Review: Focus Izalco Team Road Bike
BIKERUMOR.com REVIEW: About a month before Interbike, we received the Focus Izalco Team road bike in to review with the promise that we’d get it back to them just after the show.
So, we had about 30 days to rip, ride and race the Izalco Team, and we ended up getting a few hundred miles on it between two of us, including racing it in the Carolina Cup.
It’s important to note that this is the 2009 model, and for 2010, the Izalco line was totally redesigned and is totally bad arse.Ã‚Â This frame gets trickled down to become the Cayo with only minor changes: It gets a tapered headtube and BB30 bottom bracket.Ã‚Â Such is the risk of reviewing a bike at that late-mid-year point when new models are debuting, so if you’re in the market, consider this a review of the 2009 Izalco / 2010 Cayo.
The Izalco is Focus’ top end line of race bikes.Ã‚Â They’re designed to be light, fast and responsive, and that’s precisely the impression we left with.Ã‚Â Like any road bike that’s built for racing, the geometry handles sharply and rewards your concentration with steady performance in the middle of a pack or over less-than-ideal road surfaces.Ã‚Â The flip side is that it requires your attention to remain on the task at hand.Ã‚Â So, is this the bike for you?Ã‚Â Read on for the full breakdown of features and ride reviews…
FOCUS IZALCO TEAM FEATURES:
The Izalco Team model comes equipped with full SRAM Red, FSA K-Force carbon set-back seatpost and alloy stem and handlebar, Fizik Arione saddle, Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels and Continental GrandPrix Force tires.Ã‚Â The frame is Focus’ High Modulus UD (unidirectional) carbon fiber, and the fork is their Race Carbon with full carbon steerer.Ã‚Â While we did weigh it, we seemed to have skipped photographing that (lame, we know), but this size 58 weighed in around 15.5 lbs.
The alloy FSA bar and stem transferred a bit more road vibration than I was used to with the carbon handlebar on my personal bike, but they were far more rigid, which was appreciated when standing and cranking.Ã‚Â On long rides, my hands felt a bit more fatigued, but that could also be due to the round profile of the bar (versus the flat-top bar I’m used to).Ã‚Â The Fizik bar tape was excellent.
The Izalco we rode had a standard GXP bottom bracket and straight 1-1/8″ steerer tube. The 2010 Cayo takes this frame and updates to BB30 and a tapered headtube, which is definitely a good thing, but we never noticed any undue flex or slack steering with this bikes “normal” setup.Ã‚Â In fact, the steering on this bike is incredibly precise.
One test I did was to get up to about 15 mph, then cut the handlebars back and forth very, very quickly.Ã‚Â Imagine the front wheel slaloming cones six feet apart at speed and you’ll get an idea of what I was doing.Ã‚Â On my bike (which is not a race bike, but still a very good carbon frame), doing the same thing very quickly led to an out of control feeling.Ã‚Â On the Izalco, I felt limited only by my fear of crashing…the bike could have handled faster, sharper maneuvering than my cajones would allow.
Some credit for the handling goes to the rather stout fork. Viewed from the sides (left), the blades have virtually the same width from top to bottom.Ã‚Â On the insides (right), they get thicker at the top.
Even the dropouts are fairly beefy.
The rear dropouts are fairly normal, but the frame has a small curve that lends a one-piece look to the rear triangle.
The seatstays are split all the way from the top with a carbon bridge.Ã‚Â This helps keep the rear end stiff.
The rear wheel is tucked up close to the seat tube, further aiding the bike’s sharp handling.
The top tube flows nicely into the seat stays.
The shifter cables run externally along the downtube (below), but the rear brake cable runs through the top tube.
The downtube is almost as wide as the BB shell, helping the bike turn pedal motion into forward motion.
There’s plenty of frame surrounding the top of the BB shell, too, making for large junctions between the chainstays, downtube and seat tube.
The front derailleur mount is recessed into the frame. We never had any issues of chain rub in sprints, confirming the stiffness of the Izalco’s frame.
HOW’S IT RIDE?
TYLER: After receiving full permission and release of liability from Focus to race the Izalco Team at the Carolina Cup in September, I lined up with likely the most expensive bike in the Cat 5.Ã‚Â For the uninitiated, the Cat 5 is often just as fast or faster than Cat 4 and way more dangerous.Ã‚Â There are a lot of people that haven’t ever raced before (dangerous) and a lot of extremely strong riders that don’t race often enough to cat up (fast).Ã‚Â The Carolina Cup course runs throughout Country Park on a rolling, twisty, fast 1.6 mile loop.Ã‚Â There are wide and sharp corners, downhill-to-uphill sweepers and some rough sections in a few of the corners.Ã‚Â In otherwords, it’s the perfect test course for seeing what a bike can do.
