When I got to Scott's Cycle yesterday for the Tuesday night ride I noticed right away that there was a new bicycle tucked away in among the Trek's and Cannondale's. When I asked Steve about it he said it was a demo bike from the Focus rep and they were considering bringing the brand in. Then he asked if I wanted to test ride it. Well he didn't have to ask me twice! I love sticking my arse (For all my British fans.) on a bright shiny new ride.
I looked up the general information about the Izalco 3.0 on the Focus website. And was happy to see that it's won a couple of awards already. One of them being an editor's choice award from Bicycling magazine for the 2010 version of the same bike. I also learned that they were the bike sponsor for Milram (Before they went under.) And are the current sponsor for Katusha racing team.
I was personally pretty excited to see a new brand in the shop. Especially what I would consider an up and comer in US road market.
The Build quality seemed to be excellent. Good paint. Straight decals and all the little details. Things like the drop outs were nicely finished. Internal cable routing is something I like personally as well. The Jagwire cables had seals to keep them from getting contaminated. Nice touch. All these things pointed to a level of care that I like to see on a bike that's MSRP is just over $4000.00.
I think the bike has very pleasing lines. The chain stays with their wide horizontal profile and comparably thin vertical profile (Until they get to the bottom bracket anyway.) have a stylized delicate feel. As do the seatstays. Although I would say their lines were reasonably simple compared to some of the newer frame sets I've seen.
The down tube and head tube are huge. They give the bike a very solid look. Almost an anchor point visually for the whole frame.
And the top tube has a beautiful hourglass shape that at it's thinnest point appears to be substantially smaller than anything else in the front triangle.
|The hourglass shaped top tube.|
A well rounded array of journeymen parts that any racer would be glad to have on their ride (Excluding the wheels. They are decent training wheels but unless you are just starting racing wouldn't be the best choice.) The bike comes with a Shimano Ultegra groupo (Except for an FSA crank). Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels. And a cockpit (Handle bars, stem, seatpost.) made up of FSA parts with a Fizik Arione saddle.
As we headed out of town the first thing that was very apparent with this bike is that it was designed to go. I felt no wasted energy in the pedal stoke. Each push down and rotation back was making the bike thrust (Didn't know there was going to be thrusting did you?) forward. With very little perceived flex. Now I'm not going to be one of those guys who talks about laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant. I think that phrase has completely run it's course. It's practically a joke (Actually it is a joke anymore.) phrase. But what I will say is that with all the power going to the back wheel. I didn't feel like my ass (I went back to the Merican way to say it.) was getting beat up in the process either. Which is nice.
It also climbed very well. I gave it the beans going up the largest hill on the route we were taking that night and soon I was all by my little lonesome. Which made me feel good. It's a pretty light bike. At 16.5 lbs with those Ksyrium wheels, bottle cage and my pedals already on it. I think it could easily be in the 15 lb (ish) category with some race wheels.
The road feel from the front unfortunately is a different story. Don't get me wrong I like road feel in my bikes. I'm not a fan of a dead, muted feeling. Something that I think all manufactures of carbon bikes have addressed in recent years. But in my opinion this was more chatter than road feel. It could be in part due to the set up of the bike (The handle bar height and reach were not set up exactly how my bike is.). But mostly I think it was to do with the massive head tube reinforcement. It made for no flex when you get up out of the seat to sprint. But just cruising down the road felt bumpy.
The other quibble I have with the ride is the steering. I was looking at the geometry for the bike and it has a very short wheel base and not very much trail on the front end. That combo made for very twitchy steering. I think I could probably get use to it after awhile. But on this initial run it made me nervous. And who wants to be nervous when you are flying down a descent? I felt myself weighting the front end of the bike more trying to keep it under control (Kind of like my wife.).
All that being said I think this bike has a very specific clientele that would love it. Criterium racers. With its fast steering and little flex this thing could be a crit killer. I could easily see whipping this thing through some quick turns only to nail the gas again to bridge a gap or to take the win in the final straight to the line. It would be the perfect machine for the job.
Despite my quibbles with the bike I think Focus seems to be a very good bicycle company. And if Scott's decides to carry the line I will be very excited to see what other models they bring into the shop.
Rubber side down,