From Issue #186
BMC from Switzerland is certainly well known as a racing brand. Internationally, Julien Absalon, who is arguably the most famous and winningest cross-country racer on the circuit today, won last year’s world championship on his full-suspension BMC Fourstroke FS01 29. Here in the U.S., Stephen Ettinger won a cross-country national championship while riding for BMC in 2013. Which brings us to the BMC Speedfox. It has a bit longer legs, a tad slacker geometry and a touch more wheelbase, but beyond that, it’s essentially a Fourstroke designed for aggressive trail riding. And maybe aggressive racing.
Like the Fourstroke FS02, the Speedfox SF02 has a carbon main frame matched to an aluminum dual-link rear triangle. It also shares the same 12×142 mm rear axle and a BB92 PressFit bottom bracket. Travel sits at 130 mm front and rear, up from the 100 mm of the Fourstroke. A 68.5-degree head angle may sound too steep for some, but for the bike’s intended purpose and ride quality, it ultimately feels pretty spot-on.
The build includes a complete SRAM X0 drivetrain with a 22/36T double-ring crank and an 11-36T cassette to provide plenty of gear range. Brakes are SRAM’s impressive Guide RS models, which provide plenty of quality stopping power. And we’d be remiss not to mention the inclusion of an all-important RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post neatly routed internally like the rest of the cables for a clean-looking frameset.
It’s quite clear that the Speedfox is designed for pedal-y trail riding as opposed to full-on downhill raging. Make no mistake: With the big hoops and 130 mm of travel, it can take a beating in the rough stuff and roll down the steepest of chutes. From the first ride onward, I felt comfortable and confident—but that’s because I’ve spent a great deal of time aboard the 100 mm travel Fourstroke. This felt like a more capable version that allowed me to pedal just as efficiently, yet feel more willing to take bad lines or roll the steeps.
The Speedfox is the type of bike I’d want for all-day rides where you know you’ll be mixing plenty of cross-country-style pedaling to get to the gnar-gnar, or in situations where you just don’t know what kind of trails the day will hold. It’s truly a bike that can be a daily driver and endurance racer all wrapped up in a versatile trail-bike package.
Thanks to a nifty little sag indicator on the linkage, suspension setup is quick and basic: Just set your preferred sag, dial in rebound and go. Per the norm, I found myself toggling between Trail and Descend modes on the Fox Float CTD fork and shock depending on terrain demands. The Advanced Pivot System suspension certainly feels more cross-country than all-mountain plush; it is a capable design that does indeed stay fully active even under hard braking.
Adding to this is what we’d call a middle-of-the-road wheelbase and chainstay length that provides a nice mix of high-speed stability and tight cornering prowess. The bike felt light and responsive at the handlebars without being overly twitchy if you hit panic mode on those occasions where you might be in over your head on an unknown section of trail.
There are a few quirky notes to the build that did surface during “Oh, crap!” moments, though, but not related to the frame, suspension or geometry. At 2.2 inches, the stock Continental Mountain King/X-King combo felt too narrow for trail riding; heck, I use wider tires on my cross-country bike.
While the Fox 32 will probably be just fine for a majority of riders who fit the Speedfox’s intended usage, I was still left wondering how the addition of a Fox 34 might liven up the front end. Personally, I’d prefer a SRAM X01 drivetrain, but after speaking to many riders from Europe, a 2x still seems to be their crank of choice.
And finally, BMC includes its own branded chainstay chain tensioner, the only purpose of which seems to be to create drag in the system; I removed it before the first ride. With modern clutch-style rear derailleurs, it’s not needed on a bike like this.
For the majority of us who are simply looking for a bike that’s capable of doing many things really well, and who are more keen to take a trail bike to a 50-mile race or festival in a location far from home as opposed to entering an enduro, BMC’s Speedfox is a mighty fine all-arounder that fits the bill.
And to be honest, while riding the Speedfox I couldn’t help but think about how awesome this longer-travel bike would be as my full-time cross-country go-everywhere ride if I swapped out my ultra-light stem, carbon handlebar, seatpost and wheelset from my Fourstroke along with its 1x drivetrain. Overall weight would be close and increased performance in challenging terrain would be worth it.
Tester: Mike Cushionbury // Age: 45 // Height: 5’10 // Weight: 155 lbs // Inseam: 32″
- Price: $6,000
- Sizes: S, M (tested), L
- Online: bmc-switzerland.com
- Wheelbase: 45.2″
- Top Tube: 23.9″
- Head Angle: 68.5°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74°
- Bottom Bracket: 12.9″
- Rear Center: 17.2″
- Weight: 27.6 lbs. w/o pedals (test bike)