6-Month Review: BMC Speedfox SF01
A bike that sits right in the sweet spot between fast and capable
The industry is clamoring over 27.5 (and 27+), but we’re happy to see some companies still refining the 29er end. For many people, and many situations, big hoops are still an optimal choice. The Speedfox follows along where the first-rate Trailfox left off last year, only better. The lightweight and stiffer-tuned BMC suspension, which was good on that six-incher, feels just right on this slightly smaller machine.
The Good: Our size medium tester weighed just 26.3 pounds, which made it extremely fast and efficient for a 130-millimeter bike. Detailing is superb, including internal cable routings with trick, screw-off covers. Spec is spot on, especially the 28-tooth ring to power the 1×11 drivetrain.
The Bad: The 32-millimeter stanchions on the Fox fork felt anemic and were probably the bike’s only major failing (Happily, BMC has upgraded the spec to a Fox 34 for 2016.). We’re always happy to have a dropper post, but the 150-millimeter length combined with the taller seatpost collar meant that smaller testers had a hard time fitting. And 720-millimeter handlebars: Really? How about 780 millimeters and guides for anyone who wants to cut them?
The Verdict: The Speedfox is an excellent, all-around trail bike for pretty much every type of terrain, though it still retains BMC’s racing-feel heritage. The skinny fork and, to a lesser extent, ho-hum DT Swiss wheels held it back from contending for bike of the year. But every tester who tried it wanted to hang onto it longer than their allotted time, and the SF01 made it into almost daily rotation against a slew of other bikes. Except for the premium price tag, it’s the perfect Goldilocks bike: just right for almost every occasion.
- Weight: 26.3 pounds
- Price: $7,000
- Wheel Size: 29 inches
- Drivetrain: SRAM XX1
There’s no mistaking that this carbon fiber beauty is a BMC, with its sparse lines, angular tubing, and modernist, cold-looking graphics. The internal cable routings are clean and well laid out with no noticeable rattling inside the frame and easy-off ports for maintenance. It’s cliche to joke about how fastidious the Swiss can be, yet this bike looks so carefully hewn that you’d almost—almost—mistake it for handcrafted.
The bike is hung around the Swiss company’s Advance Pivot System suspension, or APS, a proprietary name for a four-bar setup with short links. The top tube and wheelbase are long, which gives the SF01 its long, fast characteristic BMC feel. But the moderate 68.5-degree head angle and short chainstays, along with a bottom bracket positioned well below the axles, make it quick, rooted, and still lots of fun to push around on technical trails.
This is a $7,000 bicycle, and as such, you won’t find many parts to complain about. The drivetrain is a SRAM XX1, and we commend BMC’s decision to buck the industry overzealousness and spec a 28-tooth front ring. For 29ers in the mountains, like the Rockies out our front door, anything bigger would leave most people grinding (or walking) up steeps.
SRAM’s new Guide brakes had excellent power and modulation and held up for eight months without any service—the kind of reliability that will put the company back in the brake game alongside Shimano.
The no-rise bars seemed an odd choice at first, but the stack height turned out to be fine in the end. Nearly every tester, however, pined for more width—a trail bike should get at least 750-millimeter bars, and ideally wider, since they can always be trimmed. A few complained about the 70-millimeter stem—a shorter stem would help speed up handling. But overall, the bike felt balanced, so that issue comes down to rider size and personal preference.
The alloy DT Swiss Spline 1501 wheels, which rode fine, are a little humdrum for such a high-end bike. That said, though we haven’t been huge fans of the Continental Mountain King tires in the past, they held up much better than we expected—no slashes, no flats—and we appreciated the extra grip and comfort of the 2.4-inch-wide tread. With all that meat out back, however, clearance was tight in the rear triangle, which made for some clogging in muddy conditions.
The SF01 lived up to the “speed” in its name. This bike felt peppy in its accelerations (despite those stocky wheels), light and easy to pedal in flat and rolling terrain, and quick like an XC race bike. The three-setting Fox Float CTD shock was one of the better-tuned units we’ve tried, with the firmest setting yielding an all but locked-out feel and the open setting feeling fluid and smooth. We often leave bikes in the midway Trail mode, but we found ourselves switching this one regularly because the differences were so noticeable.
Handling in technical terrain was very good but not perfect. The longer stem and wheelbase made tight switchbacks a finesse game, especially when climbing. However, the SF01 was mostly confident on delicate, rocky downhills and high-speed descents, where the lower bottom bracket translated into stability. The rear suspension does have a relatively stiff feel, even when wide open. And though the bike did an admirable job of taking on big drops and sketchy chutes, if that’s the predominant terrain where you ride, the Trailfox is probably a better bet, since the 130mm definitely got thrashed around in chunky terrain.
The 32-millimeter fork held the bike back, with lots of flex under braking and that diving, unpredictable feel that the smaller Fox forks have suffered from in the past few years. Fortunately, BMC must have come to the same conclusion since it’s specing the excellent new Fox 34 fork on this bike for 2016. This should transform the SF01 from a slightly limited trail bike to an outstanding ripper.
As already noted: A 125-millimeter RockShox Reverb dropper would have been preferable (spec was 150 millimeters) so the bike would fit more riders. The SF01’s longer top tube and stem combo made those with shorter torsos feel more stretched out than perhaps they’re accustomed to. Although standover height was good for taller riders, it was a bit tight for the shorter ones. Overall, it’s an average fit, but one that leans toward the bigger side of the equation.
BMC has staked out an interesting niche with the SF01, as its 130 millimeters of rear travel fall squarely between most bikes. The Speedfox indeed feels like it parses landscape with a bit more gusto than, say, the Trek Fuel EX (at 120 millimeters) and a few more inhibitions than the Trek Remedy (at 140 millimeters). That’s not a bad thing: We loved how versatile this bike felt, and it was almost perfect for all terrain except the very burliest.
As built, with the Fox 32 fork, this bike leans more toward the territory trod by the Specialized Camber or the Salsa Horsethief, which is to say the lighter end of the spectrum. Its gossamer weight, which would be even more impressive with some better wheels, along with the long and low feel of the geometry, reinforces that impression. However, it should feel sturdier and even more capable in the 2016 iteration thanks to the burlier front end, which will put in slightly different company, say that of the Niner RIP9 and the Yeti SB4.5c.
The Speedfox 01 is the perfect trail bike for anyone upgrading from a four-inch machine and still wants excellent pedaling performance with some extra downhill capability. Whereas its big brother, the Trailfox, felt a bit too dainty for all of its travel, here that translates as crisp and fast. We liked the middle-ground approach, from the travel to the geometry, which makes buying easier since it sits right in the sweet spot between fast and capable.
Yes, this model is expensive. But to its credit, BMC drastically reduced prices this year, which puts the SF01 on par with the competition, if even a bit less expensive. For those on a budget, there are two other models: the Speedfox SF02 gets an alloy rear triangle and can be had for $5,000, and the SF03 is all aluminum and is priced down to $2,600.