Focus Mares CX Disc Ultegra review

The Focus Mares CX Disc Ultegra cyclocross bike is the brand's next to top of range crosser. We've put it through its paces in early season races and longer off road rides

(Image credit: chris catchpole)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

A quality cyclocross frame and components, although not as compliant over the rough stuff as some of its competitors

For
  • +

    Light

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    Confident handling

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    RAT thru-axles give quick wheel changes

Against
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    A bit stiff off road

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    Not tubeless ready tyres

Frame

Focus has a real cyclocross pedigree, having been founded back in 1992 by three times world cyclocross champion Mike Kluge. Its Mares is a bike with a full carbon frame with internal cable routing. It’s got a flattened top tube which is comfortable for extended shouldering and a tapered head tube.

Ultegra groupset comes with cyclocross-specific ratios

Ultegra groupset comes with cyclocross-specific ratios
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

The bike that we’ve tested is the 2016 model, but the 2017 has moved from a 15mm to a 12mm front thru-axle and Focus has redesigned the fork with internal brake hose routing and flat mount brakes.

Specification

The Focus comes with Ultegra shifting and Shimano’s neater looking RS685 hydraulic shifters. There’s some shock absorption built into the frame and more at the seatpost, where Focus fits its carbon CPX design with a Y-shaped split head. There’s also a carbon stem and Fizik Cyrano bars and Aliante saddle.

>>> Shimano Ultegra groupset review (video)

DT Swiss wheels run on Focus's RAT thru-axles

DT Swiss wheels run on Focus's RAT thru-axles
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

The thru-axle wheels are DT Swiss tubeless ready R24 Splines, shod with rather smart-looking (but not tubeless-ready) tan sidewalled Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres. Focus uses its own RAT axles on the Mares. They are designed for very fast removal: the system has been timed at 12 seconds for a wheel change in an MTB race.

>>> New Focus Paralane endurance road bike launched

RocketRon tyres are not tubeless ready, unlike the wheels

RocketRon tyres are not tubeless ready, unlike the DT Swiss wheels
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

Ride

The Mares has proved a steady ship in its race outings. It corners predictably and the light but sturdy frame means it is both easy to lift over the hurdles and to lay down the power on the straights. The flip side is it’s not the most cushioned of rides, even with the CPX seatpost.

Watch: Guide to cyclocross bikes

The robustness of the build also plays out through its components. Those chunky levers offer a reassuring grip, a chain guard has prevented de-shipment and the thru-axles make the disc brake performance all the more solid.

>>> Pro bike: Domenico Pozzovivo's Focus Izalco Max (video)

Focus's CPX split seat post head adds a bit of compliance to the ride

Focus's CPX split seat post head adds a bit of compliance to the ride
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

While Schwalbe’s Rocket Rons are a good fast race tyre on dry, grassy early-season courses, one of them did blow out on a rocky dirt track during into an off-road touring trip.