Focus Paralane Ultegra review
The Focus Paralane Ultegra sits one down from the top of the company’s new endurance range and it is a bike with all-round appeal
The Paralane could be the one and only bike you own. It will do everything you'll need it to do: use it for your everyday commutes, take it on family trips and it's ideal for gran fondos. It will work in each and every situation you throw at it.
Very comfortable rear end
28mm tyres and disc brakes
Stable in every situation
Harsh front end
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The Focus Paralane is the new endurance bike range from the German manufacturer and is available in 10 options.
Starting at £1,299 the entry model has an aluminium frameset with a Shimano Tiagra hydraulic groupset. The range-topping Paralane costs £5,699 and has carbon frameset built up with SRAM eTap. The Paralane line also includes two female-specific bikes.
I got to ride the Focus Paralane carbon frameset fitted with mechanical Shimano Ultegra (£2,999). And it was a joy.
The manufacturer claims this is a racing bike with ideal characteristics for riding long distances on a variety of road surfaces. Well, I am surrounded by the famously bad British roads, so it was not difficult to put that claim to the test.
Focus Paralane frame
First there’s the look. You may disagree, but I am a fan: the shape of the tubes, the matt-black finish… I can imagine an eco-friendly Batman riding one of these.
The Focus Paralane is a disc-specific frame and fork using the flat-mount standard with clearance for up to 35mm tyres, mudguard mounts and Focus’s own 12 mm thru-axles front and rear.
When designing the Paralane, Focus did not simply follow the standard endurance bike recipe: the longer head tube, shorter reach etc. A big head tube can negatively affects the frame’s weight, the standover height and design. So instead of just lengthening the head tube, Focus lowered the bottom bracket and extended the fork. The longer fork is important because it allows the use of wider tyres while the lower bottom bracket should help improve stability and handling.
So the Focus Paralane's frame is compliant, stiff, very well handling but relatively light as well. One of the lightest in its class actually, weighing just 904 grams (size 54cm, painted and including small parts). The whole bike – size 56 – weighs 8.4 kilos. That is with front and rear mudguards and 28mm tyres – quite a bit less than you might expect for a bike of this type.
Now let me tell you more about those thru-axles. Focus calls them RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) and they really are rapid when it comes to changing the wheels. Two 90° turns are enough to get the wheels off, no Allen keys required – brilliant! Every other bike manufacturer should take a good look at these.
While thru-axles won’t bother you, the mudguards will if you intend to take them off.
As it’s summer, temperatures close to 30°, no rain at all, you'll possibly want to take off the mudguards if only to save a little bit of weight. However, Focus has used internal Torx bolts, which make it very tricky to remove or fit the guards. Despite that, the mudguards offer great coverage and work with tyres up to 32mm.
As mentioned, this bike is equipped with the Shimano Ultegra R6800 mechanical groupset, which includes a compact crankset (50/34) and an 11-speed cassette with a wide gear range of 11-32. That’s a little unnecessary for the roads of Hampshire where I rode it, but could be certainly useful elsewhere around the world. It is a great groupset: very reliable, light and great looking on the Paralane.
Similarly, the Shimano’s R685 hydraulic disc brakes work a treat. They stop the bike immediately with great power and modulation even if you are not a particularly light rider. Some people might complain about the not-so-ergonomic levers, but my large hands were happy enough on them. But with the new Shimano Ultegra 8000 coming to the market we have things to look out for in this respect.
A great addition to this bike are the DT Swiss R23 wheels. These are very impressive. Like Apple says in its campaigns: they just work. The rims are aluminium so you don’t need to worry about them on rough, pot-holed roads. They are wide, which makes them a very good base for wider tyres, and they are tubeless ready.
The bike comes with Schwalbe ONE race tyres in the 28mm width – a great tyre for comfortable but fast on-road use.
The Focus Paralane is finished with Focus’s own Concept EX branded parts, the highlight being the seatpost as it completes the bike’s aesthetic and is very comfortable. Up front, the aluminium handlebars with short and compact drops and aluminium stem were fine too. And yes, the bike really comes with that fluorescent yellow bar tape. Definitely not my cup of tea especially as it got very dirty almost immediately.
Focus wanted to make the bike really comfortable so it comes with a great saddle, the Fizik Aliante R5, which you can micro-adjust to your taste thanks to the two-bolt seatpost.
This is an expensive, well-thought-out endurance carbon frame offering a smooth ride. Not as smooth as a Condor Leggero but it is certainly no Specialized Venge Vias for harshness. It insulates you from the worst on the road, but you don’t feel disconnected from the riding surface, always aware of what's going on under the wide tyres.
You will get up any hill thanks to the wide gear range, but it is not designed to be a climbing bike. You will love this bike best when descending or riding on the flat thanks to its stability and acceleration. It gets around corners with a secure feel, helped by those wide tyres and great-handling frame.
We’ve now reached the hardest part of this review. It would be difficult not to love this bike if you didn’t have to pay for it. It could be yours for £2,999 and let’s face it, that’s a large amount of money. The price is not just a UK problem since it costs €3,800 in its home country – Germany. There are similar bikes for less money. An example of such a machine is the Specialized Roubaix Comp CE, which comes with Shimano Ultegra, Shimano 805 disc brakes and most importantly the Future Shock, costing £350 less – £2,650. And there are more options to consider, too, from Cannondale, Canyon or Trek – all of them coming in at around £2,600.
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