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 themanufacturer’swebsite 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 ergonomicgrips 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.

First Impression

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. Iimmediately 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

Long Term

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.

# Comments

  • dgaddis

    Also, strange not to see a 36T cassette on a 29er. Interested in hearing what you think about the gearing, especially since you live somewhere with plenty of climbing available! Your Trance has a much lower low gear….

  • mtbgreg1

    +1 on the price and weight. Sounds like a nice component spec.

    Also, is this an aluminum frame?

  • maddslacker

    This bike lists for $2,000, but it’s pretty easy to catch it on a sale at either JensonUSA or Performance Bike.

    The manufacturer doesn’t list a weight, so I plan to pick up some scales this weekend and weigh it myself.

    It is aluminum.

    I love the 2×10 concept, but I would really prefer a 36 tooth cog on my cassette. Still, I have kind of gotten used to it the way it is.

  • trek7k

    Wow, looks like that thing DID come fully assembled! Wonder why they leave the front wheel attached for shipping?

  • maddslacker

    I wondered that too, as it forces them to ship it freight rather than regular.

  • mtbgreg1

    Thanks for the info! Let us know when you find out a stock weight.

  • maddslacker

    OK, after riding Mt Falcon this morning, I am ready to go on record that the 11×32 cassette is less than optimal for the Rocky Mountain region. Especially when considering the total setup consisting of a 26 tooth small chainring, 170mm crank arms and of course the 29″ wheels.

    However, all whining aside, I did cut 12 whole minutes of my previous personal best on this climb!

    I chalk it up to having to maintain a higher cadence in order to prevent stalling out.

  • maddslacker

    Yes, that thought has cropped up a couple of times, and then quickly swatted away…:D

  • 49637

    Thanks for the info! Let us know when you find out a stock weight.

  • maddslacker

    After all my carping about the gearing, I was oiling the chain tonight, and happened to notice the 36T stamped on the cassette.

    The specs on the Focus website clearly state 32T, but it turns out the perceived difference in pedaling effort is due solely to the 26T small chainring.

    I’ve honestly gotten used to the gearing and I like how fast I am on it. I think that 1) a 32T really would be unbearable out here in the mountains, and 2) 2×10 may not be for everyone.

  • dgaddis

    Interesting indeed! Don’t forget that the bigger wheels mean you get a taller gear than a 26″ bike with the same gearing combo.

  • dgaddis

    For a small? That’s pretty heavy considering the X0/X9 build. My large On-One Scandal is nearly 2.5lbs lighter with the heavyish WTB wheels, 3×9 XT drivetrain, and aluminum cockpit components (no carbon anything).

  • mtbgreg1

    My Airborne Goblin MSRP’s for $1200, has an x-7 build, and weighs 28.5 lbs with pedals.

    I think I’m with dgaddis, that isn’t all that light. I’m sure it could be worse, though.

  • maddslacker

    Yes, that is on the heavy side, and it will be reflected in my final review.

    A fair amount of that weight is in the wheels and tires, so it’s easily rectified. I also think the Recon fork could be replaced with a lighter model.

    From hefting them at the bike shop, I think it falls within a pound or two of the Giant XTc 29er and Kona Kahuna, both of which it competes with pricewise.

  • mtbgreg1

    Yes, the Goblin has a great component spec and weight for the $$ that they’re asking for it. Everything I’ve compared it to it has beaten by about $300-400.

  • mtbgreg1

    BTW, I’m not at all trying to bash the bike that this article was written about, I’m just trying to offer up some numbers for comparison 😉

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