Focus have absolutely gone to town, delivering two completely new mountain bike models for 2017. The O1E and JAM are not just the latest rendition of an existing platform, this burgeoning and exciting German brand have the advantage of starting fresh, and their ability to really impress us with smart designs and striking aesthetics is first-class.
Two new bikes are on their way ; the O1E (one) a new 100mm travel 29er and the 140mm travel JAM. Both use the new F.O.L.D. suspension design. The two new bikes are also totally fresh platforms, filling the gaps between the existing Focus Raven, Spine and SAM introduced in 2015 to provide great choice from a now very complete range. From cross-country race hardtail, through to Enduro weapon, Focus have an option to suit now.
What’s it all about then?
Both the O1E and the JAM use Focus’s all-new F.O.L.D. system (Focus Optimised Linkage Design, yes it’s a better acronym than most, we hand it to them) which allows the bike to have a two-phase suspension curve. The initial part of the travel is regressive, falling quickly into its sag point for maximum suppleness, before becoming more progressive as you move into the stroke.
We know what you are thinking: any linkage bike has the ability to be tuned for the desired kinematic, right? Well yes, but what is neat is the way Focus have achieved this, trading the usual arrangement of a pivot point on the rear triangle and a rocker link, for a single-piece rear end and a compact folding linkage.
There are numerous advantages to the Focus system. It’s very compact and central in the bike’s architecture, keeping all the weight in the middle of the bike, and because it doesn’t rely on long linkage plates or pivots on the rear triangle, it’s very stiff too.
Another advantage of this design, is that different frame sizes have no impact on the desired suspension curve. Compare this with, for example, the Focus Spine – on the Spine, the way the rear shock attaches to the top tube, means that as the frame sizes grow the linkage needs to be changed to keep the same suspension kinematics. With the F.O.L.D. concept, Focus are able to produce all different frames sizes far more economically and simply. With the shock mounted vertically, a whole lot of space in the frame is also freed up for a water bottle and the whole bike appears so clean too.
There’s no doubt that a one-piece rear end is a sure way to reduce weight of the bike without compromising stiffness. Any weight taken from the rear wheel area is a bonus, it helps to remove restriction from the suspension with less un-sprung weight. That’s a good thing.
Aside from the immediate benefits highlighted above, we sense that the motivation for this new arrangement extended to future projects. Possibilities for frame designs are opened up more than before – we think all Focus suspension bikes could use this platform one day soon – and the design is certainly more conducive to e-bikes, which are surely on the Focus radar.
It’s finally time for Focus to let their secret cat out of the bag, and for Florian Vogel to reveal what he’s been hiding underneath a neoprene cloak at the races since the 2015 World Champs: the O1E. Focus offer the insanely light Raven Max 29er hardtail and now this lean and mean 100mm travel dually to the racer crowd, and with the World Cup courses becoming increasingly technical and setting the benchmark for race track design we’re seeing more and more full suspension bikes on the start line.
We all know that the number one motivation for the top racers is weight, but light bikes are no good if there are compromises to a stiff chassis or effective suspension. Welcome to current day bike design, where weight and ride quality are now given equal importance.. And the more we chat with the engineers behind these bikes the more we appreciate their motivation for a bike that exhibits the best ride quality, not only just the best numbers in a stiffness analysis or the lightest on the scales.
- The O1E will come in three frame sizes.
- Boost 148 rear hub.
- 29″ wheels.
- 69.2° head angle.
- 74.5° seat angle.
- 448mm chain stay length.
- Full size water bottle provisions.
- 100% internal cables and dropper post compatible.
Frame weight is 1830g including all hardware, dropout, paint etc, minus shock. That’s right up there with the lightest in the category. The O1E uses Focus’s clever fast-changing R.A.T. rear axle system, providing a super quick rear removal and installation (crucial for fast wheel changes in a race situation). If you like to run a front mech, you’ll be happy about the very clever and detachable front derailleur mount dubbed the Burrito Bridge (think about it… can you remember a Mexican food reference from another fairly large brand recently?) is there for the use of a side swing Shimano front derailleur.
The O1E retains the classic Focus aesthetic that we first fell in love with when reviewing our first encounter with one of their dual suspension bikes, the SAM. The straight and angular lines are classically Focus, and the quality of the finishing touches and paintwork is supreme.
How does it go?
During a couple quick rides on the O1E we got a fairly good idea what this bike is all about. Ahead of our full review (which we’ll bring you when these bikes land in Australia) here are a few preliminary thoughts.
