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Review: Focus Izalco Tria
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 2nd April 2008


Tags  Focus  |  Izalco Tria  |  Wiggle


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Welcome to our latest bike test on Tri247. Just as with other triathlon product we review, we actually get out there and use the things that we test and so we have a house test rider, affectionately known as “The Snake”, who puts all the bikes through their paces. Our bike reviews are split into two parts: a technical assessment of the components, geometry, etc which will tell you the physical facts about the bike and then a subjective review by the tester to see if it actually delivers on its promises.

The subject of our tests this month is the Focus Izalco Tria, a machine we first saw at the Cycle Show last year and wondered then just how Wiggle, the brand's UK importers, had managed to put together such an impressive bundle for just £999.99. (Actually it was launched at £899.99 and has just moved to its regular price of £999.99.)

Focus Izalco Tria

Componentry

As we have often mentioned before, one of the ways that you can get a bike down to a price is to use unbranded or in-house componentry. A quick look at the Tria shows that Focus haven't played this game; everything here is a brand name item and of at least a whole price range better quality than you will find on anyone else's sub-£1000 bikes. With a time trial/triathlon set-up the components are almost always going to be a mix and so you get SRAM's carbon bar-end shifters married to a SRAM Rival front and rear mech with an FSA Gossamer TT chainset in 53:42 driving a ten-speed 11-28 cassette. Braking is handled by FSA with a set of their alloy aero levers and Energy calipers. The only slightly odd note is that 11-28 cassette which seems a little excessive, but SRAM make their cassettes in odd ranges. An 11 or 12-26 might seem to make a bit more sense but remember that the the chainset is a 53:42 rather than the more conventional 53:39 so those extra teeth will help at the low end.

So far, so good then. There's nothing there that's even remotely cheap or corner cutting. So, what about the other major bits? The bars, stem and tribars all come from FSA and if the clip-ons look a bit stretched out in the photo you'll need to remember that they are adjustable and you do need to adjust them to a length that suits you (and, ideally, trim the excess and plug the ends). The seatpost is part of the frameset so that's a stock aero alloy component while the saddle clamped on top is a Fizik Arione which is definitely not a cheap or in-house brand.

Wheels, then. What have they done here to scrub a few quid off the cost. Well, wheels are always built to a price and, while Easton Vistas aren't the sexiest on the market this is a £1,000 bike and they are very well suited, if not slightly better than you might expect. Which only leaves the frame as an area they might have trimmed back on, and we'll get to that in a moment.

Frameset
Frame Focus aluminium alloy
Fork Focus carbon aero with alloy steerer
Headset Not specified
Groupset/Transmission
Brakes FSA Energy
Brake levers FSA Aero alloy
Front derailleur SRAM Rival
Rear derailleur SRAM Rival, 10-speed
Shift levers SRAM carbon TT bar-end shifters, 10-speed
Cassette SRAM 11-28
Chain Not specified
Chainset FSA Gossamer TT alloy, 53:42
Pedals None supplied
Wheels Easton Vista
Tyres/tubes Schwalbe Ultremo
Finishing kit
Saddle Fizik Arione
Seatpost Alloy aero section supplied with frameset
Stem FSA alloy
Bars/Aerobars FSA alloy aero base bar and clip-ons
Bartape Regular cork tape

Geometry

This is a £1,000 bike and an alloy frame is what you expect here - and it's exactly what you get. The jury is out on the colour scheme; green and white just seems odd for some reason but that's probably just because we are so used to seeing bikes in bright, solid colours and it looks a little quiet in comparison. However, as has been said elsewhere, it is different and having a bike that stands out a bit can help in a busy transition! The fork has carbon aero blades and an alloy steerer and fits nicely with the frame for good front-end aerodynamics.

In terms of the bit that matters, geometry, there's obviously a massive difference between the Tria and most other bikes of this price. This is a true triathlon bike; a proper steep seat angled, short wheelbase machine. Build quality is good, the Germans don't go for shoddy, and the whole thing fits together just like it ought to. There's no fat on this design but there's no wastage either. On paper this bike really ought to be able to deliver; the frame looks to be stiff, the geometry is right and the componentry is solid enough to be able to handle anything you care to throw at it.

Size S M L XL
Seat tube length, centre to top 500 530 560 590
Seat tube length, centre to centre        
Top tube length (horizontal) 514 532.7 546 563
Bottom bracket drop 70 70 70 70
Chainstay length 400 400 400 400
Seat tube angle 78 78 76.3 76.3
Head tube angle 71.3 72.3 73 73
Fork rake 45 45 45 45
Wheelbase 993 1005 1002 1021
Head tube length 100 120 150 180

Buying mail order

You might think that because the Tria is only available mail order you would be taking a bit of a risk but having recently visited Wiggle's operation centre in Portsmouth we can say that the care and attention taken by their mechanics in assembling and setting up bikes prior to shipping them out as 'Ready 2 Ride' is at least the equal of any local bike shop and, in many cases, much higher. About the only issue is that of sizing but even here Wiggle provide good guidance and have specialists available to provide advice via email. Our advice, as we have said before, is to invest in gettng yourself 'fitted' using one of the available systems like bikefitting and use that information to ensure that you both buy the correct bike and then get the set-up of the seat height and so on correct.

