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Exclusive Review | The all-new Focus Spine C 0.0 Trail bike 2016

Has anyone heard about that super cool trail bike from Focus? Nope? Exactly. And do you know why? ‘Cos until now, such a thing didn’t exist. But with the Focus Spine, the latest bike to emerge from the Cloppenburg-based company Focus, they’re looking to create quite a stir when it comes to the trail bike market. First of, the stats for the Spine look promising; we’re talking 120mm travel, a super lightweight frame, and speed-inducing geometry, making it set to become a new and much coveted toy for mountain bikers on their post-work ride as well as their massive summer excursions.

Update July 2017: We’ve published a new review of the Focus Spine C Factory.

Robin Schmitt testet das neue Focus Spine in Latsch, Südtirol. Always Vollgas!
Robin Schmitt gives the Focus Spine a test ride in Latsch, South Tyrol. Always going full gas!

We had the opportunity to take the 10.9kg Spine out for a pretty tough test ride on South Tyrol’s’ challenging mountainous terrain around Naturns. Keep reading to find out how this super lightweight trail bike fared.

GD205570_Focus Naturno 2015-Focus Spine C 0.0 2016 focus trail bike

Something has been brewing at Focus for past few years, and the Stuttgart-based engineering department has undergone vast growth, seeing their staff evolve into a strong team of passionate engineers and developers – take Fabian Scholz, the overall victor of the SSES 2014 as an example! With the Focus SAM Aluminium, Focus stepped up to the enduro market nicely with an excellent debut, which performed well in our tests too. And for 2016 they’re now launched the 120mm-travel, 27.5” trail bike: the Focus Spine.

With 10 models to choose from – including carbon, alloy and 2 female-specific versions – the choice is yours. The Spine line starts at 2,000 € and will be available from August 2015. We tested the top-of-the-range model, the Focus Spine C 0.0, which retails at 7,000 €.

The frame

Das neue Focus Spine C 0.0.
The new Focus Spine C 0.0.

The top carbon model sports a tidy black and white look, with internal cable routing, a damage-reducing chain protector and space for two bottle holders – claiming the wonderful middle ground between design and function. The generous top tube and oversized junction with the head tube enhance front-end stiffness and handling – but we think that this distinctive design could have even been taken further to encompass the entire frame.

Gerade einmal 1.950 Gramm soll der Carbon-Rahmen auf die Waage bringen. Um eine optimale Performance des Hinterbaus zu gewährleisten sind die Umlenk-Hebel größenabhängig positioniert.
Placed on the scales, this carbon frame weighs just 1,950 grams. To optimize the performance of the rear suspension through the size range, Focus have positioned the linkages, specific to each frame size.
Für die Kabelführung in den Rahmen sind unterschiedliche Kunststoff-Plugs erhältlich. Möchte man eine 2-fach oder gar 3-fach Kurbel fahren, so ist dies problemlos möglich. Zudem ist der Rahmen Shimano Di2-ready.
Thanks to their clever port system, cables can be routed easily whether you’ve got a 2x or 3x drivetrain. Moreover, the frame comes Shimano Di2-ready.

The spec

Zu den Highlights der Ausstattung gehört an vorderster Front die RockShox RS-1 Federgabel in ihrer 27.5“-Ausführung mit 120mm Federweg, die sich perfekt in die Ästhetik des Rahmens eingliedert.
The highlights of the spec most definitely include the 27.5” version of the RockShox RS-1 front forks with 120mm travel, which look as though they were made exclusively for this bike.
Am Heck arbeitet ein RockShox Monarch XX Higovolume, der sich – genauso wie die RS-1, via XLoc Full Sprint-Hebel vom Lenker aus ruhig stellen lässt. Zur bewährten Reverb-Teleskopsattelstütze und dem SRAM XX1-Antrieb in Badass-Schwarz gibt es kaum etwas zu sagen.
A RockShox Monarch XX HV takes care of the rear, and this – exactly like the RS-1 – is easily adjusted via the XLoc Full Sprint bar-mounted lever. Naturally, no words are necessary to praise the proven Reverb seatpost and the SRAM XX1 drivetrain, both badass in black.
Mit dem XLoc-Hebel lässt sich bequem vom Lenker aus die RockShox RS-1 Federgabel und der Monarch-Dämpfer am Heck blockieren (kein Lockout).
Mounted on the bars, the XLoc lever gives easy adjustment of the RockShox RS-1 forks and rapid blockage of the Monarch rear shock (no lockout).
Gut gewählt ist zudem die Reifenkombination aus großvolumigem Continental Mountain King 2.4 am Vorder- und der schmaleren 2.2“-Racesport-Version am Hinterrad.
Nicely chosen: the large-volume Continental Mountain King 2.4 front tyre and the more skinny and racier 2.2“ version at the rear.
Das Cockpit mit Carbon-Lenker stammt von der hauseigenen Marke Concept und misst 760mm Lenkerbreite und 70mm Vorbaulänge. Unser Testbike war abweichend von der Serie mit DT Swiss Spline-Laufrädern ausgestattet. In Serie wird das Spine Topmodell über noch leichtere Carbon-Laufrädern verfügen.
From their own in-house brand Concept, the cockpit has 760mm-wide carbon handlebars and a 70mm stem. Our test bike swayed from the stock line as it came with DT Swiss Spline wheels – but the official Spine top model is specced with even lighter carbon wheels.

