This is the new Focus Spine. Let’s take a moment to look at it, shall we? Mmmmm
This puppy is a 27.5in wheeled 120mm travel trail-ripper. There’s a 68degree head angle, the typical long and low geometry details, but it’s more of a trail bike than a full-one cross country machine. Sure, it’ll blast at warp-factor nine around the local XC loop, but you’d be doing the bike a disservice; its designed to be much more fun than that.
It’s essentially a single-pivot design with a linkage driven shock. The main pivot is just above the BB, and (even on the carbon bike I played with in Ruhpolding) the swingarm is aluminium. The bikes aren’t Boost at the back end – as Philipp Klein, MTB product manager explained to me. “For 29er bikes there’s a benefit in terms of stiffness, but for 27.5in bikes the benefit wasn’t that great, so we saw no need to change to Boost.” Fair enough.
Klein also feels that there are clear benefits to 27.5in wheels when riding technical terrain, compared to 29in bikes, specifically in terms of agility and manoeuvrability. So all the Focus bikes of 120mm and up will come with 27.5in and not 29in wheels.
The rearmost pivot on the Spine is slightly elevated compared to many bikes; the connecting carbon seatstays are joined to a (carbon again) rocker pivot which drives the shock. The L and XL frames apparently have a slightly different tune to the S and M frames, offering slightly more progression for the slightly higher weights of the riders. And speaking of weight, the frame is very light; reportedly sub-2kg for the carbon one. The toptube flares into a sort of coffin-shape as it gets to the headtube, which adds stiffness but also an aesthetic cohesiveness to the range of Focus carbon bikes I saw – it was similar in both the Raven and the Sam. It also means that internal cable routing looks neat and unassuming.
The Spine we played with was the top-whack, no expense spared Spine C 0.0 model at £5,699. It’s dripping with the full complement of everything bling that RockShox can throw at it, from RS-1 inverted forks through to a Monarch XX HV shock, XX1 drivetrain and SRAM Guide RSC brakes, which weighs in at around 24.5lbs. There’s a hydraulic XLok Full Sprint lockout lever above the right-hand brake which stiffens up the fork and shock both for climbing, a dropper on the left for the Reverb seatpost.
I got a brief play on the Spine in Germany, and I liked what I rode. The back end felt very snappy (in a good way) – I ran the whole thing open most of the time and I was impressed with how little bob the suspension evidenced. The RS-1 seemed less torsionally flexy than the 29er version,and the drivetrain performed admirably. I spent a lot of time on this bike (entirely my own fault) panting up an enormous gravel road climb, so I can attest to its climbing prowess. What little descending I could muster in the time I had available was excellent fun – it’s fast and responsive, and felt more capable than it’s 120mm travel would suggest – although I perhaps might’ve appreciated a stiffer fork. Looking at the spec. list for the models, the Spine C Factory at £3,899, comes with a Pike. Now THAT I’d like to ride. From my brief
The Spine is so named as it’s the backbone of the Focus range. There are ten different models to choose from – the £5,699 carbon C 0.0 shown here down to the alloy Elite, which runs a RockShox Reba and SRAM GX for £1,549. In between the models vary between alloy and carbon, SRAM 1x or Shimano 2x groupsets and a variety of fork and finishing kit options. There are also two women’s alloy options, the Donna models, which are exactly the same as the corresponding (aluminium) Spines, with different contact points and minor component changes. Spines are projected to be available mid-August.