Focus Bikes – 2011 Variado 2.0 | Review

Roughly translated from Spanish, Variado, means diverse and that is exactly what the bike is. Focus Bikes built the Variado for the rider who is just entering the racing arena or the intermediate rider looking for a great all around road bike. Focus bikes was founded in 1992 by three-time cyclocross World Champion Mike Kluge. Kluge wanted to create a company that would be “in the focal point of bicycle development.” Focus bikes are made in Germany with the mission to “Provide the perfect, highest performing bicycles for riders of all abilities – in competition, in recreation, and for everyday living.”

Focus-Variado-Side

The heart of the Variado is a double butted aluminum frame paired with a carbon fork (aluminum steer tube). One design that is noticeable right away on Focus frames is the rear dropouts are slightly tucked under the chainstay. This is to add compliance to the frame by distributing the vibration and hits you experience through both the chainstay and seatstay. On the hilly country roads I typically ride, I was able to tell that the design helped to soften the chatter a bit. The welds are strong and perhaps a little more conspicuous than I was expecting and the bottom bracket derailleur guide routed the cable over the chainstay welds slightly and, while I didn’t see noticeable impact to shifting, there was a small nick on the chainstay. The aluminum frame is paired with a carbon fork that also helped to dampen the road noise.

The drivetrain consists, almost of entirely, of the always reliable Shimano 105 black group and turning the gears is the FSA Gossamer crankset. When purchasing the Variado you can opt for the Gossamer triple crankset 52/39/30 or the compact 50/34 – I tested the 50/34. The rear cog on our compact was Shimano’s 11-27t, this combination was perfect for climbs in the foothills of California. Paired with the new fully internal cable routing of the 105’s shifters/brake levers your cockpit is very clean.

Focus-Variado-DT

Keeping you connected to the road are Continental Grand Prix 24mm tires and wheelsets built from Focus’s in house brand Concept SL hubs and Rodi Stylus Race black rims. The wheelsets rolled very smooth, with sealed bearing front and rear you could really feel the minimal rolling resistance on the descents. The 32 spoke wheelsets proved to be strong through the less than perfect country back-roads which the Variado logged over 500 miles, no truing was needed.

Focus-Variado-Rear

Slowing you down from mach speeds are Shimano 105’s brakes. I experienced a few high speed descents that warranted some safe stopping power and they complied well with the Rodi rim braking surface. Never had issues or concerns with the bike’s ability to stop.

Rounding out the components are the FSA SL-280 seatpost, FSA OS-190 stem, FSA Vero compact handlebars. Straightforward quality from FSA. If you haven’t tried compact handlebars you should, I find them more comfortable than the standard bars. The Concept Ex saddle was my only real qualm of the bike. I found it to have a bit too much padding at the nose, which caused for some discomfort. Like pedals, most cyclists have a strong personal preference before they purchase a mid-to-upper range road bike and it’s at least somewhat expected that many riders would swap out the stock saddle for something else. If it didn’t look so bad, many manufacturers could probably get away with shipping new bikes without saddles…

The Variado was put through the full Talking Treads review; inclement weather elements, numerous hill climbs and descents and even a century ride-just a little over 500 miles total. Overall the Variado provided a comfortable ride throughout the review and to be truthful we are sad to see it go. The frame compliance transferred as much energy you put out,  to the wheels both in climbing and sprinting. I felt comfortable descending both in control and braking ability especially in the upper 40-55 mph range. In addition, part of me feels as though the tucked rear dropouts give the sensation of “carving’ the corners, which is an added bonus. The white frame, seat and bar tape took a bit too get used to, but the red and black highlights sealed the deal. At approximately 23 pounds (60cm frame tested) it is a bit heavy, but it really comes down to stiffness/weight ratio and Focus got it right on this one. The suggested price of the Variado 2.0 is $1499 and can be found at your local bike shop and certain online retail stores. The price tag is set well for the Shimano 105, FSA componentry and the sealed hub wheelset providing years of reliable service on this machine.

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