Downhill Focus: the Focus Sam2 e-bike is now totally optimised for descending, with the chunkiest suspension around and enduro-ready geometry

Product Overview

Focus Sam2 6.9

Pros:

  • Sam2 makes total sense now, with its geometry, parts spec and travel now all matching up to a gravity-fed beast. Nice touches too, with a clever stem and bump stops. The price is great too, ready to rival some direct sales competitors.

Cons:

  • Clever stem only comes in 45mm length, and there’s only one spring for the Van coil shock

Product:

Focus Sam2 6.9: first ride review of 170mm e-enduro bike

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£5,999.00
TAGS:

Downhill Focus: the Focus Sam2 e-bike is now totally optimised for descending, with the chunkiest suspension around, enduro-ready geometry.

Read more: Buyers guide to the best electric mountain bikes

Forget the uplift, the Sam2 and its Bosch’s 85Nm motor will shuttle you to the top and have you grinning on the way back down.

Focus Sam2 need to know

  • Sam2 is a 170mm e-bike built for smashing the descents with burly build and components
  • Bosch Performance Line CX motor with upddated software, 85Nm torque and 625Wh battery
  • Top end 6.9 build comes with Fox 38 fork, Fox Van coil shock and tenacious Schwalbe Magic Mary tyres
  • Revised geometry now fits the 170mm travel, with a modern long wheelbase and slack head angle
  • Better range of sizing thanks to an XL model and reach up to 510mm in that size
  • e-bikes don’t come much more gravity focused than this, with muscle to rival the Specialized Turbo Kenevo
  • Top-end 6.9 version with coil shock costs £5,999, 6.8 version with air spring is £4,999

Focus says the new version of its Sam2 e-bike has been designed for just one thing: descending. They’re not mucking about here either, the German brand has specced the burliest parts it can find, from the Fox Van coil shock to the new 38 fork and Schwalbe Magic Mary with super soft compound. And it’s dropped the whole lot onto a new frame that’s been given the old long-low-slack treatment and built for 170mm travel. Hey presto, you have a mini downhill bike in all but name. Oh, and there’s a motor to crank you back up to the top again.

Focus Sam2 now comes with a Fox Van coil shock and a Fox 38 up front, making it a bike for the downs

Shimano out, Bosch in

That motor is different to Focus’s previous version of the Sam2 though, you now get the Bosch Performance Line CX motor, complete with its software update boosting its performance to 85Nm of torque. The old bike relied on the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and Focus’s own, smaller 378Wh battery tucked inside its downtube. The idea was to deliver a gravity orientated e-bike without the weight of the burliest out there, chiefly the Specialized Turbo Kenevo. Switching to Bosch effectively scuttles that idea because you’re required to use the standard 625Wh battery.

So be it, the concept of shedding weight on a big-travel gravity e-bike never made much sense to me in the first place, I’d sooner have the kilo or two of extra weight and nearly double the battery capacity, and it’s great to be able to remove the battery for charging now. Focus is not a brand wedded to one motor supplier over another though, Shimano still features in its range, and perhaps we’ll see the Sam2 with the new Shimano EP8 motor and lightweight battery next year.

Switching to the Bosch motor gains the Sam power and an easy way to slide the battery out and charge it off the bike

We’ve waxed lyrical plenty of times about how well the Bosch motor works, so I won’t go into details except to say the power is every bit as good as I’d hoped with the new updated software.

Working the angles

The move over to Bosch isn’t the only big change for the Sam2, it’s a 29er now, and there’s an option via a flip chip to switch to a mullet setup.

focus sam2

Flip chip on the dropouts lets you tune the geometry for a mullet setup, or slacken the head angle out a further half degree

The biggest change is from the geometry though, the old bike packed the same travel but didn’t really have the aggressive geometry to back it all up. It’s all change on the latest Sam2 though, the head angle’s been pushed out to 65° and you get a big 1273mm wheelbase on the size Large. There’s now a really useful range of sizes too, the biggest size XL has a length 510mm reach for the rangiest of us, and I’m happy to see the seat tube angle has steepened up a fair whack too.

