Focus’ 2016 Cyclocross Line Makes Some Bold Moves

Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team
Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team

Last week at CrossVegas, pro riders used the first big cyclocross race of the season as a venue in which to debut their sponsors' latest and the greatest equipment. One bike in particular caught our eye: Jeremy Powers’ super-sweet Focus Mares.

Focus was one of the first brands to bring cyclocross bikes with thru-axles to the masses—last year at Sea Otter 2014, in fact—and for 2015, the company has made a bold claim: Thru-axles and disc brakes are the future of cyclocross. It has committed to the technology from the top of the line all the way down to its entry-level bikes, and has stopped making any cantilever brake options for cyclocross across the six versions of its Mares lineup.

“People just aren’t using their road wheels as their ‘cross wheels anymore,” says Focus Operations Manager Jeff Rowe. “The sport has shifted to riders wanting a completely conceived and executed cyclocross machine. Everyone has a cyclocross bike now, and with the addition of thru-axles, we’re correcting a problem that cyclocross bikes have always had.”

The Focus Mares is best known as the bike that three-time National Champion Jeremy Powers rides on his one-man team, Aspire Racing. He’s been with the brand for the past few years, and made the transition from cantilever brakes to discs last season—though he still elected to race on cantilevers for some of the dry races last fall. We likely won’t be seeing him on cantilevers in 2015, though. This year, the Focus bikes drew attention not just for their technology, but also for their bold use of graphics. Focus takes great pride in its unique and interesting graphics packages, from bright neon options, to more subtle grays with distinct detailing that shouldn't complement each other but end up looking funky rather than awkward—think neon pink with red highlights.

“It’s a bit of a nod to some of our history,” says Rowe, “And that’s what sets it off. You see a million bikes with red highlights, but this has so much depth with the colors. Discordance is what’s happening right now."

Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team
Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team

The least expensive model in the Mares lineup, at $1,350, has Shimano Tiagra components, the discordantly intriguing color scheme, internal cable routing, mechanical disc brakes, thru-axles, and handlebar tape reminiscent of Lizard Skins’ grippy tape. The bike is built as a "future-proof," do-it-all machine, complete with rack mounts for off-season use. “I can’t imagine a better winter bike, or a modern gravel grinder bike,” Rowe says. “It can do anything."

Each bike is carefully thought out when it comes to componentry. For example, Rowe notes that the team edition bike’s build opted for wheels more suited to training and everyday riding, though they’re definitely race-ready as well. The reason: Most racers buying a $4,250 bike already had tubular race wheels, or would be buying even snazzier ones to go on the bike anyway, so a set that would go to training rides easily while keeping the price in check was a better option. This choice brought the bikes' cost down quite a bit from last year—by about $750, Rowe estimates. The bike also comes with the SRAM’s CX1 groupset that became the popular option for pro racers last year. The color scheme is a nod to Powers’ national champion colors: black with hints of red, white, and blue.

Across the board, the bikes’ componentry stays consistent: The Ultegra bike has all Ultegra parts, the Tiagra bike is fully Tiagra, and there isn’t any mixing and matching with different cranksets. This was done intentionally, and isn’t something we often see. “I don’t sell Shimano or SRAM, we just spec what works the best,” Rowe says.

The bikes run from 48cm to 60cm, another change for Focus. Most of its carbon bikes weren’t available in anything smaller than 50cm, so this shift allowed the brand to bring on smaller riders like Arley Kemmerer. The geometries and sizes are consistent throughout the models, from aluminum to carbon.

While there aren’t any dedicated women’s bikes in the line, Rowe says that the geometry wouldn’t differ much from its unisex offerings, and points to the fact that women have always raced on unisex cyclocross bikes. “We’ve always supported and promoted women’s racing, from road to ‘cross to mountain,” he emphasizes. “We’re passionate about it. But why are you making a women’s bike? We’ve worked with racers and they won’t get on a women’s bike, because of how the geometry changes. And we’re not going to make a lower-end women’s bike just to say we make one."

Your 2016 Lineup:
2016 Mares AX Disc Tiagra: $1,350
2016 Mares AX Disc 105: $1,600
2016 Mares CX Disc 105: $2,700
2016 Mares CX Disc Rival: $3,100
2016 Mares CX Disc Ultegra: $3,700
2016 Mares CX Disc Force CX1 Team: $4,250

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