For racers by racers: the team of designers behind the SAM even includes current German Enduro Champion Fabian Scholz. So how will the FOCUS SAM LTD fare when we take it away from the racetracks of the world?
Linear and business-like in form, the bright blue colourway on the SAM gives it a sense of speed – and rightfully so, as even a few pedal strokes on the trail demonstrate the proof is in the pudding. With its long and slack geometry, this FOCUS model is essentially made for high speeds.
In the mind of the SAM, the concepts of ‘too steep,’ ‘too gnarly,’ or ‘too technical’ just do not exist. The SAM manages to ease its way over rock gardens as if on rails, with the rear end and the FOX 34 fork efficiently ironing out whatever the trail throws at it. Exit speeds are the bike’s forte, with chain torque stiffening the rear end and helping the bike to accelerate.
However, such aggressive geometry isn’t going to suit every rider. The tighter the corners, the more skill is needed on the part of the rider to hold one’s line with enough pressure on the front wheel. A shorter and higher cockpit could be useful here. But if you’re already on the issue of exchanging parts, then the cheap Shimano brakes need to go: even on short, gentle downhills, they quickly reach their limits and demand a lot of exertion from the rider as they fade. The rest of spec fortunately doesn’t give any reason to complain – the parts function well and suit the bike’s intended use. We’re stoked to see that FOCUS have chosen a 1×11 drivetrain for all the SAM models this year, which suits the very apt ‘less is more’ ethos. The gear ratio on the SAM is more than capable of tackling steep gradients, the only sore point being the slightly twitchy front wheel when the uphills get technical. Just remember that climbs are never going to be the end-all and be-all for the SAM.
Details of the FOCUS SAM LTD
Tune-up potential: Neither the 60 mm stem length nor the shape of the bars earned the approval of our testers. If you’re looking for tune-up potential on the SAM LTD, it’d be a good idea to invest in a new cockpit.
Generous: The inexpensive RockShox Monarch rear shock soaks up uneven terrain expertly and still delivers sufficient ground feedback. Risk of harsh bottom-outs? Not a chance.
Incompetent: Even though the SAM is prepped for high speeds (and everyone knows the later you brake, the faster you go), the budget Shimano brakes just won’t cut the biscuit with their poor performance. As a result, the fun is marred and you risk losing crucial seconds in a race.
Cleaned up: FOCUS have given the SAM a super-clean silhouette by routing the cables in at the head tube and threading them internally.
Specification: FOCUS SAM LTD
- Fork: FOX 34 Float FIT4 Performance 160 mm
- Shock: RockShox Monarch RT (160 mm rear wheel travel)
- Drivetrain: SRAM GX 1×11
- Brakes: Shimano M396
- Seatpost: Concept EX Drop
- Stem: Concept EX
- Handlebar: Concept EX
- Tyres: Continental Maountain King 2.4″
- Wheelsize: 27.5″
- Wheelset: Concept EX
- Weight: 14.04 kg
- Price: € 2,599
Conclusion of the FOCUS SAM LTD
The FOCUS SAM begs to be ridden hard and fast, so seek out the gnarliest trails around. All it asks for in return is a dynamic and confident rider who’s capable of exploiting the SAM’s strengths. Less experienced riders searching for a playful bike for slower, more mellow trails had better look elsewhere. The SAM is the ideal bike for racers pushing themselves on technical routes!
- Super smooth
- Balanced suspension
- Aggressive geometry
- Not for beginners
- Weak brakes
More information on the SAM ltd can be found on the Focus Website.
This bike was part of our Group Test: Ten Trail & Enduro Bikes 2016 under €2599.
All bikes tested: Bergamont Trailster 6.0 | Canyon Spectral AL 7.0 EX | COMMENCAL Meta AM V4 | Ghost SL AMR 5 | GIANT Trance 2 Ltd | Propain Tyee Comp | Radon Slide 150 8.0 HD | Rose Uncle Jimbo 1 | Solid Magix Comp
Fancy a higher end spec of the FOCUS SAM? Check out our FOCUS SAM C Team review.
Text & Photos: Christoph Bayer
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.