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Focus Izalco Race Carbon Sora



An awesome carbon fibre frameset that gives a grin-inducing ride, backed up with solid components

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

What the scores mean

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

At this price point I'd typically say go aluminium alloy on the frame front, but wow! This carbon fibre Focus Izalco Race punches well above its weight, confirming that if a designer knows what they're up to you can get an absolute blinder on any budget. Handling, ride quality and above all, fun – it's got it in spades.

  • Pros: Excellent frameset, quality components
  • Cons: Brakes need a pad upgrade

I ride maybe 25 to 30 test bikes a year and thankfully most of them are very good, but just a few give you that extra little buzz, bringing an uncontrollable smile across your face as you've just chucked it down your favourite descent, nailing every apex, or getting back from a blast of a ride that was hugely satisfying from the moment you left the front door to the second you got back. You don't quite know why, it wasn't necessarily the quickest or most challenging, it just felt right. The Izalco has that gift.

The Ride

First up it just feels faster than it really is. I'd often look at the average speed on the Garmin and sneer, 'you're having a laugh aren't you?' It felt 3-4mph quicker than that; that's just how engaging the Focus is.

Focus Izalco Race Sora - riding 3.jpg

It feels buzzy, like a dog in the back of the car waiting for the door to be opened so it can get out and have a good sniff at the surroundings. The Izalco Race wants to be ridden hard and I can think of few better entry-level carbon fibre bikes if you have racing ambitions now or in the future.

> Find your nearest dealer here

The SL frameset is used throughout the seven carbon models in the range right up to the £3,499 model, and that is always a good sign. It's not often you see a 'UCI approved' sticker on a bike just over the £1,000 mark.

Focus Izalco Race - UCI sticker.jpg

For a start the Izalco is stiff and responsive. The geometry is racy, this medium model having a top tube of 552mm paired with a short head tube of 145mm. That gives a stack of 547mm and a reach of 390mm, a ratio of 1.4.

Focus Izalco Race - head tube.jpg

You can get low in the drops or on the hoods and just smash the tempo out, and you feel like you're getting a decent return for your outlay.

It's a good cruiser too, though. You can head out for three or four hours and cover some decent distance without ever feeling beaten up. For such a stiff bike it's never uncomfortable, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to 100psi, and it'd make a great sportive machine or one for those spirited group rides on a Sunday morning.

Focus Izalco Race Sora - riding 2.jpg

Descending is one of the highlights of any ride for me, and this is where the Focus never disappointed. The head angle isn't massively steep at 72.5 degrees, so the steering is kept just on the tameable side of twitchy, allowing you to really let the bike go through the technical sections of the hill.

You get so much feedback from the frame and fork, the little details of what the tyres are up to and how everything is responding thanks to the layup of the carbon. Some frames can feel a bit dead, taking out a lot of the vibration, but you need some of it to let you as a rider know what's going on. The Izalco does this really well, which lets you take a few risks.

Focus Izalco Race - front.jpg

The fact that the handling has a bit of forgiveness in it soon lets you know if things are about to go pear shaped, and gives you time to rectify it... hopefully.

With an all-up weight of 8.92kg, the Izalco Race isn't too shabby when it comes to climbing either, especially when you take into account the 50/34t crankset and 11-34t cassette. It offers a massive range of gears that somehow never really feels that gappy considering it's spread across just nine sprockets. More on that below...

Frame and fork

The Izalco Race follows a common theme, oversizing, especially at the front end.

It has a tapered head tube which has this cool angular design going on, making it look the same diameter top and bottom. This allows for the top tube to be quite wide at the front before it tapers back towards the seat post.

Focus Izalco Race - top tube shape.jpg

The down tube is round and big in diameter, thanks to the cross sectional area of the bottom of the head tube and the BB86 bottom bracket area. This is why the Focus feels so stiff under load.

Focus Izalco Race - down tube.jpg

BB86 means the Focus uses press-fit bearings for the bottom bracket, similar to PF30 but designed for a 24mm axle diameter like all Shimano cranksets come in.

The key is that the bottom bracket shell is 86mm wide, the same as a standard one including the width of external bearing cups. The upside here is that the Q-factor (the distance between pedal faces) isn't affected but the wider BB offers more stiffness, one of the reasons why the Focus feels so alive when you give the pedals a good kicking.

Focus Izalco Race - bottom bracket.jpg

Move back from the bottom bracket and the Izalco goes all slender in a bid for comfort, especially those narrow seatstays no doubt allowing a little in the way of flex.

