Rise of the Machines: FOCUS BOLD² eMTB Review
Recently we were lucky enough to get a hold of a brand new, German made Focus BOLD² electric assist mountain bike (eMTB) to test ride. The RRP of this bike starts at $5,499 AUD which may appear to be a fair amount of money for a bike, but it is a standard market price for a hard tail eMTB.
Electric assist bikes (ebikes) haven’t been discussed a great deal on this website in the past, but this doesn’t mean that they we consider them to be insignificant and an unimportant component of increasing cycling participation. On the contrary, ebikes are most definitely a key element to bicycle riding, for both recreation and practical transport, becoming accessible and mainstream in the near future.
Whilst an eMTB is expensive compared to a non-assisted bike, and it still has limitations compared to a car, it is still an excellent example of how bikes such as the BOLD² can help to “fill the gap” and provide assisted mobility that is both enjoyable, functional and practical.
“Wow, that looks good!” – that’s we both said when we pulled the almost-complete bike out of it’s box. It’s also what another dozen casual observers said as we parked it in town and later on at the trail head car park. It’s a sleek bike, and it is sure to impress both casual riders and enthusiasts alike – if that’s you thing.
For practical use and commuting it probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea to put some tacky stickers on it to make it look less valuable and attractive to thieves. And use couple of very good locks if you leave it locked up in a public area!
At a glance, for the untrained eye, it doesn’t look like a typical ebike thanks to the integrated battery pack inside the custom down tube and the mid-drive Shimano Steps E8000 electric motor. Integrated cable routing, low profile attachment points (for the optional extra battery) and the in-frame on/off button also help to keep the bike looking sleek and neat.
The frame geometry is fairly relaxed and unisex thanks to the low angle of the top tube. The 650B wheels on our BOLD² test model came with wide, chunky 2.8″ all terrain Maxxis tyres which give it an aggressive, trail-ready look.
Matte colours and finish are well and truly the current customer preference, and the BOLD² does well with its matte black frame with matching gloss blue accents and branding on the frame and wheel set.
The flared air cooling intake ports and cable entry point on the frame’s down tube look a little out of place, but everyone who had a look at the bike agreed that they suited the style of the bike.
One small criticism was the the dropper seat post cable and lever looked like a last-minute addition, and wasn’t as cleanly integrated as the BOLD²’s other cables and components.
Performance and Handling
A part of the test process the bike was put through its paces by riding through town and some local unsealed trails.
Thanks to the clean design, light weight integrated battery, relaxed geometry and 650B, wide tyres the BOLD² handled very well both on and off road.
On-road, there was a fair amount of tyre noise which is understandable with such wide, aggressive tread tyres. Negotiating town traffic and manoeuvring around obstacles was easy thanks to the zippy and responsive electric motor and fairly upright MTB posture. The front suspension has a lockout feature, which helps to conserve energy while riding on sealed roads.
Off-road was a similar story. The bike was very comfortable and sure while riding on various terrain including loose sand, gravel and on some basic technical obstacles like logs and rocks. The added weight of the battery and motor was barely noticeable thanks to the low, spread out placement. The adjustable dropper seat post, whilst overkill for a hard tail trail MTB, did help on some bumpy descents. The hydraulic disc brakes with large 200mm rotors provided plenty of stopping power and compensated for the added weight of the motor and battery, even when barrelling down loose trails.
The bike is suitable for basic to moderate MTB trails, obstacles and small jumps, however the lack of rear suspension and added weight becomes problematic on advanced tails with rocky and technical sections.
Focus also make full suspension eMTBs in both trail and enduro styles, so if you’re after something that can go everywhere and still have the electric assist, check them out.
The BOLD² has the Shimano Steps E8000 250W motor with 70Nm of torque, paired with a 380Wh lithium battery pack that is integrated in the down tube. There is also an option to add an additional external battery to the down tube, providing a total of 800Wh of battery power to use.
We only tested the BOLD² with the default integrated battery and found that battery life was more than adequate for general use around town and short trail rides. It is important to note that the integrated battery is not quick release like a frame mounted battery, so the bike must be brought close to a power outlet to charge the on-board battery. The ability to detach the batter and charge it wherever is convenient is one major benefit to frame mounted batteries.
The E8000 motor has four options for electric assist: off, eco (low), trail (medium) and boost (high). We rode using the trail mode both in town and on the MTB trails as it provided a noticeable amount of assistance, while still requiring a reasonable amount of pedal input from the rider. The E8000 also has a “walk assist” mode to use while walking with the bike.
The distance per charge depends on the rider, terrain, topography and the mode. Generally the battery will provide enough power for approximately 30-45km per full charge for the average rider, using a mix of eco and trail modes on the fly as needed.
The on/off button for the electric assist motor is clearly and well placed on the top tube, and it lights up and initially flashes to riders know it has been turned on or off. The Shimano colour LCD display is small, but very clear and easy to read while riding.
Conclusion: Final thoughts on the BOLD²
The BOLD² is a sleek, high quality and trail ready eMTB built for a growing niche market. The price reflects it as a premium bike. The BOLD²’s features, technology and design allow it to comfortably stand next to similar eMTBs from the larger manufacturers such as the Specialized Turbo Levo, Trek PowerFly 5 and Giant Dirt-E+.
It won’t be suitable for everyone, but for people with the money to spare who are looking for a zippy, fun hard tail eMTB that makes riding around the local trails and short town runs it will be perfect. If Focus made the adjustable dropper seat post optional and slightly reduced the RRP to suit, the BOLD² would have an edge over similar eMTBs in it’s category.
However, unless you live in the bush, the BOLD² isn’t particularly suitable as a utility or commuting bike due to the smaller battery capacity, trail tyres and lack of pannier rack/fender mounting points.
Keep the BOLD² for weekend adventures and use a utility focussed bike for your daily commute.
If you haven’t tested out a ebike, much less a eMTB, then words really don’t justify how fun these bikes are. Give your local bike shop a call and see what they have in stock or can get in as a demo for a test ride.
Do you own or have you used an electric assist MTB? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!