The latest breed of disc brake road bikes are being built to leverage the inherent advantages of discs — namely, bigger tire clearance, improved comfort and better braking in all conditions. With that in mind, Focus launched the all-new Paralane in 2016 with the intent of showing just what today’s road bikes should be.
2017 Focus Paralane Ultegra Features:
- Optimized carbon layup for responsiveness, power and comfort
- 907 g stated frame weight (54cm)
- Clearance for up to 35c tires (fit will vary by tire manufacturer)
- 12mm RAT thru-axles
- Unique split Concept CPX, 25.4 x 340 mm seatpost
- Concept EX cockpit
- DT Swiss R23 DB Wheelset
- Complete Shimano Ultegra drivetrain
- fi’zi:k Aliante R5 saddle
- Includes removable fenders for foul weather
- Weight: 17.4 lbs (Ultegra model with Fulcrum Quattro DB wheels)
- MSRP: $3500
With Paralane, diversions are welcome
Thanks to disc brakes and improved tire clearance, riders are venturing on backroads and hitting gravel in droves. It is amazing what a set of 30+mm tires can do on both paved and gravel roads. Yes, these diversion-friendly bikes do have a little bit of a weight disadvantage (mostly due to heavier brakes), but the versatility is worth it.
In the case of the Paralane, we’re talking about a respectably-light 905g frameset that’s been optimized by Focus engineers with their masterful carbon layup skills. You’ll notice lots of purpose-built tube shapes and details throughout. The top tube flattens and flares at the head tube in a way I’ve never seen before and the shaped seat stays and chain stays are obviously built for compliance. Speaking of compliance, that ultra-thin 25.4mm seatpost certainly does a number on road chatter.
The test kit on this bike wasn’t quite of the off-the-shelf variety, namely the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon DB wheels and a set of Zipp Tangente Course R30’s for extra comfort and all-condition performance. Outside of that, I did end up swapping out the bars and stem to deliver a better fit and ride quality. You’ll likely do similar tweaking to make the bike yours.
To learn more about the tech details behind the Paralane, head on over to Focus-Bikes.com.
Into the proving grounds
It took all but two pedal strokes to understand how the Paralane would perform. Initially, I thought I had a flat tire because it was so smooth, but nope… no flats and this would be a smooth ride indeed. Then, stepping on the gas, the Paralane responded. Even though those initial impressions proved true, I was glad to put on more miles just to make sure.
Along Utah’s Wasatch Front, there are plenty of great roads but the best ones curve upwards into the mountains. Luckily, I’ve got a penchant for climbing and so does the Paralane. With compact gearing and a wide-range 11-32t cassette, the climb is strong with this one and the Ultegra mechanical drivetrain offers up reliable and consistent shifting — just as it always does.
Drifting through the gears, the Paralane really responds. On flats it can roll with the best of them. On climbs, it simply responds and on descents it goes right where you point it.
Back to climbing
Something that stands out to me while climbing is a bike that feels natural out of the saddle. When the pitch gets steep or you just need to give your nether regions a break, you stand up and rock the bike back-and-forth as you keep ascending. Some endurance bikes feel wonky during standing efforts with floppy steering or uninspiring responsiveness. Further, some have cables that get in the way of your legs.
With the Paralane, standing efforts are rewarded with a bike that feels as agile and responsive as the best climbers I’ve swung a leg over. And, the cable routing keeps everything clear of your knees on every pedal stroke. Ultra-low gearing will ensure you can make it to the top of anything — no matter the road type or conditions.
A new kind of all-rounder
To test tire clearance, I loaded the Paralane up with a set of 33c cyclocross tires and they fit with clearance to spare. Of course your experience may vary, but this bike can swallow some good-sized treads, thus opening up the capabilities of this bike for all terrain. Most bikes in this category max out at 32c tires, so the Paralane’s 35c clearance can actually step not only into gravel territory, but CX territory so long as the course is a dry one. To be clear, Focus has their Mares CX bike for competitive cyclocross, but the Paralane will do the trick should you wish to ride a race or two every year.
Like any bike, not everything is perfect. Sometimes sample bikes are well-loved machines and other times they are brand new. This one had seen more than its fair share of abuse and needed some reconditioning before testing and I couldn’t ever get the rear brake to function correctly, thus limiting my descending confidence. That said, the Paralane has fantastic bones and I don’t have any doubts that an off-the-shelf model will perform flawlessly.
Outside of that, the front end is pretty stiff and the stock aluminum cockpit exacerbates the problem. I swapped out the bars with the Easton EC90 SLX and it made a significant difference, but didn’t make the harshness disappear. Should you need a zero setback post to achieve the proper fit, you’ll also be limited on choices in 25.4mm models.
