In case you didn’t know, BMC stands for Bicycle Manufacturing Company and as names go, they don’t get much more functional. The Swiss-based BMC brand was born in 1994 from what had been a distributor of Raleigh bikes, but it was in 2000 when the then owner of the Phonak pro cycling team, Andy Rihs, bought the company that they really started to focus on their own design and engineering.
And it’s probably fair to say that BMC have learnt an awful lot in a comparatively short amount of time. While they may not have the history of other brands, their TeamMachine was ridden to victory in the 2011 Tour by Cadel Evans which is just about as good a testament as there can be.
Unlike the TeamMachine, the Granfondo (or GF) is an endurance-focused bike. That means, as you may recall, that it’s built for comfort but not at the sacrifice of speed. Other than the claims about the compliance of the frameset, BMC have kitted their £2,400 GF02 out with a fork and seatpost both touted to improve comfort, and a set of big 28mm Continental Ultra Sport tyres.
It sports Shimano’s Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset, and pairs a 50/34t crankset with the long cage version of the rear derailleur and a wide 11-32t cassette giving you a lowest gear that’s almost a 1:1 ratio. It’s a bike designed to get you from A to B as comfortably as possible, and gives you a setup to climb some pretty steep hills en route.
But one aspect of the comfort-focused setup I just can’t abide is the saddle. There’s nothing wrong with the Selle Royal Saba in principle, it’s just not for me, and I personally don’t think that saddles like that really have much place on a road bike. It’s densely padded and very flexible, which makes for a very plush ride in one sense, but a real pain in more metaphorical terms.
The other acquired taste is the colour scheme. BMC call it ‘shark’, but I’d just go with drab. While the paint job on a bike might not make it faster, it’ll definitely make it more appealing and the decision to go with grey on black instead of BMC’s classic-looking red on black isn’t great. Especially since the 105 and Tiagra-equipped versions both have vastly superior finishes.
Looks aren’t everything though, and so far (saddle aside), I’ve been impressed with the GF02. It definitely comes through with its claims of comfort versus a standard road bike, and I’m keen to see how it does on some of the rougher road surfaces on my favourite test loops. Check back in a few weeks for a full verdict on BMC’s Classics machine.