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BMC Granfondo GF01 Disc review

30 Mar 2016

Pro-level endurance bikes gets a disc brake makeover, with surprising results

Ever wondered why Fabian Cancellara and Roger Federer are just so darn nice? Well, according to a study by the University of Buffalo entitled The Neurogenics Of Niceness, it’s likely Fabs and Rodge’s genes are more receptive to the ‘cuddle chemicals’ oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones produced in the human body that are associated with being bloody lovely. However, I’d wager that it’s also because they’re Swiss. Think about it for one stereotypical second: tax rates are extremely low, the trains are more punctual than cuckoos, the chocolate is superb, the country hasn’t been to war since 1847 and the flag looks cool. Those might also be the reasons for the Bicycle Manufacturing Company’s excellent track record. 

Despite its prosaically neutral name, BMC bikes have proven themselves in almost every category – a Tour de France win under Cadel Evans, two Team Time-Trial World Championships with the BMC Racing Team and an Hour record with Rohan Dennis. Yet a Monument victory has so far eluded a BMC bike. In the coming years the Granfondo Disc might just change all that.

Family resemblance

I say ‘in the coming years’ because while the UCI now technically allows disc brake bikes at races, BMC’s product marketing manager, Thomas McDaniel, says BMC Racing will only be riding the Granfondo ‘in its original rim brake version’ for races such as Paris-Roubaix. The disc brake version is an altogether different beast, and I think the pros are missing out.

‘We were able to use the front triangle from the rim brake Granfondo, but we had to re-engineer the rear triangle and fork,’ says McDaniel. ‘The overall frame and fork weight is around 30-40g more, but otherwise the handling characteristics are nearly identical.’

The stays and fork have clearly been redesigned to accommodate disc brakes, although BMC has done an excellent job at hiding away as much of the gubbins as possible. The front hose dives into the frame via a hole in the lower headset spacer and only reappears centimetres from the brake calliper. Similarly, the rear hose enters neatly into the down tube and only pops out at the last possible point along the chainstay to connect with the rear calliper. BMC has also chosen to spec 140mm rotors, which together with the cleverly squirreled callipers help keep the bike as clean looking as possible – surely a plus for any detractor who objects
to discs on the grounds that ‘they don’t look road’.

Neat as this is, I can foresee a problem for some riders. The front brake routing means you have no choice but to include the 20mm headset spacer, making stem-slamming a no-no. BMC will point out this is a distance-comfort machine, not intended for an overtly aggressive position. Still, checking the rim brake version’s set-ups at previous races, the pros would disagree.

The geometry is as you’d expect in comparison to the Teammachine, BMC’s lightweight racer. The wheelbase for this size 56cm Granfondo Disc is 20mm more at 1,008mm, the head tube 14mm taller at 177mm (and also half a degree more laid back at 72°), and the bottom bracket drop 2mm more at 71mm. What that all boils down to is a bike that provides a more upright position at the same time as being longer and having a lower centre of gravity – all the classic traits of an endurance bike. Or, in McDaniel’s words, ‘All the things needed to create a slightly calmer and more stable ride characteristic.’

An arm knocks into a bar…

It’s not often that I get the chance to make direct comparisons when testing bikes. A manufacturer might add a viscoelastic laminate here or some magical powdered substance there, but unless I’m able to ride the same products without these special accoutrements there’s no way of legitimately making the leap from marketing hype to fact. Not so with the Granfondo Disc, as I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden the calliper version too, as well as the Teammachine. The differences are marked. 

The Granfondo is indeed a calm and stable machine in contrast with the Teammachine, but that does rather leave an initial impression of sedation. Where such road bikes as the Teammachine feel sharp, nippy and responsive, the Granfondo Disc felt on the sluggish side from standing starts. The cockpit is an all-aluminium in-house affair that I’d wager weighs a few grams, and it isn’t helped by the bar shape and width. The 90° bend from tops to drops is sharp, making for awkward forearm strikes when sprinting in the drops. This is in contrast to some more modern shapes that flare out at the drops to afford more unobstructed lateral movement of the arms. The bars also feel too wide for a bike of this size, and that coupled with the long wheelbase and slack head angle make low-speed handling cumbersome.

Steamin’ and beamin’

The same size rim brake version of the Granfondo weighs 7.5kg, meaning the disc treatment has added 750g to the overall weight, which might not seem huge until you consider that’s a 10% increase. Yet the Granfondo Disc carries its extra hardware well. It definitely tells up the climbs, especially as much of the weight is in the X-1900 wheels, which DT Swiss actually markets as mountain bike wheels – a point cemented by their claimed 1,865g mass. But get the Granfondo chugging away and all these thoughts evaporate. The handling drastically sharpens to a steady yet responsive point, while the ride quality and comfort levels are nothing short of fantastic. 

It might sound odd, but there were times when the Granfondo Disc behaved more like an incredibly nimble mountain bike – gung-ho, bombproof and with the ability to stop on a sixpence – and it’s here where the Disc wins out over its traditional sibling, a bike that never really felt like it came alive: a little too stately for really racing, a little too prim for mixing
it on poor terrain. Conversely, point the Granfondo Disc in the direction of gnarled, bumpy roads, throw in some rain for good measure and the bike will handle it all with the cool efficiency of Roger Federer, leaving you to grin like a triumphant Cancellara. 

Model BMC GF01 Disc
Groupset Shimano Ultegra
Deviations Shimano RS685 levers

R785 callipers

140mm rotors

Wheels DT Swiss X-1900 Spline
Finishing kit BMC RDB 3 bars

RST3 stem

BMC Compliance carbon seatpost

Fizik Aliante R7 manganese saddle

Weight 8.24kg (56cm frame)


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