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BMC Crossmachine CXA01 review

11 Dec 2017
Verdict:

Strikes a good balance between race-ready performance touches and all-round versatility

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,899

BMC claims this machine is ideal not only for cyclocross racing, but also for gravel riding and ‘adventuring the road unknown’.

This does admittedly reduce its focus on pure cross racing, but at the same time offers a wider range of use beyond every second Sunday between now and next February.

Whether it has what we need for competition use remains to be seen…

Frameset

The BMC’s alloy frame is triple-butted in order to keep the tubes light where they can be, but strong at their junctions.

Like many of the Swiss firm’s road bikes, the Crossmachine is designed along the concept of ‘tuned compliance’.

In simple terms, this means it’s designed to provide vertical flex in areas such as the fork tips, top tube, seatpost and seatstays. This is especially evident in the way the thin stays curve noticeably.

An oversized down tube, head tube and chainstays provide lateral stiffness to ensure maximum power transfer and responsive handling.

One nod to versatility is the inclusion of mounts for racks and mudguards. The front and rear brake cables are routed through the fork and down tube respectively, while the exposed rear mech cable is, somewhat surprisingly, routed along the underside of the down tube, putting it right in the line of fire of whatever the terrain throws at it.

The combination of a 71.3° head angle and sub-1000mm wheelbase makes for a bike with direct steering characteristics.

Groupset

The Crossmachine’s moving parts come almost exclusively from Sram’s Rival groupset – sitting in the same position of Sram’s groupset hierarchy as 105 does in Shimano’s.

A single, 40-tooth Rival chainring is matched to a slightly lower spec Sram Apex cassette with an 11-speed range of 11-42.

The rear mech is Rival equipment, as is the single shifter, which uses Sram’s DoubleTap system – one click selects a harder gear, while a full push of the paddle moves up the cassette. Sram’s Rival HRD-A1 hydro disc brakes complete the picture.

Finishing kit

BMC’s own-brand kit equips the Crossmachine, with 420mm width alloy handlebars attached to a 100mm alloy stem at the cockpit end.

The seating arrangement employs a carbon seatpost which wears a Selle Royal Seba saddle. The seat is particularly adept at tackling cross racing, with a supportive fit and pronounced drop at the tip to facilitate full-on teeth-gritted climbing with your hands on the bar tops.

A raised lip at the rear also supplies support on rough terrain.

Wheels

The BMC runs a DT Swiss wheelset – in this case, the X1900 Spline. Their alloy rims have an internal diameter of 20mm, with an external measurement of 24mm, allowing them to accommodate a wider tyre.

The 35c rubber Continental Cyclocross Race rubber claims to offer low rolling resistance, and also have lighter tread on their centre than the norm.

At £20 each, we’d recommend them for all but the most muddy of conditions.

On/off the road

Sharing its geometry with the firm’s GF02 endurance road bike that we tested last year, there’s something instantly reassuring about the CXA’s ride.

But while it has comfort on its side, we were interested to see if it has the performance to square up to our off-road race simulation.   

The BMC runs a single front chainring, as part of Sram’s 1X gearing set-up. The obvious benefit of this is that there’s one less shifter to be concerned about, and cog swapping is a simple affair with the right-hand shifter moving up and down the MTB-spec cassette.

While this is simplicity itself, the wide jumps between gears on the 11-42 block does make for less than slick shifting on occasions, especially when you’re going for an easier gear to get up a slight incline, because the longer throw of the shift paddle requires a firm push all the way through.

For longer trips on the roads and bridleways, this wouldn’t be such an issue, as the need for precise and quick shifts is less crucial.

Back on the off-road lap, however, the BMC’s most impressive calling card is its comfort. The scooped profile of the Selle Royal saddle keeps your behind secure and padded, while the extended height of the Sram Rival brake hoods, not to mention their narrower profile than equivalent Shimano components, makes them ergonomically excellent and allows you plenty of leverage when you’re hammering the bike up quick, short rises on looser ground.

Thin, curved seatstays add a new level of compliance, too. Shouldering the bike is also easy, thanks to the flat-profile top tube.

Essentially, what we take away from our opening laps on the CXA01 is a feeling of sure-footedness on loose ground and of its alloy frame being less harsh than you might initially expect.

When it comes to negotiating the tighter twists and turns, as well as quicker downhill single tracks, the BMC acquits itself admirably. It’s not what we’d call rocket-ship rapid, but it’s a great introduction to those who might be taking their first pedal strokes in off-road racing.

The BMC's wheelbase is not dissimilar to a road bike's, which has the knock-on effect of making it feel more compact and quicker to turn.

With hands on the drops of the 420mm handlebars, there’s plenty of control on technical descents, including one alongside a river bank peppered with exposed tree roots.

Continental’s Cyclocross Race tyres are well suited to a wide variety of conditions.

We ran them at 55psi for optimum floatiness through the deeper and slimier section of our test route, but on the faster hardpack corners, the grip offered by the Conti rubber was impressive.

Prolonged use in wet mud would soon highlight their only limitation, the shallower grip making them a tad slippy when cresting a grassy rise under power.

There’s plenty of clearance for raised tree roots, but if your CX race includes wooden hurdles, you’d probably want to dismount and carry the bike over them, unless you’re really good at bunny hops.

In brief, the overall package lives up to its billing – you could race it, but it would bring you just as much pleasure over a 50-mile gravel adventure with mates. 

Ratings

Frame: 'Tuned compliance' makes it surprisingly comfortable. 8/10
Components: We love the simplicity of Sram's Rival 1x. 8/10 
Wheels: Wide profile rims allow the use of fatter tyres. 8/10 
The Ride: A versatile all-round but not a pure racer. 8/10

Verdict

A strong all-rounder that has plenty of nods to performance without compromising its abilities as an all-day companion for off-road adventures

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 525mm 525mm
Seat Tube (ST) 510mm 510mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 630mm
Fork Length (FL) 395mm 394mm
Head Tube (HT) 125mm 125mm
Head Angle (HA) 71 71.3
Seat Angle (SA) 73 73.2
Wheelbase (WB) 990mm 992mm
BB drop (BB) 68mm 68mm

Spec

BMC Crossmachine CXA01
Frame Triple-butted aluminium, TCC 01 Premium Carbon Compliance for
Groupset Sram Rival
Brakes Sram Rival HRD-01
Chainset Sram Rival, 40t
Cassette Sram Apex, 11-42
Bars BMC RDB 03, alloy
Stem BMC RSM 03, alloy
Seatpost TCC 01 Premium Compiiance-Post, carbon
Wheels DT Swiss X-1900 Spline, Continental Cyclocross Race, 700 x 35
Saddle Selle Royal Seba
Weight 9.44kg (size 51cm)
Contact evanscycles.com