Focus Paralane Ultegra with NINJA BB

Pros: Comfortable, good value for money, RAT thru-axles, wide tyre clearance, mudguards
Cons: Front-end not as smooth as seated comfort

Focus, a German company with strong roots in competitive cyclocross and road racing, has waded into the growing endurance and sportive road bike market with the new Paralane, a bike that offers a fast and comfortablwhe ride with a healthy dose of practicality and versatility.

And at £2,999 for this Shimano Ultegra equipped model, it's a good value proposition against other contenders for the endurance bike throne such as the Canyon Endurance, Cervelo C5, Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix. You're spoilt for choice, but after testing it, we have to say that the Focus should definitely be on your shortlist.

Ride and handling

The Paralane is a brand new bike for Focus and it's crammed with all the latest technology and a host of interesting details, but what really matters here is that they all come together to form a very cohesive package that provides near class-leading performance.
It represents a clean sheet design for Focus and is intended to meet a brief that includes being able to tackle both smooth and rough roads, cobbles and even dirt tracks. It's not a gravel bike, but with space for up to 35mm tyres it's can still handle a bit of the rough stuff.
On the road, the lightweight frame with its comfort-enhancing carbon layup and tube profiles, along with the skinny seatpost and 28mm tyres, provides a smooth ride that is up there with the best in this category. It isolates you from the worst road buzz but without completely detaching you from the road surface passing beneath the tyres. It's a really nice balance and rewards the cyclist that wants some involvement in the ride but without being shaken to pieces.

I was right at home on long winter rides taking in everything from smooth A-roads to rough and potholed country lanes. Even the odd farm track and woodland path didn't faze the Paralane at all and provided it was dry the Schwable Pro One tyres coped just fine. You could easily fit a lightly treaded tyre like the S-One and go even further afield, there's ample space.
While the Paralane's inherent smoothness clearly owes a lot to the frame design, the Concept CPX Plus (a Focus in-house accessories brand) seatpost with its unusual cutout head design and 25.4mm post diameter does a very noticeable job of providing deflection at the saddle. Wide tyres help too, provided you make use of a pressure gauge and run them low enough to benefit from the extra width. The bike will take wider tyres – up to 35mm tyres – but I never felt the need for more comfort than that provided by the 28mm rubber.

If I'm being critical, the front-end of the Paralane isn't quite as smooth as the sumptuous comfort with which it cossets your bum; the Trek Domane SLR and Specialized Roubaix beat the Paralane for front-end smoothness. But what the Paralane's front-end comfort retains is the balance and the directness of the bike. Instead, it's a communicative ride, the sort you'll appreciate if you like to feel the road surface but not be battered by it. Some carbon fibre handlebars might offer a bit more deflection from the feedback coming through the fork and head tube.
The geometry, as with all endurance and sportive bikes, is more laid back than a race bike. The higher stack hasn't been achieved by simply stretching the head tube. Instead, Focus has increased the length of the fork and lowered the bottom bracket, which gives the bike good aesthetic lines compared to some bikes in this category which can look a bit unbalanced with very high handlebars.

Let's look at the numbers. A size medium has a 375mm reach and 577mm stack, with seven sizes available. Helpfully, Focus prints the stack and reach on a sticker on the frame to help the bike shop and consumer choose the right size bike. The head angle is slacker than a race bike at 72 degrees and the lower bottom bracket (75mm) and longer wheelbase (1015mm) contribute to the solid stability present at high speeds and on rough roads.
Those numbers endow the Paralane with more composure than most race bikes, ideal for challenging, long distance rides when encountering lots of different surfaces, demanding descents and fatigue. The handling balance is measured without being lazy, but there's enough fizz and pop when you want to push on, and up the pace through the bends and up the climbs.

