BMC’s Fourstroke family of endurance race bikes has been reborn around 29in wheels. The FS01 29 is the flagship model and, quite predictably, combines a lightweight build with a heavyweight price tag. It’s not the most agile cross-country racer on the market, but it might be one of the most versatile.
- Pros: Lightweight, versatile bike that’s more capable than your average cross-country race rig
- Cons: Component spec might leave some racers scratching their heads; only three frame sizes to choose from
Riding & handling: Race bike with trail manners
Our small test bike, which fits like medium bikes from many other companies, is the smallest of a three-size range. Shared measurements for the FS01 29 include a 70-degree head tube angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle, and 445mm (17.5in) chainstays.
It’s something of a Goldilocks geometry for a 4in full-suspension bike – not so twitchy that it demands your undivided attention, and not so slack that it requires extra muscle to nudge it through turns. The FS01 29’s middle of the road geometry results in handling that’s both neutral and intuitive, something endurance racers can appreciate after hours in the saddle.
All the bikes in the Fourstroke line do have appreciably short head tubes – 90mm (3.5in) in the case of the small. The zero stack headset top cap makes it easier for shorter riders to have a bit of saddle-to-bar drop without resorting to negative rise stems.
The ability to get more weight over the front helps the bike track through corners gracefully
While the geometry is neutral and as suited to endurance racing as it is to everyday riding, the suspension tune is race focused. The rear suspension is quite firm and ramps up sharply towards the end of the stroke; you really have to push this bike to its limits to use all the available travel. We did just that.
The FS01 29 is such a balanced bike that we kept feeling the need to push it further and ride it more aggressively than the average cross-country race bike. We ripped down alpine descents and plunged head first through rock gardens that would have given pause on lesser bikes. The FS01 29 maintained its composure. This left us thinking how great it would be to mount a 120mm fork up front and swap the pinner Easton carbon seatpost for a proper dropper.
It turns out we weren’t alone in our desire to turn the FS01 29 into a lightweight trail bike. If you’re the type of rider who likes to pin on a number on the weekends but spend most of your time riding technical trails on shorter travel bikes, you’ll be glad to know BMC has you covered. There’s a Trail Crew version of the Fourstroke that sports a 120mm fork, Stealth Reverb seatpost, 2x10 crankset with bashguard and rear shock with a more trail-oriented tune.
However, even in its stock configuration, the FS01 29 blurs the lines between cross-country and trail bike.
Frame & equipment: Not your normal cross-country kit
The BMC Fourstroke frame comes in three versions: full carbon, carbon front triangle with aluminum rear end, and full aluminum. The FS01 29 is the top bike in the line, so it’s no surprise that it’s carbon from tip to tail. Our size small test bike tips the scales at 24.9lb (11.3kg). The frame, with rear shock and associated hardware, weighs 2,070g. Frame stiffness is quite good by cross-country standards.
All the cables run externally along the underside of the oversized down tube, for ease of maintenance. Like the longer travel BMC Trailfox TF01, the FS01 29 uses a rocker link to drive the rear shock and a lower link mounted directly above the bottom bracket.
The build is very Swiss, meaning the component spec is better suited to long, steep climbs in the Alps, and extended descents, rather than the undulating terrain most frequently associated with cross-country racing.
A triple on a race bike in 2013? The FS01 29 is outfitted for long climbs and long descents
Triple cranksets all are but extinct on modern cross-country race bikes, and 180mm front and rear rotors might be overkill for the average cross-country rider, even on a 29er.
If you frequently ride in mountainous alpine environments, you might appreciate the FS01 29’s all mountain build. If this doesn’t sound like your local stomping ground, you’ll be glad to know the bike is available with full SRAM XX (Europe only) as well as an X0 build kit. As expected, the full XTR kit on our test bike worked flawlessly; the group commands a premium price for good reason.
The 100mm Fox Float CTD shock worked well, as did the Fox Float CTD shock. The latter lacks the three-position low-speed compression adjuster found on most CTD shocks. It was an adjustment that was not missed. As stated above, the suspension tune is already quite firm. Save for the times we rode to the trailhead or found ourselves on extended fireroad climbs, we left the shock in Descend mode and let the suspension do its job.
Easton components grace the FS01 29’s cockpit, and the 685mm-wide EC70 flat bar is a good match for the bike’s low front end. The only part of the build that didn’t feel up to the task was the Easton EA90 XC wheelsets, as its flex was exacerbated by the stiffer carbon chassis.
Clean lines, quality kit and impressive manners put the FS01 29 at the front of the pack
The BMC FS01 29 bridges the gap between race bike and lightweight trail bike. While a hardtail might be a better choice for short-track racing, the FS01 29 is perfectly adept at marathon and stage racing. For the average rider who can only afford one high-end bike, its versatility makes it quite appealing.