With a fairly low price tag for a decent women’s specific racer, the Focus Izalco Donna 3.0 might not seem like a contender. But this striking bike, with its fat bottom bracket and sculpted top tube, is a good all-rounder. 

First-time racers will benefit from an impressive frame, and the kit could be upgraded.

Ride handling: Not fast but confident and reliable

If Carlsberg designed bikes then they would probably combine creamy white, metallic espresso and misty blue in a paint scheme that will turn heads wherever you’re riding. Aesthetics aside, the Focus gives a solid, if heavy, ride.

This bike cruises well and absorbs the lumps and bumps of the Tarmac, thanks in part to the skinny seatstays. Getting it up to speed, however, isn’t slick. This is a heavy bike. 

That’s thanks largely to the wheels and gearing – the bike we tested had a triple chainset with a rear 12-27 block, which gives a huge spread of gears but adds some serious weight. All this means that exploding out of the saddle isn’t as easy or instant as with other bikes.

The handling isn’t the quickest – which is probably a good thing on an above-entry-level bike – but it is fluid, and shifting is clean and slick.

Hills are a bit of a slog, again largely due to the extra weight that the Donna carries. Descending on this bike is fun, though; the sloping top tube allows for a low and aero position and this time the extra weight is your friend. 

With this spec the Izalco Donna is definitely not a sprinter’s bike, despite the stiff, fat, front triangle and substantial bottom bracket. Realistically, you’re probably not going to be setting your fastest ever splits on this bike. But the longer we rode it, the more we liked it, and the German engineering inspires confidence.

Nevertheless, it is a reliable ride and if you’re lucky enough to have two bikes, it would be a perfect winter trainer, especially if you can stretch to the Izalco Donna 1.0 as your pure racing machine.

Frame equipment: Classy looks, standard spec and relaxed geometry

The Izalco Ergoride frame of the Izalco Donna is the German bike manufacturers’ attempt at reaching a wide range of riders. The Izalco Donna is the women-specific range of bikes based on the Ergo-R frame geometry. The unisex Izalco Pro 3.0 won Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2012.

The Donna isn’t a pure race bike – it’s designed to blend comfortable, laid-back geometry with performance-orientated features – but does have elements of a high-class racing machine. 

The full carbon frame is well crafted and striking, and the large down tube, head tube, fork and a fat bottom bracket certainly make it stand out from the crowd. It’s also primed with an “indestructible lacquer”, a nod to Focus’s commitment to building bikes with longevity.

Internal cable routing is impressive to see at this price point and maintains the sophisticated form of the frame shape. The cable tunnel runs over the top of the bottom bracket, which Focus claim will minimise friction and produce cleaner shifting on the road.

Compared to the unisex Izalco frame the head tube is taller, allowing for a more relaxed riding position. The sloping top tube is drastic, but is a female-friendly feature designed to reduce reach to the bars, increasing the comfort of the ride.

The top tube comes in at quite an angle but is a typical women’s specific feature

A tapered fork and head tube improve steering and the BB30 bottom bracket boosts power transfer.

There’s no doubt that much of the kit on this bike is pretty standard, which does jar with the top-end quality of the frame. What’s more, it’s hard to know what you’re really getting because Focus provide such basic information on their company website.

Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels, which retail for about £140 ($280), are entry level hoops weighing in at 1,849g. They’re perfectly acceptable but something to upgrade if you’re on the hunt for a race PB.

The Shimano 105 groupset is reliable and, combined with a cable tunnel that runs over the top of the bottom bracket, keeps shifting clean. A triple or compact chainset is available with either a combination of 50-34T chainset or 50/39/30 for the triple version.

A major plus point are the FSA Vero handlebars – a perfect drop with a reduced forward and downward throw suited to smaller female hands. Other lady-orientated features are adjustable-reach shifters and a women’s saddle.

article was originally published in Triathlon
magazine, available on Zinio.