The geometry

Bildschirmfoto 2015-05-25 um 09.21.16 DF016474 1_Focus Naturno 2015-Focus Spine C 0.0 2016 focus trail bike

The performance

The bike immediately feels good thanks to your central position. Given the super low top tube and the compact rear, you’re basically part of the bike. We set up the suspension ourselves – following Focus’s recommendations – and gave both front and rear 25% sag. This setup gave the Spine a super agile and drive-neutral nature. On steep climbs we were thankful for the XLoc lever that blocks the suspension (not lockout!) which guarantees traction and minimizes risk of the rear breaking out. In addition, the steep 75° seat angle enables rapid and comfortable climbing. Seriously, even those long and thankless climbs that you often dread take on a new lease of fun on the Spine – well, as much as that’s possible!

Kurven gehören zu dem Lieblingsmetier des neuen Focus Spine.
The Focus Spine is a particular fan of corners.

The true potential of the Spine comes to the fore once we’re tackling Naturns’s techy, Alpine-style descents and incessant tight corners. Nimble and playful, the Spine weaves its way downward, with no hesitation on technical sections. With the super plush rear soaking up bumps, the Spine also offers enough support in the mid-travel range. Combine this with the short 428mm chainstay and the rider’s central position, then you’re in for a fun ride: sinuous corners, rapid bends and wheelies – the Spine is just begging to be taken for a serious ride.

DF016177 1_Focus Naturno 2015-Focus Spine C 0.0 2016 focus trail bike

On tough terrain the RS-1 let down the side a little, not quite holding its own against the hugely potent rear, but on the whole it was generous and responsive (the Spine C Factory model, which is equipped with a RockShox Pike fork with 120mm travel might be a better choice for aggressive riders). In fact, it’s up against tough competition – the rear appears to offer much more than ‘just’ 120mm of travel, which is perhaps due to the linear spring with no decent end progression. If you’re after more end progression, then the solution takes the form of air chamber spacers in the rear shock (but in our opinion, the standard setup is a good compromise).

DF016258 1_Focus Naturno 2015-Focus Spine C 0.0 2016 focus trail bike

The wheel combo of the 2.2” Mountain King tyres at the rear and the larger 2.4” version on the front definitely met our standards, offering sufficient power and good rolling resistance. Fast sections are an act of hedonism with the Focus’s 1,142mm wheelbase (size medium). Confidence-inspiring riding comes courtesy of the slack 68° head angle, the 444mm reach, the wide cockpit and the sunken top tube. On long mountain descents the SRAM Guide RSC brakes with 180mm discs (both front and back) frequently gave a somewhat inconsistent biting point.

DF016238 1_Focus Naturno 2015-Focus Spine C 0.0 2016 focus trail bike

Conclusion

Versatile, potent, playful and damn fast – Focus have created a first-rate, super fun trail bike with nicely balanced geometry. With its low weight and great ability to climb, it’s the perfect trail mate for long mountain rides, while its playfulness makes it a perfect pal for after-work jaunts. Preferably with a few techy sections! This carbon beauty retails at 7,000 €, with its top-end spec of DT carbon wheels, RockShox RS-1 and SRAM XX1 justifying the price. Soon we’ll get this veritable trail rocket for our ENDURO long-term test and we’ll keep you in the loop as to its prowess and progress. We’re excited!

More info: focus-bikes.com, the Spine will be will available in August 2015.

Update July 2017: We’ve published a new review of the Focus Spine C Factory.

Words: Robin Schmitt Photo: Daniel Geiger