Focus actually gave us a sneak preview of their Project Y concept more than a year ago as a lightweight hardtail mountain bike that tipped the scales at just under 13kg/28.6lb complete. Focus’ thinking essentially boiled down to the fact that they were frustrated with the way e-bikes and eMTBs in particular had been in a race to the lowest common denominator of developing bigger motors and longer range batteries that essentially were making e-bikes heavy & lose the natural feel of riding a bike.

Their latest dropbar Project Y bikes though, aim to bring back that natural ride feel with a light & relatively low power electric motor assist system fully integrated into a carbon frame that can transition from an all road bike to a cyclocross bike to a bikepacking adventure tourer depending on how it’s set up. The idea was to build a series of dropbar e-bikes that had a smooth pedal assist that only really kicked in when you really start climbing.

For now the bikes are still concepts and not quite rideable yet (the three bikes we take a close look at after the break have literally only been built up less than a week), but Focus was rolling them out to a dealer preview this week and aims to have they hitting the trail in the next week or two. We can really see much future in motorized cross other than maybe as a joke (right, Femke?), but the rational idea of adding motors to bikes has always been about extending the adventure, so maybe there could be something to Project Y if it manages to balance the power, range & weight trade-offs properly. Most importantly, Focus wants feedback on the project, so read on and chime in…

Road

The Project Y (project why?) bikes all use the same common Fazua Evation e-bike drive system developed in Munich, Germany. What it amounts to is a removable ‘Drive Pack’ system that fits inside the bike’s downtube and includes both the nominal 250W motor & 250Wh battery. Focus has incorporated it into the carbon downtubes of these bikes that is pretty much an unobtrusive as any e-bike on the market.

The Road version is intended to get a Dura-Ace Di2 group with 52/36 gearing and an 11-30 cassette, paired with a carbon Easton EC90 aero bar, Prologo Scratch carbon railed saddle, and 28mm Continental GP4000S tires.

While the Drive Pack is removable, power is transferred to the drivetrain through a gearbox mounted at (and including) the bottom bracket.

There, the gearbox turns an integral 110BCD spider to put power to the rear wheel. Rider input is supplied through a pair of independent carbon FSA crank arms that attach with a splined interface.  Focus has a number for spider and chainring setups for 2x or 1x road & off-road riding. The bikes themselves can go with or without a braze-on front derailleur mount.

Just above the bottom bracket on the downtube you can see the alloy cooling fins where the motor sits within the overall Drive Pack. For now the bikes are using Fazua’s standard Evation remote to control the different modes of pedal assist, but they aim to integrate a more low-profile solution before the bikes would near any level of production.

Cyclocross

We had to laugh when we saw a ‘race-ready’? cyclocross bike with a stealthy electric motor. I mean this is why we have the UCI scanning bikes for hidden motors now, right?

The Cross version is intended to get a mixed Dura-Ace+XTR Di2 1x group with a 42T chainring & 11-40 cassette, finished off with a carbon Easton EC90 SLX3 bar, Prologo Scratch carbon railed saddle, and 32mm Conti Cyclocross King tires with XTR pedals.

But the cross bike version of the Project Y is more about playing in the mud than actually racing (we hope!)

All of the Project Y bikes interestingly use Boost spacing and Focus’ own RAT quick release thru-axles. That means we have three ‘road’ bikes here with 12x148mm rear and 12x110mm front spacing… Road Boost!

That was actually the limiting factor why we didn’t get to test ride the bikes. Focus had just built up these first pre-production carbon frames to show us, but hadn’t yet made the proper 110mm RAT axle for the front. What that also involved were Boost spaced road wheels, but Focus worked together with DT Swiss to have some mid-depth Swiss Side-developed aero carbon tubeless wheels built up custom for the project in their BPM wheel works with wider MTB hubs, yet with that smaller diameter front axle…

The flat mount disc brake only bikes get modular internal cable routing, with each of these bikes setup with Di2 shifting and hydraulic Dura-Ace brakes.

Inside the open carbon downtube we can get a look at what make the Project Y bikes and their Fazua system tick. Rear shift wire & brake hose get routed through the open tube as well as the e-bike control wiring. The Drive Pack then slots into place at the bottom bracket-mounted gearbox, and the motor transfers power through the three-lobed drive spline.

Control wiring is actually routed externally from the bottom of the bolt-on gear box to the mode selector remote and the rear wheel speed sensor that is mounted on the non-driveside chainstay, just above the rear brake line. The bikes’ assist is limited at the standard 25km/hr, but Focus says that their smooth low power design makes it feel natural to transition to higher speeds on the flats and downhills – something we’d be happy to see vs. the major 25km/hr power drop off we feel on most eMTBs.

At the top of the downtube we can see the simple latch that keeps the Drive Pack in place securely over rough terrain, and then the motor+battery Drive Pack combo resting separately, leaned against the handlebar.

Adventure

The bikepacking adventure bike could be the application that most makes sense for the Project Y e-bike. When you are already packing an extra 10kg of camping gear the extra 4.7kg of the Fazua system will likely have less of an impact on overall ride quality, and the extra help up the climbs will be all the more welcome.

