First Ride | FOCUS SAM C Team – Next Level?
Big bucks, sex appeal and screaming nail polish red, but we’re not talking Ferraris or a certain district in Amsterdam – instead, it’s the all-new FOCUS SAM Carbon that’s crying out for our attention.
Back in 2013, FOCUS made their very first successful leap into the world of enduro with the aluminium model, and we all watched in awe as FOCUS engineer and pro-racer Fabian Scholz claimed a well-deserved overall-victory in the Specialized-SRAM Enduro Series in 2014 aboard the Focus SAM. But now the Cloppenburgers have launched the next level and introduced the next generation of the 160mm-travel bike to us in South Tyrol. Primed for racing and packed full of know-how and experience courtesy of the FOCUS Trail Team, this is the FOCUS SAM Carbon.
A real treat for the eyes, this new whip steps forward boldly with its angular frame, bright red paintjob and fiery orange details. Just like the new FOCUS Spine trail bike, the SAM has the same oversized, flattened top tube that should create a stiffer front-end. By turning carbon, it has shaved off around 500 grams when compared to its aluminum peer and the frame weighs in at just 2,400 grams in total. Our medium sized bike (test rider was 178cm tall) scales at a very respectable 12.6kg. Compared to its predecessor, the chainstay length has been reduced to 430mm, while still maintaining decent tyre clearance and offering the option to mount a front derailleur or chain guide.
As the FOCUS SAM will come in three carbon and two alu models, all available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and available to buy from August 2015. The alu models start at 2,499 € and the carbon ones from 3,599 €. Spoilt as always, we tested the top model which cashes in at 6,999 €.
Reading like an enduro rider’s top-10 most-wanted list, the SAM C TEAM looks set to satisfy us all:
When it came to tyre choice, FOCUS settled on the Continental Mountain King 27.5 x 2.4” for the front and the Trail King 27.5 x 2.4” back. The build is completed with FOCUS’s own 760mm-wide Concept bars with a 60mm stem. The RockShox Reverb Stealth steps in for the dropper post and SRAM Guide RSC brakes with 200/180mm discs take care of braking.
Steep, stony, and slick – With narrow and flowing trails, could there be a better location than the Alps where we could truly test the FOCUS SAM Carbon? Surely not – but, as luck would have it, we’ve already booked our flights to Scotland where we’re going to ride from dusk until dawn against the world’s best enduro bikes on the course of the Scottish stop of the Enduro World Series in Tweedlove Valley. And once that’s over, the secluded highlands are calling out to be shredded. As a result, we’ll keep it brief here and save the juice for our Group Test in issue #017.
With the basic setup of 23 % SAG at the front and 32 % SAG on the rear shock, we set off on the steep trails around Latsch. And immediately felt at kin with the SAM Carbon, thanks to the riding stance and wide cockpit, whose motto surely has to be ‘hop on & give gas.’ With tight bends in quick succession, the SAM C is in its element, playing to its strengths with the short 430mm chainstay and central riding position. The suspension’s plush and responsive, but with a defined nature that keeps it playful however you ride. The rear feels particularly responsive and despite the big sag, we always had some travel in reserve.
So was the terrain too mellow for the SAM? Maybe – but it was more a case of me and my open-faced helmet being the weakest link as we shredded at MACH1. So it’s good to know that the bike has more to give! As standard the bike comes with a long steerer so that you can add spacers to raise the cockpit – a question of taste, but a higher front end gives a touch more stability on steep ground.
One advantage over its aluminium counterpart that we tested last year has to be the notably more precise handling of this carbon whip, a prowess you’ll notice on tight corners and fast sections. Racer and engineer Fabian Scholz confirmed my suspicions: “The actual head angle of the SAM Carbon is a tick slacker than the aluminium model.”
The new SAM Carbon is a definite statement piece from FOCUS. By revising the geometry and boosting the first-rate riding characteristics, FOCUS have created a bike that’s equally as suited to ambitious racers as it is to weekend warriors. And that’s before you take its sex appeal into consideration! Given the spec and its performance, the price tag of 6,999 € makes the FOCUS SAM a competitive contender. But how will it fare against the more established and globally renowned mountain bike big guns that have been delivering top class carbon enduro models for years? Find out in the next issue of ENDURO #017, due out at the end of June. Stay tuned!
Words: Robin Schmitt Pictures: Daniel Geiger