Look at it as a serious XC racer, Focus Black Forest 4.0 is just an entry towards middle level bike. But, should you think to use it for light, hobby riding, then this Black Forrest suddenly becomes more interesting. For little over 1,000 euro you get hi-end Shimano XT transmission, together with a Rock Shox XC30 fork, which is entry level again. Does this combination work? We take Black Forest for a spin in the mountains…
Frame/On the track
One’s position on Black Forest is really sporty. You’ll pedal bent forward, with good aerodynamics, so climbing gets more tasty than with a cheaper bike. And here we’re not only talking about the seat tube angle – 73.5 degrees, one of the smallest values of the range that decides your position on the bike, but we’re also looking at 12.64 kilos (without pedals). And lesser weight means lesser effort while you’re climbing the mountain.
Handling feels just fine on the descents, but overall this bike isn’t too agile. 69 degrees for the head tube put the Black Forest right between two extremes: stability and agility. Thumbs up for the handle-bar, 640 mm wide, with a small rise and back sweep, so you’ll grab a bit of control from this one too.
The nicely finished frame weights 2,162 grams (size S, 16 inch) and is not the heaviest for this price range, but we also saw frames 300 grams lighter… It has a really impressive design, as the Germans liked to play with shades of blue, but the shape of the tubes is not spectacular at all. They are as round as they can be, even elliptic in some place, such as the down tube. We’re looking at a proven solid design (this is why the Black Forrest’s frame remained the same in the last few years), which fails instead to impress with its weight.
Our testing bench showed a fair amount of rigidity, 107 Nm/degree, which is encouraging if we also consider frame’s weight, but rather small if we look at some main competitors. Even so, this mountain bike fits an adult over 80 kilos, but if you want to ride it at its best you shouldn’t weight more the 90 kilos.
In brief, mountain trails are a good deal fun with Black Forest, thanks to its position and its equipment, which we describe below.
As we first said, the XT transmission with three chain rings and ten sprockets is the hot spot on this bike, which is quite fashionable. You’ll pull Shimano SLX levers, but there are no complaints regarding their functionality, as gears change quick and noiseless, even while climbing. The chain is equipped with PowerLink so it can be dismounted with bare hands – well, not so easily, but without a chain tool.
The 30 mm RockShox 30 fork works on coils and has settings for preload, rebound, and a Lock-Out function, ready to be used, from the handle bar. This is one of the best coil forks, works decently but still it won’t do the job like an air fork does. It weights 2.066 grams.
Brakes are really different to all what you may find in this class. They come from Tektro, but Focus has given up the old Draco, and luckily they’ve chosen Auriga Pro. The materials are not the best, levers shape takes time to get used with but they offer a better modulation than the fore mentioned brakes, bigger breaking power and the distance between lever and handlebar can be easily set from a knob. The 180 mm disc gets its job done, even the full assembly weights no less than 520 grams.
The 4.7 kilos wheels are made with Concept hubs and rims, a brand developed by Focus. Budget Conti X-King tires (made in India) are a decent solution for Black Forest, offering a relatively good grip on turns and climbing as long as the path stays dry. Of course, you can always upgrade to higher quality tires, maybe from the same range with X-King.
Black Forest 4.0 is quite a decent offer, judging by the price segment it belongs too. A fork upgrade will enhance its performances, the natural choice being a fork with air cartridge. Most of these bikes’ parts are strong enough, so you’ll only need some lighter more adherent tires to tackle difficult XC tracks, and why not, if you feel like having fun, some All Mountain tracks.
We have asked the importer for more explanations regarding the fork’s neck, and what we found out is that the bike is delivered with a longer neck fork, so you can adjust your position and cut it, if necessary.