Sweating the small stuff

Focus’s idea for tidying up the cockpit is neat, the cables now run inside the stem and feed out from the faceplate. It reminds me of that scene from Indiana Jones where snakes emerge from holes in the wall. Called Cockpit Integration Solution, it makes for a neat front end and eliminates cable rubbing on the headtube. It also has its own headset spacers that help it blend seamlessly into the head tube. The stem is a relatively modest 45mm in length, but if you want to tinker around with your reach you’ll have to switch to a conventional stem then.

Tidy cockpit design thanks to Focus’s new stem with internal cable routing. Don’t like it? You can swap it out for a regular stem to tweak the reach

There are some seriously meaty bump stops on the Sam2 too, designed to stop the fork slamming into the frame in a crash. That restricted arc of movement also means the cables can be trimmed shorter and thereby neater than usual.

The Magic Mary tyres on the Sam2 offer ludicrous levels of grip and have a distinctive cossetting effect that you would come to love on proper alpine terrain. The tradeoff is that they’re slow as treacle on anything other than straight down. Keep pedalling and the Bosch motor pulls it all just fine, but freewheel and you find your speed dropping away. Personally, I’m happy with this approach, the bike is for gnarly downhills and proper bike parks and as such it needs this level of comfort and grip.

focus sam2

Fox Van coil shock is spot on for a big-travel gravity e-bike. Setting the rate to your personal preference will require buying a new spring though

Coil or air?

The Sam2 uses Focus Optimised Linkage Design (FOLD) suspension, basically a single pivot design with a linkage that drives the Fox Van coil shock (or in the case of the cheaper 6.8 model, a RockShox Super Deluxe) and gives you 170mm travel. The first 30% of the stroke is digressive, then when you reach the sag point it becomes progressive. It’s a smart idea because it means the suspension feels sensitive and light when you’re cruising along and skimming over the trail, before ramping up to provide support as you go deeper into the travel.

This system isn’t new for the Sam2 or it’s little brother, the Jam2. What is new is the Van coil shock though, gracing this top end 6.9 model. The bike comes with just one spring, there’s no option to spec a lighter or firmer rate, so you might need to factor in buying a different one or a Sprindex if you’re very heavy or light. At the other end of the bike is a Fox 38, it’s the perfect partner to the Van and offers a ton of support. We had nowhere near enough time to fettle it as we’d like (chalk it up to Covid again) so you’ll have to wait for our 38 review coming later in the year for the full shakedown.

How the Focus Sam2 rides

There’s one bike I immediately thought of riding the Sam2, and of course that’s the Specialized Turbo Kenevo. Perhaps it’s just the planted feeling you get from a coil shock, but right away I felt confident and sure-footed on the Sam2, happy to send the bike off drops into the chunkiest of landings. It’s solid, capable of steering you onto high lines and across roots that really shouldn’t be possible, and getting you out of trouble when you push things. Just as I remember from riding the Kenevo, a bike I absolutely love.

We weren’t able to spend two days thrashing the bike around the alps, as Focus had planned for the launch, Covid spoiled the party. Instead I had to make do with an afternoon the excellent Rogate Bike Park. But what I learnt is that Focus has got the balance of the bike spot on and it puts you in the ideal position to smash any trail (as long as it’s downhill).

I’m left desperate to get more time riding the Sam2, to try out the mullet option, and really unpick how this bike works.

Verdict

The Sam2 just got better, with geometry to match its long travel and good suspension. Now you just to find somewhere rough enough to really make the most of it.

Details

Frame:7005 aluminium, 170mm travel
Shock:Fox Van Performance Coil
Fork:Fox 38 Factory, 170mm
Motor:Bosch Performance CX Gen4
Battery:Bosch Powertube 625Wh
Wheels:Race Face AR Offset 30 rims, Novatec hubs, Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Trail Soft/Gravity Soft 29x2.6in
Drivetrain:Samox EC40 crankset, Shimano XT mech and shifter
Brakes:Shimano XT four-piston, 200mm
Components:Race Face Chester 35 780mm bar, Focus CIS 45mm stem, Fox Transfer RL
Sizes:S, M, L, XL
Weight:25.95kg (57.2lb)
Size tested:M
Head angle:65°
Seat angle:76°
BB drop :20mm
Chainstay:450mm
Front centre:786mm
Wheelbase:1,236mm
Top tube:608mm
Reach:450mm