Less travel, more fun?
Focus VAM² SL Review

The new Focus Thron² SL is a rarity; a blend of 130 mm of travel, a weight of 18.6 kg, and a sub €7000 price tag is unmatched in the market. Has Focus hit the bullseye, or is the new Thron² SL a shot in the dark?

Youtube Video

The German manufacturer Focus is currently harnessing its full development prowess into the realm of E-MTBs. Few other brands boast such a sophisticated and extensive product line as the company from Stuttgart (Germany). With the new VAM² SL, it becomes clear what overarching strategy Focus is pursuing with its E-MTBs. The objective: Complete market penetration with bikes designed for every conceivable application.

Focus VAM² SL Review
Focus VAM² SL 9.8 - €6899 - 18.6 kg - 130/125 mm Travel

In the development of the Focus VAM² SL, everything was subordinate to the concept of lightweight construction. Otherwise, you simply can’t achieve an E-MTB at €6899 to tip the scales at just 18.6 kg. In fact, this bike is a further 1.2 kg lighter than its big brother, the Focus Jam² SL with 160 mm of travel. The top model of the Focus Vam² SL even weighs in at an impressive only 16.2 kg.

Key Facts on the New Focus VAM² SL

  • Travel: 130mm front / 125mm rear
  • Engine: Fazua Ride 60
  • Battery: 430 Wh (non-removable)
  • Prices: 4 models ranging from €5,799 to €10,999
  • Weight: From 16.2 kg to 19.1 kg (Our test bike priced at €6,899 weighed 18.6 kg)
Focus Vam² EMTB Review
The Focus VAM² SL aims to impress with lightweight construction at an affordable price.

The Focus VAM² SL frame is fully committed to lightweight construction

A closer look at the frame details reveals where the chassis saves weight compared to other EMTBs. While the Jam² SL previously had four pivot points at the rear triangle, the VAM² SL omits the bearing point in the chainstay and, like many other manufacturers, allows the rear end to flex slightly when the shock is compressed.

Additionally, the model priced at €6,899 already carries the model suffix “9” in its name. At Focus, this abbreviation consistently signifies the highest-grade carbon fiber. By comparison, the Jam² SL at the same price point still features a slightly heavier “8” carbon frame.

For the sake of weight reduction, the new Focus VAM² SL does away with a removable battery. A sealed downtube can be constructed with less material than one with a large opening for the battery. However, this means the battery can only be charged near an electrical outlet.

Focus VAM Battery Removal
The enclosed downtube is a nod to lightweight construction. There is no opening for battery removal.
Fazua Ride 60 Charging Port
The Fazua charging port. If you want to charge the battery, you need to be close to an outlet.

Tribute to Lightweight Construction

  • single-pivot rear suspension with flex stays instead of a four-bar linkage.
  • the limited suspension travel at the front and rear
  • integrated battery pack

The Focus VAM² SL has less travel than most E-MTBs

When looking at the facts, it becomes clear: The Focus VAM² SL models are remarkably lightweight for their price point, yet they offer only 130 mm of travel in the fork. The overwhelming majority of e-MTBs on the market boast significantly more travel.
Our extensive market overview reveals that well over 80% of e-MTBs priced above €5000 have 160 mm of travel or more. The reason that performance-oriented e-MTBs have substantially more travel than their non-motorized counterparts is twofold:
When a bike must be pedaled up a hill using one’s own muscle power, every gram counts. Since every millimeter of travel represents additional weight due to thicker forks, shock absorbers with piggyback reservoirs, or more downhill-oriented components, as a rider, you seriously consider whether you actually need 160 mm of travel, or if you could make do with just 130 mm.

Lightweight E-MTB with 130mm of Travel
Unique: The Focus VAM² SL features a modest 130mm of travel, significantly less than most e-MTBs on the market.

With an e-bike, where the motor already doubles or even multiplies your own pedaling effort, the importance of the weight you have to carry uphill diminishes. As a result, there’s no need to skimp on suspension travel as you might on a non-motorized MTB.
Since an EMTB is also 4 – 10 kilos heavier than a traditional MTB, having extra reserves for the descent doesn’t hurt. The additional weight increases the stress on the suspension and the rest of the components during the descent.
There’s a reason most EMTBs have 160 mm of fork travel. But beyond the added weight, there’s another factor that significantly influences the riding dynamics of EMTBs with substantial suspension travel.

Fazua Motor Uphill
Less suspension travel also means less weight. Paired with the Fazua Ride 60 motor, this makes for some joyous climbing.
Focus VAM² SL Downhill
Less suspension travel means less margin for error on descents. However, in light terrain, a bike with less travel is also more direct in its handling.

