BMC GranFondo GF02 Disc Ultegra long-term review

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The BMC GranFondo GF02 Disc Ultegra is actually three bikes in one, all dressed in the same sleek, matt-black anodized aluminum wrapper. As is, it’s a capable all-day bike for paved and dirt roads but it can also serve as a light touring rig or rip around your local ‘cross course depending on how it’s configured. As the saying goes, though, you don’t get something for nothing and such versatility comes with some notable compromises.

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Ride and handling: relaxed and stable but not all that comfy

BMC‘s do-it-all intentions for the GF02 are reflected in the frame geometry, which is even more relaxed than the top-end GF01 endurance model. The head angle is quite slack, the rear end is very long, and the reach is somewhat short. As a result, it’s unflappably stable – almost to a fault – and an exceptionally easy bike to just pedal off into the horizon, as long as you’re not in too much of a rush.

The default setup begs you to take the route less traveled, too, with stock 35mm-wide semi-slick cyclocross tires for a comfortable ride and sure grip, super wide-range gearing to tackle even the steepest terrain, and dependable all-weather disc brakes. If there’s somewhere you want to go and some kind of road to get there, chances are that the GF02 Disc Ultegra will be a willing partner.

The stealthy matt anodized finish is well done with even the stem and handlebar all perfectly matched
The stealthy matte anodized finish is well done with even the stem and handlebar all perfectly matched:
James Huang/Future Publishing

The stealthy matt anodized finish is well done: the stem and handlebar perfectly match

Though admirably versatile straight of the box, the GF02 is also somewhat of a shapeshifter depending on how it’s configured. During our five months of testing, we periodically swapped out the durable (but heavy and slow-rolling) stock wheels and tires for some feathery aero carbon hoops and narrower rubber and easily kept up with group rides. Aiding this role is the only modestly extended head tube, which still allows for a relatively low and aggressive position if you slam the stem.

When the weather turned ugly this past winter, we made quick use of the front and rear fender mounts and stayed reasonably dry while many other fair-weathered Boulderites took shelter indoors. All of the mounts are rather discreetly located, too (although we would have preferred outboard holes up front for extra stability).

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Rubber plugs cover up the unused electronic wiring ports:

Rubber plugs cover up the unused electronic wiring ports

Thanks to the generous front and rear tire clearance, we even also occasionally ran more aggressively treaded ‘cross tires and explored some local trails. While there isn’t quite enough leeway in between the carbon fork blades or slim aluminum seat stays for a properly muddy race, 35mm-wide knobbies mounted on wide rims still fit just fine.

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Tire clearance is generous for a road bike but a bit lacking for proper cyclocross duty:

Tire clearance is generous for a road bike; a bit lacking for full cyclocross duty

It’s a good thing there’s room for higher-volume rubber, too, because swapping in a more race-ready setup reveals the GF02’s biggest disappointment. Despite lots of marketing hype to the contrary, the chassis doesn’t inherently offer up an unusually comfortable ride – plus it’s a rather disparate feel from end to end.

Out back, the slim setback carbon fiber post and a generously padded Selle Royal saddle do a good job on road buzz while the radically flattened and kinked seat stays give some –but not much – on bigger bumps. However, the fork’s stout carbon blades, tapered steerer tube, and enormous crown produce a disappointingly rough ride that can really beat you up depending on the terrain, especially in concert with the rather stiff aluminum handlebar. Whatever road buzz isn’t quelled by the tires is transmitted largely unfiltered to your hands while nastier features like washboarded dirt roads can really rattle your grip.

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The slim, kinked seat stays and high-volume tires combine for a reasonably cushy ride:

Slim, kinked seatstays and high-volume tires mean a reasonably cushy ride

On the plus side, that same stoutly built fork and the large-diameter top tube and down tube make for very precise and confidence inspiring handling. Drivetrain stiffness is also very good for an alloy frame so while you might not arrive at your destination feeling uber-fresh, at least you’ll get there in time to relax by the pool.

Frame: slick alloy construction, (mostly) great attention to detail

While the top-end GF01 goes with molded carbon fiber construction, BMC builds the GF02 with TIG-welded aluminum to reduce costs. That said, the triple butted tubing used is radically shaped for more finely tuned performance characteristics – not to mention a little extra style.

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The rear disc brake caliper is neatly tucked away inside the rear triangle:

The rear disc brake caliper is neatly tucked away inside the rear triangle

Just as with many top composite chassis, the GF02 is built with a huge down tube, a relatively broad (but slightly flattened) top tube, a huge 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered head tube, big chainstays, and dramatically pared-down seatstays. BMC’s ‘Tuned Compliance Concept’ design methodology features prominently throughout with various kinks, angles, and abrupt changes in tubing diameter although, as we came to find out, it all seems mostly for show.

BMC sticks more with tradition when it comes to the bottom bracket, which uses standard threaded cups instead of more currently fashionable press-fit setups. Though it perhaps adds a few grams and doesn’t provide as much design freedom as other options, our sample remained creak-free despite plenty of use in inclement weather.