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On the descents, the Paralane bristles with enthusiasm. The stiffness of the frame, the geometry, the hydraulic disc brakes and the wide tyres all combine to provide a hugely reassuring balance and stability that puts you in a very confident position to tackle the downhills with aplomb. It's on the downhills that endurance bikes, good ones like the Paralane anyway, really shine.
Perhaps the best thing about the Paralane is how easy it is to ride, with none of the twitchiness that can sometimes make race bikes an intense experience. That makes the performance it offers very accessible regardless of your level of experience or fitness.
'We want to offer people who are passionate about cycling a road bike that they feel safe and, above all, comfortable on, especially on long rides with a wide variety of road surfaces,' explains Fabian Scholz, Focus engineer. After riding the Paralane, I couldn't agree more.


The pictured bike costs £2,999 and weighs 8.4kg with a full sweep of Shimano Ultegra mechanical gears and hydraulic disc brakes. The company has, like Canyon, opted for the larger 160mm disc rotors front and rear, even though Shimano recommends 140, and I see no reason why you wouldn't go large.
The braking performance is superb, plenty of power and easily controllable with simple one finger activation. Yes, disc brakes are good. Electronic gears might get all much of the attention but when mechanical works this well – light and crisp shifting with no battery to charge – I fail to see the reason to go down the Di2 route.

I've ridden a few bikes now with these DT Swiss R23 wheels and been impressed every time. They just work, they're reliable and fuss-free and the wide profile rim is a good base for the 28mm tyres. They're tubeless-ready so ditching the inner tubes is but a matter of 30 minutes' work and a pair of valves and a bottle of sealant.
It seems the latest Schwalbe ONE Race tyres, here in 28mm width, are a bit slippery fresh out of the box; that was the general consensus at the launch last summer, highlighted because we were riding rain drenched roads. The test bike had been ridden previously so the tyres were scrubbed in and delivered good performance, feeling fast, grippy and durable.

Focus completes the build using its own Concept EX branded parts. I've already mentioned the comfort-boosting carbon fibre seatpost, which is an impressive piece of design and a good rival to Canyon's VCLS 2.0 seatpost, though perhaps not providing quite as much visible deflection on really big impacts.
Up front, the aluminium handlebar has an agreeable shape with short and compact drops, and the aluminium stem caused no issues. A carbon handlebar might be a good upgrade to add just a bit more front-end comfort.
Finally, finishing things off is a superbly comfortable Fizik Aliante R5 saddle, though it does seem to take me some time to get the angle just right. Thankfully the two-bolt seatpost makes micro adjustments easy.

Mustn't forget the mudguards. Focus worked with Belgian company Curana to develop its own mudguards that fit seamlessly on the bike, with branding to complement the frame. Being a disc-specific bike means there's no need for the traditional brake bridge, so to allow the fitting of mudguards, Focus has developed a neat little clip-on bracket like we've seen from other brands such as Bowman. Arguably the mudguards lack the same level of protection that other designs do, with less side coverage, but the length is good and flaps could easily be fitted.

On my brief first ride of the Paralane at the worldwide launch in Berlin last summer I spoke of a similarity with the Cannondale Synapse and Giant Defy, two very good endurance bikes that similarly rely on carbon layup and tube shapes to provide the required smoothness. Extensive testing confirmed that the Paralane rivals those two bikes, and I'd also add the Canyon Endurace CF SLX to the list of worthy rivals.
When it comes to riding performance and comfort, it's clear that the Paralane is in the same league as the Synapse, Defy and Endurace CF. Like the Focus they're bikes that don't resort to gimmicks to provide increased comfort. However, for sheer buttery smoothness, the Specialized Roubaix with its FutureShock steerer tube has the Focus licked.

Where the Focus impresses is on value for money; you're getting a lot of no-nonsense and reliable equipment all hanging off one of the best frames in this class.


The Focus Paralane has all the attributes that make a great modern endurance bike but the performance and comfort are what shine through. This is a bike not to miss if you're in the market for a long-distance comfort bike this year.


Terrific endurance bike that must be on your shortlist if you're looking for a fast, comfortable and practical ride