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From the Pages of Velo: VeloLab tests bikes of the WorldTour

  • By Brian Holcombe & Caley Fretz
  • Published Jul. 11, 2012
  • Updated Jul. 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM EDT
Velo September 2011. Photos by Brad Kaminski

Focus Izalco Katusha

By Caley Fretz

The Izalco is a pro racer’s dream — and his mechanic’s, too. Its fastidious German engineering is blatantly obvious with just a quick turn of the pedals, and is similarly evident when it comes time to spin wrenches after the stage. The Izalco is stiff in all the right places thanks to a tapered head tube and BB30 bottom bracket. Its solid frame and spot-on geometry results in a springy, perfectly twitchy race platform. The Izalco would be my pick for pothole-dodging, curb-hopping, gutter-filled racing.

Subjective Ride Quality

User Friendliness: 14/15 points
The Izalco uses integrated “cable tunnels” inside the frame to allow for internal routing without the regular headache. Running new cables is a breeze. The routing itself is smart too, sending the derailleur cable over the bottom bracket rather than under to help decrease friction. And since the tunnels are built right into the tubes they serve as ribs, stiffening the frame. The Katusha Team model even comes with a Rotor chain catcher out of the box. Perfect all around.

Value: 13/20 points
None of the bikes in this test are cheap, but are they worth the price? Focus offers other Izalco models that make the Katusha edition seem a bit too spendy. The Izalco Team 1.0 is $1,500 cheaper with more realistic wheels and equally nice Shimano Dura-Ace, but without the Katusha paint job. For $4,600 less, The Izalco Team 2.0 comes with SRAM Red and DT Swiss 1450 Mon Chasseral wheels – that’s the same drivetrain as the Katusha Team model without the Vision wheels and FSA carbon components.

Comfort: 7/10 points
Comfort is a secondary concern with the Izalco. Some concession is made in its thin seat stays, but the beefy chain stays, massive down tube and huge BB area tip the balance in the other direction. The front end in particular is almost jarringly stiff, likely thanks to the oversized, ultra-stiff fork legs. The rigidity feels fantastic when cornering hard in the middle of a crit, but is less welcome four hours into a peaceful ride in the mountains.

Acceleration: 9/10 points
Rear end stiffness feels phenomenal on the road, and the back end of the Izalco produced some of the lowest deflection numbers we’ve ever seen in that area. The result is a snappy, light sensation despite the heavier aero wheels. When we mounted up regular-depth wheels, as we always do to help isolate the frame’s role in ride quality, the Izalco flew out of corners and up short climbs.

Handling: 8/10 points
With a further nod to fast-paced racing, the Izalco’s geometry is designed around compact maneuverability. The bottom bracket is low, which drops the center of gravity, and the wheelbase and chain stays are both on the shorter end of the spectrum for 56cm frame. Combined with a relatively neutral 55mm of trail, handling is predictable, easing towards twitchy. Pedal strike is a distinct danger with the low bottom bracket.

Scientific Testing

Torsional Stiffness: 30/30 points
The Izalco proved the stiffest in our test, with its ultra-firm rear triangle playing the biggest part in its excellent score. Bottom bracket and head tube deflection were average.

Weight: 3/5 points
With regular-depth wheels, the Izalco would have gained a point or two here. As is, it fell behind both the Look and Trek on the scale.

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