The Adventure version is intended to get a mixed Dura-Ace+XTR Di2 2x group with a 50/34 chainset & 11-40 cassette, finished off with the EC90 SLX3 bar, a Brooks Cambium C15 saddle & matching bartape, 33mm Challenge Chicane clinchers, XTR trail pedals, and an Ortlieb Seat, Handlebar & Frame Packs.

Focus got a bit excited with this adventure build and pieced together an XTR Di2 rear derailleur and a Dura-Ace Di2 front derailleur. Unfortunately that setup won’t work, so they will stick with either XTR or Dura-Ace for both, but they hadn’t yet figured out which way they planned to go. We talked with the European Shimano team again about why there is still the issue where you can’t mix mountain & road Di2 derailleurs in a single setup, and they essentially differed to the Japanese engineers.

The official line comes down to the fact that road drivetrains are “system engineered” to work perfectly with one another, and the same with mountain bike drivetrains, meaning that Shimano does not specifically engineered them to be “cross compatible”. As we know “both derailleurs need to come from the same group, although the shifters or switches are interchangeable”.

We can surmise that it has a bit to do with differences in chainring steps, plus the variance in the angle of chains from exiting road vs. MTB derailleurs, but still  we think that there is little practical reason why it isn’t made to work. It is good to see that the Project Y bikes look to have some provision to mount fenders, with tiny bosses on both the dropouts and fork tips to attach fender stays.

That’s a lot of kit strapped to the bar, so we’d be happy for a little e-assist. And even at 12kg before we load down the bags, good hydro disc brakes & 160mm rotors will be nice to pull the bike back to a stop.

Probably the real key difference to other e-bikes here is that Focus sees the power assist levels as being much lower than what you typically see. Even though the motors have a 250W output (with peak outputs of 400W for short bursts), they have these bikes setup so the assist levels would be 70W, 120W & 250W, respectively. They claim that is maybe less than half or less of what other companies are doing, and goes a long way to making it feel more like you are just having a good day on the bike with fresh legs rather than riding a motorcycle. Save the high power output for the steepest of climbs and enjoy pedaling like you normally would.

Focus thinks this is the balance to riding & enjoying an e-bike like you would a regular bike, and allows them to keep the bike weights low & the riding assist natural. Their goal is to build these bikes under 12kg/26.5lbs, and to do that these builds are pretty top spec, so expect really high prices to match if and when they finally come to market.

Time will tell if it will work as describe and ultimately catch on. I’ve personally thought that several e-bikes I’ve ridden would have benefitted from less boost for rideability, so maybe they are onto something. Feel free to chime in here, and Focus wants your feedback as well as Project Y goes forward…

Focus-bikes.com

33 COMMENTS

  1. If your bike is going to have a motor, go all the way and get the fastest, biggest motor with the biggest battery possible. Otherwise, spend the money on a personal trainer if you need help on only the steepest of climbs.

    • Faraday has a smaller motor and battery than most e-bikes on the market, yet they are selling quite well. So bigger doesn’t mean better.

    • what like a gsxr1000rr? some people still want to do most of the work just may need a chop out here and there, the people buying these bikes aren’t 20 y/o putting out 400 watts

  2. About time we got some road-going e-bikes that look good! Some of us just want a little boost to make every day feel like the best day riding. Don’t need 1000watts, give me a nice 100 watts to feel like a champ and keep up with city traffic so I’m not a sitting duck while drivers close in at 10-20mph while texting.

  3. Seems like a test ride would be the best way to have a proper comment. Would like to ride one or comments from reviewers. I like the concept of a less powered and lighter ebike… maybe it’s more efficient then a beastly powered ebike. Very interesting and look forward to seeing more about these bikes.

  4. Can’t tell, but something seems a little out of FOCUS.

    When super small market brands go off the reservation and create something most big brands wouldn’t touch it’s often not good.

    I don’t see people begging for the latest Focus Pedal or full-on Ebike. So, there’s definitely a market for something in the middle, right… Right?

    • Focus is a HUGE international brand. The US is probably 5% of their market.

      Giant already makes a similar design. Trek and Specialized will have one in a year or two, I guarantee.

      I do like your pun though.

      • As you mentioned, trek and specialized are on it. Worth waiting on either one of them.

        At the very least, the have a stronger (US) dealer network, where you can shop online, etc etc.

  5. If you want to go see lots more things and cover more distance than you ever could pedaling, this is the way to do it. I rode a motorized Electra Townie yesterday, my first electric motorbike experience, freakin amazing difference. Fairly well zooming up a solid pitch I am well acquainted with, and thats with lock in the basket, wearing flip flops and a skate lid. Electric motor bikes are not BICYCLES, they are mopeds and the little amount of effort that was required to make it get to speed was shocking. Take a pig of a city bike, add juice and the thing was actually a little scary how fast it would go around the city, and I ride in traffic all the time. I am a bicycle rider first, I ride to test myself and enjoy the challenge, I cannot see myself getting one. But motors in the future are massive game changers. Even this type of electrified road bike will have a place on the road once the BIG companies start marketing them. If ‘fun’ is a prominent word in a riders reason to ride, adding electric motors are way more ‘fun’. Just don’t confuse it with bicycle riding.

