Friday, November 25, 2011

Focus Izalco Team 2.0 review

Focus's Izalco Team 2.0 falls into an aspirational but attainable category. Yes, its US$5,400 price is high, but it's not so high as to make it a true 'halo' bike, and it comes equipped with some tippy-top-tier parts that mean it's ready to jump right into the mix at the highest level of professional racing.

Every detail has been addressed, from the custom-colour seat and matching white bar tape, brake hoods and cable housing, to the Focus chain watcher for the front derailleur – the Izalco's kit is dialed. And after three months' testing we've come away with only two criticisms. One – the shape of the handlebar tops – is minor and easily fixed by an equipment swap at point of sale. The second, however, almost damned the bike for us – the whippy wheelset.

Ride & handling: Neutral ride that's let down by its whippy lightweight wheels

Our Izalco Team 2.0 was tested by two very different riders – a wispy 145lb all-rounder and a stocky and powerful 215lb bruiser. While their experiences differed slightly, both agreed on one thing: the lightweight DT Swiss 1450 mon Chasseral wheels hold the bike back.

In its stock form the bike is comfortable on rough roads and feels lively when spinning or given a few spirited pedal strokes. However, when you push out of your comfort zone it doesn't fare so well. This is most apparent when descending – our lighter test rider says the Izalco Team feels "vague, twitchy and unstable" in stock form, while the heavier tester describes it as "underwhelming, if not unnerving at high speeds".

The german designed, asian made izalco team 2.0 carbon frame relies on a 3t funda pro fork to complete the 'chassis':

The German designed Izalco Team 2.0 carbon frame comes with a 3T Funda Pro fork

After identifying flex in the DT Swiss wheels as the source of the problem, we swapped them for a heavier set of benchmark hoops that we trust for their stiffness and descending performance. As expected, performance improved markedly.

Our lighter tester felt the switch revealed "a reasonably light, neutral and stable base package that's representative of its professional palmares". For his heavier colleague, the swap pushed the Izalco Team into the realm of "average" – competent but not confidence inspiring.

3T's all-carbon funda pro weighed 374g on our scale:

3T's Funda Pro fork

'Neutral' is the best word to describe the Focus. The frame works well with 3T's Funda Pro fork, delivering predictable handling. And while carbon fiber bikes can sometimes feel disjointed, with 'stiff' and 'soft' areas, the Izalco feels very even. Swapping to the stiffer wheelset reduced comfort slightly and meant losing the lively feeling of the whippy DT Swiss hoops, but the payoff in terms of performance and handling was more than worth it.


Focus offer their Izalco models with a choice of two geometries: a more traditional 'Race' and more contemporary 'Compact'. We tested the former. Equivalent sizes have the same measurements, save for additional standover height on the Compact due to its sloping top tube. Our size large test bike had 73.5° seat and head angles, 70mm of bottom bracket drop and 405mm chainstays.

The izalco team 2.0 holds the third spot in the izalco team model line, but the frame and kit are ready for professional racing :

Our Izalco tester had the more traditional 'Race' geometry

Our test bike is a 2011 model but the 2012 Izalco Team uses the same frame – a monocoque molded out of Focus's high-modulus carbon, which is the same chassis used by the Katusha and Jelly Belly teams. The fork changes to a 3T Rigida Team and the 2.0 model comes spec'd with Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset instead of SRAM Red, for US$8,800 (£5,799).

The 2012 Izalco Team 4.0 is most similar to the 2011 2.0 tested here, with SRAM Red Black and the same DT wheels for $5,700 (£3,699). If funds won't stretch that far, the second-tier Izalco Pro 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 now use the same frame, having used a different carbon blend with less hi-mod fiber this year, but come with 3T's cheaper Rigida Pro fork. Focus have also introduced a new Izalco Ergoride model for the sportive market, along with a Donna women's variant.

The izalco has all-carbon dropouts and the trapezoidal chainstays are designed to offer more comfort to the ride without sacrificing lateral stiffness: the izalco has all-carbon dropouts and the trapezoidal chainstays are designed to offer more comfort to the ride without sacrificing lateral stiffness

The Izalco Team has all-carbon dropouts and the trapezoidal chainstays are designed to add more comfort to the ride without sacrificing lateral stiffness

The frame features some interesting shapes, including asymmetrical sections on the chainstays, down tube and seat tube. The narrow, rather round top tube proves that you can't always judge a book by its cover, especially if it's made from carbon – it didn't produce the expected soft steering feel.

The Izalco Team has internal cable routing, which is slightly tricky to thread but helps protect the cables from contamination in inclement weather – we noticed no degradation of shifting performance on post-snowstorm rides. Focus's 'Reinforcing Integrated Cable Tunnels' – seen externally as molded ridges that trace the internal path of the cables – are said to improve ride quality by increasing torsional stiffness.

The frame has molded relief for the internal cable routing in various points:

The relieved cable routing paths, which Focus call the 'Reinforcing Integrated Cable Tunnels', are said to increase the bike's overall stiffness

Equipment: Miss on the wheels; do you have a blue kit?

We like the aesthetic of the Izalco Team 2.0, but then again, have you seen our BikeRadar kit? It matches the bike's white and blue colour scheme perfectly. The colour matching is carried through to the white hoods of the SRAM Red DoubleTap levers. This group is now proven at the highest level and we're big fans of the svelte BB30-specific crankset, which offers both excellent heel clearance and stiffness.

The 3T supporting components fit the bill too, with a bead blasted, anodized black finish. However, we found the flair of the Ergonova Pro handlebar tops to be awkward when trying to dial in the position of the drops; we could have the tops or the drops oriented as we liked, but not both.

The narrow stance of the bb30 red crank:

The narrow stance of the SRAM Red BB30 cranks

We've already mentioned the soft-feeling DT Swiss 1450 mon Chasseral wheels. While our testers see them as a chink in the Izalco Team 2.0's armor, lighter and less aggressive riders, or those who ride predominately in flat terrain, may like them for their smooth, lively feel. Regardless, the 240s based hubs offer excellent quality and durability.

By: Road Bikes & Gear

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