Focus Izalco Race - stays.jpg

All the cable routing is internal, which gives the whole bike a clean look, and I certainly never had any issues with any rattling. You also get a cool Lone Ranger mask on the head tube to avoid any cable rub. If you wanted to go crazy and update this bike to Di2 then the frame is fully ready.

Focus Izalco Race - cable route 2.jpg


There are nine models in the Izalco Race range, seven carbon and two aluminium alloy. The one we've got here is the cheapest carbon model at £1,099 and it comes with a pretty decent spec.

Focus Izalco Race - drivetrain.jpg

In use, Shimano Sora is barely any different to Tiagra or 105, it just comes down to how many gears you want: Sora is 9-speed, Tiagra 10 and 105 11. The shifters look and feel identical, as do most of the other components.

Focus Izalco Race - bars and shifter.jpg

It's great to see here that Focus has specced a full groupset including the chainset and brakes, both of which can often get swapped out for a generic replacement under the accounting department's instruction.

Focus Izalco Race - rear brake.jpg

Because of that spread of gears on the cassette you get a long cage rear mech, giving you pretty much full rein to change the ratios as you see fit for the terrain you're intending to ride on or, if this is your first bike, as you get stronger.

Focus Izalco Race - rear mech.jpg

The brakes are pretty good – way better than they used to be – although the non-cartridge pads don't offer the same stopping capability of, say, the 105s so an upgrade would be on the cards if it was my bike. They don't cause the 'am I going to stop?' kind of scream I used to release on previous Sora and Tiagra brakes, though.

Focus Izalco Race - front brake.jpg

Wheels and tyres

For the wheels you get a set of Alex ALX-210s. At this price point and considering the quality of the frame, I certainly wouldn't dismiss them as needing upgrading too early. Yes, a lighter wheelset totally transforms this bike, but the 210s are strong and don't really feel like they are holding the frame back.

Focus Izalco Race - tyre and rim.jpg

They remained true throughout the test period and the bearings didn't offer up any resistance, even after being taken on the wet and salt-strewn roads of the Christmas period.

Focus Izalco Race - front hub.jpg

Tyres are often a scrimped on part of the build to hit a price point, so it's great to see that Focus has managed to spec a set of Continental's Ultra Sport IIs. These are good at hitting that balance of durability versus grip and rolling resistance for use year-round.

Dry weather grip is decent enough that you can really push the bike through the bends, and wet weather grip is much better than it was on the originals.

Finishing kit

Component-wise Focus has specced a BBB Basic bar, stem and seatpost. It's all, well, basic stuff but it gets the job done and provides a decent enough set of contact points.

Focus Izalco Race - stem.jpg

The handlebar has just a 125mm drop from the hoods, which means the drops are accessible to those riders who aren't overly flexible, and the 70mm reach means you won't find yourself overstretching either.

Focus Izalco Race - bars.jpg

Prologo provides the Kappa saddle and again it's good to see a branded product here. It's firm but a nice shape, and I certainly never had any issues with it.


Some might look down their nose at a Shimano Sora-equipped bike for over a grand – after all, you can get Ribble's R872 with Tiagra for the same price and similar finishing kit, or even our 2017 Road Bike of the Year, the Tiagra-equipped Boardman Road Team Carbon, that is now £900.

> Road Bike of the Year 2017/2018

Trust me, though, I can't emphasise enough how good the frame and fork of the Izalco Race are. If this is the most expensive model you can afford, go for it, you won't be disappointed. (Another £300 will get you the 105-equipped model.)

Upgrade the bits that are important to your over time and the bike will literally get lighter, quicker and more responsive.


An awesome carbon fibre frameset that gives a grin-inducing ride, backed up with solid components

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Make and model: Focus Izalco Race Carbon Sora

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

FRAME Carbon SL, caliper, Pressfit 86 BB, 130 mm quick release dropouts, Di2 ready, internal brake cable routing

FORK Carbon, caliper, 100 mm quick release


HANDLEBAR BBB Basic, Aluminium, drop: 125 mm, reach: 70mm

SADDLE Prologo Kappa 3 STN Rail

SEATPOST BBB Basic, Aluminium, 27,2mm, 350mm, set-back 20mm

STEM BBB Basic, aluminium, 31.8mm, +/- 7 degree

TYRES Continental Ultra Sport II, 700 x 25C



BRAKES Shimano Sora R3000, caliper

CRANKSET Shimano Sora R3000, 50/34T

REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Sora R3000, 9-speed, long cage

