken everywhere and travelled with," explains James, "so we couldn’t have a complicated internal cabling system which compromises the ability to pack the bike. So, our solution is a stem that is completely independent of the cabling.
"The internal routing goes into a lower tray under the stem and the stem sits over the top," he continues, "this means you can remove the stem from the steerer whilst not interfering with the cables. We want to make living with the bike as easy as possible."
The main tubes follow the conventions of Kammtail profiles (where the aerofoil shape is cut at the slim pointed tail but creates a virtual tail by way of its shape), and the rear stays are dropped well below the D-shaped aerofoil seatpost.
Focus Izalco Max weight and watt saving
Like all of Focus’s disc-brake-equipped bikes, the Max comes fitted with super-fast RAT thru-axles. On its latest EVO model, Focus has adopted some of the modifications made by Cervélo, with a slimmer threaded section bonded into the frame, improved graphics and made it a little lighter.
The new Max is available in two frame standards, with the 9 series being the top-level bike. The 9 series is designed around electronic drivetrains with a multi-port slot in the down tube for either a Di2 junction box or Campagnolo’s equivalent — SRAM eTap doesn’t need a junction because it's wireless.
The 9 series frame weighs in at a scant 890g in a 56cm frame, which is impressive for a bike with aero pretensions. The matching fork weighs 358g, while the dedicated carbon seatpost weighs 215g.
The 8 Series frame can take mechanical or electronic drivertrains and is built using the same moulds, but with a more economic carbon fibre layup. The 8 series frame is claimed to weigh 1,040g in a 56cm frame, with a 380g fork and the same 215g D-shaped seatpost as the 9 series.
The geometry of the previous Izalco Max made for a sharp, snappy handling race machine, and so the new Max has retained the same overall geometry, with one significant difference, an increase in the bottom bracket drop from 70mm to 78mm.
Fabian Scholz, lead engineer on the Izalco Max project, tells us that "the change in the BB means a whole lot more stability when riding on the limit and it improves what was already a great handling bike."
The result of the Max’s aero makeover is a claimed 12-watt improvement over the previous Max, and that’s a pretty significant power saving.
2019 Focus Izalco Max range
Focus Izalco Max 9.9
The range topping 9.9 comes with a full Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 Di2 group, Easton EC90 aero carbon road bars, Izalco Max custom carbon integrated stem, ProLogo Dimension saddle, DT Swiss ARC 1450 DiCut 48mm deep carbon wheels and Continental GP4000SII 25c tyres
- £7,899 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Focus Izalco Max 9.8
Second in the range line-up, the 9.8 replaces Di2 with SRAM’s Red eTap gears and brakes but retains the same spec as the 9.9 for everything else.
At £900 cheaper than the Focus Izalco Max 9.9, the 9.8 looks to have the value (relatively, it’s still a heap of cash) compared to the 9.9's spec highlights, with Easton EC90 aero carbon road bars, Izalco Max custom carbon integrated stem, ProLogo Dimension saddle, DT Swiss ARC 1450 DiCut 48mm deep carbon wheels and Continental GP4000SII 25c tyres.
- £6,999 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Focus Izalco Max 9.7
The 9.7 uses Shimano Ultegra R8050 Di2 but again shares the same high-spec as the 9.9 everywhere else. So that’s Easton EC90 aero carbon road bars, the Izalco Max custom carbon integrated stem, ProLogo Dimension saddle, DT Swiss ARC 1450 DiCut 48mm deep carbon wheels and Continental GP4000SII 25c tyres.
- £5,299 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Focus Izalco Max 8.9
The 8.9 uses the 970g 8 series carbon frame combined with Shimano Ultegra R8050 Di2. The spec highlights include DT Swiss PRC 1450 spline DB wheels (35mm deep), Focus carbon D-shaped post, BBB alloy bar and stem, a ProLogo Scratch saddle and Continental UltraSport II 25c tyres.
- £4,499 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Focus Izalco Max 8.8
The 8.8 replaces Di2 with mechanical Ultegra R8020. Spec highlights include Novatec R5 carbon wheels with a big tyre-friendly 20mm internal width to their aero 50mm deep shape.
The bike also comes with a ProLogo Scratch saddle, Continental UltraSport II 25mm tyres, BBB alloy bar and stem and Focus carbon seatpost.
- £3,439 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Focus Izalco Max 8.7
At the entry-level to the Max range is the Max 8.7, which comes with new Shimano 105 (R7000 series), Alex CF45 wheels with a 45mm deep 19mm (internal) wide carbon rim on centre lock hubs, Continental UltraSport II tyres, a ProLogo Scratch saddle, BBB alloy bar and stem and Focus carbon post.
- £2,649 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Other bikes in the range include:
- Focus Izalco Max Di2 FS in red (1) or black (2): £2.699 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- Focus Izalco Max Disc 9 FS in black (1), silver (2) and white (3): £3.349 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- Focus Izalco Max Disc 8 FS in white: £2.449 / $TBC / AU$TBC