Also, keep in mind that the standard build includes DT Swiss R23 wheelset, which is actually a good wheelset and only 50 grams heavier than the Fulcrum’s tested. I tested the R23’s aboard the BH G7 Disc and they are a solid wheelset for the money.
NOTE: I’m 5’11” with normal proportions and a moderately-aggressive fit. The 54cm was an excellent fit for me with a 110mm stem, 15mm spacers and 80mm reach bars.
- A natural climber that responds well out of the saddle
- Wide gear ratios will get you up anything
- Excellent tire clearance for a road-friendly machine
- Lightweight for a road disc frame
- Reliable Ultegra drivetrain
- Road-smoothing rear end (rear triangle + seat post combo)
- RAT thru-axles are easy-to-use
- Stiff front end — especially with stock alloy cockpit
- Not a ton of options in aftermarket 25.4mm seatposts
- Very few riders will actually use the fenders
To further show the Paralane’s capabilities, check out cyclocross star, Jeremy Powers ride the Paralane through the beautiful, and rugged terrain of Iceland.
The Bottom Line: Focus Paralane Ultegra
Germans know how to engineer great products and the Focus Paralane is a great bike for everyday duty on a wide variety of roads. I’ve really loved how adept of a climber it is and have found it to be responsive and flexible bike on twisty mountain roads, flat sections and gravel roads.
Learn More: Visit Focus-Bikes.com or Find Your Local Focus Dealer
With the Paralane, you get an adept do-it-all bike that doesn't abandon it's on-road capabilities. It rides like a responsive bike should, but also accommodates large tires for gravel, dirt and even light cyclocross duty.
Great review as always. I have a first gen Specialized Diverge Expert and this seems to be of the same swiss army knife do it all philosophy. It’s a nice looking bike but the 25.4mm seatposts that some companies go for are deal breakers for me due to the limited options. Was the EC90 SLX you swapped in, the first gen orange or the current model that’s quite a bit stiffer?
Thanks Vig. Glad you like your Diverge! The EC90 SLX I put on this bike is the current model.
Thanks for the great review. It helped stear me toward this bike and I picked one up a month ago. I love it. I do agree about the front end stiffness. I was able to smooth it out with a Shockstop stem and Zipp SL-70 carbon bars. I highly recommend the Shockstop stem. I was a little skeptical that it would feel mushy but that is not the case at all. It works. This may be my best all around bike ever.
That’s awesome to hear! I’m glad you found the right solution to soften up that front end just a tad. I agree with you that it is a great bike.
How does this bike compare to the various Scott Solace models that you have tested in the past?
I really do like the Paralane (in spite of the poor condition of the test bike I had). It is nimble, responsive and a ton of fun to ride. The front-end stiffness needs to be addressed by using a more comfortable set of bars, carbon stem, bar tape and a bit wider tires.
The cool thing about the Paralane is it has 35mm tire clearance for “near gravel bike” capability — something that’s unique in the category as most max out at 32mm or smaller.
The new Addict Disc is essentially the solace. It’s a great bike, but not quite as comfortable as the Paralane (once you mitigate the stiff front end).
Thanks Jason. I’m looking for a bike predominately for fast group rides and for some serious Fondo climbs. Would the Paralane fit the bill and be a one bike “does it all”. The Solace is about 2lbs lighter in the rim brake models. Focus noted in one of their sales brochures that frame power delivery although it often results in an overall increase in frame weight is more important that frame weight alone. I’ve narrowed my choice to either of these bikes.
With any disc brake bikes (except the lightweight climbing models), you’ll still have a pound or two of weight penalty. That said, the Paralane is definitely not the lightest bike on the block, but it does perform well.
If you’re open to rim brake models, I’d shy away from the Solace with that undermounted rear brake if it were me.
There are a lot of reviews about the Paralane but this review is the only one that really comments on how this bike climbs. Much appreciated! Great And thorough review!
Thanks for the kudos! Glad you found the review helpful and good luck in your bike search.
How does the Cervelo C3 rate next to this bike? The geometry is very similar but the Cervelo weighs over 1lb more
Man… hard to say. The C3 has been a slow-seller for Cervelo, but it does look great on paper. The Paralane has more tire clearance and (as you state) is lighter. I really enjoyed riding the Paralane, but would definitely recommend carbon bars or even the Redshift ShockStop stem to smooth out that stiff front-end.
Have you had a chance to ride them back to back? Looking for disc brakes and endurance geometry. Will spend most/all my time on the road for group rides and Gran Fondos in the Northeast with hilly challenging courses
Sorry for the delay. No, I haven’t ridden the C3 at all. I’d have a look at the Cannondale Synapse, BMC Roadmachine or the new Fezzari Empire SL. Good tire clearance on all three of those and they will suit you just dandy.