BMC’s Speedfox is a great blend of powerfully muscular race bike and consistently controlled, HD feedback trail confidence, making it a super-versatile high velocity all-rounder.
Frame and equipment: balanced all-round package
Read any review of a current carbon BMC bike on road or dirt and you’ll see that the Swiss brand really is on top of its composite chassis game. The Speedfox is a prime example, with a boxy tubeset that includes a massive down tube, press-fit bottom bracket and reinforced, extended top tube.
The Y-strut reinforced, high-arched seatstay back end is attached with short – and therefore very stiff – linkages. Detail is excellent too, with internal duct inserts keeping cables out of the way of knees, a built-in carbon chain-drop guard and neat orange anodised cable caps.
Rear brake mounts are neatly inset
Despite the high-quality carbon chassis you’re still getting decent kit. The Fox 32 fork is much lighter than the 34 and well damped enough to hold lines better than the skinny chassis would suggest.
The Shimano XT cranks and rear derailleur are mixed with an SLX front derailleur and brakes. While it adds weight, the finer gear spread of a 2x10 transmission will be welcomed by long-distance riders.
The cockpit kit suits the bike’s character well and the DT Swiss wheels are fine for narrower treads, though we’d choose something faster than the Continentals fitted.
Ride and handling: steely and precise
We’ve been riding carbon-mainframed 29ers from BMC for several years now and the rock solid stiffness of the chassis still surprises us. It’s not just a sense of strength in one direction or part of the frame either. Consistently taut and accurate feedback runs from the through-axles at either end to the tips of the handlebar and into the soles of your feet. Even the stiffer direct mount for the rear derailleur is obvious in the form of crisper shifting.
The direct-mount rear derailleur makes its presence felt in the outstandingly crisp shifting
This stereotypically Swiss precision and control underlines the whole character of the Speedfox and it’s a direct contrast to the more flexible and vague feel of the Ghost AMR we tested alongside it. We were much happier pushing hard and slotting aggressive lines on the BMC because we always knew exactly what was happening.
The fine line between controlled slide and wipe-out is clearly communicated so you’ve time to react and keep it rubber side down. Having said that, the Speedfox is worth rebooting as soon as possible, because the Contis are sketchy in the damp and slow rolling, particularly on the front.
There’s enough baseline precision and feedback from the frame that we didn’t feel any immediate need for a wider bar than the 720mm pipe fitted. The 70mm stem is also a good length for the XC/trail character of the BMC.
It’s short enough to react fast to the information the bike is constantly feeding you but stable enough to naturally stay on line when you’ve forgotten how to steer at the end of an epic. It also adds some length to the otherwise short top tube, so we never felt overly cramped.
Even in fully open 'descend' mode, you can put the power down effectively
The steep 74-degree seat angle means plenty of weight on the front wheel to add authority, and while it’s not a naturally wild, hop-and-pop ride, the BMC is happy to be pushed hard when you’re in the mood. That meant we dropped the saddle at the top of most descents to let rip, so a dropper post upgrade would be worthwhile.
The suspension is similarly well judged in tune. Using the printed sag guide on the linkage pivot gives a sports car rather than spongy feel even in the fully open ‘descend’ mode, so you can still attack the trail hard through the pedals. While it doesn’t blow though travel unnecessarily there’s enough progressive control in the 130mm (5.1in) stroke to take big hits and serious drops without losing composure or getting bounced off line. Flick to ‘trail’ mode and the bike still responds enough to chatter and batter to carry speed across blunt edges and holes, but you’re able to lay down the power immediately from a consistent and predictable mid-stroke position.
The muscular frame and low weight meant we had no trouble stomping big gears and sprinting clear of our mates, and the aggressive suspension tune meant we never felt the extra travel was a disadvantage. It adds a definite speed sustain advantage over rougher terrain though, which is only amplified by the 29in wheels, and it’s no surprise that Julien Absalon won the 2014 XC World Champs on a BMC 29er.