Why is this bike so enjoyable to ride? The answer lies in the initial design brief. Swiss Bicycle Manufacturing Company - BMC, named their "Endurance Series" bicycle the Gran Fondo, describing the bike as the "Gran Turismo" of road cycling. Built for BMC race team riders for specific events like the Paris Roubaix, recreational riders are identified as the main benefactors of BMC's leading edge research. There's a third group, those who want to park a second, more versatile, road bike in their shed next to their race machine.
Earlier this year BMC launched the Granfondo GF01. The first example of BMC's radical new concept in bike design. Just the look of the frame suggests that this bike does not conform to a standard design brief. The beefy forks have a "TCC - angle compliance" kink just above the tips, there's another kink at the rear brake bridge and one built into the chain stays just forward of the dropouts. The entire frame looks chunky and for good reason. The bike is designed to give maximal stiffness where required, while at the same time delivering a compliant comfortable ride. Generous, vertical compliance is achieved via the kinks at the seat stays, chain stays and fork, combined with a flexible seat post, and a 28 mm tire spec. BMC engineers have delivered the perfect amount of vertical compliance via these measures. What this means is a bike that is extremely easy to ride, forgiving, comfortable and adaptable.
Echelon Sports hustled up a GF01 in my size and let me loose on it for a week. When it came time to hand the GF01 back, I really would have preferred to have kept the bike, it was that much fun. BMC have created an exciting machine, if you like road riding you really should have one of these in your shed.
Why is this bike so enjoyable to ride? The answer lies in the initial design brief. Built from the ground up around a 28mm tire spec, the BMC design team aimed at producing a bike that's easy to control in any situation. Combine this with clever use of geometry, long chain stays, a slack head tube angle and generous fork rake and the result is a bike that behaves itself no matter what you throw at it. The 28mm tire spec fitted to a wide rim aids in giving an extremely comfortable ride.
Where the GF01 comes into it's own is in cornering, the vertical compliance concept isn't just useful for comfort. In corners once you've thrown the GF01 onto your chosen line, it will track perfectly over rough road surfaces, as a result the bike will not deviate from where you've pointed it. When BMC set out to design a bike that was stable, they hit their target perfectly and that's why this bike is so much fun. You just can't unsettle the GF01 in corners, no matter what you throw at it.
If you're thinking the GF01 will be a soft ride, think again. When it comes to vertical compliance, BMC built in just the right amount, by deploying TCC and angle compliance concepts. Getting the right amount of vertical compliance means the frame flexes in the right places only when you need it. When it comes to rough pavements, vertical compliance is so well sorted, the bike just does it's job with no excessive outputs. The ride feel is completely different to what I'd expected, it's still very familiar to any other road bike, but with it's own special characteristics built in. The result is a bike that's easy to handle, compliant to ride, leaving you in control.
Lateral and torsional stiffness combined make the GF01 the stiffest bike in the BMC range, there's no power sacrifice with the Gran Fondo. Stiffness is achieved by using a fat head tube, generous fork crown, huge cross section down tube and chain stays, coupled with a BB86 press fit bracket. Couple this with a perfectly compliant ride and the uniqueness of the GF01 opens up a new world of riding possibilities.
To get the most out of your GF01 you'll want to be thorough with your bike setup. BMC provide three setback options for the seat post, making it easy to position your saddle at the right point for you. (Watch out for for a future post where custom frame builder, Darrell McCulloch from Llewellyn Custom Bicycles, explains exactly how to achieve the correct saddle position when building a bike.) The GF01 comes standard with a 27.2 mm post with 18mm of offset, you can also opt for a post with 3mm and 30mm of offset. Each post was designed with it's own specific lay-up.
As handlebars are such a personal choice, you might want to customise the bike with your own favourites. Easton EA70 bars are supplied with the bike and intended for ease of use. The stock bars on the test bike felt too narrow for my own personal preference, they were more like 42's. I'd have swapped them out for 44cm bars.
Fitted with an Easton EA90 RT wheelset and 28mm Conti GP 4 Season tires, the stock wheels and tires perform well. Fitted up with your favouite wheels, the characteristics of the bike will change depending on your preferences. Bearing in mind though the concept of the bike was designed around the use of 28mm tires.
For those of us who aren't going to be challenged by the daunting proposition of lining up in Compiègne to tackle the Paris Roubiax, the GF01 is a great all round bike. If there's such a thing as a shed with one road bike, this one would suffice for just about anyone. What that really means for most of us is, the GF01 is a great reason to add another more versatile riding machine, to you daily choice of rides.
For experienced riders who know how to ride a bike through corners at race pace, the GF01 will put a smile on your face every time you ride it. Designed with ease of use, rock steady handling and stability at it's core, the Gran Fondo in the right hands becomes a fun machine. If you're new to cycling, ease of use built into BMC's Gran Fondo means you'll have a comfortable, well behaved and predictable bike to help you along the way.