Swiss design and German engineering come together to create a razor sharp TT and triathlon bike, but how does the Izalco Chrono Max 2.0 perform on the road?
Twenty years ago, Focus launched with a range of six mountain bikes. Nine years later, in 2003, the German brand designed its first road bikes and enjoyed instant popularity. Focus is now a household name in Australian bike shops and its core values of offering value-for-money bikes, created from precise German engineering, have propelled the brand into the pro peloton and the Tour de France – AG2R La Mondiale Pro Cycling Team uses the frameset of the Chrono for its tests against the clock.
The Izalco Chrono Max 2.0 is one of three aero bikes in the Chrono range – Focus’s only TT and triathlon series. Boasting Shimano Ultegra Di2 and a razor-sharp profile, this model is the attention-grabbing middle child of the series, aimed at competitive triathletes who take their sport seriously.
The first Chrono was launched six years ago, but in 2013 Swiss aerodynamics expert Andreas Walser – one of Europe’s top TT frame builders and a man who knows a thing or two about getting more aero – started again and created an all-new model.
Walser aimed to create a super-stiff bike that delivered maximum power transfer using a new carbon layup and a radical new profile. This is a bike that rivals some of the best out there – in wind tunnel tests against the Cervélo P3, the Chrono is very competitive. But with this dedication to performance comes a compromise The rear is kept relatively clean for a more aerodynamic appeal or an Olympic distance triathlon rather than the full, epic Ironman distance.
The Chrono Max 2.0 cuts a striking pose with a slick, clean profile built around a ruler-straight top tube, an aerodynamic cockpit and an integrated stem and seatpost.
The Profile T2 Wing with T4 Aero Bar – our test bike featured the 3T Auro Pro – is an impressive addition that aims to provide a comfortable, ergonomic position. Since the first Chrono hit the market tube profiles have evolved significantly and this is clearly evident in the ultra-thin, sharp-edged tube profiles, the wheel-wrapping seat tube and deep-bladed seatstays. A flush, drag-reducing seat clamp is another nice touch.
On the road this translates into a bike that rides fast. On the flat the Chrono slices through the wind and has the potential to leave your fellow riders well behind. With additional aero features like the brakes – the front brake sits flush on the fork and frame and is positioned under the bottom bracket – there’s no excuse for not setting that PB. What’s more, the Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset provides fast, precise and reliable shifting (as long as you remember to charge the battery).
Whilst it’s nice to see Di2 on a bike of this price point, the set-up offered on the Chrono is a bit of a halfway house; you’re only getting the electric shifters on the extensions and not a second set on the brake levers, a simple upgrade. This takes away the advantage of being able to change gear slickly post- or pre-corner, or as you go into a climb, and some would say this wastes the potential of Di2 on an aero bike. Our test bike was, however, fully Di2 equipped.
The Fulcrum WH-CPX 1700 wheels are fast, hard-working and sleek, and with the addition of Schwalbe Ironman tyres provide good traction and low rolling resistance – an upgrade might be in order though if you’re looking for your very best time. Something like the Enve SES 3.4 as tested worked brilliantly.
A feature certainly worthy of a mention is Fizik’s Arione TRI2 saddle – and not only because it matches the frame colour. Designed specifically for those tip-of-the-saddle efforts, at 310mm the Tri 2 is longer than a regular road saddle allowing you to move forward into an aero position on the flat and move back when you climb. What’s more, the nose is lightly padded for comfort.
The gearing is sensible and follows the recent trend for offering a mid-compact crankset (52/36), a combination that comes into its own in the mountains. The 11-28 cassette will give you all the gears you’re likely to need.
There’s no point beating around the bush here– this is a stiff, performance-oriented machine with an aggressive position aimed at high speed rather than comfort. The long drop down from the saddle to the arm extensions might not suit everyone, and flexibility is the order of the day. It’s also worth knowing that the Chrono comes with a triathlon stem as standard, which is 30mm higher than the TT stem that true testers might favour.
The Chrono frame is super stiff offering precise steering and maximising your power output – everything you put in will propel you forwards. The narrow, tear-drop tube shape uses additional material – essential for wind-cutting performance – but can add a little weight, and so this is a bike that’s suited to a flat, high-speed course, rather than a hilly course. Once up to speed, however, the Chrono is a beast that’s hard to stop.
All in all this is a slick, stealthy package that offers an impressive ride and great value-for- money for any triathlete aiming high and looking at choosing their next race machine.