Long live the soft-tail! BMC borrows XC tech for gravel with the URS

All-new UNRESTRICTED brings BMC off-road performance and innovation to gravel

BMC has launched the URS (or Unrestricted) — an all-new and neatly integrated gravel bike that adopts the soft-tail micro suspension from the Swiss firm’s XC hardtail lineup.

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With its impressive history of competitive success at the highest level both on- and off-road cycling, it’s perhaps surprising that BMC’s tarmac and dirt design skillsets haven’t crossed over all that much in the past.

Apart from the CX01 cyclocross machine, the only hint of shared technology has been on the Alpenchallenge AMP bike collection, with its adoption of the MTT (Micro Travel Technology) rear suspension system, first seen on its Teamelite XC hardtail.

The ongoing popularity of gravel and adventure bikes highlighted a gap in BMC’s range however, one which the Swiss company has seemingly enjoyed filling with the largely logo-bereft URS.

The bike’s unconventional name is explained as a comment on the lack of UCI rules governing the design of gravel bikes — they’re relatively unrestricted. So URS is an abbreviation of unrestricted. It’s also short for Ursa (bear), which also seemed appropriate given the bike’s unveiling at a cabin deep in a Swiss forest. Urs is also a common Swiss name, something we think is more coincidental, but maybe the time for a major bike company to release the ‘Dave’ is nigh.

Technology transfer

Taking cues from its mountain bikes and elements present on the Roadmachine, the new range consists of four models that all share the same carbon frame and all feature 1x drivetrains.

With a progressive geometry that BMC terms Gravel+, the URS has short 425mm chainstays, a long 1,064mm wheelbase, a 70-degree head angle and short 55mm stem (medium), placing it squarely between road and mountain bikes.

MTT suspension on gravel road bike
As seen on the Alpenchallenge AMP range and some BMC MTBs, the MTT suspension system is fitted to the URS
Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media

Aimed at lung-busting gravel racing, exploring off the beaten track, and anything riders choose to point it at, the URS seeks to go way beyond straight and level gravel or dirt roads by being fun and highly capable on technically challenging terrain. Helping it to achieve this are generous tyre clearances, the rear MTT system and dropper post compatibility.

BMC URS development

In a break from the norm, and in order to engage with a new sector, BMC’s development included enlisting three quite different gravel riders from across Europe via the ISPO Open Innovation project.

Each rider was given an unbranded prototype bike to test and evaluate — not finding out whose bike they were riding until later in the process — feeding back their thoughts over several months before the launch date.

The ambitious design focussed equally on the demands of gravel racers, backroad adventurers and long-distance bikepackers — interests matched by the new testers.

BMC URS frameset

BMC claims that a medium URS frame weighs 1,050g in its lightest finish, and an uncut fork 550g. A complete bike in its lightest build is claimed to be around 8.3kg.

The dedicated carbon layup was determined using the new gravel version of BMC’s TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept), which is a way of engineering specific flex (compliance) into certain parts of frame tubes, or the fork, helping to design complimentary tube shapes to achieve the desired performance goals. This is claimed to give the rider a smoother, more comfortable ride without any loss of performance.

Already proven on the Teammachine and Roadmachine, among other models, the same D-shaped carbon seatpost is used, and the MTT system adds 10mm of elastomer travel for greater seated compliance and improved power transfer and traction on the rough stuff.

The elastic material used for the seatstay-mounted MTT is sourced from the motor industry. It’s claimed to be impervious to degradation from sun, weather and age, weighs around 80g, and isn’t cheap.

Bottom bracket on gravel road bike
Tyre clearance behind the PF86 bottom bracket is enough for 700c x 45mm tyres
Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media

Although there’s clearance for tyres that measure 45mm, the geometry was developed around 40mm tyres, including some sag due to low pressure.

The URS is also compatible with the Fox 32 SC AX gravel suspension fork, and a dedicated headset stopper to be used with it is included with the bike. For extra tyre volume, the URS will accept 650b wheels with tyres up to 47mm, such as WTB’s Byway.

The standard carbon fork has protective rubber covers, which BMC unofficially terms Rock Sox, fitted to the tips of each fork leg. These have been added to prevent the carbon from getting scuffed while resting on the ground when the wheel is being removed.

There’s also routing for a front hub dynamo through the fork and head tube.

BMC URS practicalities

The lower part of the down tube and the driveside chainstay have rubber protective patches, and Helicopter tape panels cover the rest of the down tube’s underside.

The frameset has an all-gloss finish, making it easy to clean, but there are also integrated fender mounts front and back for full mudguards (with 40mm tyres), or the supplied Dfender under saddle mudguard, as seen on the Roadmachine, can be added.

A shim allows the fitting of any 27.2mm round dropper post to the D-shaped seat tube. A third bottle cage mount beneath the down tube caters for the long-haul rider, and the top tube has a fuel bag mount for food or accessories.

ICS stem on gravel road bike
While the brake hoses can pass within the ICS stem, the mechanical gear cable is routed to a port in the down tube
© Jeremie Reuiller/BMC

Each model, except for the entry-level bike, comes fitted with BMC’s ICS (Integrated Cockpit System) stem, which keeps hydraulic hoses and electronic shifting wires hidden internally. The remaining bike has a conventional round stem.

The gravel-specific stems have 0-degree rise, and come in lengths from 55mm to 70mm, with 55mm fitted to the S and M frames and 70mm to the L and XL, giving a reach of 403mm, 415mm, 419mm and 429mm respectively.

As usual, the ICS stem’s proprietary-shaped puzzle spacers allow easy adjustability and removal without disconnecting components.

BMC URS build options

In keeping with BMC’s model hierarchy, the models available are the ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR, in sizes S, M, L and XL.

All have 42mm WTB Resolute tyres, and single chainrings with 38 or 40 teeth, plus 180mm front brake rotors, with 160mm rear. There’s clearance for a 48-tooth chainring, although because there’s no front derailleur mount, it’d be much less hill-friendly.

SRAM's Red eTap AXS shifter on BMC URS ONE gravel road bike
The URS ONE is a ‘Mullet Bike’, with SRAM’s Red eTap AXS up front…
Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media
SRAM Eagle drive train on BMC URS ONE gravel road bike
…and SRAM’s Eagle 10-50 cassette, derailleur and chain out back
Robin Wilmott / Immediate Media

The range-topping ONE is what’s been termed a mullet bike, offering SRAM Red eTap AXS shifters up front with a chainset with 38-tooth chainring and disc brakes, and a SRAM Eagle AXS derailleur, chain and 10-50 cassette at the rear.

There’s an Easton carbon bar, DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline wheelset and WTB saddle.

The TWO has Shimano’s GRX Di2 groupset, incorporating an XT 11-42 cassette with a 40-tooth chainring, Easton aluminium bar and DT Swiss GR1600 Spline wheelset.

For a little less, the THREE has a GRX mechanical drivetrain with the same gear ratios, plus a Mavic Allroad wheelset, while the entry-level FOUR offers SRAM Apex with a 40-tooth ring, 11-42 cassette and DT Swiss C1850 Spline wheelset.

BMC URS availability and pricing

At the time of writing, there is no set date for availability, but pricing has been confirmed:

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  • UNRESTRICTED ONE: £8,999 / $9,499 / €8,999 / AU$11,499
  • UNRESTRICTED TWO: £5,999 / $6,499 / €5,999 / AU$NA
  • UNRESTRICTED THREE: £3,999 / $4,299 / €3,999 / AU$5,499
  • UNRESTRICTED FOUR: £2,999 / $3,299 / €2,999 / AU$4,199