Riding inches from others around corners, the Izalco held its line well and felt confident.Ã‚Â When I needed to accelerate (which was often), the bike reacted like a race bike should…it went fast.Ã‚Â Per usual, there was a nasty wreck, and as it unfolded with arms, legs, bodies and bikes flopping and flying in front of me, the Izalco was able to brake and maneuver well, keeping me (and the bike) out of trouble.Ã‚Â While I’m not an avid racer, the Izalco seemed to me to have the right traits: Confident handling at high speeds and efficient power transfer when hammering.
On the road, the Izalco was fun to ride, and city limit sign sprints elicited no hint of frame flex. For longer days in the saddle, however, those sharp handling characteristics that make it such a great race bike become a bit of a liability.Ã‚Â The bike needs you to focus (no pun intended) on where you’re going and what you’re doing.Ã‚Â Any little bit of steering input, whether accidental or intentional, translates into some sort of movement.Ã‚Â Even nonchalant hand position changes that on non-race bikes would barely register can potentially take the Izalco off its line.Ã‚Â That said, the Izalco is not twitchy like other race bikes we’ve ridden, so in my opinion this is a phenomenal bike for people whose rides typically last under three hours and like something light, fast and exotic and/or those who want a top-level race bike that’s not going to (completely) drain your bank account.Ã‚Â Afterall, this is the same frame Team Milram rode in 2009 (slightly different fork, though).
DANIEL: The 2009 Izalco was one of the most exciting bikes for me to demo last season. New to the U.S.A. and ready to prove itself, the Izalco delivered like a rocket. A rocket with excellent acceleration and handling. The first thing I noticed was how small the bike felt under me. It was the correct size adjusted to me, yet it felt little. In no way should that imply a negative or uncomfortable feeling in any way. In fact, the bike was extremely comfortable. It was like being strapped to a little, aggressive rocket.
It’s responsiveness should come with a warning. You think about moving around obstacles or making rapid maneuvers and the bike has already executed them…to the extent that it feels like it could turn a full circle on itself and buck you off. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to acclimate to the Izalco, and from then on it was smooth sailing.
Drawbacks: After a long ride, and while experiencing fatigue, I did notice the bike feeling a little “loose” or “uneasy”. The responsiveness of the bike requires more attention and focus (haha “FOCUS”) than some other bikes that aren’t as agile. Another downer for the 2009 Izalco is the extreme awesomeness of the new 2010 Izalco.
Billed as a race bike, we’re basing our rating on that standard.Ã‚Â The Focus Izalco Team (aka 2010 Focus Cayo) tracks well, lays down the power when ridden hard and handles confidently…all traits you want in a race bike.Ã‚Â It’s light and climbs well, corners sharply and maintains control under hard braking.Ã‚Â Other than the tendency to get a little “loose” when you’re tired and that a fair amount of road vibration gets through to your hands, this bike does what it’s intended to do and it does so extremely well.Ã‚Â If you’re looking for a group ride killer or world-class race bike, check out the Focus Izalco (or 2010 Cayo). That said, we give it 4-1/2 Thumbs Up.
The Izalco came in four editions for 2009, the Team (tested), the Extreme (with 3T fork and either Dura-Ace or Campy Super Record builds) and the Team Milram (very similar to the Team, but with Lightweight wheels and 3T Funda carbon fork).Ã‚Â The Cayo, which as mentioned takes this frame for 2010, had a wider range of component/build options, and we suspect those options will largely carry over from this year to next.
From an aesthetic perspective, the Izalco got lots of stares everywhere we rode it.Ã‚Â On group rides, it gathers a lot of comments, which speaks to it’s good looks and to the fact that since they just entered the U.S. mid-year 2009, there still aren’t a lot of them out there, especially on the East Coast.Ã‚Â So, if you want a show stopper, Focus is a good place to start.
Regarding the road vibration, a carbon handlebar would probably fix most of it, but you might end up losing some of the rigidity of the cockpit.Ã‚Â Another quick fix would be some thicker bar tape or gel inserts under the bar tape.