Ride Impressions: BMC TE01 29″er- by Grannygear

In some ways, the typical meet/greet/ride scenario that happens when journalists are invited to come to an unveiling of  a new bike is both a dream and a nightmare.  The dreamy part is getting wined and dined a bit, meeting the typically great folks who design and make these things a reality or even race them for a living, seeing what is new before others do, etc…that is very cool.  But then you need to go out and, with very little time to actually fit the bike to your liking or needs, ride the bike on unfamiliar trails/conditions as you try to keep the flag of your masthead flying by not getting dropped or looking like a slacker/trail Fred.  It ain’t easy being me.

And so it was with the BMC TE01 29″er, the latest big wheeler from BMC Switzerland, a stiff, light, and very good looking carbon hard tail that takes off where the aluminum version stopped with c_g at the helm.  The hotel was nicely swanky, sitting on the edge of a golf course in Monterey, Cal.  The food was excellent, the demonstration/marketing talk was not too long and told us what we needed to know and the schwag was tasty, a team ‘kit’…bib shorts and full zip jersey.  Post dinner talk led to night night time and the next morning, kitted up in our new lycra and looking like the geriatric version of Team BMC-GTS (Gone To Seed), we headed for Sea Otter and the trails therein.  And here is where it gets dicey as the sizing of a TE01 is slightly at odds with my lanky bod, especially when you factor in the philosophy that BMC has for cockpit setup to compliment the geometry they run.  So lets talk about that a bit and see how the BWC or Big Wheel Concept works out.

A LG size 29″er typically has a 24.25″ to 24.5″ effective top tube measurement, a 71*-ish HT angle, and a 100mm or so stem, at least a hard tail like this one.  An XL of the same model would get you into the 25″ to 25.25″ top tube range typically.  The BMC TE01 carbon has no XL in the line but the LG has a 631mm/ 24.84″ effective top tube length, putting it in an ‘tweener’ size…long-ish for a typical LG and shortish for a typical XL.  As well, BMC feels that the head tube angle can be relaxed over the norm and the 70* head tube angle, long top tube and a bottom bracket drop of 65mm meet their desire of adding stability to the bike.  Also part of this, and reigning in the long top tube, is a 70mm stem and wide bar.  But, helping keep this bike from handling like a barge is a quite short chain stay length of 429mm/16.9″.  Now why do I mention all this?  Only to point out that it put me in less than an ideal fit, mostly due to the 70mm stem and the non-offset seat post.  The reach is listed at a 442mm distance and that is smack in the middle of, say a LG and XL Specialized Stumpjumper carbon hard tail.  So while I was a bit cramped, it was not terribly so but I wanted to slide back on the saddle when climbing and get more forward on the front end when descending.  I could ride a LG TE01 29″er with no issues, but with a 90mm to 100mm stem and likely a set-back post of an inch or so.  But besides all the fit issues for my lanky-ness, does this long in front, short in back, low at the bottom bracket, wide at the bars approach work?  Let’s get in the saddle and see.

Pedaling out on a 22-ish lb carbon hard tail (22lbs for the Med size) is always pretty nice and the BMC does not disappoint there.  Those large, shaped tubes from the HT down to the bottom bracket junctions are not there for styling and the TE01 is a stiff little scoot.  According to BMC, the TE01 29 is stiffer at the bottom bracket (a BB92 in this case) than any other of the mountain frames they produce and it sure moves out with a pedal stroke.  I did feel that it did not ‘pop’ ahead like some other carbon, elite level hard tails I recall, but the TE01 29″er had real tires on there…2.2 Onza Canis, a 700g tire according to the Onza website…and non-carbon wheels.  For a racer, I bet a tire swap would be the answer to that lag I may have felt, but for the average Joe and Jill it is nice to have a real all around trail tire on a 29″er right from the beginning and the Canis tire seemed to be a good performer.  In any case, I cannot imagine anyone complaining of pedaling response on the BMC TE01 in any meaningful way.

