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Focus bicycles hail from Cloppenburg in Germany and the brand is the brainchild of former World Cup XC racer Mike Kluge, which is why, at their heart, they are all about racing. Stepping aside a little bit from the racing DNA is the Focus Crater Lake Core 2016, a pure hybrid bicycle targeted at commuting and touring. We got the opportunity to review this bicycle and this is what we thought.
The Trekking 1.0 aluminium frame is solid and quite faultless. ¾Built with plain aluminium this frame weighs just above average for a hybrid bicycle. There is no need for triple butted tubes as there is already enough thickness around the welds. It is constructed seamlessly, with a simple frame geometry where nothing can go wrong. The front and back stays do allow for a one-up tire size upgrade which is mostly useful on long tours.
The front suspension fork is a stock component on this bicycle. With a very minimal travel of just 50mm, this is as less at it can get on any suspension fork. The main question was if this is enough for the potholes and speed breakers in the city and that was cleared when the bicycle was ridden through some bad roads in the city to push the maximum limit of the suspension travel. The answer is, it wasn't quite enough and could have easily done with 10-20mm more travel.
There are usually 2 extremes to the ways in which a manufacturer decides on the looks of a bicycle. When it comes to the Crater Lake Core 2016, Focus went for the minimalistic design. The black gloss paint job looks simple yet neat. The stickering has all been done in White with the brand name embossed very clearly in large fonts on the down tube. The front suspension fork is also covered fully in black, almost making it look an elegant extension of the frame.
I was well aware that I was no superman, and that uphills like flyovers during the test ride are always going to hurt. That said, I'm very much an advocate of lower gearing, especially on hybrid bicycles like this one. In an urban environment, where the Focus Crater Lake Core is designed to be ridden, there is limited use for the full range of gears that the cassette ratio gives you. And if you regularly carry your laptop/shopping bags, and home is up any kind of hill, you will more than likely be dipping into the lower reaches of this Crater Lake's range fairly often. The Shimano STEF-41 7 speed trigger shifters worked well and were comfortable on the fingers with no extra effort required to change the gears.
The Promax V-brakes on the Focus Crater Lake Core may be seen as a budget-cutting move on paper but during the test ride it felt powerful and well modulated. Constant braking on wet conditions might reduce the life of the rubber pads but not drastically. The integrated brake levers felt just fine with plenty of feel and adjustability for small hands like mine. A rider with a larger palm will most certainly feel the shorter length of the brake lever being uncomfortable.
The row raise handlebar from Focus's house brand Concept was sleek and perfect in length. It might actually a tad bit lengthier than usual hybrid bicycles, which is actually a good thing as it helps open the rider's chest. The usefulness of this can be easily felt while on longer 2hour+ rides.
The wheels on the Focus Crater Lake Core are probably a bit heavier than they need to be, especially when you consider the fact that they are sporting a slightly bigger circumference Schwalbe Impac 700c x 40C tires which will do a lot of the bump-soaking without transferring the shock to the rims. The concept cross saddle on the Crater Lake Core is perfect in length and width but the edges at the back are curving out too much to my liking which made me slip out a few times while coming to the edge of the saddle during the test ride. The over-all ride quality was comfortable and smooth on flatter tarmacs.
There are no two ways when it comes to the usage of this bicycle. Mostly commuter based, the Focus Crater Lake Core also doubles up as a capable touring bicycle with enough strength to manage your luggage with pannier racks installed. If you want a comfortable bicycle with an easy posture to use inside the city, the Crate Lake Core is a formidable choice to consider in this price range.