The BMC Granfondo is a machine designed for long-distance comfort.
It was launched with much fanfare last year on the eve of Paris-Roubaix and raced the following day by BMC Racing’s Classics squad, one that included the former world road race champion, Thor Hushovd.
The Granfondo is BMC’s attempt to find the ‘speed with comfort’ grail that obsesses all manufacturers attempting to cater for a market beyond the peloton. We’ll be assessing the degree to which they’ve succeeded in the weeks ahead.
With the Tour de Suisse in full flow, a test machine from Grenchen-based brand seemed appropriate. Here’s a close look at the GF01’s vital statistics before we begin testing.
The GF01 is fashioned from a carbon lay-up known to BMC as Tuned Compliance Concept: the use of different fibres in different alignments with the goal of inducing vertical compliance and with it, comfort.
Comfort is the Granfondo’s calling card (“come home with a smile instead of a grimace,” runs the marketing tag line) and there are many devices in its design with which BMC have attempted to achieve it. The 140mm head-tube is an obvious starting point (20mm higher than the recently tested and race-oriented Specialized Tarmac Expert SL4 Di2, for example). The head angle, a relaxed 71.5 degrees on our 51cm test bike, is another clue.
The most notable feature, however, is the pronounced “elbow” bend at the end of the chainstays, one that begins with a sudden incline 45mm from the rear axle on our 51cm test bike. BMC claim the bend acts as a pivot.
The other immediately obvious feature of the BMC Granfondo GF01 is the giant down-tube – the largest we’ve seen. It tapers only slightly at its junction with a similarly enlarged head-tube, and has a flattened underside. We’re expecting stiffness in abundance in the lower part of the GF01’s chassis.
A sizable bottom bracket shell is required to form a union with such a down-tube, and BMC have opted for a unit that measures 90mm across its underside: as large as the largest we’d previously encountered, Trek’s aptly-named BB90. Significantly, it houses a Shimano-compatible press-fit bottom bracket: the BB86 standard. It’s also equipped with a very neat integrated chain catcher device.
Exiting the bottom bracket shell are two suitable deep chainstays, both of which measure some 50mm at their deepest point as they set off towards the drop out. The flattened, box section profile offers a further pledge of stiffness and power transfer, and BMC claim their diminishing cross section is another inducer of compliance. They end in a squared off cowling that shelters the quick release. The cable for the mechanical Ultegra mech supplied with our test machine is routed neatly through the elbow bend of the drive-side chainstay.
Before we finish with cable routings, the GF01 is moulded to accept electronic or mechanical cables, an offering BMC call dti (“dual transmission integration”), with attendant (and slightly optimistic) claims for “future proofing”. The here and now of our test bike involves two discrete rubber bungs, one on the underside of the top tube and another in the seat tube, just below the brazed on mounting for the front mech.
The flattened seat stays are extremely shallow, joining the seat tube a full 120mm below the top of the seat clamp, a popular technique among designers seeking to induce compliance in the rear end of their machines. They unite in a monostay as they join the GF01’s seat tube.
The sloping top tube broadens from 30mm at the seat-tube to 40mm at the head-tube: narrower than most we’ve tested, so we’ll be interested to assess its stiffness in sprints when wrenching at the handlebars. The last word on the top tube belongs to the cable guides, which are moulded and very neat: a refreshing change from those riveted or bolted to the tube, and sadly present here on the down-tube.
A round seat tube is an anomaly on a machine with its fair share of square edges, and even here this conventional profile is abandoned on the approach to the bottom bracket, where it flares to a pyramid with a base 70mm wide. The reason? Additional carbon real estate and so stiffness at the bottom bracket. The opposite end is of greater interest, however. The proprietary carbon seat post, a device BMC call a “compliancepost” available in offsets of 3mm, 18mm, and 30mm, is another of the Granfondo’s inducements to comfort, and unlike those we’ve seen on many with proprietary seat masts (the Scott Foil Team Issue, Fondriest TF3, Giant TCR Advanced SL4, to name just three) is round.
We can’t fault the specification of the BMC Granfondo GF01.
Three are available: Shimano Dura Ace Di2, Shimano Ultegra Di2, and Shimano Ultegra.
Our mechanically-equipped incarnation has a full mechanical Ultegra groupset, including the chainset, thanks to BMC’s deployment of a BB86-compatible shell. Full marks.
Further good news can be found in a matching Easton EA70 bars and stem. The 120mm stem is longer than typically supplied with a 51cm frame, but suits us well (our own bike has a 52cm frame and 110mm stem). The 40cm bar is another welcome inclusion, and EA70 is mercifully free of the multiplicity of tube profiles encountered on the downscale EA30.
The Fizik Aliante saddle, one equipped with carbon base and Kium rails, is another indication of BMC’s determination not to cut corners. There is no unsightly in-house or unbranded kit here.
Rolling stock also comes courtesy of Easton: a pair of tubeless-ready EA90 aluminium clinchers that would cost circa £700 on the aftermarket. They’re shod with Continental GP 4-Season rubber in 28c profile, another sign of the Granfondo’s intended purpose as a machine for all-day riding.
We’ll be out on the BMC Granfondo GF01 in the weeks ahead. Check back soon for a full review.