The new disc-equipped Focus Mares CX with thru-axles front and rear.
Utilizing technology that could eventually pave the way for disc brakes being welcomed into the professional road peloton, Focus has launched a new post-mount disc-brake-equipped full carbon cyclocross rig with fast-action thru-axles front and rear.
Dubbed RAT (for rapid axle technology), the Focus-developed and branded axle has a T-head shaped head pin that slides into a slot and then is turned 90 degrees to lock in place. This requires far less time and effort than the standard threaded axles found on most mountain bikes, and conceivably would allow team mechanics to make rapid on-the-fly wheel changes with the same speed and efficiency as with the traditional quick release skewers currently in place.
With a simple 90-degree turn the thru-axle is locked in place.
Additionally, thru-axles provide far more consistent wheel alignment, meaning if you have the same rotor and hub you would be able to switch between wheels without having to adjust the brake calipers to eliminate rubbing or noise.
"Obviously your tolerances are far tighter with disc brakes, so you need something that will be consistent," explained Focus' Dan Breyer about a system that uses a 100x15mm front axle and 142x12mm rear. "I think this could translate to the road fairly easily."
Of course, the UCI being the glacial mover that it is when it comes to accepting new technology, don't expect change to happen overnight. In the meantime, look for the new Focus Mares CX to show up underneath reigning U.S. national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, who took his first test ride on the new bike during early-April's Sea Otter Classic.
"The benefit of the thru-axles was immediately noticeable," said Powers (Rapha-Focus) who raced a disc-equipped bike all last year. "It's not that I was having a lot of issues before, but with the thru-axle the front end especially is so much stiffer. It just has a better feel all around. I'll definitely be racing on it next year."
An ISCG-05-mounted chain guide wraps around the BB; the new RAT axle was developed in-house.
Powers will also benefit from the extra security of a large chain guide that attaches to the frame via ISCG-05 mounts around the bottom bracket. This is yet more technology borrowed from the mountain bike world, and should go a long way to preventing dropped chains or chain suck.
The German-company's overhauled frame also has a slightly taller head tube, slacker seat angle, longer wheel base, higher bottom bracket, and has shed weight versus last year's model. Claimed weight for a size 56cm disc is 922 grams. Fork weight is 418 grams.
Cable routing is internal, and the frame is mechanical or electronic compatible.
Other features include full internal cable routing, PressFit30 bottom bracket, and mechanical or electronic shifting compatibility.
One issue in the immediate future will be wheel choice. The show bike at Sea Otter was spec'd with the new carbon disc-specific DT Swiss RC38C DBs. Expect more options to come into the market soon.
The new Focus Mares CX will be available in the U.S. starting in July. Pricing was not yet available, but look for three disc-equipped builds: Shimano Ultegra Di2, SRAM CX1, and SRAM Rival. Focus will also offer a Shimano 105 level with cantilever brakes. There will be six frames sizes from 48cm to 60cm.
More info at www.focus-bikes.com