The first thing that strikes you about the BMC Alpenchallenge AC01 Alfine 11 is that it looks damn fast for an urban flatbar. The stem is positively slammed compared to most hybrids, the triple-butted aluminium frame design echoes BMC’s race bikes and the wheelbase is shorter than many rivals. Oh, and ours is orange, which is a fast colour obviously.
Fast usually means light when talking bikes and, at just over 1.5kg, the AC01’s frame isn’t a Clydesdale by hybrid standards. Where you do feel some heft, though, is at the rear. That’s thanks to the internal hub gear — in this case Shimano’s Alfine 11-speed. While overall a hub system isn’t much heavier, if at all, than a traditional derailleur, most of the weight is concentrated in that hub. It might all be in your head, but it means acceleration on a hub-geared bike feels more leisurely than one on normal cogs.
However, this Alpenchallenge’s hub system has another trick that could outweigh such complaints — no chain. Instead of traditional teeth and links, drive comes from a Gates carbon belt. These have been around for years but are still a rarity. For a commuter bike, though, they make a lot of sense, especially as the belt’s said to last up to three times as long as a chain, it’s quiet and you’ll never get grease on your trousers.
Sticking with the gears, it’s essentially an on-trend 1x11 that, while it wouldn’t be our first choice for tons of steep climbing, does offer a pleasingly wide range that’s not far off that of a road bike’s compact chainset. Mind you, there was some occasional minor lag between shifts.
The frame is stiff, so very little of your power leaches between pedal and road. That stiffness does mean the Alpenchallenge isn’t the cushiest of rides although, helped by the 28c Conti Sport tyres, a well-shaped Fizik Rondione saddle and carbon fork, only the worst surfaces jar.
The handling is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the AC01 — wonderfully direct and sharp, due in part to a steeper head angle than usual on a hybrid. Again, more race bike than commuter. The disc brakes are excellent, hydraulic Shimanos with progressive, one finger operation.
From a practicality point of view there are no rack mounts, but you do get hidden mounting points for ‘guards designed for BMC’s own ‘easy-fit’ City Fender set (£115 / US$123 / AU$162). If you don’t care about mudguards, though, the Alpenchallenge is essentially a fast, reliable and fun urban bike that offers a nice — orange — compromise between road bike thrills and a slightly more staid hybrid.