If one brand can be seen as pushing the ’cross-bike envelope from the early days of the sport’s boom in the U.S., it is Focus. It had full-carbon, disc-brake, through-axle bikes while other brands were still debating if this ’cross thing was for real. Yeah, it’s for real and the 2017 Focus Mares 105 is ready to race!

PELOTON

The Mares has not just been paving the way from a design and spec perspective, it has literally set the way on the racecourse under win-at-will Jeremy Powers. For 2017, Focus is back with another extensive Mares line—from a $4,300 SRAM Force CX1 model to a Mares Shimano 105 model for $3,000. You can even get an alloy Mares in 105 or Tiagra for well under $2,000.

Mares geometry is traditional ’cross with a slight twist. The bottom bracket is tall, the rear end is just long enough to create some decent clearance with 33mm tires, but the front end is slightly slacker than some ’cross bikes: 71 degrees, compared with 72 or 72.5 degrees. The result is a blisteringly fast bike with a touch more stability. Other staples of the refined Mares line are a flattened top tube for easy shouldering and the brand’s RAT—Rapid Axle Technology—through-axle for some of the fastest wheel changes possible with a through-axle. Perfect for those of us without a second bike in the pits.

Every carbon Mares, from 105 to Force CX1, uses the same carbon frame. No low-mod, simplified layup, heavy-carbon frames in the Mares line. Riders on a budget get the same platform as the national champ. This is a winning formula Focus has developed over the last few seasons, but a tweak to the 2017 line shows Focus is still on the vanguard of development. While many brands have finally committed to disc braking, Focus is already on the second generation with slick, flat-mount disc brakes.

The Focus Mares 105 we tested was kitted out with a 46-36 2x system and 11–28 rear cassette. The rest of the spec is serviceable for a race bike: solid Concept alloy bar and stem, Fi’zi:k saddle with carbon Concept post and Alex Rims. We love the Schwalbe X-One tires, the best all-around tire available. And remember, the frame is top of the line so it’s worthy of any upgrade you choose to lavish on it—carbon tubulars, eTap, et cetera. The Mares 105 is $3,000, a fair price, but Focus also offers a Mares Rival 1x build, which is definitely superior to the 105 build, for the same money.
8.43kg (18.9 lbs, size LG); $3,000; focus-bikes.com