Cyclocross on a budget: Focus Mares Rush Ltd

Ritchey and Shimano parts - the basics
From this angle it looks just like a road bike, like most cyclocross bikes

Cyclocross (or CX for short) bikes are very trendy at this moment – even my ultimate commuter will be built on a cyclocross frame, but what’s all the fuss with them? We take a look at German manufacturer Focus and their Mares Rush model, the kind of bike people will buy. But to understand what cyclocrossing is all about, let’s go back a bit – by letting Wikipedia explain it for us yet again (so I won’t make an idiot out of myself):

Races take place typically in the autumn and winter, and consists of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5  km or 1.5–2  mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike whilst navigating the obstruction and remount.

Yes, I think it’s the only sport where the bike is actually supposed to be carried during the race. To make that more humane, the bikes are pretty light – but they are also sturdy to survive the hard-core riding in the terrain where normal road bikes would beg for mercy. So, in short, cyclocross bikes are very close to road frames, allow larger tyres and sometimes include mountain bike power train parts which are supposed to last longer.

Cyclocross bikes usually also feature a secondary set of brake levers

So, back to the ride. The Focus Mares Rush ltd is a solid, light bicycle. It features a 6061 aluminum alloy frame and a carbon fiber fork with many stickers saying that it’s a piece of German lightweight engineering. On the going and stopping side it’s got quality parts as well: An FSA Tempo 54/30t crankset connected to a Shimano Tiagra 12-25 tooth cassette, so it’s the same as a compact groupset for a road bike. The Focus has Shimano Tiagra front and read derailleurs and integrated brake/gear levers, which are pretty decent for the average user but they felt a bit wobbly and loose compared to the step higher Shimano 105 series.

The Focus Mares Rush has Tektro V-Brakes for tyre clearance

To make the bicycle stop, the bike has Tektro RX5 Mini V-brakes that allow quite a bit of clearance for larger tyres as you can see in the photo above. The current tyres are a bit tinier than you would expect to see in a bike like this usually, but that’s the benefit of a cyclocross frame compared to a traditional road bike – and since it’s a less hulking design compared to a mountain bike, you can use it even better for road riding (and therefore commuting). If you have a longer commute, it can give you a bit more clearance for the ride to work compared to a normal road bike. Many CX bikes also have braze-ons for mudguards and racks, making them great for commuting all year round.

The geometry is very road-bikish and aggressive

So, all and all, it’s a solid bike with a decent set of equipment in it, and for 1100 euros, I think it’s good worth. It has room for two bottle cages, it has braze-ons for fenders (thanks for the update, Anssi!). The bike weighs around 10 kilos (based on our scientific “lift it and ponder for a while” -method) and will probably handle quite well in the long run. The Focus range has ones with disc brakes and without, prices ranging from 999 to around 1500 euros. Personally, the bike didn’t create emotions one way or the other as some bikes do – but hey, we are talking about German lightweight engineering.

Our verdict: ★★★½☆

Good value for the money, would benefit from a groupset upgrade, more for racers than commuters – but don’t mistake it for a race bike.

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By Markus Sandelin

Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.