Something that BMC had as a goal for this bike was a compliant ride, something they call TCC or Tuned Compliance Concept.  The chain stays and seat stays are designed to have a quite decent amount of give.  How much?  Hard to say, but although a 30mm number has been tossed around, that takes into account the entire compression of the frame as it sits on a test jig so just what could be measured at the axle would be less than that, perhaps by 50%.  Still and all, it is a hard tail, but BMC had a compliant ride as a strong goal for the TE01 29″er.

It is a nice looking frame with the BMC signature look at the seat stay/seat tube/top tube junction and the BMC color scheme of red/black/white logos.  The tire clearance is generous to adequate, even with the short length and the 2.2 Canis on there.  Very nice!  Other bits to notice are the chain catcher built into the frame (you do not want to chew up a carbon frame from a dropped chain), the direct mount front derailleur, and the short head tube (110mm on the LG…90mm on the SM).  The brake adapter at the rear caliper is built into the frame and will not accept a 140mm rotor.  BMC feels that 29″ers deserve bigger rotors than that for adequate stopping duties.

In the dirt, we rode a mix of fire roads covered in gravel (with some pretty fast run outs), lots of single track descents that were twisty and very entertaining, and of course we earned the right to all that by climbing a good deal on a 50/50 mix of dirt road and tight, steep and rutted trail.  Two hours or so later, what do I think?

  • TCC:  Well, yeah, it is compliant.  In fact, when you factor in the made-for-this-bike 27.2mm Compliancepost seat post, then it is quite nice on chattery surfaces.  Out of the saddle it will not fool you into thinking ‘FS’, but I laud the design intent to use carbon fiber as more than just a light and stiff approach and it does show through on the TE01 29″er.  Jeff J was riding with me that day as well and he, being heavier than I by a good 50lbs, actually felt the bike ‘spring’ him up off the saddle a couple of times on dips and bumps.  Maybe he is a rolling test jig and was getting all of that rumored 30mms of travel…not sure, but I never noticed that effect.
  • BWC:  The handling was unique for sure.  It felt like a small, light, stiff trail bike to me.  Yeah, weird, but interesting.  The short stays are killer fun and make it eezy peezy to loft the front wheel over stuff, flip the back end around, etc, and the bike liked to be driven from the hips.  Very high fun factor.  With the longer top tube and relaxed head tube angle, the front end is out there and stayed put fine on steep seated climbs, especially with the forward weight shift of a 73.5* ST angle and a non-offset seat post.  I had no issues at all with head waggle on climbs.  Steering was a bit odd as it just did not feel like I expected a racey carbon hard tail to feel like, but once I figured it out, it was not a big deal and the biggest issue was a stem that kept me from moving weight over the front as easily as I would have liked.  I had no issues on tight corners with the 70* HT angle and it felt nice when things got fast, rutted and loose.  Did I feel some front end drift on turn-in?  Maybe.  It was sandy out there on the trails and a bit torn-up from all the pre-race traffic.  I bet a longer stem would have weighted the front better or perhaps I simply needed more time on the bike to get it figured out.  This is where that quick impressions type ride can be a puzzle.

So as far as fit, I bet if you were 6′-ish tall, the LG would be right there.  Over that (I am 6’2″ with long arms), then maybe even still as some folks like less reach than others.  I would have to add some stem length and I would be good to go I think, but then, by changing that number, do I mess with the BWC concept enough to ruin everything?  I doubt it.  I actually would like another shot at the TE01 on home turf with some small cockpit changes.  I really liked the TCC.  It seemed to work.  I really like the out-of-the-box thinking in the BWC too.  A low bottom bracket is good for me in the West.  I also typically like a slacker head tube angle over steeper so that is another option box I like checked off.

I really am not a fan of geared hard tails as they typically do not fit into my bent toward longer endurance rides but the BMC guys have my interest with the TE01 29″er and I would give it a good look if you are in the market for something of this nature.

 

 

Note: We were provided this opportunity at no charge. We were not bribed, nor paid for this review. We strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.