Focus is a leading German bicycle brand, best known for its road and cyclocross offerings, but the company has invested heavily in the development of its mountain bicycles in recent years. The latest addition to the German companyês off-road line is the Focus Raven Rookie (26) 1.0 2016, a 26"; entry level hardtail MTB. We got the opportunity to review this bicycle and this what we thought.
The alloy frame in the Raven Rookie 26'' is laden with the sort of features that will keep the cycling geeks in discussion forever about the build geometry and welds. The unique slotted wishbone seat stays set the standard, then you notice the funky oversized and unusually shaped head tube, the big boxy cast rear dropouts and the extended reinforced bottom bracket shell. Interestingly, Focus actually adjusts the stiffness of the frame as you go up in sizes so that smaller sized bicycles are comfortable for lighter riders yet the larger frames are stiff enough to cope with the extra bulk of a taller rider.
The suspension duties on the Raven Rookie 26'' fall to a SR Suntour front suspension fork with 60mm of travel. During the test ride, whenever there was traction or a hard edge to work off, the skinny 60mm suspension fork worked noticeably. While it's reasonably smooth over small bumps on fast speeds, there is no way to make the suspension work seamlessly through harder trails. 60mm is a smaller travel and is restricted to that mainly due to the price tag.
The design on the Raven Rookie flourishes and are not just for show, they contribute to the performance as well. This bicycle currently comes in two colour variants, the one I test rode came in a full black primary colour with some shades of white and red. The matte finish paint job and the good looking graphics make the bicycle look much more expensive than it is. The black suspensions forks and the red streaked saddle all add to the aesthetics of the Raven Rookie 26''.
The 24-speed Shimano Tourney rear derailleur is the highlight of the drivetrain, but it is also ably backed up by a Tourney front derailleur and Shimano EF41 shifters. Most hardtails at this price seem to manage a crankset with an incorporated axle and outboard bearings, but a more downmarket Shimano Tourney unit still performs above expectations here. The gears offer just enough transmission for the easier trails and the comfortable Shimano shifters with display makes life easier for rookie riders, just like the bicycle name suggests.
The Raven Rookie's Promax V-brakes are simply average and don't have a great durability reputation. Even though there is a realistic limit to the stopping power of the V-brakes, during the test ride the reaction time was slow and never really felt safe at higher speeds on harder surfaces.
Concept, a house brand of Focus offers the alloy handlebar that do the job very competently, and there's a good stack of washers on the steerer for bar height adjustments. Despite the short stem it's not the fastest handling bicycle and wasn't that easy to manoeuvre traffic whilst on city streets. The almost flat handlebar shape does come in handy when on flatter trails, giving more stability for off the saddle riding.
The Shwalbe Impac 26'' x 2.2 tires on the Raven Rookie look more rugged than they really are, although their traction abilities are very limited when the mud starts to get sticky. Thin sidewalls mean you can't lower the tire pressures much for a smoother ride because this leads to tire wriggle and increases the risk of puncturing. The Concept Sport saddle had enough cushioning for the rough surfaces but could have been more ergonomically designed, at least width wise. The ride quality was fairly smooth on urban roads and a bit jittery on rough surfaces.
If you are a rider looking for a well-rounded 26ÈÈ hardtail MTB, the Raven Rookie is certainly worth throwing a leg over. In its stock form, the Focus Raven Rookie 26ÈÈ 1.0 2016 could be a worthy choice for those flatter trails and for commutes during the week. Also not to forget that all these features are packed at an attractive price of Rs.24,990.