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The shimano ultegra crankset spins on a standard threaded bottom bracket:

The Shimano Ultegra crankset spins on a standard threaded bottom bracket

BMC has done a very good job sweating the details, too. Cabling is convertible between mechanical and electronic drivetrains and although the former is external, it’s cleanly done with removable stops. The front and rear brake lines are run internally through the fork and down tube, respectively, for a tidy appearance. Lest you conjure nightmares of flashlights and homemade hooks, rest assured that both paths are fully guided so there’s no fishing (or swearing) to be done while servicing, at least as long as you’re using a cable actuated setup.

In addition, the mating surfaces for the post mount disc brake calipers are machined flat post-anodizing for a more precise fit, the front and rear fender mounts are cleanly integrated into the otherwise racy-looking structure, the rear rack mounts are completely removable, and the matt-black anodizing is perfectly matched between the frame, stem, handlebar, and even the headset spacers (which is surprisingly rare to see).

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The derailleur housing stops are removable should you ever decide to switch to electronic shifting:

The derailleur housing stops are removable should you switch to electronic shifting

One unfortunate oversight, however, was the slightly oversized seat tube bore. We sometimes struggled with keeping the seatpost tight on rougher roads, even with friction paste.

Actual weight for a 51cm bare frame is 1,340g including the seatpost collar, rear derailleur hanger, and water bottle bolts. The all-carbon fork tacks on another 430g with a 200mm steerer (but no compression plug).

Equipment: fantastic Shimano bits but clunky rolling stock

BMC outfits the GF02 with a workhorse parts package that includes Shimano’s outstanding Ultegra 6800 drivetrain and dependable BR-R515 mechanical disc brakes, DT Spline X-1900 aluminum disc wheels wrapped with Continental Cyclocross Speed tires, a house brand alloy bar and stem, and a comfy BMC branded carbon seatpost topped by the aforementioned Selle Royal saddle.

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Shimano’s superb ultegra sti dual control levers are clamped to comfortable bmc house-brand aluminum bars:

Shimano’s Ultegra STI dual control levers are clamped to BMC house-brand aluminum bars

We’ve certainly no complaints at all with the Shimano bits. The latest Ultegra transmission serves up impeccably smooth shifts front and rear – even with the compact 50/34-tooth chainrings, extra-wide 11-32T cassette, and non-Shimano chain – plus fantastic ergonomics from the reshaped lever bodies. Braking feel admittedly can’t compete with full hydraulic setups but the mechanical calipers produce ample power that, more importantly, is incredibly consistent regardless of weather conditions. The pads don’t automatically adjust, either, nor are they nearly as light as a comparable Ultegra rim caliper but given the application, it’s still a small price to pay for the improved performance and expanded tire selection.

Speaking of which, the bike unfortunately begs for more capable rolling stock. While the DT Swiss wheels remained straight and true throughout testing, they’re noticeably chunky at nearly 2kg for the set. That rotating weight is further exaggerated by the tube-type Continental Cyclocross Speed tires, which are roll remarkably slowly despite what the semi-slick tread pattern would suggest.

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The continental cyclocross speed’s fast-looking tread design is let down by a stiff and slow-rolling casing. this bike desperately calls out for better rubber:

Speed by name – not so much by nature

Total weight in stock form is 9.11kg (20.08lb, as tested, without pedals).

The bottom line

Taken as face value, the BMC GF02 is a little heavy and not very quick – big demerits for a road racing bike, but more than acceptable here given the broad capabilities. When you consider not just what the GF02 is but what it can also be, it’s a much more appealing prospect and a worthy consideration if you’re looking for a do-all road rig.

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BMC’s granfondo gf02 is part road bike, part ‘cross bike, and part touring bike – and supremely versatile as a result:

BMC’s GranFondo GF02 is part road bike, part ‘crosser and part tourer

Complete bike specifications

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  • Frame: BMC Granfondo GF02, triple butted aluminum
  • Fork: BMC ComplianceFork Disc
  • Headset: Cartridge bearing, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
  • Stem: BMC RST3
  • Handlebars: BMC RDB3
  • Tape/grips: 3T
  • Front brake: Shimano BR-R515 disc w/ 160mm SM-RT54 rotor
  • Rear brake: Shimano BR-R515 disc w/ 160mm SM-RT54 rotor
  • Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra STI Dual Control ST-6800
  • Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra FD-6800
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra RD-6800-GS
  • Shift levers: Shimano Ultegra STI Dual Control ST-6800
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-32T
  • Chain: KMC X11L
  • Crankset: Shimano Ultegra Hollowtech II FC-6800, 50/34T
  • Bottom bracket: Shimano SM-BBR60
  • Pedals: n/a
  • Wheels: DT Swiss X-1900 Spline Center Lock
  • Front tire: Continental Cyclocross Speed, 700x35c
  • Rear tire: Continental Cyclocross Speed, 700x35c
  • Saddle: Selle Royal Saba
  • Seatpost: BMC CompliancePost, 18mm offset