If you’re going to redo something anyway, why not start from scratch and give it a big boost of speed as well? According to FOCUS, the formula for the new IZALCO MAX is weight reduction, aerodynamic optimisation, increased stiffness and improved comfort. Is the result really a speedy all-rounder, or is it just designed to sound good on paper? We put the IZALCO MAX to the test in the Vosges.
What defines a road bike today? What distinguishes it in 2023 from other categories such as gravel and allroad? In other words: What is the essence of a modern road bike? FOCUS’ answer to these questions is speed! As such, the new IZALCO MAX 2024 aims to be faster than its predecessor and, of course, the competition. The only road bike in the FOCUS portfolio has been completely redesigned and is now built for speed. The result is a sleek look with lots of new features and aero-optimised NACA TUBE SHAPES tube design. To find out if there is more to the bike than the marketing claims, and how fast it really is, we put it through its paces in the Vosges mountains.
Stiffer, better, faster, stronger? What’s new about the FOCUS IZALCO MAX 2024
According to FOCUS, the engineers had a clear mission for the new incarnation: “More speed!” They have achieved this in a number of ways, starting with its aerodynamic concept based on NACA tube profiles. The new IZALCO MAX 2024 uses a mix of classic round and D-shaped aerofoil tube sections, with the aim of providing a balance of low weight, high stiffness and improved aerodynamics – nothing we haven’t heard before, then. But according to FOCUS’ own measurements in the wind tunnel, the result is quite significant. To be precise: 6.6 watts saved at 45 km/h. Over a distance of 45 km, this equates to a saving of 1 minute and 47 seconds. Remarkable, but for everyday riders the psychological effect of knowing how fast your bike is probably makes more of a difference. After all, who can do more than 40 km at more than a 40 km/h average? By the way, the water bottle in the frame triangle is almost completely concealed by the new shape, which adds another whole 0.3 watts!
At first glance, you don’t really see much new in the design and look – or do you? Where is the big FOCUS logo? The branding only appears on the front of the head tube and on the top tube. There is also a small logo on the fork and chainstay. The disappearance of the lettering on the down tube caused a lot of discussion within the FOCUS team. How could the brand be recognised without big branding? In the end, simplicity and discreet understatement won out over big letters. Apart from that, you have to look quite closely to see any differences between this bike and its predecessor. But that’s not a bad thing! The racing style looks pretty good and, of course, fast. The two-piece colour scheme is a perfect match for the road bike, and to keep it that way, there is even a frame protector kit that can be applied if needed.
New usually means lighter, and the FOCUS is no exception, at least when it comes to the frame. According to the German bike manufacturer, the new M size frame weighs 865 grams, 56 grams less than its predecessor, a saving of around 6%. Bottom bracket stiffness has been increased by 15%. The fork is heavier but, thanks to the NACA TUBE SHAPE, significantly stiffer. To be precise, it weighs 14g more, but has 16% more lateral stiffness, i.e. its ability to withstand lateral forces or deformation. For example, when sprinting out of the saddle, the bike will feel spongy if the fork is not stiff enough. The head tube also boasts an 8% increase in stiffness. For an all-round road bike, the weight of 7.2 kg for the top-of-the-range spec in size M, as measured by FOCUS, is perfectly acceptable.
The new FOCUS IZALCO MAX is also supposed to be more comfortable. By shortening the seatstays, the seatpost has been extended to allow more flex. The extra flex in turn should help to compensate for bumps in the road. You’ll also find a new clamp for the seat post. It is integrated into the top tube as with the previous model, but has a different clamping mechanism. Tire clearance has also increased by 2 mm, up to 30 mm. Also new is the approval for use on indoor trainers. The aero features are of little use here, but the bike looks all the faster in the living room or basement at home. As a true road bike, the IZALCO MAX is of course UCI approved.
Really new – Geometry and equipment of the new FOCUS IZALCO MAX
The geometry has changed quite a bit. Based on frame size L, there is a 6 mm higher bottom bracket combined with a 0.5 degree lower head angle. The stack is 17 mm higher, because the head tube length has increased by 30 mm. The stack/reach ratio is now 1.43. These changes should, in theory, provide a sporty but comfortable riding position with sufficient composure.