Throw a leg over the O1E and you’ll feel its racey vibe straight away. It’s a sharp, low, long and lean bike that makes light work of climbs with the best body position. Standing up and mashing down on the pedals you feel the long 448mm chainstays pushing the rear wheel into the dirt with the right amount of weight distribution and the bike launches forward nicely. Our test bike in the team spec just snuck under 10kg, no kidding! That’s absurdly light.
Considering the abysmal conditions for the Focus launch, this purebred race bike took it on the chin. The suspension is remarkably supple, and combined with the 29″ wheels this bike is very controllable when you’d normally be stressing about keeping upright.
The classic conundrum of cross country racers is choosing between a hardtail of a dually, and in this case the decision may just be an easier one for you to make. The benefits of a suspension bike on a rougher course is obvious, but there’s the trade for weight and loss of efficiency through the suspension. But take our word for it, the Focus O1E represents the upper echelon of cross country race bikes, so if you’re riding on anything remotely challenging we’d take this over a hardtail any day. There will be three models of the O1E using identical frames coming to Australia, but we don’t have confirmed pricing or spec details yet.
Oh yes, this is the bike we’ve been waiting for from the brilliant engineering brains at Focus! Slotting in between the existing 120mm-Spine trail bike and the burly 160mm travel enduro racing SAM, right now it’s all about the new JAM. The factory spec version we rode is a ridiculously light 11.9kg.
This category of bikes is really full of exciting options nowadays. The mid-travel, go-anywhere, all-mountain category can certainly be a ‘one bike does all’ kinda thing, if it’s executed properly. If the geometry is right, the suspension curve dialled and the frame stiffness hits the sweet spot we’re sold. Considering the JAM was the brainchild of Focus engineer Fabian Shultz, who just so happens to hold the German Enduro title, you can bet that the pieces of the puzzle for creating a great bike will all be in their right places with this one.
On paper the JAM ticks all the boxes for an excellent trail bike, the carbon frame is super-light, the geometry is well thought out and right amongst the popular modern numbers, the spec suits the purpose and travel amount, and there’s the stunning Focus design aesthetic and understated appearance.
- The JAM will come in four frame sizes.
- Boost 148 rear hub.
- 27.5″ wheels.
- 66.8° head angle.
- 74.5° seat angle.
- 425mm chain stay length.
- Full size water bottle provisions.
- Front derailleur compatible.
- 100% internal cables.
A quick shred on the JAM.
We aren’t possibly going to be able to hide our appreciation of this bike, and we’re frothing for it to make its way Down Under so more people can experience it too. The JAM is a beauty to ride, the suspension feels so supple beneath you, rapidly working away to take the edge off the fastest and smallest impacts, but give it a good nudge and the progressiveness of the second phase of travel kicks in and offers great support.
While the benefits of the F.O.L.D. suspension arrangement in terms of suspension curve might not really be anything a linkage bike can’t necessarily do, the way it gathers the moving parts right into the centre of the frame is very noticeable indeed, the light rear end is fantastic on the trail.
When we talk about un-sprung weight in suspension design (like the inverted RS1 fork) there’s a lot to be said about how it benefits the way suspension can operate – a moving part can react quicker if there is less mass to move along with it.
Pick up the the bike in your hands and you’ll what we mean, where most bikes feel much heavier in the rear, the JAM is very centred and balanced. Turning the bike through tight corners was a real blast, and had us smiling from ear to ear.
Skipping across the world’s slipperiest roots in the Morzine Bike Park we tentatively began to test our boundaries of safety, beginning to ride faster and faster into the iconic rowdy and wild singletrack as we became more confident. The JAM had our back when we had to make lightening fast direction changes, the agile and light bike could be picked up and put where we wanted it to go. For just 140mm of travel it’s a ground-hugging ride, and didn’t mind ploughing really hard through a deep rut or field of loose rocks. Boosting table-top jumps and popping over rain-ruts on the trails had us feeling nice and comfortable in the air, great for a sub-12kg bike, we felt like we’d been riding it for months.
The o-ring on the rear shock made no secret that we used all the travel quite often during the ride, but we never noticed a harsh bottom out. With a big set of grippy tyres (the Continental Baron was fitted at the last minute as the rain came pelting down) the JAM will feel like a bike with way more travel than 140mm, a testament that Focus have done well to work on good suspension curve. Nice work indeed.
There’s a real playful feeling to this bike, when you want to move it around the trails it’s more than ready to react.
The JAM can be spread in four flavours, two carbon frame (top end carbon frame with carbon rear end also) and two aluminium options.
Stay tuned for more Australian pricing and availability on Flow from these 2017 Focus models, we’ll also be getting the bikes to review on our home trails, so keep your eyes open for more.
For the full specs and options check out the Focus site here.