EUROBIKE´11 – DEMO DAY Ride Report:

FOCUS Raven 29r 1.0. by c_g

So much going on at the show but before I´ll dive into the trade show coverage – I wanted to bring you at a bit of my Demo Day ride impressions – so here comes the FOCUS Raven 29″er. With some clamor FOCUS (part of DERBY Cycle Group – global player, present in 40 countries worldwide, one of the biggest in Europe and THE biggest bike producer in Germany) introduced the Redskin alloy 29″er early in 2010 (this bike, by the way was changed into a less problematic name “Black Forest” for 2012 :)). Now they have tweaked over the geometry, added all the latest tech features ( ;) ) and done the frame in carbon – out comes the RAVEN 29r.

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TECH INTRO: The Raven29r is a sleek looking Carbon hard tail, about which FOCUS product manager Fabian J. says: “The Raven 29r is a thoroughly designed 29″er that combines all the advantages of a 26” and 29” in one platform – loaded with tech features.” What are those features ? Well pretty much all the features you find on most modern day Carbon frames:

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-Integrated cable guides (with the brake /rear shifter ports on the top of the chain stay mid way to the dropouts. Interestingly FOCUS even included an internal guiding for remote dropper seat activation – the first time I’ve seen this on a XC frame!!
-Tapered head tube with fully integrated head set (something all new designs share)
-Massive tire clearance up to 2.4″ (indeed the case :))
-PM disc brake mounts on the chain stay
-PF30 Bottom Bracket
-“extremely compliant seat stays”
-(no direct mount front der. or strongly bent seat tube on this frame :))

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All these things sound pretty much standard nowadays – as does the ~ 1 kg frame weight, and yes, several of the shapes and forms applied have been seen on other carbon 29″er hard tails. With all these carbon framed 29″ers popping up all over it is becoming increasingly harder to distinguish between the innovator and imitator. Which is why riding the bike has become the key factor for me to define a bike´s personality. By looks the Raven 29r frame is a mixture of rounded smooth shapes and angular tubes. I am not a huge fan of overly bulging shapes and the very sculptured seat stays are of that kind – but the scale gadget which unmistakably clarifies you are on a 29″er (should one need extra proof :)) makes up for that for me. By looks alone I find the Raven to be a pleasing frame by its subtle black grey finish with some red accents. Unlike any other bikes I had seen there were three thread holes on the chain stay which I was told were needed to accommodate the caliper and adapter when mounting a 180 mm rotor on the rear.

Focus 2RIDE IMPRESSIONS: But tech features are only one part of a bike. Here is what I felt after riding the Raven 29r 1.0. When first striking the pedal on the FOCUS Raven it becomes clear that a well executed carbon frame can be all you ever want in power transfer. The Raven 29r really puts every bit of energy to the ground – I could detect absolutely no flex laterally or torsionally on this frame.

It may be because I had ridden full suspension bikes before but somehow the frame did NOT feel as compliant and comfortable as I had expected (or as had been announced by the marketing speech). Once more I see that frame compliance (if there is any) only is a part of the equation, the bike utilizes a 31.6 mm seat post that in itself adds very little compliance giving away some of the potential comfort enhancing design – a tribute to the dropper seat compatibility as there are none that are popular in 27.2 mm diameter.

Pedaling the Raven 29r I could tell it was designed for fast courses and endurance racing in mind – I felt nicely stretched, but not too much with adequate control and a high degree of propulsion. This bike likes to go fast but does not make you want to play on the trail. It sure is not a nimble or playful bike by any means. The longish chain stays (447 mm) and slack head angle of 69.6° underline this tendency in numbers. The Raven puts the rider in a rather low riding position with its low seating position featuring a 67 mm bottom bracket drop, which further enhances the stable ride feeling.

Focus 4I really enjoyed pacing the FOCUS Raven 29r on easy grounds but somehow never felt very confident when the going got rougher or a bit sketchy (some sections in the demo loop were of that kind) – It may be that the ride simply was too short to really get used to the bike and the fact that it only showed in such sections makes me not take this too seriously but since other bikes with the same ride time didn’t give me that sensation I feel it is worth noting.

Climbing the Raven 29r was good fun – the long chain stay and wheel base plus the low cockpit required very little weight shifting when climbing. The very low weight of the top end Raven 1.0 added to that climbing fun, of course.

PRICES & MODELS: There will be three sizes and three models of the bikes available. The sizing comes in 42, 48 and 54 cm which may leave one or the other rider between sizes not getting the best fit with either size but then again carbon molds are the expensive part in the production and thus the fewer different sizes, the more cost effective they can be produced.

I rode the top end Raven 29r 1.0 with a very nice component spec of top end FAS carbon parts, XTR shifting and MAGURA´s MT-8 ultra stoppers (which are slowly conquering a sweet spot with me :)), a set of color matched CRANK Brothers Cobalt 3 29″er wheels and a FOX 32 FIT terralogic 100 mm fork (my sample didn’t have the Terralogic yet). This top version sells for a whooping € 4899.-.

Alternatively you can go with a Reba RL, XT shifting, Fulcrum wheels and Elixir 7 brakes for a moderate € 2599.-, the Raven 29r 2.0. The Raven 29r 3.0 is a SLX/XT mix with Magura MT-2s and other value components for only € 1999.-.

I am not 100% certain but if I recall correctly, all bikes share the identical frame.

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SUMMARY: The FOCUS Raven 29r is a good example of a big player first probing the market first with an alloy model and now going all out with a race oriented carbon 29″er hardtail – it is a reasonable guess that the XC fully is in the works for next year :).

When riding the Raven 29r 1.0 I felt like I was riding an efficient racer´s workhorse (in the positive meaning :)), a very advanced bike for sure. The Raven 29r felt fast and efficient and a very worthy candidate for long endurance riding or competitive epic riding. I didn’t experience the compliance I was expecting and didn’t feel all that confident in technical sections but partly blame the short ride for that.

All in all I don’t have any specific complaint with the Raven 29r (which is pretty good already) but somehow it never really “clicked” between the Raven and me – in the short time of riding it I never managed to really feel at home on the bike.

Talking about prices and weights the Raven 29r are all really nice bikes that deliver a lot for what you pay. FOCUS is a big company and they have the buying power to give you very good value for the money – no doubt there.

Ride On!