A quality cyclocross frame and components, although not as compliant over the rough stuff as some of its competitors
RAT thru-axles give quick wheel changes
A bit stiff off road
Not tubeless ready tyres
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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