The 2017 World Cup season is about to start, and we caught up with the BMC team in April at a training camp, and looked over the two bikes that Swiss racer Lukas Fluckiger can choose for his races in 2017. BMC have a refined range, with the 100mm travel Fourstroke, and also the Teamelite range, where the BMC Teamelite o1 has a small amount of travel in the rear – a reason why the hardtail isn’t dead.
Profiling the BMC bikes
“We have two different bikes. First up is the hardtail, the Teamelite01 with MTT. Micro Travel Technology – and then we have the full-suspension bike the Fourstroke 01. It’s actually my favourite bike.” They say the Fourstroke is the bike that got Julien Absalon off a hardtail – so it is no surprise that other BMC team riders find it is their choice more often than not.
“I would say 80 or 90% of the races I do with my Fourstroke. Almost every training ride at home I do with the Fourstroke. It really is a bike for rough conditions. The races get more and more bikepark style with rock gardens, and even in the uphill it is really bumpy. Even if the race is 1.5 hours, it is still good to have some comfort in the race. That’s why I mostly use the BMC Fourstroke.”
“BMC have the big wheel concept, so a longer top tube with a shorter stem. In my case it is a medium frame with a 90mm stem, and a little bit wider handlebar than usual. That means I have a 740mm handlebar. It’s quite a wide bar for a cross-country bike, but I have to say I feel much more controlled in the downhill. Even in the uphill I can push a little bit more, but sometimes I have a disadvantage at the start, because you are wider. It’s sometimes a bit of a problem. We have handlebars, stem from 3T.”
“The wheels and components are all from Shimano”, but we notice that the wheels don’t quite look like a stock Shimano model.
“We use a wider rim… a prototype. But the hub is form Shimano,” confirms Fluckiger. We don’t get any more details from him, but we can see it’s a carbon rim, that looks to be about 28mm external.
Fully electronic for the BMC Team
“The complete bike is Di2, even the shock and the fork from Fox are. You have 3 positions, open, trail mode and locked, both on the shock and the fork. It is all from the one battery so it makes it easy and you save weight.”
This takes away a lot of cable and outer, and as the battery is there anyway (and weighs about the same as a long length of cable and outer) these are great weight savings, and an improvement for ease of actuation.
We notice that Fluckiger runs a BMC chain guide on his Fourstroke. “This is something special from BMC. It’s just for the team. Shimano say you don’t need it. But we want to stay on the safe side.”
“The only special thing I have is one Fourstroke with a double, one with a single. Some guys have the double just for training, not for racing. At first, with the mechanical XTR group, I was sure single was the best. But now, with Synchronised Di2 shifting, it is so much easier to shift, you can still push really hard on the pedals and shift. It’s easy. So I wanted to try sometimes with double. For some races where it’s really narrow, and you have short descents to steep up, you don’t have time to shift in the front. But most of the races it is still ok with the double.
“There are just a few races where a single is better. I say 80% of the races I do with double this year. You have so many more options. But it’s always a question of setup. With single we have 3 different options. One is with 32t, then 34 or 36. But mostly we run 34. On the double we run 26/36.”
“It’s also about sometimes in the open start you have to push and you hit the limit of the single ring with a 34. So with a double you have more options for the start and the finish sprint,” explains Fluckiger.
Dropper posts for the BMC Team
“This year almost the whole team changed to the dropper post. At the moment we are still deciding if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage with the weight, but you are faster or have more control in the downhill.” It is obvious Fluckiger is a fan. In 2016 we saw Absalon and others using droppers to great effect. And some cite that even if it’s not faster, they are more relaxed on the bike which saves energy.
I have trained the whole winter with a dropper post, so I have to say if I want to go back, I really have to work on my skills again with a normal seatpost. That’s why I say “Ok. We stay with the dropper seatpost!” You really have more control you are more safe in the downhill. And when the tracks are like a bikepark with the jumps and the rocks, you are faster and safer. And sure with maybe 200 or 250g more, in the end is not a huge change. The aerodynamics is more important than the weight.
Levers are placed underneath the handlebar on the left hand side, with a sneaky use of the new SRAM lever. You can see the lock out electronic lever snug against the foam grip.
A switch to Vittoria for BMC
A change for the team this year is moving from Continental to Vittoria. It sounded like Fluckiger wasn’t 100% sure in the beginning.
“At first I wasn’t sure with Vittoria. Last year Conti was one of the best choices. But now I have ridden the Vittoria tyres all winter, in dry conditions and wet conditions. I have to say it is the tyre of choice at the moment.”
“The company is so interested in putting development into these tyres and the team, so it’s great. The tyres are really good, especially in the little bit more wet conditions. Vittoria have brought us the right products.”
As for tubes or tubeless, Fluckiger is adamant that they run what suits the track.
“It depends on the track if we run tubes or tubeless. And also which kind of tyres – some work better with a tube. Most of the races we ride tubeless. It’s easier.”
Fluckiger doesn’t really have any custom specifications, save for his fit to the bike.
“It’s just the position, I run wider handlebars and a shorter stem compared to the other guys. I believe in the concept from BMC, with their Big Wheeled Concept. Especially with the dropper post you get lower so you’re steering more with the body not the bars. It’s more stable in the technical sections, but still agile with the short stem and wide handlebar.”
Both the Fourstroke and Teamelite01 use a 51mm offset fork from Fox, which makes them a little steadier. Kona, Norco, Trek and some other manufacturers do the same with their 29″ wheeled bikes.
A closer look at the BMC Teamelite01
The stand out here is the MTT – the squishy bit at the back which actually runs on two little bars, or rails, to prevent changes in lateral rigidity.
“I really feel the difference” states Fluckiger. “I was a little bit involved with the development. At first I thought, hey this is quite an old idea with elastomer, but then I really rode the first prototype and it really is something between full-suspesnion and a hardtail. The difference between the hardtail and full-suspension before was really something. But then we switched to this one and it’s amazing.”
“So I thought ok, forget the full-suspension. But in the end it’s not a full-suspension. You have so much more traction, and for when it’s really bumpy, it is still bettee with the full-suspension.”
“Ralph Naef rode the first race on this at Worlds in Hafjell. It was a prototype. Most fast races I used the Teamelite, for the steep uphills. It’s 800-900g lighter. It makes some difference, especially at the start. You really feel it going forward. And you feel that with the full-suspension, it’s not the same feeling moving forward. But like I said, most of the races I do with the Fourstroke.”
“What I really like with this bike is it’s super fast on the flatter tracks. SO on grass tracks, where it’s really bumpy but not big holes, it takes the vibration away. You can sit down and push really hard. On a Fourstroke it’s not the same. This one is really stable on the ground. It’s not super comfortable, but you have the traction, and this is the important thing. Otherwise it’s the same setup. We run double and single. The setup of the fork is sometimes a bit different, sometimes a bit softer, depending on the track.”
With riders like Julien Absalon also piloting the range of bikes from BMC, it’s certain we will see them in the mix at the World Cups this year. But surely we can pick some growing trends in XC and XCM racing here: dropper posts, a resurgence in 2x drivetrains, wider handlebars and wider rims. Will this change your choices next time you’re building or buying a new bike?