Review: BMC GF01 Gran Fondo Endurance Road Bike

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

BMC snuck the Gran Fondo GF01 endurance road bike into the Paris Roubaix earlier this year, where it came in a respectable 3rd place. The formal introduction followed in April, and our test bike arrived shortly thereafter.

Our launch coverage has most of the technical features and frame details, this post recaps with some detail shots but is focused on the long term ride review. In a nutshell, the GFO1 is designed for endurance races and rides, Gran Fondos and those who regularly ride less than ideal surfaces. The frame’s Jekyll and Hyde personality splits it top to bottom, with the headtube, downtube, BB and chainstays getting massively oversized sections and the top tube, seat tube and seatstays having thinner, more compliant sizing.

In addition to tube shaping and sizes, strategically placed bends in the fork and stays, as well as specific layups throughout the frame, give the bike a remarkable ability to dismantle vibration and bumps before they reach your rear end. The entire package adds up to a very comfortable ride that can hammer. Click on through to see why…

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Another factor contributing to the GF01′s ride quality is the geometry. It has a slightly longer chainstay , slacker head angle  (71º to 72.5º depending on frame size) and increased fork rake compared to their Team Machine race bike. This makes the handling a bit more neutral and, along with a really tall head tube, puts the rider in a more upright position.

Called TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept), the bends in the fork and stays act as pivot points, letting things flex to respond to surface conditions.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Thin, flat seatstays work with the kink in the chainstays to let the rear axle move up and down a little.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

The seatstays intersect the seat tube below the top tube junction, letting them flex the seat tube forward a little. This, combined with the flex built into the TCC seatpost, further reduces any shock reaching the rider.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Heading south, the huge downtube, wide PFBB86 and oversized chainstays make power transfer very efficient. We didn’t notice any lateral flex from the frame, only the good vertical kind.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

A tiny little integrated chain keeper is adjustable. Note the flared seat tube and huge octagonal downtube use almost the full width of the BB shell.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

The only feature we didn’t like was the rear brake cable’s path alongside the top tube. It sits just outboard of the bottom of the tube, which is already pretty wide, and regularly rubbed the inside of my knee. It’d be nice if they could tuck it under the top tube just a hair, or run it internally.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Out of the box, the largest size (61) weighs in at 17lb 1oz (7.73kg). There’s no missing this bike in this size, it’s simply enormous, but it fit three of us (all 6’2″ to 6’4″ like a glove. It comes stock with a 15mm setback post, which we kept. Some of us put on a 100mm stem in leiu of the 130mm stock Easton one, but other than that fit was great.

Since this bike was introduced, they’ve announced an alloy model and a version with disc brakes, too.

RIDE REVIEWS

TYLER’S REVIEW

The building against which the bike photos above were taken sits at the end of a two mile stretch of some of the bumpiest road around. Chip seal, cracks and lumps never have more than 18 inches between them for the entire span. It’s brutal.

But it had been a while since I’d ridden it, and memory had faded. On the BMC, sure, it was a little bumpy, but the guys riding behind me were bitchin’ and moaning like it was cobbles. I couldn’t understand why they were making so much noise about it. Until I rode that same stretch again on the a different bike. Then I understood. It was indeed miserable.

The Gran Fondo has so completely soaked up the cracks, bumps and chips that I had no idea how bad that road really was until aboard a stiffer “normal” road bike.

And it handled other terrible road surfaces with equal grace:

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Heat rippled asphalt in Florida? No problem.

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

Trailer or winter damage? Pffft….

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

And my favorite, the completely destroyed asphalt over concrete surrounding a manhole cover.

I rode the Gran Fondo directly over all of these irregularities and more, seated, at full speed, and they felt like nothing more riding over a pencil on a regular bike. Yes, this bike makes that big of a difference.

The massive frame sections suggest the bike simply uses brute force to plow through rough patches, and I suspect it certainly helps hold things together in those situations. But it’s the smaller tubes, flex points and seat post that all seem to work together to both damp vibrations and soak up the hits. All in all, it’s a package that works supremely well at making long, rough rides enjoyable.

