With the ATLAS Carbon 8.9, FOCUS unveil a refined version of their existing alloy model. However, the fancy carbon construction retains the essential ATLAS DNA, screaming bikepacking and gravel adventures at the top of its voice. We’ve tested the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9 for you to tell you what’s new besides the carbon frame and eye-catching luggage.
FOCUS just released yet another updated model of the ATLAS, swapping the existing alloy frame for a fancy new carbon version. Following the “Made to lose” motto, FOCUS designed a bike that invites you to switch off, forget time and lose yourself. Still no race-focus despite the carbon frame? The ATLAS Carbon is 1.7 kg lighter than the alloy ATLAS 6.8, tipping the scales at 9 kg in size L without a pannier rack. While they were at it, the Germans also redesigned the stem from the ground up, which now routes the cables internally into the frame, ensuring a clean cockpit. We’ve put the € 4,299 FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9 flagship model through the wringer to tell you how FOCUS’ gravel all-rounder performs in real life.
Mounting point bonanza
If you take a closer look at the ATLAS Carbon 8.9, you’ll quickly realise that it was designed with bikepacking and adventures in mind and thus to deliver smiles rather than fast times. To achieve this, FOCUS’ engineers added countless mounting points for bottle cages, bags, racks and mudguards to the new carbon frame.
The minimalist pannier rack is sold separately and can take up to two dry bags with a maximum weight of 3 kg per side. Without the dry pack and straps, the rack weighs only 430 g.
The straps keep the dry bags securely in place, preventing them from moving around on uneven terrain.
The internally routed stem ensures a tidy cockpit and, together with wide 44 cm handlebars, allows you to attach a handlebar bag. In addition, the stem features a practical mount for a GPS device or cycle computer. Unfortunately, this is made entirely of plastic, which makes it more susceptible to impacts than a comparable alloy mount. Moreover, all ATLAS carbon models come standard with a purpose-built frame bag on the top tube, which neatly matches the width of the top tube and height of the stem. Another eye-catching detail is the golden brown metallic paint finish that sparkles in the sunlight.
Tidy! The cockpit of the ATLAS Carbon looks pretty decent.
The spec of the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9
The flagship ATLAS model comes equipped with an electronic 12-speed SRAM Rival eTap AXS XPLR drivetrain, with a 40T chainring and 10-40 t cassette, which provides enough oomph for fast-paced gravel blasts, and at the same time offers enough reserves for steep climbs with a few kilos of luggage on big expeditions. The Rival eTap AXS is intuitive to use while the hoods, which can now also be found on the new SRAM Force AXS, offer excellent ergonomics. However, there are other drivetrains out there that deliver faster and more precise shifting.
The carbon handlebars measure 44 cm in the tops and 52 cm in the drops, which should ensure good control off road. The 160 mm brake rotors are rather mediocre. If you’re happy to exceed the permissible total weight of 120 kg, you should consider upgrading to bigger 180 mm rotors. The 45 mm WTB Riddler tires make full use of the frame and fork’s 45 mm tire clearance, and should provide sufficient damping and traction on all sorts of terrain without feeling sluggish. If you want to run a front dynamo hub, you can use one without spoiling the clean look, because the fork comes standard with cable ports.
Practical detail! FOCUS integrate a bottle opener, as well as 4- and 6 mm Allen keys into the rear thru axle, allowing you to carry out basic roadside repairs and emergency hop top-ups.
Focus Atlas Carbon 8.9 2023
Seatpost Easton EC70 27.2 mmBrakes SRAM Rival eTap AXS 160/160 mmDrivetrain SRAM Rival eTap AXS 1×13Chainring 40TStem FOCUS C.I.S. integrated 90 mmHandlebar Easton EC70 AX 510 mmWheelset DT Swiss GR1600 12 x 100/12×148 mm Through AxleTires WTB Riddler TCS 700 x 45C 45Cranks SRAM Rival AXS 172.5 mmCassette SRAM XG-1251 10-44T
Size XS S M L XL
The geometry of the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9
The geometry of the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon is adapted to the bike’s intended use, and comfortable enough to embark on longer rides while at the same time sporty enough to challenge your riding buddies in a town-sign sprint. That said, the pedalling position is rather upright, so if you’re after a thoroughbred racer, you better look elsewhere. The ATLAS Carbon has a slightly shorter head tube than its alloy counterpart, the FOCUS ATLAS 6.8. This shortens the stack height by a few millimetres, ensuring a slightly sportier riding position. Apart from that, the carbon and alloy models have near identical geometries, sharing the same reach, head angle and seat tube angle.
The FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9 is a comfortable climber
FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9
First ride review: how does the ATLAS Carbon 8.9 fare?
We put the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9 through its paces on dusty gravel tracks, steep climbs and rocky descents both on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and the not-so-epic, cold, wet forest trails around Stuttgart. Loading the minimalist luggage rack proved a bit difficult at first. Tying down the straps properly takes some practice: if you place the pannier too far up, you’ll end up hitting the dry sack with your heels when pedalling, especially if you have big feet. Moreover, you’ll have to secure the strap-ends properly if you don’t want them to get tangled in the spokes.
Pleasantly quiet. Even when riding on rough cobbles the ATLAS Carbon doesn’t rattle.
Once all the bags are properly secured, the pannier rack works as promised.There’s no rattling or shaking, and everything stays in place even on rougher descents.The rest of the ATLAS Carbon, including the freehub, is pleasantly quiet too. The top tube bag, however, tends to rattle if it isn’t completely full, which is particularly noticeable on such a quiet bike.
The handling of the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon is pleasantly predictable. The steering is smooth and not at all nervous, neither on slow climbs nor on fast descents. Compared to sportier gravel racers, the ATLAS Carbon feels sluggish and doesn’t get up to speed as quickly. The wide 45 mm WTB Riddler tires roll willingly both on tarmac and gravel, and at the same time provide sufficient grip and damping, which comes in handy because the stiff frame and seatpost offer hardly any compliance. The ATLAS Carbon feels at home on both fine and chunkier gravel but doesn’t shy away from the occasional trail descent or longer tarmac section either, with the wide handlebars and beefy tires inspiring confidence in all situations. If you ask us, we had a blast with the ATLAS Carbon 8.9 and can imagine embarking on epic expeditions with it.
Who should take a closer look at the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9?
The ATLAS Carbon 8.9 is a robust and comfortable gravel bike that’s well suited for bikepacking, touring and self-supported long-distance races thanks to its geometry, character and countless mounting points. However, the ATLAS Carbon 8.9 is also a great companion for sporty commuters and epic weekend expeditions into the countryside.
Jacket POC Pro Thermal Vest Shoes QUOC Gran Tourer II
Our conclusions about the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9
With the ATLAS Carbon, FOCUS are delivering a coherent overall concept that combines sensible geometry with a solid spec and countless mounting points. All of this makes the FOCUS ATLAS Carbon 8.9 a highly versatile, comfortable do-it-all bike.
Plenty of mounting points for bikepackingVersatile
Flimsy computer holder
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Words: Jan Richter Photos: Jan Richter, Martin Staffa