Clever features coupled to a capable chassis
The Focus Sam2 Pro is an enduro e-bike that trims the weight by downsizing the battery but is the lack of accessibility a price worth paying?
E-bikes are still very much in their infancy, and finding different ways to balance the conflicting demands of range, weight, handling and even aesthetics has lead to some serious lateral thinking.
Focus SAM2 Pro review
Like the Focus Tailored Energy Concept, or TEC for sort. With a smaller, lighter 378Wh battery tucked neatly inside the down tube, not attached externally or forming part of the down tube integration, the Sam2 frame retains all the strength of a tubular structure which makes for a much lighter frame. How much lighter? With 170mm travel the Sam2 is closest in application to the Specialized Turbo Kenevo but it weighs in over 2.5kg less.
That’s and impressive weight saving but the smaller capacity battery, most e-bikes come with a 500Wh cell, means the range of the bike is also reduced. To extend the range of the Sam2 you can bolt on a second external 378Wh TEC pack battery that effectively doubles the run time.
But at what cost? Well, the up front cost for the second battery is £459 on top of what’s already an expensive bike. It also bumps the weight the bike up by 2kg, which means the Focus instantly goes from being the lightest bike in test to the third heaviest, albeit with by far the highest capacity battery.
Our biggest bugbear with the TEC system though, is that the internal battery isn’t easy to remove so if you don’t have a power supply where you store you bike, you’ll need to bring the whole bike indoors every time you charge it.
The Sam2 uses Focus Optimised Linkage Design (FOLD) suspension to dish out 170mm travel. It’s essentially a single pivot design with a neat linkage arrangement to drive the Kashima coated Fox Factory DPS shock. The configuration of the linkages is such that it’s is falling rate until you reach the sag point and from sag onwards it’s progressive. The idea being that it’ll be plush around the sag point and for than initial touch when the rear end is fully extend under braking, then ramp up once into its travel proper. And providing you don’t set it up with too much sag, it works a treat – the rear end proving plenty of support for cornering, while still allowing you to tap into all of the travel on bigger hits without the bike ever feeling sluggish or lifeless.
Balancing travel and keeping it top-tier suspension front and back is the 170mm Fox 36 Float Factory Fit4 suspension fork. It’s much more composed than the basic Grip damped 36 on the Canyon Spectral:ON, but Fox has almost swung too far in the opposite direction, as all but the heaviest riders will need to run the damping adjusters in the fully open position.
Sticking with the fully integrated system approach, Focus fits a Di2 specific handlebar and stem so the wires for the Shimano STEPS mode switch and display are safely concealed inside the bar and stem. The only problem being, that the 60mm stem is too long and we’d prefer a wider handlebars than 760mm option fitted. There are other aspects of the specification that fall short too. Namely, the faster rolling Maxxis Minion DHR II rear tyre. It would regularly break traction and wheel spin on loose climbs so Focus should have fitted the same tyre in the softer 3C Maxx Terra compound.
From the get go the Focus Jam2 impressed us with its incredible turn of speed. And given that it’s got the same Shimano STEPS E8000 motor as two of the other bikes in this test, the lighter frame construction and smaller capacity battery must account for it’s improved power-to-weight ratio. This bike simply wants to go.
It’s got superbly balanced handing too so weather your smashing though rock gardens or simply carving turns, you always feel centred on the bike with no excessive movement coming from the suspension.
Given that it has only 10mm less travel than the Specialized Turbo Kenevo it’s a completely different proposition and way more versatile. It shares one trait with the Specialized though, and that’s both bikes are relatively short.
With 170mm travel, aggressive angles and Shimano’s superbly calibrated STEPS motor, the Focus Sam2 is an enduro bike with a built-in shuttle. With the bolt on TEC pack you really can climb to new heights, but without it the smaller capacity internal battery means you need to be ultra economical with your energy use. It’s also frustrating that the internal battery can’t be removed easily for charging. By far the biggest frustration with the Jam2 though is that the sizing isn’t very generous and standover clearance is limited. It’s still a great e-bike, but when you’re spending this much money, you can afford to be fussy.