The Snake's report

Focus bikes are certainly becoming more common-place among the racks of a transition area. The German brand are only available in the UK through the mail order specialist Wiggle but the bikes are now even being ridden by such triathlon luminaries as Stuart Hayes and Michelle Dillon. Both Stuart and Michelle are known to the public and within the pro-ranks (or so I’ve heard!) as real bike riders within triathlon. Of course, Stu swims like a fish, and Michelle runs like the wind, but both of these athletes take the bike leg very seriously and as such they are careful to ride kit that supports their ambition, rather than just finding a sponsor to pay the bills.

I know all of you will be saying “But they are Pro athletes, they just ride what they are given”. I can assure you that Stuart and Michelle both have the luxury of choice in this area, which only serves to make the Focus stand out further from the crowd.

Out of the box, the bike looks great. The ‘Euro’ bright green colours show that it's not one to shy away from a crowded market place for tri-bikes, the FSA Gossamer chain set with its solid chain ring, and the excellent FSA aero bars and brake levers really look the part. If you top this off with the carbon SRAM gear levers, the Fizik saddle and Easton wheels and you get a spec-list that is almost unbelievable on a bike at this price-point. More of that later however.

Of course, looks aren’t everything. It certainly talks the talk, but can it deliver the all important walk?

Getting the bike set-up doesn’t take too long, the aero seat pin slides up and down easily, and the saddle is easy to move fore and aft. The bars feel super solid and moving the pads around in order to get the width right is really easy. I must have spent less that five minutes in total, and this includes putting the pedals on, and was ready to ride out of the box. This fact supports Wiggle's ‘Ready to Ride’ claim on all new bikes from them. The gears were perfect, the brakes well adjusted, and the tyres were even hard!

Throwing a leg over the bike and getting out on the road would always be the real test. I took the bike on a number of different rides – once with a road group, a couple of interval sessions, a couple of turbo sessions, and then the final, all-important, test ride round Richmond Park.

In every situation, the bike felt great. In a group, it's often difficult to ride a committed time trial bike; they can be twitchy, over stretched out, and nervous on the road. The Tria was stable and sure-footed at all times. Given the broad range of gears supplied (11-28) it could climb pretty much anything in the area, and the brakes were reliable. The skinny aero brake levers got a little bit uncomfortable on a long descent, but this really wasn’t what the bike was designed for.

The fact that it felt so good riding in a group may have you wondering whether it would be as good on solo time trial efforts. Is it trying to be to much of a ‘Jack of all trades’?

In a word – no. I’ll put this in simple terms; the bike rips along. The excellent Schwalbe tyres feel fast and smooth, and the gears work in all situations. I have to say too, the carbon gear levers are lovely. It may be a small thing, but these are top of the range and exactly what the pros use. The fact that on their own they cost nearly 15% of the total bike price makes their presence even more incredible.

On a straight, flat piece of road, this bike feels great. The aero-bars are really comfortable and feel so stable, you find yourself happy cornering in them, rather than coming up to the ‘tops’. The aero tubing of the frame obviously helps the bike cut through the air as I found myself riding at higher speed than I would normally have done. The test lap of the park was conducted under severe conditions, so I won't reveal the time. It was snowing and windy, so it's just not fair. What I will say was that it was still faster than I expected.

I’ve ridden a lot of bikes; carbon, aluminium, steel and titanium, from pretty much every manufacturer. This bike sits up with the best I have ridden. It feels fantastic and is certainly all the bike anyone would need for a fast triathlon or time trial. Its responsive, comfortable, and has an incredible specification. All of this is said without any consideration of the cost. Regardless of price, this bike is a stand-out ride. Once you factor in the incredible price of £999.99 you start to wonder what is going on! It's not a promo price, or a sale bargain, this is the RRP for this bike. I would happily have suggested that this bike would cost £1,500, and even at that price point, the bike would stand out against the ‘bigger’ manufacturer's products.

This has been an eye-opening test for me. I’ll be honest, and say that I started off being quite sceptical of a mail-order bike. I write this article fully converted. If you need a bike for triathlon, and you are sure of your size, buy this bike. You will never regret it and will always have a little smirk on your face as you see other bikes that are twice the price but not as good.

With the money you save, treat yourself to some deep-rim wheels and you will have the perfect race bike.

I could go on, but I won't. If you need further opinion, next time you see Stuart or Michelle at a race, ask them yourselves. Tell them the Snake sent you. They will let you into the growing secret that is Focus bikes and Wiggle.


A Listed!Tri247 says: The Focus Izalco Tria represents a true bargain; it's the right bike at completely the wrong price! Back in September last year we figured at £899 (with Wiggle wanting to be a bit aggressive at launch) it ought to be priced at around £1,199 and in today's market with the Euro even stronger and prices tending to shift upwards it could comfortably sit at £1,299 as an SRP. This isn't a run-of-the-mill compact geometry road bike that has had a set of tri bars slapped on - it's a properly thought through, well-designed and well-specified triathlon and time trial bike for someone who is serious about the sport. It's hard to think of anything out there that comes close; Trek's alloy Equinox 5 is possibly the closest but that's significantly under-specified in pretty much every respect compared to the Tria.

As a result, we'll unreservedly give the Izalco Tria a place on our A-List and that's a position that we feel is going to take a massive effort for someone else to shift. If you are looking for a proper tri bike then you have to consider the Tria. Spending any money buying one saves you over the competiton on a set of decent, low-cost deep section aero wheels like FFWDs for racing on makes more sense than buying many bikes at twice the price. We expect to be seeing a lot of green in transition areas this summer... ...and it won't have cost a lot of green to get them there either!


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