BMC SPEEDFOX 1 | $7,000 | BMC-SWITZERLAND.COM
BMC has drawn a line in the stand. It's sticking with 29-inch wheels, and cheers to BMC we say. From this commitment to the bigger wheels comes the 130-millimeter Speedfox, a bike designed with one clear goal in mind–to be that one bike in a one-bike quiver.
Creating the quintessential all-rounder is a lofty goal, so BMC followed its established design protocol known as 'Big Wheel Concept,' which equates to short chainstays, a low bottom bracket, a long cockpit, slack head angle and a short stem. Then engineers set out to optimize their 'Advanced Pivot System' suspension to strike a balance of pedaling and bump compliance. There are better pedalers and better descenders in BMC's lineup, but to nail the ride they were after it needed to be smack in the middle. The all-carbon frame features clean angular lines and cable routing, post mounts designed for 180-millimeter rotors and it's available in five sizes.
Our test loop started with a solid climb, and it was there that the Speedfox lived up to its name, flying uphill like a fox fleeing the hounds. In fact, it was so quick going up that we started to doubt its ability to go downhill. But that wasn't the case at all, as the BWC geometry instilled confidence right off the bat. It's a super-quick handling bike, shooting from corner to corner with a light athletic feel. During the climb the drops at the bottom of the descent seemed out of the question, but once pointed downhill those thoughts faded, and by the time the drops came up you had forgotten about them entirely and just flew right off 'em.
I had an absolute blast on the Speedfox, as did other testers. And thanks to some company growth, BMC has been able to cut costs and pass that on, making its bikes more competitively priced. There are also two other models in the Speedfox line that require less cabbage to swing a leg over. – Simon Stewart
Q & A with Antoine Lyard, mountain bike product manager – BMC
We had questions about the new bikes before we even got our test rigs, so we sent out a few queries—the kind of things we thought you might be asking yourself when you're looking at this bike. Then we sent out another round of asks if any major questions or issues came up during testing. Here's the feedback we received from BMC mountain bike product manager, Antoine Lyard.
Consider this a bonus feature—just a little something extra to chew on if you're still hungry for information after you've watched our video reviews and flipped through the Bible of Bike Tests.
—Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
VERNON FELTON: So, who's the ideal rider for the Speedfox?
ANTOINE LYARD: I think primarily it's a rider who wants to own one bike. The industry has truly embraced the specificity with which a lot of riders demand, in terms of performance characteristics, but the companies really paying attention acknowledge that there is still a rider who just wants one bike that does it all….that's the Speedfox rider.
As you know, every suspension design is a delicate balance of pedaling and bump performance – APS kinematics and suspension setup for the Speedfox is what our engineers consider the best balance. In plain speak, it's a great all 'rounder for a rider who only has enough wall space for one bike.
VF: This category is in flux right now—there are plenty of companies that are either abandoning 29ers outright (in favor of 650b) or are relegating 29ers to pure XC applications. Was BMC concerned that some people who might be good candidates for this bike might brush it off as being "outdated" because of the 29er hoops?
AL: It would bum us out to learn that a potential Speedfox rider would miss out on how fun this bike is, simply based on a wheel size description. But our job is to monitor what riders are asking for, despite what we believe is the best solution for a particular riding genre. BMC has put a pretty clear stake in the ground with our commitment to Big Wheel Concept (BWC) geos, so it's obvious we love 29-inch wheels, they're present in our entire line of MTB. However, we believe in listening to riders and responding with product done the BMC way – we hope to continue to be a relevant player in the MTB category, so we're definitely doing our research and learning from time on our trails here in Switzerland, and in every one of our markets.
VF: What was BMC aiming for, in terms of ride traits, when the company designed the Speedfox?
AL: It's pretty simple really – the design target was the best balance of pedaling and suspension. On both sides of the Speedfox we have bikes that prioritized certain characteristics: the Fourstroke definitely prioritizes pedaling efficiency first, while the Trailfox puts more emphasis on high-speed descending. The Speedfox is BMC's idea of the "all-around" bike that's sits plainly in the middle of those two bikes.
VF: How did BMC, from a design and engineering perspective, achieve those goals?
AL: The overall design theme of BMC’s mountain bike line follows a consistent protocol we identify as Big Wheel Concept (BWC). BWC is defined by short chainstays, low BB, long cockpit with a short stem and slack head angles – so this is definitely the starting point. The engineers and suspension team are then tasked with finding kinematics that enable this basic design premise to work together with suspension characteristics to maximize the ride qualities riders were asking for. It starts on the drawing board and goes to CAD, where we always use computers to do as much work early on as possible.
We've got some seriously cool computer tech that assesses the effects of kinematics on axle path, stroke rate, etc, and this takes a bit of time to make sure it's all correct. The Impec Advanced R&D lab is a huge asset at this point, because anybody can create or assess suspension on a screen, but taking CAD to reality is another major obstacle – we can create a rideable prototype in an incredibly short period of time. So, it really boils down to how a bike performs on the trail – once we think we have a good design we get more involved with suspension companies to find the best shock tune, etc to compliment the kinematics. A few revisions later and we find ourselves at full production.
VF: Who (what kind of rider) would you say is the ideal candidate for the Speedfox? The slack geometry, long top tube and short chainstays suggest that this bike is aimed at a rider who wants a bike that excels on descents. I could see this bike spanning a couple different categories.
AL: We would agree that it can spread itself into other categories without a huge stretch of its original design targets. Sure, you can pin a number for an XC or Enduro race! Who are we to tell you how to pedal your new ride? Racers who regularly race, professional or amateur, obviously go with purpose-built bikes, but there's an entire world of non-racers out there who can, reasonably, only justify one bike – Speedfox is our best bike for that rider. And yes, it does descend really well thanks to the geo points you highlighted, but it also pedals and climbs pretty awesome as a result of the original design targets. The seattube angle helps keep the front wheel on the ground and the rear gets great traction while climbing steep stuff….so again, pardon the cliché, but with Speedfox we really didn't want to sacrifice going up for going down, or vice versa
VF: What do you feel sets the Speedfox apart from other bikes in this niche?
AL: We want to make a bike that rides well, of course, and we believe we hit that target. But what is equally important to riders is that they get to ride a lot! So that means less time in the parking lot setting suspension or time in the service department of a shop and more time on the trail – most reputable service departments can completely overhaul this bike front to back in half a day. There are no proprietary parts necessary for ride performance that have to be sent to BMC for service – just take it to the shop where you bought it (with a six-pack in hand) and they can take care of it quickly. And for the suspension experts out there, all of our designs can be personalized with small tweaks of air volumes if you so choose. We like to think of our mountain bike line as easily customizable and serviceable…super important for folks who like to play in the dirt.
VF: While this is no "bargain bike,” the 2015 Speedfox is available at several price points that are within closer reach of our readers. In other words, the price on this bike is lower this year than last. What enabled BMC to make that happen for 2015?
AL: Company growth – we have made several additions to our BMC family, which have helped in developing better distribution and supply-chain channels. Essentially, we cut our own costs, which allows us to take those improvements to our retail partners and their riders.