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Tech feature: 2011 Focus MTB introduction

Cross-country and marathon full-suspension models lose weight, grow in numbers

New from Focus for 2011 is the carbon fibre FSL range, which boasts 100mm of travel front and rear and an impressive claimed frame weight of around 1.95kg (4.30lb) with rear shock. The faux bar design's look is decidedly unusual what with its high-mounted and in-line rear shock but Focus points out several key advantages to the layout for the intended style of riding.

Not only can riders fit two water bottles in the main triangle but the open front triangle is also easy to portage and shock-mounted lockout levers are very easy to reach.

Other features include a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end, a PressFit30-compatible bottom bracket, unique post mount rear disc tabs on the chain stay for either 160mm or 180mm rotors, enough tyre clearance for 2.4" rubber, and a unique internal cable routing system.

Focus has generously outfitted the new FSL with five entry at the head tube: two for the derailleurs, one for the rear brake, one for an optional rear shock lockout, and yet another in case there's a remotely operated telescoping seatpost mounted.

Focus has been mindful of maintenance, too, with main pivot bearings that can be serviced completely from the non-driveside without having to remove the crankset, conical ceramic bushings elsewhere that are said to hold up well to dirt and water, and the unique shock placement also shields that normally weather-susceptible bit from tire spray.

Focus will offer up to four different FSL models ranging from the top-end 1.0 (US$9,700) with a 2x10 SRAM XX group, a RockShox SID XX fork, and DT Swiss carbon wheels to the more attainable 4.0 (US$4,400) with a 3x10 Shimano Deore XT package, a Fox 32 RL fork, and alloy DT Swiss hoops. Notably, all but the 1.0 will also include 15mm thru-axles up front for better steering precision and all FSL complete bikes will share the same frame.

Complementing the FSL is the 120mm-travel First collection for more marathon-type riding. Like the FSL, the First also uses a carbon fibre main frame and stays plus the unique high-mounted rear shock position – but with different linkages and leverage ratios to eke out the extra travel.

The tapered head tube and array of internal routing options carry over as well, but the rear end sports more conventional disc caliper mounts and the bottom bracket shell is conventionally threaded.

The top-end First Extreme will come with a Shimano XTR/XT mix, a Fox 32 RL fork and DT Swiss X-1600 wheels for US$5,800 in the US while other markets will also get a less expensive model with a SRAM X.9/X0 mix, a RockShox SID RLT fork and Focus-branded aluminum wheels.

If carbon's not your thing there's also the 100mm-travel Super Bud models built with hydroformed alloy frames. Focus will offer up to six models worldwide with the upper-end versions including a tapered head tube and all variants utilizing a true four-bar linkage system – at least outside of the US.

Americans will get their own Super Buds with seat stay-mounted dropout pivots and prices ranging from US$2,000-3,600 depending on build kit.

Hardtails are alive and well at Focus

While many companies are abandoning high-end hardtails, Focus's 2011 range will include six 26" carbon models alone. All are built around the same Raven frame that reportedly drops about 80g for a final claimed weight of about 950g – lighter, in fact, than any of Focus's road frames.

Not surprisingly, many of the road-going Izalco's features are translated over, including the 'elbowed' dropout design and slim seat stays for a softer ride, BB30-compatible bottom bracket shells, a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" head tube, and internal cable routing run through molded-in carbon fiber reinforcing tubes.

Topping the range is the US$8,900 Raven 1.0 with SRAM XX, a RockShox SID XX fork, and DT Swiss carbon wheels with lesser variants running all the way down to the 6.0 with a Shimano SLX/XT build kit, Avid Elixir 3 brakes and Focus-branded wheels.

Alloy fans can instead look to the Black Forest range with triple butted and hydroformed aluminum frames, smooth-finish TIG welds, and tapered head tubes. Surprisingly, the build kits aren't stingy, either, with the top-end 1.0 coming with a SRAM X.9/X0 mix and a RockShox SID RLT fork and even the 4.0 coming well equipped with Shimano SLX/XT and a RockShox Recon fork.

Finally, Focus has finally decided to enter the 29er market, too, albeit with a modest toe in the water instead of a full-on cannonball. Focus will offer three Red Skin hardtails, all built around aluminum frames with triple butted and hydroformed tubing, tapered head tubes, and smoothly finished welds.

Longer-travel options for the hard-hitting crowd

US buyers will quickly recognize Focus's 130mm-travel Thunder and 150mm-travel Project as using the same low-slung Knuckle Box linkage design as on DiamondBack bikes – which will come as no surprise as both labels are owned by parent company Derby Cycle.

Thunder frames are built with double-butted and hydroformed aluminum tubing, tapered head tubes and 'Easy Access' main pivot bearings with telescoping seatposts and 15mm thru-axle forks featured throughout the range. In contrast, Project frames are designed to handle more abuse with beefier double-butted tubing and larger tube cross-sections, a more heavily bolstered seat tube, and HammerSchmidt-compatible ISCG tabs.

Need a boost?

Focus' German home market is rife with a remarkably diverse collection of electric-assist bicycles, nearly all of which are logically directed at commuters and casual cyclists. But also included in the 'e-bike' range is the intriguing Jafira Offroad – yes, a mountain bike, and yes, Focus does intend for it to see trail time.

Focus swaps out the 300W Panasonic drive system it normally uses on its e-bikes for a more torque-laden Bionx hub-based system that can churn out up to 250W depending on how hard you're pedaling. Rounding out the build is a Shimano SLX/XT 3x9 build kit, Avid Elixir 3 hydraulic disc brakes, and a RockShox Recon RL fork.

Not surprisingly, the Jafira Offroad isn't light nor is it remotely inexpensive at US$4,000. But it is certainly an interesting idea – and one that we're dying to try out ourselves.

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