As for performance riding, pros much better than us have proven it’s fully race ready when conditions warrant. For those looking for the lightest, quickest bike, the GF01 isn’t the ticket. It’s easy to maintain a good pace (particularly on rough roads), but it’s not as quick off the line. Not because the frame can’t handle a good sprint, more thanks to the rotational heft of wider, more durable tires and big alloy rims. For fun, we wanted to see how lighter, racier wheels affected performance:

BMC Gran Fondo endurance road bike review photos and actual weight

The American Classic Road Tubeless Magnesium Alloy wheels with Hutchinson 23c tires did put some pep it its step, too, but there were too many downsides. Plus, they look positively anemic on this frame. Despite numerous (too many to count!!!) attempts to dial the brake pads’ positions, the rear wheel howled loud enough to scare both who ever was riding the bike and anyone around him. Think truck horn loud, only high pitched. It also caused the entire rear end of the frame to vibrate and shudder. We don’t know why, and neither AC or BMC had seen this before or had any suggestions to remedy the situation, but it was all but unrideable. Lastly, we weren’t about to blast through ruts and potholes with lighter weight tires and wheels, even tubeless ones, which takes away a lot of the appeal of a bike like this.

It’s worth mentioning that the stock Easton road wheels are tubeless ready, and adding some high volume RT tires would drop a bit of weight where it counts.

The only other small gripe I had was using a round alloy handlebar on a bike designed for rough roads. A carbon bar with a flatter, more comfortable perch would have soaked up more high frequency vibrations and given me less hand fatigue over time. That, and thicker tape. The stock stuff’s pretty thin.

Summary: It’s a fast (not quick) bike that’s incredibly comfortable over very long distances on just about any surface. I finished long rides feeling fresher than normal. The drivetrain spec is great, as is the saddle, stem and the proprietary seatpost, and a handlebar is easy enough to swap out. The BMC Gran Fondo is a bike I’d take out any day of the week.

TRUCKER’S REVIEW

BMC’s endurance oriented, cobblestone capable Gran Fondo is rife with subtle innovations geared around creating a stable, stiff, vibration free ride. Gigantic down tube, flat seatstays that meet the seat tube a little south of normal, last minute curves at the end of a carbon fork, the list goes on, but the real question is how it feels when the rubber hits the road.

The first thing I noticed was the steering. The fork blades make the initial steering feel not unlike classic curved blade steel forks. The front wheel feels like it’s a little farther in front of you — sort of the opposite of the feel you might get after initially throwing your leg over a twitchy, nimble little racer. But the learning curve is short. While it might not be at home on a tight crit course (it’s not made to be), the Gran Fondo certainly would be plenty capable for the rider who does occasional short races along with the Gran Fondo’s forte: longer efforts such as centuries and, well, Gran Fondos. Now let’s talk about some of the things the Gran Fondo is made to be:

Comfortable: The Gran Fondo is no miracle cure for rough, chattery country roads, but it does dampen the vibrations and inspire more confidence. I found myself taking longer turns in the saddle between standing efforts. LIkewise, the big tires (28c stock) and large tubing inspired a bit more confidence against those little sticks, stones, and mini potholes that can suddenly appear in front of you in the pre-dawn and twilight hours that many of us are forced to ride in.

Stiff: The gigantic downtube and those flat, oversized stays don’t just offer vertical compliance, they also offer lateral stiffness. On sprints, hills, and intervals the Gran Fondo responded well. Every quad-searing, lactic threshold building stomp on the pedal translated to forward motion without flex or creak.

Stable: The Gran Fondo felt great at speed and on descents without feeling too long otherwise. Most of the geometry is fairly average for a non-compact bike despite the innovations in design.

