14.1kg hardtail hints at the next generation of lighter e-mtbs
The Focus Raven2 carbon hardtail may well be the lightest production e-MTB on the market. More significantly, it demonstrates a new direction for e-bikes.
At 14.1kg (medium frame), the Raven highlights a new direction for e-bikes that sits much better with the whole ethos of riding. Specifically a new generation of lighter, less powerful, pedal-assist models that handle just like regular mountain bikes and offer a much more authentic riding experience.
Focus Raven2 need to know
- Two models: Raven² Pro and Raven²
- Carbon frames, available in three sizes (S, M, L) with removable motor/battery pack
- 29in wheels, 100mm travel suspension fork
- 250W Fazua motor and 250Wh battery pack
- Raven² €4,999, Raven² Pro €5,999
For now, the new approach has been applied to, in our view, a most unlikely candidate – the race hardtail.
As you can probably tell, the Raven² closely resembles Focus’s regular race whip, the Raven XC bike, as ridden by World Cup pros Florian Vogel and Markus Schulte-Lünzum.
As such, it’s a thoroughbred, no-nonsense carbon hardtail, with steep head angle, long stem, fixed seatpost and skinny, fast-rolling tyres.
Sure, Focus says it has relatively relaxed geometry for a World Cup bike, but make no mistake; this is a completely different animal to the hardcore hardtails and trail bikes ridden by most of us. It’s twitchy, it pitches your weight over the front wheel on steep descents and there’s none of the playful attitude that encourages you to let rip on fun singletrack.
And why would it? It’s a race bike designed to be ridden by the world’s best for an hour and a half on purpose-built race tracks, not thrashed around the woods on a Sunday by average Joes like me and you.
So let’s put the specifics of the Raven² to one side for a moment and talk instead about the concept, the motor system and the packaging, because it’s these aspects, and the potential they have when applied to the kind of trail bikes we do ride, that excites us.
To give you that gentle push in the back, that fierce tailwind – for that is what it feels like when you ride it – Focus has partnered up with German engineering company Fazua.
What Fazua brings to the party is an exceptionally neat, compact, lightweight motor/battery system that adds about 4.8kg to the total mass of the bike. That’s including handlebar remote and associated wiring. At around 1kg, that’s not a dramatic weight saving over the Shimano STEPS 8000 system, but every little bit helps, and it will definitely allow full-suspension e-bikes to duck under the 20kg barrier. Perhaps even as low as 18kg (39lbs), which is a big drop, considering the lightest at the moment are around 22.5kg (49lbs).
For that weight saving, there is a compromise to be made in terms of battery life; the Fazua unit is 250Wh, or half what Shimano and Bosch commonly offer. But because the system is so efficient, and none of your energy is wasted, you can pedal further and faster with less help from the motor.
Indeed, with the motor switched off, spinning along on the flat at 25km/h is a breeze aboard the Raven². So the range should be pretty impressive, because you end up using the motor less. I say should be, because while our test loop was 55km, with multiple short climbs, the battery was switched at the halfway point, so it’s difficult to know exactly how far it would have taken us. But, by that stage we had only used half the capacity, so we’re fairly confident we could have completed the full lap on a single charge.
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Then, when you start hitting the hills, you can ramp up through the three power modes (green, for Breeze – blue, for River – purple, for Rocket) and get a 60Nm helping hand.
Now if you’ve ridden a Bosch system, or to a lesser extent, Shimano, the Fazua unit will probably feel like it’s not working. The assistance takes a subtle, softly-softly approach compared to the savage Bosch and the silky Shimano.
But you only need to turn it off for a moment on an incline to realise how much effort it’s putting in. Still, as a result you work hard. You get out of breath and feel your legs burn – something that you don’t often get with a regular e-bike. And yet you still get to the top quicker.
We didn’t try and tackle any technical hillclimb challenges, but don’t expect the Fazua system to get you up the same enduro trail you’ve just ridden down; its forte is the winding fire road or trail centre switchback climb.
Getting the most from the motor is different, too. The unit prioritises the torque sensor over the cadence sensor, and gives max power and torque at a lower cadence too (around 75rpm), so you need to be putting more effort in to get the full 250W.
The final trick that the Raven² has up its sleeve, or should I say down tube, is that you can completely remove the motor and battery from the frame, snap on a plastic cover, and ride it like a normal bike. This saves 3.3kg, and because the bottom bracket unit is so efficient, it pedals completely normally.
Imagine being able to chop and change between e-bike and non e-bike depending on whom you’re riding with and what bikes they’re riding? Or how much time you have to spare, or how fit you’re feeling? And not having to compromise in either configuration?
To us, that’s an attractive prospect.
Yes, brands will have to re-engineer their frames to compensate for the gaping hole in the down tube – just like Focus has done with the Raven² – and yes, it’s not going to give us the 5kg weight reduction that we’re all praying for…
But the direction Focus has taken with the Raven² opens up the possibilities of e-bikes to a more traditional market, a rider who doesn’t want to lose the feeling of going on a ‘normal’ mountain bike ride, but still sees the attraction of being able to ride for longer, descend further, and see what’s over the next hill.
We’re sure Focus has this goal in its sights too, and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see the next step in this evolution.