More travel doesn't just bring advantages

In addition to weight, more suspension travel also increases the Sag (or negative travel) in the suspension system. This can make handling on the trail a bit sluggish. The plush travel is really only taken advantage of when you’re ripping at high speeds, the terrain is insanely steep, or you’re hitting big jumps.
On tame trails, you’re essentially carting around extra travel for nothing. Sure, the motor powers you up the climbs, but even going downhill or on flat trails, you miss out on some of the riding fun.
When you want to pop the front wheel up, or flick the bike from left to right in a switchback, you have to pull the suspension out of the negative travel, and that takes extra effort on bikes heavy with travel. Focus skillfully exploits this aspect with the VAM² SL.

Focus VAM² SL Application Area
The Focus VAM² SL is a serious mountain bike. It doesn't shy away from the trails. However, in really rough terrain, the limit of 130mm travel is quickly reached. Focus is deliberately playing with the narrow application range in the conception of the new light E-MTB,

The Focus VAM² SL is the king of the niche

Additional travel offers more options in selecting trails or setting the pace, but it can also steal some fun when those options aren’t utilized. Most EMTBs on the market have been developed with the motto “better to have than to need” in regard to suspension travel. However, the VAM² SL pulls its ace exactly when you don’t need that extra travel.
During our test, it became evident: riding the VAM² SL on moderate trails is more enjoyable than a bike with 160 millimeters of travel or more. The handling is sharper. Changing direction or popping off small jumps requires less effort. Even without pedal-assist, it picks up speed effortlessly on short uphills or when accelerating out of corners.

Light E-MTB for Flowy Trails
On flowy trails, the VAM² SL plays its ace card.

While at this juncture on a suspension-rich, full-power EMTB one often waits for the motor to kick in for the next power spike, the fun factor and sense of flow are already present. On flowy, not overly technical trails, there’s nothing to complain about the VAM² SL’s suspension system.

The flip side of the coin: When the terrain gets truly gnarly, you’ll quickly leave your comfort zone with just 130 mm of travel at the fork. Even if the tires and brakes would handle rougher trails or higher speeds, a fundamental tenet of mountain biking comes into play: when it comes to rough terrain, there’s no substitute for travel. The scope of the Focus VAM² SL remains significantly sharper than other EMTBs.

Fazua Ride 60 Motor
The Fazua Ride 60 motor is almost invisibly concealed behind the chainring. The Focus VAM² SL also boasts a very subtle design as an E-MTB.

Fazua Ride 60 Motor – Light Yet Potent

Even though Bosch now has the SX as a light EMTB motor, it’s the Bavarian companies TQ and Fazua that are setting the pace in this category. During our test, it quickly becomes apparent that motor manufacturer Fazua defines the light-EMTB concept slightly differently than its competitor TQ. Fazua’s motor not only delivers significantly more torque from a standstill but also has noticeably more power at the top end.
When things get serious on technical or steep uphills, this motor bridges the gap to full-power motors and enables riding fun despite the “light concept.”
A real advantage over many full-power motors is that the Fazua Ride 60 motor doesn’t rattle downhill. Also, motor noise is only really noticeable in the highest support level, the Rocket Mode, during climbs. The field test was a blessing for our ears. TQ’s HPR 50 motor, for instance, which is used in Scott’s Lumen, is even quieter and impresses with a smoother power delivery but also has noticeably less oomph.

Fazua Remote Button
It works, but it's not exactly ergonomic: The Fazua ring remote for changing the motor mode.
Fazua Display
The Fazua motor system always comes sans display from the factory. Those who desire can have typical e-MTB data mirrored on a GPS bike computer.

A downside to the Fazua system is the bar-mounted ring switch. Switching assistance levels works even on the trail, but there’s definitely room for an upgrade in terms of feel and durability. Moreover, the system does not come with a display to show data like speed or remaining range by default. However, riders who use a GPS bike computer will actually appreciate this, as these metrics can be displayed there. This approach avoids the hassle of a double-display on the handlebars.
It’s a bit disappointing that the range extender for the system, long promised by Fazua, is not yet available. However, it’s expected to hit the market during the season and will significantly increase the built-in 430 watt-hours capacity. Compared to bikes equipped with a TQ motor, you already have an additional 70 watt-hours at your disposal.

Fazua Motor Noise
The Fazua motor not only provides quiet assistance on climbs, it also descends rattle-free – a rarity in the E-MTB industry.

