BMC Fourstroke FS01 29 – Ride Impressions: by c_g
We recently had presented you the brand new BMC Fourstroke FS01 29 with all its technical features (here). Now it is time to tell how the bike rode on the trails around the Swiss biking hot spot, Lenzerheide. BMC sees the FS01 Fourstroke 29 as a true all-arounder: FAST, EFFICIENT and POTENT.
Sure, at 2040 g frame weight (including shock and hardware), a dream spec in the top version FS01 29 (XTR Trail group, custom tuned Fox Factory CTD fork and CTD shock, Easton EA90 wheels and EC90 cockpit and seat post, … ) and a complete weight of only 22.8 lbs (or 10.35 kg) it sure is fit for racing. But the provision for a chain guide on the chain stay. For a dropper post, the 180 mm discs (front & rear), the XTR Shadow PLUS rear derailleur and XTR Trail crank (triple) also point towards a trail-oriented package.
But now for the test ride:
Having already ridden the previous model with identical geometry (the Speedfox SF29) extensively, I deliberately chose the size L for the first test ride. I remember well, how the SF29 had impressed me with its confident and playful handling, but I also how it was a little too compact for me. Despite its impressive top tube length of 635 mm (for my 6 ft or 183 cm with normal proportions), the bike came out only moderately longer than usual thanks to the short stem (80mm),
CLIMBING: The beginning of the demo loop consisted of lots of gravel and loose uphill some of it at the limit of ride-ability. Still, thanks to the triple crank, we were all able to master that part OK. Contrary to what the compact rear triangle (with 445 mm length chain stays) would suggest, the bikes stayed well planted in all but the most extreme situations. I thought the rear the APS suspension system did a conspicuously inconspicuous job – even in the open “Descent” mode of the shock, its seated climbing has been very stable and with optimum traction. Out of the saddle I still chose the „Trail“-mode with its moderate platform to keep things calm back there.
Positive: The BMC FS01 29 showed no trace of sinking into its travel when climbing steeply – a thing I absolutely despise. Thanks to the low overall weight and the bike´s pedaling efficiency the FS01 virtually storms ahead with each pedal stroke like you´d expect from a XC-race bike – only my legs and lungs set the limit in terms of storming forward .
The frame itself is perfectly stiff and precise even for heavy and strong riders like me. Neither the steering, nor the bottom bracket showed the slightest tendency to flex -given the low weight a great achievement. On a second test loop in the afternoon I was able to ride the FS01 on more technical, rocky climbs, where I particularly noticed the positive feedback from the ground, which helped me to control the pedal pressure in difficult situations so as to never lose traction.
All in all, the BMC FS01 left me with a very positive impression in terms of its uphill properties – a highly efficient chassis which further benefits from the excellent power transfer and the low weight .
DOWNHILL: The downhills of the multi hour demo loop have been a wonderful mixture of anything a biker´s hearts beats for. Flowy fast sections with stream crossings and depressions, to technical trial passages and smaller jumps … everything was there. By coincidence, the BMC crew had also included two very nice single-track trails that I had ridden the day before on another 29″er (the SANTA CRUZ Tallboy LTc with 140 mm of travel – which is going to be presented here soon) … and the comparison was of course very exciting.
And even in this direct comparison it was surprising how well the BMC Fourstroke dealt even with the roughest sections there. The suspension with 100 mm front and back was again working remarkably unnoticeably and effectively. I loved how I always had accurate knowledge about the trail conditions and due to the high rigidity of the bike it steered very accurately. On larger square-edged obstacles the suspension would sometimes reach its limits, but however hard I tried I never experienced any bottoming out.
In terms of HANDLING, I would describe the BMC Fourstroke FS01 29″er as agile and “good-natured”.
• Agile, because it would willingly take any corner and steer around any obstacle at any speed, yet never felt boring or slow – a tendency which I had criticized many times on more trail oriented bikes.
• Good natured, because it has taken me though even the roughest terrain and minor drops with great confidence.
The test trails around Lenzerheide were an ideal testing grounds for the trail qualities of the BMC Fourstroke and here it also was able to convince me completely of its potential. The geometry and rigidity of the frame, combined with the excellent suspension make it a great ride, not only in moderate terrain, but also for technical trail riding. (And again it was found that for my riding style a very good 100mm suspension platform like the BMC is a better, more efficient and universal 29″er bike.)
THE SPEC AND DETAILS: The bike as ridden is the top-end version of the new BMC Fourstroke platform.
The XTR drive train (again) provided incredible precision and reliability. The slight increase in weight by going fort he the XTR-Trail over the Race group is easily accepted – as they give the FS01 29 a versatility rarely found in other “race bikes” (to me only the new ROCKY MOUNTAIN Element also fits that bill). The XTR brakes (180 mm) were able to convince with fantastic modulation and power. The Shadow Plus derailleur tamed all chain clatter effectively, but should you wish for more, there also is the (optional) chain guide by BMC that the bike comes with. The specified CONTINENTAL Race Kings were very fast and surprisingly grippy XC-tires and worked well on dry trails in Lenzerheide, but given the broad application range of the BMC Fourstroke 29 FS01 would not be my first choice for the bike. The Easton EA90 wheels proved as precise, stiff and relatively nimble. No complaints there either
With the exception of the FISIK Tundra Carbon railed saddle and the tires we would not take many changes on the FS01 29, if it were to be our personal bike … except maybe a TALAS fork with 120/95 mm travel and a Reverb Stealth dropper post for rougher operations. BMC also confirmed the frame to be positively compatible with 120 mm forks, but won´t offer such in a complete bike. I’m a little hesitant about the interior running shifter cable in the chain stay, because everywhere else the routing is external along the down tube, but that’s pretty much all.
THE FIT: At first I was a little surprised that the demoed BMC FS01 felt not quite as playful as the Speedfox I had ridden and known – but, as I was later able to prove, this was only due to the frame size, not the geometry. The extra inch in frame length makes for a more efficient riding position and a slightly more stable handling, and with this felt spot on for a marathon or endurance race bike.
During the subsequent demo loop on a Fourstroke FS01 29 in size medium (effective top tube of 610 mm) the agility and playfulness immediately shone through and charmed me into taking every little ramp as a catapult made me accelerate of out of the corners and had me fooled with the low overall weight . The additional freedom of movement on the smaller frame did immediately bring back the memories of a short-travel trail bike (which is what I called the Speedfox at the time) – only now in a much lighter package.
The conclusion of the different feel in the two demoed sizes for are that the BMC Fourstroke FS01 successful spans the full range of uses from a highly efficient and fast race bike all the way to a „short travel“ trail bike.
SUMMARY: BMC has obviously fixed all the shortcomings of its predecessor (specifically the weight and the damper´s suspension performance) with this second generation 29″er full-suspension bike and has created a cutting edge product in a variety of aspects. In terms of weight, stiffness, handling and suspension performance, the bike is a pleasure to ride. The smart details and carefully selected parts further make the BMC Fourstroke FS01 29 boasts with versatility. As for this first riding impression I can only express BMC my honest compliment for the new BMC Fourstroke FS01 29 – a BIKE for (almost) everyone, and for (almost) all cases.
PS: Finally, we want to say THANK YOU to BMC Switzerland for the invitation to the presentation.