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Monday, February 20, 2012

BMC Speedfox 29 - Ride Report

Even though I am selling these bikes, I'd like to be objective as possible in reviewing the ride and build of the bike.  I can't stand reading the bike mags anymore because every review seems to be the same -- repetitive platitudes, no real critiques of any kind.  All you seem to read is how capable, "beefy", or precise the bike is.  The rub is that these same bikes they're reviewing are also from companies that buy ad space in the magazine.  Can't irritate the revenue stream too drastically.

So I'm not sure I'll be 100% objective, but I'm gonna try.....

The bike I've been favoring for the last year is the "ying" to the BMC's "yang" -- the BMC is about 10 pounds (10 POUNDS!) lighter, runs a 2 X 10 drivetrain, and has a decidedly cross-country feel to the all-mountain focus of my current bike.

So here's how the Speedfox is built:

Fox Float FIT RLC 29 fork, matching Fox RP2 rear shock
Easton EA70 XCT tubeless wheels
Schwalbe Rocket Ron, and Racing Ralph (rear)2.25 tubeless tires
SRAM X.0 drivetrain (X.7 front der, X.9 cassette)
Avid Elixir 7 disc brakes
Easton EA 70 carbon seatpost
Fizik Tundra saddle
BMC house brand (SCOR) alloy bar and stem
BMC OEM lock-on grips

First thing I noticed is this bike is fast.  Disconcertingly fast compared to the bigger bike I've been riding.  I've ridden on the 2 X 10 drivetrains before, but wasn't sure I'd want one on my 29er, because I wasn't sure I could push the bigger gear of the 2X10 -- my bike has 2 rings up front but they're 20-30 (with a 12-36 cassette), while the BMCs SRAM crank bears a 22-36 combination.  But when you factor in how much lighter the BMC is, that worry falls away.  In fact, I didn't notice any problem even on the steep stuff.

I like the suspension setup front and back.  The rear has an advanced virtual pivot design, that feels more plush than I expected.  It doesn't feel bottomless by any stretch and it has an appropriate ramp at the end of the stroke.  I was never able to bottom it's travel out.  The fork feels good -- it's not Fox's lightest offering but it sets up well, and feels great.  You can adjust the compression on the left side air chamber, of course, but it has a very effective and sensitive rebound damper that has something like 10-12 clicks of adjustment to it.  It has an on/off dial on the top of the right fork leg for the lockout with an inset adjustment to adjust the amount of lockout.  You can decide whether you want a "hard" lockout that moves nary a millimeter, or you can allow a centimeter or two of compression.

It's a quicker handling bike than I'm used to.  It has a 70 degree head angle which is 2.5-3 degrees steeper than my bike, so it took some getting used to.  The front end of the bike is very light and with the short chainstays (under 17 inches) is very easy to manual and muscle up steps and ledges.

I really had fun on some of the swoopy single-track, this bike really shines here and on the technical climbs.  The tires are not as big as I'd like them, and I couldn't just run over everything in my way --  they're a little light for my weight (~180#) to do that, and not risk rim damage.  That said, I did hit a few things wrong, and thought for sure I was going to peel a tire off the rim, or burp some air out of the tubeless, but my tire pressure at the end of the ride was within 3 psi of when I started.

A few bits of latex on the tire -- pretty normal for a first ride on a tubeless setup.

This bike IS NOT a downhill machine.  It's just not made to aggressively hit big burly lines; we're long past the point where a 4 inch travel bike is meant to be anything but an XC rig.  Even 5 and 6 inch bikes are creeping into the XC realm.  SO what this bike is made for -- fast, moderately aggressive trail riding and XC racing, it does exceptionally well.

So this is hard....because I had a lot of fun on the bike, and as an XC bike I have few things in the negative column.  If I was going to do some racing and/or stay away from the burlier trails around GJ, there isn't much I would change about this bike.  You could make the bike lighter for racing by trading the Easton wheelset for a Stan's or ENVE build but you're talking about a big chunk of change to do so.  You'd get more bang for your buck by dropping weight in the seatpost, bar, and stem, because they're not exceptionally light and it won't cost $2000 to do it.  On the bigger sizes, and for bigger riders (pushing 2 Bills or more for sure) I would recommend a stouter tire.

I gotta say, the SpeedFox is much more confidence inspiring on technical terrain than just about every other XC 29er I've ridden.  This includes all the hardtails (they're built like road bikes lately!), 3", 4", and many of the 5" bikes.  This is the result of it's geometry -- a degree or more slacker on the head angle, slightly higher bottom bracket, and short chainstays (more explanation on that in this post).  It's strange, as the same companies are making some great long travel 26" bikes (with 66 degree head angles, and sub-17.5 inch chainstays) they fumble the ball on their 29er bikes where they always seem to be over 70 degrees on the head angle and with bottom brackets that are too low.

Overall, the BMC was a hoot.  It is a stellar XC machine and can dip into some more aggressive trail riding as needed.  There are a few things you'd change if you were bigger, and/or wanted to ride some bigger terrain.  To give some Colorado perspective, this bike would rip in Crested Butte, and out in the north Fruita desert, but I'd opt for more heft on "Free Lunch" out at the Lunch Loop (apologies to those who that made absolutely no sense to).

This is a demo bike, so it's here for anyone to test out -- I'm certainly looking forward to taking it out again......

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