Benefits of the Fazua Motor

  • relatively powerful for a lightweight e-MTB motor
  • just 1.9 kg in weight
  • compact construction
  • delivers its power without a loud motor buzz
  • doesn't rattle on the downhill.
  • boost mode for 12 Sec. of extra power

Drawbacks of the Fazua Ride 60 System

  • does not have a display
  • currently does not have an option for a range extender
  • available only in combination with a 430-Wh battery
  • thumb shifters on handlebars are considered less premium.
Focus VAM² SL Review
The silhouette of the new VAM² SL strongly resembles the Focus JAM² SL. This similarity is no coincidence.

Competition Within Its Own Ranks

Focus offers an expansive range of EMTBs. With the Thron, there’s even a full-power model sharing the exact same fork travel. However, in terms of weight and motor performance, the new VAM² SL sets a clear boundary from the Thron. The whole setup of the new VAM² SL has been fine-tuned more towards performance. It follows in the tire treads of the Jam² SL, which we have also had the opportunity to test.

Both bikes are designed for sporty riders. With their lighter motors and smaller batteries, they’re definitely lighter than their full-power counterparts without the SL designation. But they demand a bit more input from the rider on climbs. The Focus Jam² SL leans more towards the descent than the new VAM² SL. Focus aims to craft an uncompromising bike for every type of rider.

Focus Jam² SL Review
The Focus JAM² SL is the right tool for rougher terrain.
Focus Jam² SL Review
With 160mm of travel in the fork, the Focus JAM² SL is the big brother of the new VAM² SL.

Competition in the Lightweight E-MTB Segment

Our field testing has demonstrated that the Focus VAM² SL, with 130mm of travel, has a niche application but is still the go-to option for many riders. Currently, there’s limited competition in the market for the new VAM² SL. The Scott Lumen for instance, contends in the same travel category but sports a smaller battery, less power with the TQ motor, and comes at a higher price point. The Haibike Lyke or the Orbea Rise offer 140mm of fork travel and have not been as aggressively engineered for weight savings.

Scott Lumen
The fusion of 130mm of travel, a focus on lightweight construction, and Fazua's Ride 60 motor is a unique selling point in the market. Scott's Lumen is heading in a similar direction but relies on TQ's HPR 50 motor for propulsion.
Scott Lumen Review
Subscribe to the newsletter in the footer of this website and don't miss out when we drop the review on the Scott Lumen.

Conclusion on the Focus VAM² SL

The Focus VAM² SL is definitely not the multitool of E-MTBs. With its limited suspension travel, it’s designed for a very specific terrain. For those hitting the light trails, the new Focus VAM² SL is tailor-made for this environment. The Fazua motor brings some serious gusto to the light E-MTB sector, making the bike impressively agile. The harmony of price, weight, and specification makes the new VAM² SL a compelling pick for many trail riders. Weighing in at 18.6 kg with a price tag of €6,899, the 9.8 version of the VAM² SL is a straight-up fair deal that truly shines in light terrain.

All the latest Focus VAM² SL models at a glance

The bike comes in four different build options starting at 6,199 euros. All models feature a full carbon frame. The flagship model is priced just over 10,000 euros and weighs 16,2 kilograms. With this range, Focus covers everything from an affordable entry into the light E-MTB scene to the ultimate luxury product.

Unlike any other outlet, our innovative and absolutely objective testing system allows us to provide you with information on the complete model family. Here you can find the right Focus Jam² SL to suit your budget. General buying advice on Light EMTBs can be found here.

About the author

Ludwig

... hat mehr als 100.000 Kilometer im Sattel von über 1000 unterschiedlichen Mountainbikes verbracht. Die Quintessenz aus vielen Stunden auf dem Trail: Mountainbikes sind geil, wenn sie zu den persönlichen Vorlieben passen! Mit dieser Erkenntnis hat er bike-test.com gegründet, um Bikern zu helfen, ein ganz persönliches Traumbike zu finden.

Recommended for you

Bulls Sonic Evo SX Review

Bulls is one of the brands boasting the most extensive EMTB lineup. With the Sonic Evo ...

Focus VAM² SL Review

The new Focus Thron² SL is a rarity; a blend of 130 mm of travel, a weight of 18.6 kg, ...

Norco Sight VLT A1 Review

Range anxiety plagues many E-MTB aficionados with worry lines. Canadian bike manufactur...

Santa Cruz Heckler CC Review

The name Heckler is iconic. More than 20 years ago, the Heckler was a trailblazer among...