CASSETTE Shimano Sora HG200, 11-34T

WHEELSET Alex ALX-210, quick release, aluminium, 100/130 mm, 20/24 spokes, 17 mm inner rim width

CHAIN Shimano HG53

HEADSET 1-1/8", tapered, IS 47/33

FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Sora R3000, w/clamp 31.8

Tell us what the bike is for

From Focus: "This is everything necessary to distance your friends during those mid-ride city limit sprints. The IZALCO RACE represents fairytale performance at a fair price. From local rides to amateur races, the IZALCO RACE's rigidity and low weight will win your favour, just as easily as you win those sprints. Your thoroughbred for every occasion."

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The frame looks great with a deep, smooth paintjob and it rides like it's very well put together.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Both the frame and fork are full carbon fibre.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The Izalco Race range is aimed at the performance rider with a longish top tube and a short head tube for getting into a low, aero position.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

This medium model has a stack of 547mm and a reach of 390mm which gives you a ratio of 1.4, racy indeed. All five sizes are around the same figure and exactly what we'd expect for a bike of this type.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It's a firm ride but I wouldn't call it uncomfortable.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes, a huge bottom bracket area and down tube make for an impressively stiff race machine.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

The frame does a really good job of transferring the power, and lighter components would enhance that, but there are plenty of other lighter models in the range.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so


How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Perfect for the rider who wants a direct-handling bike without any twitchiness or surprises.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The Izalco Race is very surefooted in the bends and the handling is as quick as it needs to be without being a handful at speed. You can make a mistake or two and the Focus won't bite, while still remaining a fun bike to ride.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The Basic bar and stem assembly can be a little harsh on rough ground, but overall it's a good all-round package.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The bar and stem are a little unforgiving because they are so stiff; no flexing under heavy load here.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

This frame is ripe for upgrades and a change of wheels really unleashes its potential.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
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The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

The latest Shimano Sora has the same feel as Tiagra and 105; it just comes down to how many gears you want. The brakes are okay but I'd definitely change the pads to get the best out of them.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so

The Alex wheels are solid performers and do the job at this price point, but a simple upgrade would pay huge dividends to all-round performance.

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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so

Bikes of this price often scrimp on tyres so it's great to see the Focus coming with a solid set of Continental Ultra Sport IIs: good tyres for day to day riding that resist punctures while offering decent grip and rolling resistance.


Rate the controls for performance:
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

It's basic (Basic) alloy kit as you'd expect at this price point but it's all decent quality stuff and does the job. Like most bikes these days the Izalco Race is fitted with a compact style handlebar, making it ideal for those who wouldn't normally be confident or flexible enough to use the drops.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:

Use this box to explain your overall score

Considering the quality of the frame you are getting here, I'd say the Izalco Race represents great value for money even against some of the best aluminium bikes on the market. You could upgrade this frame to your heart's content.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!

Latest Comments

  • ShutTheFrontDawes 30 sec ago

    Also known as " MY parking space".

  • perce 2 min 28 sec ago

    Well. What do you call a man with three wooden 'eads? Edward Woodward. He was a proper vigilante as was Denzel Washington in the two later films....

  • Jem PT 22 min 20 sec ago

    It's an Audi - "they all do that, sir", and so a warning letter will probably have little effect. Sorry, but I would have sought a NIP....

  • ShutTheFrontDawes 21 min 55 sec ago

    Sure. When someone is close passed, you lot are all "should have been riding further out, should have had a light in daytime, should have had radar...

  • BalladOfStruth 1 hour 22 min ago

    I think it might actually be the least popular behaviour in all of web design.

  • lesterama 1 hour 24 min ago

    Here's some hope for us chunky blokes, even if most of won't consider spending £3.5k on wheels.

  • Rezis 1 hour 26 min ago

    If running it poorly affected their salaries and bonuses (and other accountabilities) maybe they would run it properly......

  • simonmb 1 hour 37 min ago

    Passing a cyclist in the opposite direction warrants at least a nod or a gentle lift of the hand from the bars. But what about overtaking a fellow...

  • Secret_squirrel 3 hours 3 min ago

    Im considering something like this to replace my current storage bottle on my downtube.  It does the job of keeping the tools safe and dry but at...

  • brooksby 12 hours 46 min ago

    The wheelbenders were on the verge again, so since there were no other bikes in sight i locked mine along the back of them....