Comments

Jeff - 12/18/12 - 1:24pm

That is actually 2012′s ugliest bike… aesthetic anyone ? A bicycle should also be a nice object to watch., not only the sum of technical characteristics. It’s not only about purpose…

T - 12/18/12 - 1:39pm

Agreed. Nasty piece of work. It looks like two parents fighting over custody of the seat tube; one is a crack addicted and emaciated prostitute and the other is an fat abusive teamster. I hear that this bike is why Fabian Cancellara refuses to ride for BMC.

plum - 12/18/12 - 1:40pm

I don’t care what it does. That bike is ugly as hell.

tj - 12/18/12 - 2:15pm

Love it or hate it, at that weight I’m left wondering why buying a second hand steel frame wouldn’t be just as good of an option. From my experience with their finishes, solid winter and spring campaign on the BMC would leave it worth about as much as steel.

Molly - 12/18/12 - 2:50pm

Don’t you need different Brake pads for Magnesium braking surfaces? The green kool stop pads, I think.
Just a thought.

notapro - 12/18/12 - 3:28pm

it’s as ugly as the roads you guys were riding on

me - 12/18/12 - 3:32pm

I agree with everyone. They swear its the most compliant thing to grace the streets since sliced bread. Well you what? You can make anything compliant with 28′s and a foot of 27.2 carbon seatpost. You dont need much else.

Paul - 12/18/12 - 6:51pm

@ T… I just about peed myself when I read that. Funniest bike related thing I have read in ages.

coloradoriding - 12/18/12 - 7:16pm

As the saying goes….Its a tool, not a jewel

Tommy Nickels - 12/18/12 - 11:15pm

……..I actually think it looks pretty cool.

pmurf - 12/19/12 - 12:07pm

From now on, anytime someone says “it’s ugly,” they’re required to name a product in the same category that “is beautiful” so the rest of us can ridicule their selection. As always, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Emery - 12/19/12 - 2:37pm

I own this bike, love it and never thought it was ugly. While its not a piece of Italian eye candy, I love the industrial look.

Outsider - 12/19/12 - 4:05pm

I think the bike looks awesome. I own a BMC SLX and love their design approach.

Fabian does not ride BMC btw….

F - 12/19/12 - 6:30pm

It looks better in person. IMO it doesn’t look great, but not ugly. At least, not in a size 61.

I don’t have much to compare it to but a roubaix felt slightly comfier while the BMC was significantly livelier and felt quicker.

The BMC felt stiffer laterally but just as compliant as a carbon synapse.

That’s all I have enough experience to compare it to.

vectorbug - 12/20/12 - 2:40pm

black white and red!

Steven Baker - 12/21/12 - 6:40pm

Congratulations on an indepth and excellent review. I agree with the previous review, this bike is awesome but in real life it looks absolutely amazing.

Gino - 12/26/12 - 11:49pm

somebody please bring back the “flat TT” designs!…. and tight rear triangles just make bikes more rigid!… lets get back to bigger frames, if for nothing else… then aesthetics!

Ibis Guy - 01/04/13 - 12:00am

If you put a pair of semi deep carbon wheels Zipp 202′s everyone would say this bike looks sexy… I think it looks pretty good.

JoeBiker - 12/06/13 - 8:10pm

A bit late to this dialogue, but wanted to throw my .02 in.

When I first saw this bike about a year ago, I thought it looked awful. The more I looked at, though, the more I liked it. The bizarro seatstay/seat tube junction. The massive chainstays. The little kink at the end of the fork. Totally unique.

Me, I don’t care for glossy carbon bikes with multi-color flashy graphics. I’ll take stealth over flash any day. The brutal, raw carbon look of this is so much more honest. I also don’t care for those arched top tube bikes. They look like the bike is all hunched up with a dowagers hump.

Some have commented that this has a certain mountain bike aesthetic. I like that it’s a bit odd like that. It has the vibe of a bike you can ride with baggies and a loose fitting jersey over a thermal undershirt and not feel like you’re making a cycling fashion faux pas. And the fact that this can run 28s is a big plus (no pun intended).

The bike you tested is enormous. In such a big size, it looks even more ungainly. But in a 54, it looks more balanced. The only thing I don’t like is the honkin BMC logo on the down tube.

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