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While its full name of Gran Fondo GF01 suggests a bike designed for more endurance-minded riders, make no mistake – this bike was designed to be raced. So how does its disc incarnation measure up under testing?
The GF01’s geometry sits firmly in the middle between out and out sportive bike and race machine. To make a brief comparison with a similarly positioned bike – Cannondale’s Synapse Disc – it’s 19mm lower in stack and 3mm longer in reach. The wheelbase, however, is 20mm longer and its angles match the Synapse at 73.5-degree seat, 72.5-degree head. On the road its no surprise that the bikes feel very similarly matched. The BMC is a little weightier than the Cannondale by half a kilo, but this doesn’t reveal itself even on the stiffest climbs of out test loop, especially with the very friendly 50/34 11-32 gearing, just what the doctor ordered for the steepest inclines. The Synapse has the edge on the scales thanks to its loftier Ultegra group as opposed to the GF’s 105, though the Synapse is marginally heftier on your wallet too.
Up front, BMC’s straight fork with its radically kicked forward dropouts does the same brilliant job; indeed, the business end matches Trek’s clever Domane fork for supple smooth control and impeccable stiffness. The way the GF handles is just how we like our bikes to be: it’s nimble enough yet wonderfully stable at speed, it never packs unwelcome surprises and it instils confidence in its abilities – in turn inspiring confidence in us.
The real surprise with the chassis is the quality level. Unlike its rivals, such as the the Domane and Synapse, its not a lower-grade version of the top flight frame – with the GF you get the full pro-level construction.
We also admire that BMC has designed the frame as fully dual fit for either mechanical or electronic. In its mechanical spec you get external routing for the gear cabling, but the cable bosses are removable so the bike can be fully internally routed for electronic drivetrains. The hydraulic hoses are already fully internal with a clever through-headset spacer route. The spacer is 20mm deep so you can’t slam the front end down to the bearings, but we never found that an issue as the front end never felt overly tall.
We also like that BMC includes all of the replacement blanking plates for the cable stops – and even the internal battery holder that fits within the compliance post. This is thoughtful futureproofing that BMC should be commended for.
The superb braking from the Shimano R785 brakes with their Ice-Tech rotors, and the aforementioned fat tyres, encouraged us to get off the beaten track as soon as possible, so a slight deviation and extension to our standard test route onto local military chalk and gravel roads to test the mettle of the GF was very much in order.
The exterior cable stops can be removed if you want to run internal cables
All we can say is, wow! We dropped the tyre pressure to a more compliant 80psi and the bike proved an absolute blast on these unmade surfaces. When things got muddy and turned more trail than track, the BMC can’t quite match GT’s Grade for absolute off-road prowess, but on road it retains an edge.
Now some may baulk at bike at this price ‘only’ having 105, but in our honest opinion the dynamic attributes of the new 11-speed 105 in shift quality and speed match Ultegra in every way. With Ultegra you lose a few grams to your advantage, but we’d rather keep our hands on the upgraded BMC frame.
So what would we criticise about the GF01? Honestly very little – the frame is epically good, and the braking too. The alloy cockpit is solid, with a well shaped bar – it’s nothing to write home about, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The Shimano RX31 disc wheels are competent mid-range items, typical Shimano quality, though in an ideal world we’d want to upgrade them eventually and unleash the full potential of the GF01.
But really, as you may have guessed, we’re clutching at straws trying to eke out any negatives here – this is a ride that deserves all the superlatives we can throw at it.