31 Oct 2018

With its wiley combination of big travel and small battery, the Focus SAM2 is a lot of bike, but not too much bike, if you know what we mean! This smooth operator puts handling at the top of the pile of priorities.

The not-so-minor details

Product

Focus SAM2 6.8

Contact

Focus Bikes

Price

7499

Weight

21390

Positives

Winning handling!
Low centre of gravity delivers a very stable ride.
Buttery smooth suspension.
Captain Confidence.
Fully internal battery and neat attention to detail looks great.
Smaller volume tyres feel fast and precise.

Negatives

Limited battery range, and adding a second battery is expensive.
Freehub clunks around a lot in the rough.
Magura brakes aren't a fave.


Highlights please?

With its internal battery and regular sized tyres, the SAM2 looks much more like a regular mountain bike than most eMTBs, which is definitely appealing.

The handling. The way this bike sticks to the ground when you need it to, but still keeps a directness and precision that belie its 170mm of travel, is impressive.  Focus have nailed the balance of this bike, both in terms of weight distribution and suspension.

The use of narrower, stouter tyres had us wondering why we’ve just accepted that all eMTBs should come with huge rubber. We soon came to appreciate the speed, support and confidence that the smaller rubber gave us. Bigger tyres might be nice for traction at slower speeds, but their fragility is a downer!

It’s a beautifully built bike too, with great attention to detail. Obviously the battery integration is excellent, but there are lots of nice little details, like the knock block headset, the tidy speed sensor, good cable routing.

The use of narrower, stouter tyres had us wondering why we’ve just accepted that all eMTBs should come with huge rubber.

Lowlights?

Where’s the chain slap protector? And can Shimano please hurry up with their smaller mode shifter that will facilitate and under-bar dropper lever? The freehub on the Deore hub is clattery in the rough too.

The FOLD linkage uses the initial third of the travel very eagerly, which initially had us worried we’d set the bike up way too soft, but that suppleness equates to a lot of grip.

What does it compare to?

You might be tempted to draw comparisons to the Specialized Kenevo which has 180mm at both ends, but the Focus is a much better all-rounder, with much more liveliness about it and far less weight. While the Kenevo’s almost a downhill bike, this is an enduro bike.

The whole bike feels really low to the ground, superbly planted.

Is that top tube too high?

The SAM has pretty tall standover height, a product of the way the FOLD linkage is configured and allowances for fitting a second battery (read more below), but it’s a non-issue. It never bothered us on the trail. Quite the opposite really, the whole bike feels really low to the ground, superbly planted.

There’s no external access to the battery at all – you’ll need tools to remove it, and it’s not a simple process. On the plus side, it makes for a very strong frame as the downtube is not compromised and it has super clean looks.

Barry White smooth.

With 30% sag, we were certain that this bike was going to be too soft to ride hard – we had visions of a constant bottoming out, wallowing and vagueness. But there’s some nice voodoo in the way the FOLD suspension operates, and while the bike charges through the first half of its suspension travel, it ramps up very well, and maintains some pep and good responsiveness.

The bike just hoovers up the small and medium impacts like they’re not even there.

The upshot of this very linear start to the travel is that the bike just hoovers up the small and medium impacts like they’re not even there. We never felt the suspension hit home, even though we were getting full travel. We should say, with the way the bike is so eager to use that first half of the travel, we did clip our pedals a fair bit.

Like skiing.

The manner with which this bike slots into a long corner is like a giant slalom skier, linking up turns. It’s all to do with the low centre of gravity, coupled with the bike’s tendency to sit a little deeper into the travel than most.

The mounting plate on the down tube can take a water bottle cage, or you can mount a second battery there if you want to go long. Note the Frame Wrap on the chain stay – this bike didn’t come with chain slap protection.

What about that battery?

What battery, right?! Focus have tucked it away neatly inside the downtube, and removing it will take some tools. If you don’t have a power supply where you store your bike, you’ll be buying an extension lead! We love the clean look, and the way the battery’s mass has been kept so low and close to the motor.

The battery itself has a capacity 370wh, which is not huge. The rationale is that most riders aren’t in need of more capacity for most rides, and that going smaller allows Focus to make a better handling bike (and you can’t argue with the way this bike handles). If you desperately need more battery range, $899 will buy you a second battery pack which will double the range, at the expense of about 2kg.

There’s a storm coming. We got our ride done a few mins before all hell broke lose.

Once our rides got to 35km with over 1000m of climbing, we started reaching the battery’s limit.

Was the battery big enough?

We spent nearly all our testing time in the Trail mode, the middle of three settings on the Shiman E8000 motor. Once our rides got to 35km with over 1000m of climbing, we started reaching the battery’s limit. With more time in Eco mode, we’d have been able to get extra distance, but not loads more. If you’re planning on going longer, you’ll need to be conservative with your mode selection, or fork out for the bigger battery. We fitted the second TEC battery to our Focus JAM2 test bike for a full day of riding in the Hunter Valley and got well over 55km of riding in without a worry.

We fitted the TEC battery pack to our Focus JAM2 when we went for an all-day mission in the Hunter Valley.

All up?

If you can live with the smaller battery capacity, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful handling bike, one that mows down rough trails with aplomb but without being pigeonholed as being overly descent-focused. Yes, we like it! We’ve also got this bike’s smaller brother, the JAM2, on test as well, so stay tuned for a report on that one too soon.