The Focus Spine slots right into the emergent sub-category of aggressive, short-travel trail bikes. Hard-hitting, exciting rigs that are capable in so many areas of riding, both up and down, unencumbered by either too much suspension or preoccupations with winning the climb.
It’s an important bike for Focus in Australia too. Up until this year, Focus lacked a trail bike platform for the masses. They had racy 29er hardtails, the all-mountain SAM (a very good bike in our opinion) or a small number of 29er duallies. But in that do-it-all trail bike segment, there was a hole. The Spine plugs it.
There’s a whopping five different models in the Spine line up coming to Australia, three in carbon and two in alloy. Our C 0.0 model, covered in SRAM’s finest, is the top dog and comes in at $9999. With a weight of only 10.2kg, it’s a very desirable piece of kit. That said, we actually think the model down, the Spine C Factory, would be our personal pick of the bunch – it’s just a little bit tougher, with a Pike fork, and cleaner looking too. The alloy framed Spine Evo looks like it’d be a very cool bike as well, with the cost-effective SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain on it and a great paint job.
So, said the chiropractor, let’s take a look at it then. The Spine has numbers that we like; in a medium frame the top tube is 602mm, which is paired with a 70mm stem and a head angle of 68 degrees. Blend that all in with the compact 428mm chain stay length, and you’ve got geometry that should be lively out back and roomy enough up front to encourage mischief.
The suspension uses a single-pivot / swing-link system to deliver 120mm of travel, with a RockShox Monarch XX shock. Our initial impression is that it’s a firm, efficient 120mm, not a cushy 120mm. The carpark ‘runch’ test reveals the rear end to be very stiff laterally, which is reassuring as we’re looking forward to putting this bike into some ugly bits of trail.
With remote lockouts for the fork and shock, plus a dropper post, there are a lot of cables on this bike. The internal cable routing on the Spine is really nicely done, so with a bit of patience and cable trimming you could certainly make it all a bit less tangled.
Speaking of remotes, the shock remote lockout lever is also paired to the RS-1 fork. We’re not sure about this arrangement – it’s super efficient for the racers, or when you want to lock it all out for a sprint or a climb, but what about when you want the rear locked and the fork open?
We’ve got some high hopes for the Spine. After our experiences on the SAM and having spent a bit of time on a Focus road bike too, we know this German brand make some very fine bikes.
We’re going to put some good miles on this bike over summer, so hold tight for a review sometime in early 2016.