    • I think it’s still bicycle riding, just more fun for the millions who don’t think of strenuous, painful work as fun like us lunatics do. If it gets more people riding, great!

      I bet Focus sells a bunch of these to couples who want to ride together but are too far apart in fitness to have a ride that both would enjoy.

      • Also interesting is the 25kph limit, the EU “catch speed”. I would Der if they’ll crank that limit up to 45kph/28 mph for the US market?

      • I totally agree. I’d buy it in a heartbeat, if I could justify to my wife (who is not an avid rider, 3 times a year?) why I need to spend $8k on a battery powered, carbon, DI2 shifting bike, that she would ride 4 times a year. Now, if they built an aluminum version with 105 (what, 3 pounds heavier?) priced for the casual significant other, or even junior who wants to keep up with dad on longer rides, I’d be interested.

  6. They held those wires in place with electrical tape? Really?

    As Cory says, the adventure bike may be the best application, but only if you hit up a hotel every other night (or every night) to charge it

  7. What the battery life at various outputs (70, 150, max)?

    If this is to “explore more” those figures are key. Would I sometimes love to be fresher after a long 15 mi climb 70 miles into a 100 mile day knowing I may have headwinds on the final stretch. Probably not. But, whether this works for that is dependent on whether than extra 8-10 lbs becomes a bigger burden at the tail end after I’m already exhausted.

    • The Shimano STEPS system gets upwards of 60 miles on a charge at the Eco setting which should be putting out ~100-150 watts. That battery pack is a little over 400 Wh. I’d give this 40 miles or so, max. It won’t be bad if this motor is really low on drag when your not using it at all.

  8. Hats off – these took some balls to release and look great. And from ze (normally conservative) Germans no less. More of the big name brands need to think outside the box a bit when it comes to e-bikes…tear up the rulebook.

  9. This is quite simply the very best idea in cycling since decades! If I think of some of my elderly club mates – you know, those who rode bikes for 60 years, but now start lacking the punch to hang on to the gang when the going gets a bit heavier – I see them sitting with the rest of us on the hills, instead of having to either drop out, or us waiting for them. Every time. Cheating? Come on, bicycling is about having fun, and you can have more fun, when it actually gives you pleasure instead of pain and frustrations. I am SURE this will be my bike some day – hopefully not soon, but eventually we’ll all get there – or die!

    • Exactly! These bikes have a purpose. If you don’t need an e-bike; great… If they would help you pick up your errands without a car, that’s a good thing. One less car and one more bike makes my day a safer one.

      The Focus in particular make me think of a day when my son and I can share a day in the mountains when he is in his 20’s and I’m in my 60’s.

      I spent a few years in Switzerland and e-bikes are much more “normal”; whether for transport or for helping the older (and still very fit) guys spend a long day on the bike and not have to kill themselves to get over the summits.

      The big difference is that on mainland Europe (at least compared to UK) bikes are much more considered as transport; not just as a hobby. Thus much less snobbery about e-assistance.

  10. Do not want one but I will consider one for the wife, she could ride with me and keep up and we could enjoy the time together.

  11. Great concept. If they can get it to be light, but make it feel faster uphill than a weight weenie bike (an expensive one and/or one that lacks reliability/durability), I would consider the electrification to be worth it, especially if it proves to be robust and carries its weight well.

    I’d love to get some girls into biking, and actually be able to ride with them without dropping them. An e-bike that rides like a real bike, but isn’t 50+ lbs, which a girl can lift onto a car rack, or over a gate, is a dream solution of mine. I’ve been waiting for a while.

    I know these girls enough to know they wouldn’t persevere through the normal entry level to advanced suffering process, since they don’t have the sporty enthusiast’s willpower. After riding an e-mtb myself, I know that it’s still a workout, especially if you’re trying to go fast.

  12. Love the idea of small motor, small battery. Bosch too big, heavy. Pushing 60 with multiple surgeries, Give me 42 pound FS mtb with just enough push for the long climbs. Interchangeable motor sizes for bb; and Make the downtube accept a larger battery and smaller battery for shorter rides or longer rides. Get the 21700 in production or liquid lithium going. Weight restrictions on frames so that you can build them lighter for people who are not heavy and are not jumping, shredding, etc. 140 max travel on lighter frames. Still have to lift into truck or up stairs.

  13. Major spinal injury 3 yrs ago my eMTB has saved my life, but it weighs a ton and is overkill for 90% of rides.
    Modular batteries smaller lighter bikes/motors would do it for me now. I don’t need to carry enough juice to summit snowden, rage anxiety is for tesla owners we have legs. B battery it’s nice to have for the weekend but I don’t want a e motor bike. Focus are onto it here oldies and injured want these bikes and we don’t want EVERYONE to know we can’t quite cut it 😉 I’d buy one to save face alone

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