Bikes of the TSEpic: the BMC Fourstroke FS01 29er review
When Tyler and I were presented with the opportunity to travel to and compete in Pennsylvania’s 7-day Trans-Sylvania Epic, BMC’s FourStroke FS01 29er was an obvious race bike choice. Not because BMC is an event sponsor, but because the FourStroke that I rode at the model’s launch struck me as one of the more capable big day 29ers on the market: efficient enough for the race’s many climbs but supple and composed on the race’s often rough technical sections and Enduro segments. How did the Swiss racer handle 7 straight days of racing? Hit the jump to find out!
Starting with a 2,040g frame (including all hardware), BMC have piled on a host of high-end finishing kit for their top-of-the-line race bike. Shimano’s XTR drivetrain and race disc brakes (with 180mm IceTech rotors at both ends) are hard to fault in any setting. Easton’s EA90 wheels are UST compatible right out of the box and the EC70 bars and seatpost keep things nice and light. We swapped the tube’d Conti RaceKing tires for a tubeless-ready Race King/X-King combo, grabbed a favorite saddle and some Ergon GA1 Evo grips, mounted a bell and computer, and were ready to race.
With the FourStroke, BMC truly have pulled together an impressively versatile package. Though the 100mm Fox 32 Float CTD fork and flat bars shouldn’t make for confident descending, the fork is extremely well paired with the rear suspension’s supple action- with both ends in their “Descend” settings the bike takes rough sections at speed in stride, and we were surprised to wind up at the front of the pack’s downhill standings.
While BMC’s short-link Advanced Pivot System rear suspension pedals well with a fully-open shock, the latest generation of Fox CTD rear shocks in their “Trail” setting do such a good job at muting rider inputs while keeping the rear wheel active that only the longest fire road climbs call for the near-locked “Climb” setting. The 0° stem, flat bars, and short head tube make for an aggressively XC riding position and the suspension remained comfortable and efficient hours after we’d given up pedaling smoothly.
The 80mm stem spec’d on our large sample makes for a bike that’s far more nimble than its 70° head angle, 635mm top tube, and 445mm chainstays would suggest. On climbs, the low front end and long wheelbase keep the bike from needing much attention: the front wheel stays planted and doesn’t wander when your mind does.
With only 40mm of BB drop, the FourStroke encourages pedaling through choppy sections- something especially welcome on Pennsylvania’s rock-strewn trails. The big wheels come in handy here as well, keeping the bike from getting hung up unnecessarily and rewarding the rider for maintaining forward momentum. Nice features abound and include replaceable (post mount native) brake boss threads, an integrated chainguide mount, a thru-axle rear wheel, and even routing for a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. All of these suggest a bike that is intended to be comfortable outside of a purely race setting. In fact, after our time together it’s no surprise that BMC’s Trailcrew Enduro team make use of 120mm-fork’d FourStrokes for many descending events.
Given BMC’s stated goal of building a fast, efficient, and capable machine, it’d be hard to call the FourStroke anything but a success. Bad behavior has been surprisingly hard to find- limited only to a bit of brake jack when stopping hard on 30mph+ gravel descents. More importantly, the BMC is a fun bike- rather than punish the rider in the name of efficiency, the FourStroke encourages the rider to ride longer and faster because they want to. Given the near-5-figure prices of many companies’ high end bikes, the fact that the no-compromises, house brand free, XTR spec’d FS01′s $8,500 retail price doesn’t make it a steal- but does seem just about right. An X0-equipped bike built on the same frame sells for $2,000 less without gaining much weight at all. For our time together on the Trans-Sylvania Epic–with its long climbs, technical stretches, and challenging descents–this rider simply can’t think of a better dance partner.