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BMC Granfondo GF02 review

12 Apr 2016
Verdict:

Swiss BMC claims its new steed boasts compliance and performance by the bucket load, but is it still fun to ride?

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,299
For 
Surefooted cornering
Against 
Wheels are a let down

Combining the Swiss firm’s Tuned Compliance and Angle Compliance systems, BMC reckons it has created in the Gran Fondo (named after those closed-road amateur races so popular in Italy, and increasingly in the UK) a bike with a frame that flexes where it needs to, yet supplies stiffness where it’s required. Although loosely based on its range-topping Teammachine race bikes, the GF’s top tube is shorter and its head tube higher, for a more comfortable ride over distance. Perfect, then, for an event like a Gran Fondo!

Frameset

BMC Granfondo GF02 frame

BMC’s Tuned Compliance System is at the heart of the GF02’s carbon frameset. Put simply, some areas are laid up to be stiffer, especially the head tube, fork tops, down tube and chainstays, while other areas are tuned for more flex to cosset you on longer rides, including most of the rear triangle, the seatpost and the top tube. Although the idea of designing a frame that balances vertical compliance and lateral stiffness is nothing new, BMC has gone about it in a clever way – in the low seatstays and offset dropouts, for instance. An oversized down tube combines with a squat head tube and chunky chainstays to ensure power gets to the ground with minimal losses, while relaxed geometry contributes to a predictable and ache-free ride.

Groupset

BMC Granfondo GF02 groupset

The BMC’s groupset is a masterclass in unification – every part is taken from Shimano’s Ultegra range. As you would hope and expect, it gels fabulously and it’s a pleasant surprise to ride a bike that hasn’t made any sacrifices at the altar of cost-cutting. As far as the groupset goes, the GF02 is the star of this test.

Finishing kit

BMC Granfondo GF02 Shimano Ultegra

The 42cm-wide compact handlebars offer a perfect drop for our needs, and is wrapped in some of the nicest suede-feel bar tape we’ve ever experienced. The seat we could take or leave, however. The Selle Royal Saba is a little too padded for ultimate comfort, and flexes less than the others on test over jarring road imperfections.

Wheels

Something had to give to provide this bike at this price. You can pick up a set of Shimano’s RS11s online for under £100. They’re durable, but they’re not performance hoops. If you’re serious about vertical gain, you might want to consign them to training or winter duties, and invest in a set of Ultegra wheels (yours for a little over £200 if you shop around). You’ll save 200g of rotational mass, too.

The ride

Rolling away on our first ride, the impression is of a bike that’s definitely comfortable. The seat isn’t our cup of tea (it’s too soft to get comfy easily), but the frame’s relaxed geometry as we flick through the first turns lends the GF02 an easy-going nature. But we do like a bit of get-up-and-go in our endurance bikes, so the sternest test the BMC faces is its open-road performance, and whether the comfort deteriorates over distance.

Within 10 miles it’s clear that the BMC won’t be winning any prizes for sheer thrills, but it’s still a pleasure to ride. If a full day in the saddle racking up triple-figure mileage is your kind of riding, this bike is  built to do that job. There’s ample stiffness where BMC claims; progress is efficient, metronomic once we get in the groove, aided by those stiff chainstays and massive down tube/bottom bracket junction. However, the moment we get out of the saddle to attack the first false flat, it’s clear that the sluggish wheels are letting it down.

BMC Granfondo GF02 review

This bike is crying out for some decent climbing wheels – they would shave off a good amount of that 8.48kg bulk, and go some way to transforming the GF02’s performance when you really need to put the hammer down, or even just stick it in an easier gear to grind out a seated climb. The range of gears available is identical to that of the Specialized Roubaix and Look 765, and with comparable weight to haul up the hills, progress is on a par. What gives the Look the edge in the climbing department, though, is its generally more sprightly performance, and although it’s just 25g lighter, it’s worth noting that the 765 we tested was also a frame size bigger than the BMC. Given that the nature of the majority of sportives is to include some testing climbs, this is a vital element to get right.

The BMC’s bottom bracket drop (the vertical distance between the centre of the BB and the centre of the rear dropouts) is notably deep. This amplifies its sure-footed cornering performance, providing confidence that’s already high due to the 25c Continental tyres. It won’t set the world on fire, but the relatively relaxed nature of this bike’s handling makes it an able companion that’s never going to shock you on open, sweeping descents. The byword is predictability, and that’s the BMC’s major strength.

Livelier wheels (such as Shimano’s Ultegra wheelset, to match the groupset) would not only unify the bike nicely but also transform it into something more capable of attacking (rather than simply crossing) any terrain, and putting a massive grin on your face (rather than a wry smile). After all, even the least-competitive sportive riders get excited when they see the brow of a hill or a finish gantry.

Best Granfondo GF02 prices

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 527mm 530mm
Seat Tube (ST) 475mm 473mm
Down Tube (DT) 622mm
Fork Length (FL) 375mm 375mm
Head Tube (HT) 143mm 143mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.5 71.3
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 72.7
Wheelbase (WB) 982mm 988mm
BB drop (BB) 71mm 72mm

Spec

BMC Granfondo GF02
Frame GF02 Tuned Compliance Concept carbon
Groupset Shimano Ultegra
Brakes Shimano Ultegra
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-32
Bars BMC RDB3, alloy
Stem BMC RST3, alloy
Seatpost BMC Compliance Post, 27.2mm
Wheels Shimano RS11
Saddle Selle Royal Saba
Tyres Continental Ultra Sport, 25c
Contact evanscycles.com

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