|Top tube||504 mm||517 mm||530 mm||543 mm||568 mm||597 mm||607 mm|
|Seat tube||455 mm||475 mm||495 mm||515 mm||535 mm||555 mm||585 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||100 mm||115 mm||135 mm||155 mm||175 mm||195 mm|
|Chainstay||410 mm||4410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm|
|BB Drop||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm|
|Wheelbase||975 mm||976 mm||975 mm||979 mm||1,004 mm||1,008 mm||1,033 mm|
|Reach||370 mm||375 mm||378 mm||380 mm||399 mm||401 mm||420 mm|
|Stack||500 mm||513 mm||531 mm||552 mm||571 mm||592 mm||611 mm|
The FOCUS IZALCO MAX is available in six different configurations and seven different sizes. The top three 9 series models come with their top-of-the-range carbon layup, while the three lower 8 series models are almost 200 g heavier, maintaining the same stiffness. With the exception of the 9.7 model, all bikes are equipped with Shimano. They also all sport carbon rims except the cheapest model, the 8.7. The rim width is 21 mm across the board, as all models are designed for 28 mm tires. The top model is the IZALCO MAX 9.9 with Shimano DURA-ACE and DT Swiss ERC 1400 DICUT wheelset for € 8,999. The 9.8 and 9.7 models come with Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 or SRAM Rival AXS eTap respectively, coupled with a DT Swiss ERC 1600 DICUT wheelset. The series 8 models are all equipped with Shimano 105 drivetrains. The FOCUS IZALCO MAX 8.9 comes with 105 Di2, while the other two have mechanical shifting.
Specs of the FOCUS IZALCO MAX models
|Model||IZALCO MAX 9.9||IZALCO MAX 9.8||IZALCO MAX 9.7||IZALCO MAX 8.9||IZALCO MAX 8.8||IZALCO MAX 8.7|
|Drivetrain||Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9200, 12-SPEED||Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 R8150, 12-SPEED||SRAM Rival AXS eTap, 12-SPEED||Shimano 105 Di2 R7100, 12-SPEED||Shimano 105 R7100, 12-SPEED||Shimano 105 R7100, 12-SPEED|
|Wheelset||DT Swiss ERC 1400 DICUT||DT Swiss ERC 1600 DICUT||DT Swiss ERC 1600 DICUT||Novatec R4 45 mm||Novatec R4 45 mm||Alexrims Boondocks 5|
|Price||€ 8,999||€ 6,799||€ 6,199||€ 4,799||€ 3,999||€ 2,999|
|Weights||7,2 kg||7,9 kg||8,15 kg||8,2 kg||8,3 kg||9,0 kg|
How fast is fast? The new FOCUS IZALCO MAX put to the test
Right away, you feel like Sporty Spice on the FOCUS IZALCO MAX. The riding position is indeed very sporty, not overly stretched but rather low. Despite the relatively high head tube, your upper body is quite low – not unusual for a road racer, giving a very dynamic and direct feel, which is great for fast, aggressive riding but makes cruising difficult. It’s a lot of fun to speed through the Vosges like this, although the sporty position is definitely not too comfortable on long ascents. It will be a relief for your back to get out of the saddle quite frequently when pedalling uphill. However, the handling is not as responsive as you might expect. The bike feels relatively agile at lower speeds, allowing you to take tight corners with reasonable precision. On fast descents, however, it takes a bit of effort to get the bike to corner properly. Yet, the IZALCO MAX is very safe to handle, even at top speed. It always gives the impression of staying on track, whether the speedometer shows 30 or 60 km/h.
The level of compliance is quite high for a road bike, allowing you to ride on bumpy roads without being shaken to bits. This is mainly due to the combination of tire and rim, but also to the frame and seat post. There seems to be a little more shock absorption at the rear than at the front. If you need more dampening at the front, you can use thicker handlebar tape. While we’re on the subject of the cockpit: the ergonomics of the Easton EC70 CARBON AERO handlebar are excellent. The wide support surfaces are comfortable for your palms and the robust, bulky look is visually pleasing. Thankfully, the drops offer plenty of space, allowing you to settle in for long periods without getting out of breath. When it comes to acceleration, the FOCUS IZALCO MAX really deserves to be called a road bike, sprinting well and climbing quickly.
Tuning tip:thicker handlebar tape for more comfort at the front
Who should have a closer look at the new FOCUS IZALCO MAX?
The new FOCUS IZALCO MAX is a real race bike for people who take road cycling seriously. There is no point in loafing around on this bike. If you want to look and feel fast, this is the bike for you. KOM and QOM hunters are sure to have a lot of fun with it as well. The sporty, low riding position is suitable for crit racers and short to medium distance road races, but also for yogis with the flexibility of a snake. The FOCUS IZALCO MAX would be a great companion for fast post-work rides with some punchy sprints.
Conclusion on the new FOCUS IZALCO MAX
The new FOCUS IZALCO MAX looks and feels fast. The technical innovations, such as the NACA TUBE SHAPES, are not really noticeable to the average hobby racer, but the focus on speed is evident throughout the bike. The sporty riding position and efficient power transfer are fun and feel fast. All in all, the FOCUS IZALCO MAX is a modern, fast road bike that will be fun for anyone who loves chasing seconds and high-speed action.
- racing look and feel
- good level of compliance
- suitable for indoor trainers
- discreet branding
- fully integrated cockpit would better realise the bike’s aero aspirations
Für mehr Infos besucht focus-bikes.com
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Words: Martin Staffa Photos: FOCUS, Martin Staffa