After three seasons on my Giant Trance full suspension 26er, I was feeling the itch to try something new. Specifically, I was jonesing for a hardtail 29er with a 2×10 gearing setup.
Enter the Focus Black Forest 29er 1.0.
With its 72° headset angle and 11×32 cassette, this bike falls squarely into the XC and racing categories. But will it also be a good all around trail bike…?
Arrival and Unpacking
My wife IM’ed me at work to let me know that a Fedex semi had just dropped off a box roughly the length of her SUV. I knew 29ers were big, but jeez…what had I done? Not to worry though, the Focus had shipped fully assembled! All I had to do was remove the huge MADE IN GERMANY banner, straighten and flip the bars, make a few sizing adjustments, and it was ready to ride.
Sorry about the camera shake, I was just so excited!
I am 5′ 8″ with a 29″ inseam on a good day, with shoes on, and maybe some dirt stuck under my cleats. The Focus is a 16.5″ frame and the manufacturer’s website does not list a stand-over height. Suffice it to say I can stand over it, but there’s no room to spare. It also has a 603mm effective top tube length combined with a 90mm stem. With my torso length it places me in an aggressive, but comfortable position. A rider with a shorter torso would want to switch out the stem. A really short rider will probably need to look elsewhere for a better overall fit.
Components and Frame
The bike comes with a mix of SRAM X9 and X0 in the drivetrain and a 100mm Rockshox Recon Silver fork. The wheelset is from DT Swiss and comes wrapped in Continental Race King tires. The brakes are Avid Elixir 3s with a 185mm rotor in the front and 160mm in the rear. The same Fi’zi:k Tundra saddle that has cropped up on every other bike in this price range is present here, the cockpit aluminum bits are all supplied by Focus, and the included ergonomic grips were a pleasant surprise. The frame features beautiful welding and the red and black powder coat looks sharp. Overall it has a clean look, and it does not look like every other bike on the trail.
After a few minutes dedicated to bedding in the brake pads, I set off on a quick ride through the neighborhood, including some dirt, but mostly pavement. The bike is easy to adjust for size and provides a very comfortable ride. I immediately found myself throwing it around and having fun with it. On a performance note, this bike is FAST! Between the efficient hardtail design, the 29er wheels and the aggressively geared 2×10 set up, this thing will haul. Out of the box, the shifters were properly indexed and the brake calipers were aligned perfectly. The only real issue I had was getting the seatpost to stay put. I cranked the quick release clamp down as tight as I could, and after a few rides it got enough dust in there to finally settle down and stop slipping.
Break-in and Adjustment
The brakes have given me zero issues so far, and the rear derailleur has required only one click on the barrel adjuster. The front derailleur, however, was going crazy. I thought I had encountered the worst case of cable stretch ever, but it turned out that the cable clamp was not quite tight enough and the cable had pulled through a bit. A moment with the multi-tool and it was sorted. The Rockshox Recon fork has the recommended air pressure listed right on the side, and the turnkey rebound adjuster is pretty cool
I’ll be pedaling this bike all over Colorado, and hopefully racing it at 24 Hours of Moab. I like the overall setup, and it is performing well thus far, but time will tell if it holds up to genuine Rocky Mountain abuse and high desert racing. Stay tuned for the final word when I’ve finished putting it through its paces.
Thanks to the folks at Focus for sending over the Black Forest 29er for testing.