Focus has been a little late to the best gravel bike party but its new Atlas gravel bike should find favour with the burgeoning off-road audience: it's an alloy cruiser with all the barnacles needed to mount up your essentials and head out into the wilderness. Named after the African mountain range it was designed to tackle, according to Focus the Atlas boasts compatibility with a dropper post, suspension fork and 650b tyres.
It's fair to say that Focus has arrived pretty late to the gravel party, however rather than charging full steam ahead of the pack, the marketing and ride of the Atlas show that the brand is happy to roll in with an easy-going, exploration cruiser. If you’re not fussed about having the lightest, fastest ride then the result is a tough, versatile, future-proofed and fun all-rounder for the dirtier, more distant side of drop-bar riding.
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Design and geometry
The alloy frame of the Atlas certainly looks tough enough to put the world on its shoulders. The distinctive inverted-taper oversized head tube gets an Acros headset with cable entry ports for neat internal routing, but there are blanked plugs for conventional down tube cable/hose entry too if you’d rather run that style.
The large rectangular down tube has a triple-mount high/low internal frame bottle position, and a second underside mount, and then broadens towards the threaded bottom bracket block where you’ll find the exit slot for the brake and gear lines on the underside. The seat tube also swells broader at the base, with a plugged entry point for a dropper post and a high bottle cage mount.
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The front mech is clamp-on, so the single ring versions of the bike get a clean look. Meanwhile, the tapering rectangular top tube has a bag mount that’s already occupied by a neat, zipped top tube snack bag. The 148mm wide ‘Road Boost’ rear end features wide-stance squared-section seat stays that start low on the seat tube with a curved hoop brace to add a mudguard/fender anchor point. It’s also bolted ready for a full four-point rear rack.
The tapering rectangular chainstays also get a curved fender bridge but forged plates linking to the wide bottom bracket still mean masses of room around the 45mm tyres. Although it comes kitted with 700c wheels, the Atlas will also take 650B wheels if that’s more your thing.
Neat flat-mount brake dropouts and a really nice 3D-forged seatpost clamp complement the classily understated matte paint finish.
Triple bolt ‘Anything’ mounts sit low on flat-sided, full carbon forks which also get fender eyes and a 12mm bolt through axle. The 425mm fork length means you can switch to a suspension fork like Fox’s 427mm long AX without messing up geometry.
On the subject of geometry, Focus suggests that the Atlas is a progressive, MTB-style machine — short stem, wide bar, slack head angle, long reach — but that’s only true compared to a pure road bike, not most gravel bikes.
The 70.5-degree head angle on our test bike was matched with a mid-length 70mm stem, but according to the website specification, it should be 90mm. While the bars are subtly flared they’re only 440mm wide across the top which is hardly extreme. The top tube is shorter than the seat tube (reach is 410mm on the large) which makes sizing up tricky and the seat tube sits at 73.5-degrees. The back end is relatively short considering the ample tyre clearance though.
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Components and build
There are four different Atlas builds, topped by the single ring Shimano GRX 810 equipped 6.9 at £2,299.
This is followed by the 6.8 that we had in to test. At £1,899 — a price when most bikes feature baseline 10-speed GRX 400 — gets a mix of 800 and 600 series 11-speed gearing and GRX 600 disc brakes. Then add to this Novatec hub-based, mid-width, mid-depth tubeless-ready aero wheels mated with fast-rolling, high-volume tubeless-ready WTB Riddler 45mm tyres.
There are then two 6.7 models using GRX 400: a £1,699 ‘EQP’ version fully loaded with lights, mudguards, a kickstand and rear rack, and a standard ‘bare’ version at £1,499.
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Ride, handling and performance
There’s a lot to like about the Atlas in terms of cargo capacity and compatibility with a dropper post and suspension fork, and they’ve dialled in a really enjoyable ride, too. Weight means it takes a slightly relaxed attitude to acceleration, but it certainly doesn’t feel muted or ‘meh’ through the pedals. It’s also an impressively smooth and cultured ride for an alloy-framed bike.
The long full carbon fork sucks a lot of sting out of rougher trails, keeping the flat top bars comfortable for hour after hour even on rough trails. Switching the tyres and mid-width rims to tubeless and dropping the pressure down to around 30psi unlocks the ‘hovercraft’ potential of the large volume tyres too. The Riddlers are fast-rolling, so once you’ve got it up to cruising speed the whole bike rolls on with persistent momentum even through potholes, over tractor ruts or along rooty, rocky singletrack.
The double chainset gives quiet, smooth access to a wide range of off- and on-road gears to keep that speed topped up, or crawl easily up climbs with the 30x36T lowest ratio. The brakes are consistent and controlled too, although it can be hard to get full power from the hoods. Alongside the tall head tube, the bars sit pretty high and that meant we generally descended on the shallow drops, which also added useful steering leverage.
While it’s not radically bravery-boosting, the geometry doesn’t undermine confidence on more challenging trails. The steeper head and short backend keep it feeling agile and lively on singletrack even though it’s not a lightweight defier of gravity. The semi-aero bar tops add to comfort as well and the tucked in cable routing that leaves plenty of clear space for bar bags.
Being able to fit a dropper post allows you to reduce your centre of gravity and increase bodyweight-manoeuvring clearance. If you really want to increase smoothness and control then there’s the suspension fork option, too. That’s still pretty rare and definitely a future-proofing bonus even if the handling is less ‘MTB’ than the most progressive bikes.
Focus hasn’t set out to make the Atlas groundbreaking, instead, it's concentrated on producing a bike that’ll cross a lot of varied ground without breaking you.
The result is a distinctly comfortable and enjoyably easy cruiser, with reassuring rather than radical handling and a standout smooth ride at a really good price. The ability to fully load it using the frame fixtures obviously expands exploring potential, while dropper post, suspension fork and Road Boost compatibility make it a truly versatile option for those seeking an all-rounder.
Temperature: 8-18 degrees,
Surface: Road, gravel bike path, farm tracks, fields, singletrack, blue-grade MTB trails.
Tech Specs: Focus Atlas 6.8 gravel bike
Model name: Focus Atlas 6.8
Head angle: 70.5 degrees
Frame material: Alloy
Size: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
Weight: 10.6kg (Size L including top tube bag)
Wheel size: 700c
Components: Shimano GRX 800/810 22-speed 11-36T gearing and Shimano GRX 600 shifters and 46/30T chainset. Shimano GRX 600 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. WTB Riddler 700 x 45c Light/Fast Rolling skin wall tires on Novatec 25 Elite wheels. Focus 440mm bar and 90mm stem, 27.2mm alloy post, and WTB SL8 saddle