With over 20 years of experience producing top-tier machines, BMC has become synonymous with victory in both road and mountain biking. When a conversation leads into a discussion about BMC bikes, we typically picture starting lines, muddy race days and narrow corridors lined by course tape. The 2014 season only added to the company’s competitive image, as Julien Absalon grabbed hold of the World Championship title in Hafjell, Norway, atop a BMC Fourstroke FS01 29. We jumped at the opportunity to test the new Speedfox SF02 29 to discover if BMC is able to step away from its racing heritage to reach across the riding spectrum and create a playful trailbike.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The BMC Speedfox SF02 29 is what we would call a bike of many disciplines. We see it being used for rides that eat up the hour between work and dinner with the in-laws while also delivering endless weekend epics. It feels most at home on daily trail rides but also has no problem crossing the lines into tame enduro races or loops at the local cross-country race series. With increasingly efficient suspension designs being paired with the versatility of larger wheel sizes, trailbikes with 130 millimeters (5.1 inches) of travel are quickly becoming bikes that work with many helmets. The BMC Speedfox SF02 29 is no exception and is suited for the rider who prefers a solid platform to a bike that rides deep in its travel.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Speedfox SF02 29 is built with a carbon main frame and an aluminum alloy rear triangle. It’s also available in a full-carbon SF01 model for $7000 and an SF03 model with an aluminum alloy frame and rear triangle for $2600. All the Speedfox models share the same geometry, allowing for a greater range of price points that offer the ideal bike for any rider’s requirements. The frame utilizes a 12×142-millimeter rear axle and a BB90 Press-Fit bottom bracket to provide stiffness in key areas.
WHAT CAUGHT OUR EYE?
Placing an initial load indicator on the suspension linkage, rather than the shock, demonstrates BMC’s commitment to providing a simple way for riders to set the proper suspension sag. The Stealth cable routing ports on the frame provide plenty of room to route a variety of cables and pinches them tight enough to keep everything quiet but doesn’t require loosening of any bolts to pull out or push in any additional length of cable. The front derailleur mounts to a V-shaped brace in the rear triangle, which initially caused us to wonder if there would be shifting inconsistencies during suspension compression.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
While the initial load indicator is an excellent concept, the small amount of linkage movement made it difficult to distinguish between the “hard” and “soft” settings of the indicator. Although once we set our suspension to 25 percent sag, the indicator served as a great reference point to check whenever we jumped on the bike with different amounts of gear. The indicator line is simply a sticker on the frame, and we wondered how accurate its placement could really be, not to mention that it would lose its functionality if the sticker were scraped off.
European influence is apparent in the Swiss-designed Speedfox SF02, which shines through in the bike’s ability to provide a solid platform that is determined to reach the peak of every climb. The Advanced Pivot System (APS) truly puts pedaling efficiency first and, for better or worse, removes any need to be light on the pedals while climbing. Even with the shock in Trail mode, we were able to hammer into the pedals without bobbing up and down.
The middle-of-the-road wheelbase length struck a solid balance between high-speed cornering confidence and tight switchback maneuverability. It carved through our trusted set of testing switchbacks with ease and delivered a stable platform that enabled us to snap out of each corner and right back into pedaling. The Continental Mountain King tires actually had a far narrower width than their stated 2.4 inches and left us hesitant to push the bike’s limits in sweeping corners. We see the tires providing the most traction on terrain with either loose or wet dirt.
We noticed how well the bike fit us as soon as the trail pitched downward and allowed us to throw the bike around in a playful way. The 130 millimeters of travel provided plenty of leeway for when the trail snuck up on us; however, the design wasn’t too keen on using the middle range of its travel. Though it took us some time to get used to, we ended up working with the strengths of the design and found it to be an efficient system as long as we weren’t charging through endless rock gardens. With the shock in Descend mode, the APS suspension still provided cranking efficiency and twitchy responsiveness while throwing it around one obstacle after the next. On the other end of the spectrum, if we chose to eat the obstacles rather than avoid them, the Speedfox SF02 provided the most control when we pushed deep into the travel. With a fairly conservative head tube angle of 68.5 degrees, we certainly found ourselves over the rear tire for additional confidence on steep descents, but it simply changed our riding style from “raging gorilla” to “nimble rabbit.”
The APS suspension platform, which utilizes a modified dw link design, does an excellent job of keeping the suspension fully active, even under handful-of-lever, “oh no!” braking. SRAM Guide RS brakes enabled us to dial in the most comfortable lever position with ease.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
It may be an excellent saddle for some riders, but the rounded top of the Fizik Tundra saddle left our test riders completely numb after any ride longer than an hour. For quick, speed-focused rides, it may be a viable option, but it was a no-go for long trail rides. Aggressive riders will notice the benefits of the stiffness of a Fox 34 Float fork, but the 32 will be sufficient for the majority of trail riders.
While the price tag of the BMC Speedfox SF02 may already be a bit intimidating to many, this is one time we’d suggest bumping up your purchase to the SF01. Its full-carbon build offers weight savings and stiffness, but there’s an additional reason to make the jump. The Speedfox SF01 build is also available with a SRAM XX1 1x drivetrain and a stiffer wheelset. Regardless of the model you choose, the BMC Speedfox delivers efficiency that is rivaled by few and will keep you out on the trails for hours on end.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION:
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. You can start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.