Last week, BMC debuted a new ‘endurance’ road model called the GranFondo GF01. The BMC team raced the new bike this past Sunday at Paris-Roubaix, where team rider Alessandro Ballan took the new bike to its first podium with a third place finish.
Key features of the GF01 frame include use of BMC's Tuned Compliance Concept technology, as well as a new concept called 'angle compliance', where the rear dropouts are intentionally offset rearward — creating a short moment arm — that further promotes flex when hitting bumps.
TCC and 'angle compliance' are also built into the 27.2mm-diameter carbon seat post, which will be available in three setbacks — the standard 18mm plus 3mm and 30mm options – each with its own specific lay-up schedule and flex pattern.
Taken in total, BMC claim a 40-percent improvement in comfort for the GF01 over the SLR01 — a bike already we found to already be unusually comfortable for a race bike.
BMC team rider Thor Hushovd with the new BMC GranFondo GF01
Ride and handling: taking GF01 to the stones
Our three-hour initial test ride on the GF01, however, didn't go quite as we expected.
With all the talk of compliance and movement from BMC during the presentation, the GF01 seemed less comfortable than what we imagined. Whereas the SLR01 is excellent at filtering out road buzz for a glass-smooth ride on regular pavement, the GF01 actually seems to transmit more high frequency, low amplitude vibrations through both ends.
The plus side of that is the impressively stiff lower half of the bike, which genuinely feels substantially more rigid than the SLR01 when you put your foot on the gas. There's also less rear triangle twist when hitting bumps in mid-corner.
The key personality trait of the GF01 comes once you actually hit something — but you have to hit hard — the bike seems to show its impressive damping capabilities. On our ride it came into its own on the cobbles of the Kwaremont and Paterburg — more so when you're somewhat aggressive in your line choice. Interestingly, the GF01 seems to become more comfortable the harder you smash stuff with it.
In a sense, it's akin to a cross-country racing full-suspension bike set up with the correct spring rate and a high breakaway threshold, which is exactly what we’d expect a professional like Ballan or Thor Hushovd to ask for. The GF01 will indeed suck up big road bumps that would normally buck you out of the saddle, but you've go to hit them hard to extract the most benefit.
The kink in the chain stay is designed as a flex point, working in conjunction with the seat stay kink to create a sort of pseudo-linkage. Rear dropouts are intentionally offset rearward to create a moment arm that promotes movement at the flex points under bump loads
Handling changes are noticeable, but it's not an extreme shift towards the stable end of the spectrum like some other companies' endurance-type bikes. BMC's standard geometry is one of the quickest out there for mainstream road racing bikes and the GF01's new configuration bring it more inline with what we would consider the center of the bell curve. It's more stable for BMC, yes, but it's still no laid-back cruiser, easily changing lines mid-corner.
Stack is taller and reach is shorter on the GranFondo GF01's new 'endurance' geometry, but it's not an extreme difference relative to the TeamMachine SLR01
Overall, the initial impression is that the GranFondo GF01 is a faithful interpretation of what the team requested. It's precise handling and efficient under power, it flexes considerably when attacking bumps, and the geometry is just slightly toned down relative to the standard numbers, but still on the racier side as compared to the competition.
The real question, then, is who the intended buyer is. BMC says it targeted women, beginners, and long distance riders who aren't necessarily racers. However, there's enough edginess left over that we think makes it nearly a better race bike than the SLR01, in some situations. So even if the fit works for those with more of an endurance orientation, there might be a little too much race bike left in the GF01's DNA for BMC to nail that core audience.
Frame: backed with BMC’s 5-year warranty and no rider weight limit
Claimed frame weight for the GF01 is still less than 1,000g for a 54cm size — a penalty of less than 100g compared to the SLR01. BMC say the GF01 frames have exceeded all industry standards and in-house tests, and moreover, there is no rider weight limit. BMC also offer a five-year warranty on the frame and fork with an optional crash replacement program for top-end models as well.
The new DTi (Dual Transmission Integration) routing setup is designed for easily maintained external cable routing but the stops are removable (cosmetic covers will be included at production) for use with internally run Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS wires. At least in the case of Di2, the battery is fixed to a dedicated mount beneath the chain stay.
The BB86 press-fit bottom bracket leaves lots of room for bigger down tubes and seat tubes, not to mention chain stay spacing that's also wider to reinforce the back end. Shimano Di2 batteries mount underneath the non-drive stay
The BB86 press-fit bottom bracket adds to the bike’s claimed stiffness, and sports a rigidly mounted integrated chain catcher with interchangeable bits that will work with standard or compact double cranksets as well as triple setups.
One of the most impressive features on the GF01 is clearance for up to 28mm-wide tires, which will come as standard equipment on complete bikes, while still using standard-reach brake calipers. BMC raised the brake mounting holes relative to the rim as is typical for this sort of design goal, but they're also cleverly angled, too.
It's no small feat fitting 28mm-wide tires beneath standard brake calipers, but BMC has done so on the new GranFondo GF01
Equipment: custom Ultergra Di2 kit for the unveiling
BMC smartly spec'd Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 workhorse kit for the GF01’s launch. The second tier group is not only more economical, but newer than the Dura-Ace version, which may it more attainable and lust-worthy, at the same time.
The rest of the spec is similarly well thought out, such as tubeless-compatible Easton EA90 RT rims with 22mm-wide profiles, wider and more generously padded fi'zi:k Aliante saddles, and compact-bend Easton handlebars.
Total claimed weight for a complete GranFondo GF01 with Shimano Ultegra Di2 is 16.27lbs (7.38kg) without pedals.
BMC isn't ready to release retail pricing on the GranFondo GF01 just yet — the company wants to wait until it's presented to dealers in a couple of weeks — but BMC road product manager Andrew James tells BikeRadar that it will be comparable to the TeamMachine SLR01. BMC say complete bikes in various configurations as well as a frameset option will be available following the autumn trade show season, but final specification for any of the models are not available at this time.
We're expecting BikeRadar’s test sample in a few weeks so we'll hopefully have both the nuances of the ride and additional specification details sorted soon enough.