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BMC URS 01 review

29 Nov 2021
Verdict:

The SRAM XPLR-equipped BMC URS 01 could be the ideal bike for the right type of rider

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£3,150 frameset, approx £7,500 as tested
For 
Forward-thinking geometry • Neat MTT rear suspension unit • Innovative componentry • Nice gearing spread
Against 
Overall weight • 'ActiveRide' function of the Rockshox Reverb seatpost isn’t easy to use • Some riders might be better served by a mountain bike

The BMC URS 01 comes from a brand with a stereotypically Swiss reputation for clean design and clinical performance, such that it is often thought of first and foremost as a road brand.

Yet it has equally deep roots in the rough-and-tumble of the mountain bike world, and Grand Tour-winning road bikes rub shoulders with World Cup-winning XC mountain bikes in its portfolio. Despite this pedigree at either end of the riding spectrum, however, BMC had been notably absent from the gravelly space in between, until it released the URS.

 

Any move into the discipline by BMC would have turned heads, but the URS's combination of features were such that the bike caused quite a stir in what is already a rapidly developing and open-minded discipline.

'Gravel was totally new ground for us, so we wanted to push the envelope a bit further than other road brands that have slid into the segment more naturally,' says Stephan Christ, BMC's head of product.

 

What Christ means by that is rather than pushing forward from a road bike starting point like many other manufacturers have done, BMC has actually chosen to pull back from the mountain bike side of things. Consequently, the URS uses a distinct geometry compared to other bikes in the gravel sector.

BMC URS 01 geometry

It has a slack 70° head tube angle and long top tube to create a stretched front-centre figure (the distance from the bottom bracket to the front wheel axle) for stability over rough ground, but then uses a stubby 70mm stem to bring overall reach in line with normal bike sizing and keep the steering reactive.

The effect on handling is marked, with only a little input required at the bars to initiate steering, but those relaxed angles underneath ensure the reaction from the bike is never skittish. It imparted confidence in steep and technical situations where I might have otherwise been aware of being under-biked for the terrain.

Helping in that regard is the Micro Travel Technology suspension concept found at the seatstay bridge. Like the URS's geometry, MTT is another concept borrowed from BMC's mountain bike designs and has been in use since 2015. Nestled between the seatstays and the seat tube is a small section of elastomer that hides a pair of aluminium shafts that can slide up and down, providing up to 10mm of travel to damp impacts at the rear.

It has to be said that additional complexity in a frame design doesn't often appeal to me – the best engineering solutions are generally the simplest – but I will admit to getting on well with the unit.

While it's more complicated and heavier than normal seatstays, the design is robust and unfussy, quietly but effectively adding an extra bit of squish to the URS's ride quality that my backside was thankful for even on short rides. 

 

Sum of its parts

On this particular URS its geometry and MTT unit are in fact only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to progressive features. The bike has been built with a suite of XPLR gravel-specific components from SRAM, Zipp and Rockshox.

Up front, Rockshox's Rudy Ultimate XPLR fork balances the URS's MTT unit, offering up to 30mm of front-end travel. Rockshox says this is the first suspension fork to be tuned specifically for gravel, and in fairness its movement is nicely modulated – it feels sensitive to small bumps but doesn't bottom out under big hits.

I'd liken using it to running a bigger tyre size over rough terrain, such was its effect on traction, but without the draggy trade-off of more tyre volume when back on smoother surfaces.

Rockshox also supplies a gravel version of its Reverb AXS wireless dropper post, which I'd say is a less successful inclusion. Aside from its primary purpose – to drop out of the way on steep descents – it also includes a feature called ActiveRide that allows the post to act as suspension.

 

It's a nice idea but I found I was never able to engage the feature with any degree of accuracy or repeatability, and it affected the way I pedalled to such a degree I found it simply not worth the trade-off.

Individual function aside, Rockshox's gravel-specific components trigger a wider debate around such technology. Suspension forks and dropper posts mean gravel bikes such as the URS, which already blurs the line between riding disciplines, are straying into MTB territory in terms of capability.

Is that necessary? That depends on the kind of riding you do, but personally I don't require all those extra components for the type of gravel I ride and the way I ride it. Yet there will be others out there for whom the URS is perfect – offering a level of technology and off-road capability that most other gravel bikes just can’t match.

Photography: Mike Massaro

Pick of the kit


Universal Colours Spectrum Lightweight gilet, £100

There isn’t often much to get excited about in a gilet but the Spectrum offers a couple of neat features. One is the stretch mesh panels on the sides and back of the garment, which make the otherwise inelastic nylon fit neatly as well as improve breathability. The other is the Vislon Slim zip. It is recycled, and function-wise folds unobtrusively so the gilet can be packed down easily.

The £100 pricetag is high but UC's commitment to social and environment good practice may help offset the cost.

• Buy the Universal Colours Spectrum Lightweight gilet now from Sigma Sports

Alternatively…


More mainstream

For £2,850 the BMC URS One swaps to more everyman SRAM Apex components and a heavier carbon layup in the frame but importantly preserves that distinct geometry and MTT suspension unit.


Progression on a budget

BMC has just released the URS AL, an aluminium version of the bike. The AL One tier has a similar spec list to the carbon URS but is around £500 cheaper, costing £2,350.

Spec

Frame BMC URS 01 XPLR
Groupset   SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR
Brakes SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR
Chainset SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR
Cassette SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR
Bars Zipp Service Course SL 70 XPLR
Stem Zipp Service Course SL
Seatpost Rockshox Reverb AXS XPLR
Saddle Fizik Terra Argo X3
Wheels Zipp 303 Firecrest, Zipp G40 XPLR 40mm tyres
Weight 9.27kg (L)
Contact zyrofisher.co.uk

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews